Many issues in management seem to cause confusion. The first I see as a business school professor is the simple question “What is marketing?” This can be surprisingly difficult. (Interestingly if you look the discipline seems to have changed quite a lot since the early days).
What Is Marketing Not?
Let’s get rid of some preconceptions first:
- Marketing is not just advertising,
- Nor is it just selling, and
- It is certainly not just about persuading people to buy the product you want to make.
What is more, it is also not about tricking people into buying something against their better judgment. Consumers are sometimes tricked but that isn’t the aim of the subject I teach.
Give Consumers What They Want
We teach students that the easiest way to get people to buy what you are offering is to find out what they want and offer it to them. Of course, it is more complex than that. In later posts, I will discuss issues such as the need to be profitable and the challenge of unstable consumer wants. That said, give consumers what they want and your task in persuading them to buy will be much easier.
The Marketing Concept
Aiming to serve consumer tastes profitably is known as the marketing concept. This is at the heart of what the discipline should be, and often is. Every few years academics refine the definition of this concept. There remains room for improvement but Keith’s 1960 article is a good start: “We make and sell products for consumers“. I.e. we make what the consumers want not simply what it suits the company to sell.
The marketing revolution was when there was an “attention shift from the problems of production to the problem of marketing” (Keith, 1960, p35).
“From the product that we can make to the product the consumer wants us to make.” (Keith, 1960, p35).
For more on how even the best economists don’t get our subject see here.
Read: Keith, Robert J. “The Marketing Revolution.” The Journal of Marketing (1960): 35-38.