Professional Studies for Screen-Based Media
Foundation Degree South West
Defining Marketing

Defining marketing


Marketing is a term so widely accepted that we might be tempted to take its meaning for granted – although few people could define it, most would know it when they saw it! Alternatively we might accept that so broad is marketing in its scope that no one explanation of its purpose will do.

Spencer Brace, Sales & Marketing Manager, Bournemouth International Airport.

Stuart Perl, Regional Director of Marketing (EMEA), Cunard Line Seaborne Cruise Line.

Heather Moore, Marketing and Promotions Officer Marwell Zoo, Hampshire

But definitions are important in so much as they force us to think about the scope and meaning of a term. Here are three frequently cited definitions:

  • The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) defines marketing as: “The management process which identifies, anticipates, and supplies customer requirements efficiently and profitably”.
  • The American Marketing Association (AMA), defines marketing as: “The process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchange and satisfy individual and organisational objectives”.
  • Kotler, Armstrong, Saunders and Wong, (2001:5), define marketing as: “A social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want though creating and exchanging products and value with each other.”

There many other definitions (as many as there are textbooks on the subject), but from these three we can see consistency in the scope of marketing. Marketing is:

  • a management process;
  • it is about the exchange of goods and services;
  • it anticipates and meets consumers needs;
  • it creates profits.

Marketing as a management process
Definitions of marketing describe it as a business function ¬ rather like accounting, or human resource management. To ´do° marketing is therefore to manage a complex business process.

Marketing as an exchange process
Marketing is about exchanges. Normally this is expressed as the exchange of goods or services for payment. But more recent applications of marketing techniques have complicated this definition. For example "political marketing" might be seen as the exchange of a preferred set of policies in return for a vote and ongoing support

Marketing and the satisfaction of consumer needs
Central to idea of marketing is that individuals have needs and wants that can be met through the purchase of goods and services. These needs are most obviously physical (food, drink, shelter), but may also be social (interaction with others and group belonging), and psychological (self-expression, self-identity).

Now obviously in modern western society most people have enough to eat and drink and have reasonably safe and secure accommodation, so the focus of much modern marketing is actually on meeting the "higher order" social and psychological needs. Any particular need may also be met by a number of different products or services so although absent from the definitions, "providing choice" becomes a central aspect of modern marketing.

Jon Weaver, Marketing Manager, Bournemouth Borough Council

Psychological and social needs can be met through a wide variety of different services and products, so marketing also ensures competition. For example the ‘need’ to be respected by others could be met by an expensive luxury car, a designer suit, an adventure holiday, or a higher degree. Each organisation attempts to produce goods or services that are more effective at meeting needs. Organistions also attempt to find new ways to meet new needs.

Marketing and the generation of profit

In return for satisfying consumers° needs, organisations expect to make a profit. In other words marketers do not manage solely with the aim of meeting consumer needs, they select those needs which their oragnisation can meet most profitably. This also suggests that choice is a key aspect of marketing management. Organisations select what they judge to be the most profitable markets from all the possible markets they can enter.

Note however that some definitions suggest "oganisational objectives" or "value" rather than profit. These definitions accept that in the short term at least, organisations might want to grow their volume of customers at the expense of profit. They also allow the marketing concept to be applied to a wider range of organisations such as charities and political parties, where profit is not an objective.