What is Marketing?
Marketing comes in a wide variety of flavors based on audience, media platform and business in today’s evolving and dynamic marketplace. (BTW–Here are 13 states of marketing and hot marketing tips to use them.)
Therefore, it’s no surprise that marketers define what they do differently.
Inspired by the 31 PR Definitions, here’s a roundup of 72 marketing definitions by experienced practitioners across different specialties.
To start, here are explanations from the American Marketing Association (AMA), marketing’s professional organization, and Dr. Philip Kotler, the author of business school marketing classics. They’re followed by the other definitions in alphabetical order by author’s last name.
- According to the American Marketing Association (AMA) Board of Directors, Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
- Dr. Philip Kotler defines marketing as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.”
- Marketing is the messages and/or actions that cause messages and/or actions. Jay Baer – President, Convince & Convert. Author with Amber Naslund of The Now Revolution.
- Marketing is traditionally the means by which an organization communicates to, connects with, and engages its target audience to convey the value of and ultimately sell its products and services. However, since the emergence of digital media, in particular social media and technology innovations, it has increasingly become more about companies building deeper, more meaningful and lasting relationships with the people that they want to buy their products and services. The ever-increasingly fragmented world of media complicates marketers’ ability connect and, at the same, time presents incredible opportunity to forge new territory. Julie Barile – Vice President of eCommerce, Fairway Market
- Marketing includes research, targeting, communications (advertising and direct mail) and often public relations. Marketing is to sales as plowing is to planting for a farmer—it prepares an audience to receive a direct sales pitch. Mary Ellen Bianco – Director Marketing & Communications, Getzler Henrich & Associates LLC
- Marketing is an ongoing communications exchange with customers in a way that educates, informs and builds a relationship over time. The over time part is important because only over time can trust be created. With trust, a community builds organically around products and services and those customers become as excited about the products as you are — they become advocates, loyal evangelists, repeat customers and often, friends. Marketing is a really great way to identify what grabs people and gets them excited about your brand and give it to them, involve them in the process, and yeah, the best part, build great friendships in the process. Renee Blodgett – Chief Executive Officer/Founder, Magic Sauce Media
- Professor Philip Kotler explained that marketing was “meeting the needs of your customer at a profit.” For me that definition extends beyond just communicating product features. Marketers are responsible for a 360-degree experience. For example, in the social media world, a customer’s Twitter needs may differ from her needs to “play with the brand” in terms of a social game promotion. Every customer touchpoint from customer service to sales to accounting and more are part of the “new marketing.” Toby Bloomberg – Bloomberg Marketing/Diva Marketing
- Marketing when done well is (a) the strategy of the business – its value proposition, go to market strategy, and brand positioning and image to the world. Marketing when not done well is (b) an endless checklist of advertising and promotional to-dos that can never be completed. Marketing in the twenty-first century must be (c) largely, but not entirely, measurable and accountable around driving business goals. Marketing when done brilliantly is driven by (a) includes a small, disciplined subset of (b), and is steeped in a culture of (c). Matt Blumberg – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Return Path
- Marketing is the process by which a firm profitably translates customer needs into revenue. Mark Burgess – Managing Partner, Blue Focus Marketing
- Intuitive by design, marketing matches the right message/cause to the right person. Finding someone who has a personal connection with your product, service or cause in a way that is unobtrusive and inviting. Marketing can be as simple as networking at an event or as complex as a multi-million dollar global campaign that integrates print, digital, PR, social media and broadcast delivering a specific message with one unified goal. Some of the best marketing outcomes come from the simplest initiatives. Keeping it simple is sometimes the best strategy. Lisa Buyer – President and Chief Executive Officer, The Buyer Group
- Marketing is building your brand, convincing people that your brand (meaning your product/service/company) is the best and protecting the relationships you build with your customers. Marjorie Clayman – Director of Client Development, Clayman Advertising, Inc.
- Marketing is meeting the needs and wants of a consumer. Andrew Cohen – President, The A Team (Disclaimer: I’m not related to Andrew.)
- In line with the firm’s business goals, marketing attracts consumers’ scarce resources, attention and disposable income, to drive profitable revenues. Marketing is the process of getting a product or service from a company to its end customers from product development through to the final sale and post purchase support. To this end, marketing strategy consists of business goals, target customers, marketing strategies, marketing tactics and related metrics. As a function, marketing extends across the customer’s entire purchase process including research, engagement, purchase, post-purchase (including supplemental support and returns) and advocacy. Heidi Cohen – President, Riverside Marketing Strategies
- Marketing is creating irresistible experiences that connect with people personally and create the desire to share with others. Saul Colt – Head of Magic, Fresh Books
- Marketing is how you tell your story to attract customers, partners, investors, employees and anyone else your company interacts with. It’s the script that helps users decide if they’ll welcome you into their lives as a staple, nice-to-have or necessary annoyance. It’s the way that everyone interacts with your brand. It’s impression, first, last and everything in between. Jeff Cutler – Executive Vice President and General Manager, Vitals.com
- Marketing is products that don’t come back and consumers that do. Steve Dawson – President, Walkers Shortbread Inc.
- Marketing is making connections between customers with your products, brand(s) and business, such that they are likely to buy from you. Or as Regis McKenna said, “Marketing is everything.” Sam Decker – Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mass Relevance
- Marketing has little to do with the service provider and everything to do with the customer. Marketing educates and engages the customer, satisfying their needs while simultaneously positioning the service provider as a trusted advisor and source. Good marketing is a two way street. Great marketing understands what the customer wants and gives it to them. Shennandoah Diaz – President and Master of Mayhem, Brass Knuckles Media
- Marketing is delighting a consumer, customer and/or user to achieve a profit or other pre-established goal. Steve Dickstein – Chief Executive Officer, Hugo Naturals
- Marketing is essentially involved in outward communication, in promoting the corporate goals of the company it is serving. It is the process through which companies accelerate returns by aligning all communication objectives (advertising, marketing, sales, etc), into one department to more efficiently achieve the overall corporate goals. Antoine Didienne
- Marketing is branding, naming, pricing, and the bridge between paid and earned media. It is NOT sales. Gini Dietrich – Chief Executive Officer, Arment Dietrich, Inc.
- Marketing today is finally customer-focused. Social media made that happen. Markets are once again conversations. Marketing is about knowing the market, creating the right product, creating desire for that product and letting the right people know you have it. The old adage that says, “If you build a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door” doesn’t hold true without marketing. You might indeed have a better mousetrap, but if people don’t know you have it, and they don’t know where your door is, there will be no path beating and no conversation going on. Sally Falkow – APR, PRESSfeed
- Marketing is helping people buy your product or service. Jason Falls – Social Media Explorer
- Marketing is the business’ play-maker. As with successful hockey franchises, the most valuable player is not always the player who scores the most goals but the player who creates the play that allows others to score (think Gretzky, Crosby or Orr). A great marketing team assesses the brand’s playing field, quickly captures their competitor’s position, strengths and weaknesses, maps it against their team’s position, strengths and weaknesses and puts the puck on the stick of the salesperson with the greatest opportunity to score.” Sam Fiorella – Web/Social Media Strategist, The Social Roadmap
- Marketing is the act of developing an engaging relationship with every single human being that shows an interest in you. Paul Flanigan – Consultant, Experiate.net
- Marketing is the process of exposing target customers to a product through appropriate tactics and channels, gauging their reaction and feedback, and ultimately facilitating their path to purchase. Dr. Augustine Fou, Founder, Marketing Science Consulting Group, Inc.
- Marketing is the process of building relationships with prospects and customers so that you can profitably develop and promote products and services. Chris Garrett – Chrisg.com
- Marketing is the word we use to explain how we encourage people to buy our products. If it’s going to work in a big way, there needs to be a strategy or big idea to whet peoples’ appetites for what we’re selling. When we’re marketing, we begin with a plan: objectives, strategy and tactics (how we implement the strategy). It’s a process that helps companies build relationships with prospects and customers and creates unique value for them…when it’s done right. Lois Geller – President, Lois Geller Marketing Group, Author of Response: The Complete Guide To Profitable Direct Marketing
- Marketing should be channel agnostic, data driven and customer-centric. This provides measurable results leveraging the marketplace at large; responding to consumer/business interests and needs. Sue R.E. Germanian – Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, DMA
- Marketing is the conversation between a company or brand and a consumer that ultimately leads to brand recall, preference or a transaction. In today’s socially networked world, that conversation is being disintermediated by word of mouth referrals. Traditional marketers will have to work harder to get ahead of and to influence this trend. Josh Glantz – Vice President and General Manager, PCH Online-Publishers Clearing House
- Marketing is a way to connect what products and services you have to offer with customers who want and need such products and services. It is multi-faceted, starting with researching your target market and how best to deliver the message to coming up with a plan to execute your promotion via various marketing media. The goal is to develop a strategy to create, price and distribute your products and services for an exchange that will satisfy both your and your customers’ objectives. It is an ever evolving process – always evaluating that your message still meets the needs and wants of your market. Trish Green – Executive Vice President, Head of Marketing, Student Funding Group, LLC
- Marketing is ultimately responsible to create enterprise value via the brand, the face of the business strategy. To do so, marketing identifies the target, attractive high growth segments. Marketing drives the organization to define the single minded, differentiated brand value proposition and deliver on it every single day across every touch point. Marketing ensures the delivery of a compelling, differentiated offer to that target and proposition. And, marketing measures and improves the consumers/businesses/partner satisfaction, and the brand health and strength. Marketing is the single point of accountability for growth, identifying and delivering on new customers, new offerings & new market profitable growth. Cathy Halligan – Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing, PowerReviews
- Marketing is anything you create or share that tells your story. Ann Handley – Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs, Author with C.C. Chapman of Content Rules
- With a good product, marketing can all be boiled down to education. Effectively educating people about any good product will create the desire needed to produce action. Jeffrey Harmon – Chief Marketing Officer, Orabrush
- Marketing has to examine why you’re in the game and ask the tough questions. Next, there has to be a plan—and it must be tied to specific sales expectations –clear conditions of satisfaction. Passion is not a substitute for planning. Remember, buzz is NOT sales. Tension is good. Good healthy debate causes tension and moves your group forward. Take risks and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. No one ever died because of a marketing campaign. If you want to grow you’ve got to get out there. Get your business into a new stratosphere. Jeffrey Hayzlett – The Hayzlett Group, Author of The Mirror Test
- Marketing is about knowing the customer (whether current or prospective) so well that there is no question I will read your newsletter and share it with your friends, that I will carry a frequent buyer card in my wallet, and that I already interact on your Facebook page. Ari Herzog – Policy and Communications Specialist
- Marketing is the umbrella term covering research, branding, PR, advertising, direct response, promotions, loyalty, demand generation, etc. Anne Holland – Publisher, WhichTestWon.com
- Marketing is defined as we help people sell more stuff. Joey Iazzetto – President, UniCom Marketing Group
- Marketing is the art and science of creating, delighting and keeping customers, while making a profit and building enterprise value. Marketing integrates, formally or informally, many disciplines and every organizational function. Marketing should embrace the highest ethical standards, respect the environment, and strive to make the world a better place. Max Kalehoff – Vice President of Marketing, Clickable
- Profitable marketing is reminding likely-to-buy prospects of the value of your products/services in meeting their needs, over and over, at an acquisition cost lower than your allowable acquisition cost. Jerry Kaup – MemberLink.org
- Marketing is the art and science of persuasive communication. Dave Kerpen – Chief Executive Officer, Likeable Media
- Marketing is the practice of increasing awareness, consideration, purchase/repurchase and preference for a product or service through consumer-driven benefits, advertising, packaging, placement, pricing and promotions. Historically, marketing was a one-way interaction but is increasingly becoming two-way through the use and influence of social media and viral marketing which is often fueled by the company offering the good or service. Robin Korman – Senior Vice President, Global Loyalty and Partnerships, Wyndham Hotel Group
- Marketing is discovering what the prospect wants and demands and delivering it more efficiently and effectively than the competition. Paul Kulavis – Managing Partner, Sterling Park Group
- Marketing, defined as a value-exchange, is a two-way exchange of value between a marketer and a consumer by providing the right product or service to the right target in the right state of need and by using the right vehicles for interaction and purchase. As a conversation, marketing discovers and tells the right story about its product or service that engages the consumer in an authentic conversation including true listening, engagement, affiliation, and ultimately purchase. Gerry Lantzm – Stories That Work, Inc.
- Marketing is a strategic and tactical multifaceted process that supports sales as well as customer service and retention. The primary stages include identifying target audiences, developing a marketing/communications strategy that usually includes several methods and channels (e.g. advertising, PR, content, events/digital print, broadcast), measuring and assessing results, and constantly refining the process based on learnings and marketplace developments. Marketing can also become a feedback loop between an organization and its customers and prospects that helps to inform and shape the business going forward. Rebecca Lieb, Author of The Truth About Search Engine Optimization
- Marketing defines the business opportunity, identifies profitable customers and products/services that will meet customer needs, builds customer relationships, drives customer demand and communicates corporate or product/services value.” Ann Z. Marshman – Executive Director, TheLeadersCouncil.com
- Marketing is the art and science of creating demand to drive profitable growth. David W. Mischler – President, Altascend Consulting
- Marketing is helping your customers understand how much they need something they never knew they needed. Doreen Moran – Digital Strategist
- Marketing is the art and science of persuading a potential buyer of a product/ service to purchase from a company that’s responsible for creating a compelling message and communicating that message through targeted channels with enough reach and frequency to guide that potential buyer through the purchase cycle of “attention, interest, desire, action.” Paul Mosenson President, NuSpark Marketing
- Marketing is an integrated, multi-channel (online and offline), customer-centric process used to define, segment, reach, and convince potential clients to purchase your product or service, followed by analyzing the metrics to refine your strategy and repeat the process as needed to optimize the ROI (return on investment). Sharon Mostyn – Assistant Vice President, 1st Mariner Bank
- Marketing is the unique opportunity to establish respect and a relationship with your target audience in a way that compels them to become addicted to your products or service, your support. Successful marketing is recognized at the precise moment when your target consumer feels so strongly about your company they integrate you into their daily routines and lifestyle. Jeanniey Mullen – Global Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Zinio and VIVmag
- Marketing is strategic communications and promotions delivered in a mix of forms, such as advertising, public relations, and direct marketing, through multiple online and offline channels, to acquire customers, retain customers, increase share of wallet and shorten the sales cycle. Valerie Oben – President, Foxboro Consulting Inc.
- Marketing is everything a company does, from how they answer the phone, how quickly and effectively they respond to email, to how they handle accounts payable, to how they treat their employees and customers. Done right, marketing integrates a great product or service with PR, sales, advertising, new media, personal contact. In other words, marketing is not a discipline or an activity – it is everything a company is – at least if the company wants to be successful. B.L. Ochman – President, What’s Next
- The modern definition of marketing is the practice of creating value for the mutual benefit of meeting consumer needs and business objectives. In action, that means knowing and meeting target audience/community information discovery, consumption and sharing behaviors with relevant and timely communications throughout the customer lifecycle. Those communications and relationships influence consumer behavior to drive revenue outcomes. Lee Odden – Chief Executive Officer, TopRank Online Marketing
- Marketing is the ongoing process of engagement whereby strangers are nurtured into advocates. Trey Pennington
- Marketing is all activities designed to attract and connect customers with the products and services they need. Includes inbound and outbound marketing tactics across all channels – one-to-one and one-to-many. Ideally, marketing fosters a long-term relationship, includes the entire customer brand experience – i.e. support and customer service. Marketing starts with the design of the product itself and extends through post purchase. Patrick Prothe – Marketing Communications Manager, Viewpoint Construction Software
- Marketing strives to connect a product or service with a market for that product or service. Michael Puican – Associate Director of Corporate Training, DePaul University
- Marketing is identifying the pain points of your customers, developing content and processes to best solve those pain points – which ultimately makes it easier for your customers to buy or stay customers. Joe Pulizzi – Founder, Content Marketing Institute (Disclaimer – I write for the Content Marketing Institute.)
- Marketing is about focusing efforts to develop deep insights into customer behavior and overall market conditions to drive sustainable profitable growth for the company. Humphry Rolleston
- Marketing is deciding how to offer something specific customers crave and then engaging customers and other stakeholders to create preference. Ken Rosen – Managing Partner, Performance Works
- Marketing is the ability to communicate a message to your audience and soliciting a response from them. This response can take the form of a positive impression of your company brand, an urge to purchase an item, to reach out to your company for more information or even spread your message to others. And no matter what the desired response is, marketing should always map it back to your overall business objectives. Cece Salomon-Lee – PR Meets Marketing
- Marketing is the combination of messages and programs (the 4 P’s–product/packaging, price, placement and promotion) that drive shoppers to choose your product or service over someone else’s. Charlene Samples – Director of Marketing, Heartland Sweeteners
- Marketing is understanding your buyers really, really well. Then creating valuable products, services, and information especially for them to help solve their problems. David Meerman Scott – Bestselling author of Real-Time Marketing and PR
- Marketing is influencing behavior to get more people to buy more stuff, more often, for more money. Mark W. Schaefer – Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. Author of The Tao of Twitter
- Marketing, when done correctly, is creating such an amazing experience around your brand or product, that people with no other connection to it want to tell their friends about how amazing it is, and the cycle begins again. Peter Shankman – Founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and Social Media Consultant. Author of Customer Service – New Rules for a Social Enabled World
- Marketing is marshaling all available resources to deliver constantly on the fundamental principle that it’s not what you want to sell, but what customers are looking to buy. Successful marketers constantly think from the customer’s viewpoint and constantly ask, ‘What’s in it for them?.’ Successful marketers earn trust through every contact and transaction. Jim Siegel – Director of Marketing and Communications, HealthCare Chaplaincy
- Marketing creates integrated campaigns to generate leads that positively influence sales, brand, value and vision. Jayme Soulati – Soulati Media
- Marketing, in general, is the communication of information about a product or service to an audience. Effective marketing is a two-way communication that combines both art and science. It is a discipline with no end game that must be constantly honed, tweaked, and tested. Effective marketing builds relationships and inspires trust; it is not “push” or “pull”. The key to effective marketing is getting the communication mix correct for your brand, product or service, understanding how it best interacts with customers or users in the most conducive and accepting environment. Mike Sprouse – Chief Marketing Officer, Epic Media Group
- Marketing is building an offer you believe and know in your bones you can deliver on consistently and elegantly to the people who will love it. And it’s constantly listening to polish, tweak, and refine that offer so that it’s irresistible by taking away whatever customers don’t need, adding more of what customers love, and building in some extraordinary value that only you can provide — an extraordinary surprise that makes customers fall in love. Liz Strauss – Founder, SOBCon, and Chief Executive Officer, Inside-Out Thinking
- Marketing from a scope perspective is anything that modifies the perceived value and/or desirability of a product or service. From a function perspective is moving the demand curve to the right, reducing the elasticity of demand. Bill Tanner – Senior Director of Strategic Research, A. H. Belo
- Marketing is inextricably linked to sales and unless it drives a trial or sale, the effort should not be labeled ‘marketing.’ The critical steps in marketing include defining what is currently known about a business (trends, regulations, target audience, competitors), who are the target users or buyers, what are the measurable business objectives in terms of where to take that business, what is the plan to get there and what are the measures of success of initiatives defined to reach those objectives. This marketing approach can be applied whether the objective is expanding a current business or entering new markets. Each step in the marketing process is meant to move the user or buyer closer to making a buy decision. Alexandra Tyler – Vice President of Branded and Social Media Marketing, Citi Global Transaction Services
- Marketing builds relationships between consumers and brands. The many disciplines that go into the process, together create a brand personality designed to be compatible with the target. Marketing romances the consumer in the hopes of establishing a long term commitment. This takes persuasion and nothing moulds opinion like the third party endorsement power of PR. As Bill Gates says “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.” Deborah Weinstein – President, Strategic Objectives
While the definitions of marketing vary based on perspective, they generally refer to engaging a target market of consumers or other users to ultimately sell a product and hopefully to maintain a relationship beyond the purchase.
Which of these definitions of marketing do you think is best? Please feel free to add your own definition of marketing in the comment section below.
Big tip of my hat to everyone who contributed to this column and helped clarify the definition of marketing.
Note: Definitions were gathered from a variety of sources. Respondents were asked to reply in one to five sentences. Understandably, some answers ran long given the topic. As editor, minor changes were made for usage and spelling. Any errors or misstatements introduced in the editing are mine. As stated above, readers are invited to add their definitions or modifications in the comment section below.
All book links are Amazon affiliate URLs.
I'll be there along with 200 other speakers from around the world.Register today. Use my code: to save $100.
Now there are two ways to get Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Content by Email:
Subscribe to receive the full text of each new actionable marketing post delivered free, five days a week to your inbox.
Signup for the weekly Actionable Marketing Newsletter and get a roundup of of the week’s posts, plus extra content you won’t find on the website, plus a free e-book: What Every Blogger Needs to Know – 101 Actionable Blog Tips
Here are some related columns that you may be interested in reading:
- Branding – Not just a logo – Branding checklist
- Do you really know how to communicate? [Chart]
- Where’s your marketing communications? [Chart]
Photo credit: Microsoft Clipart