We Need A Definition of Marketing

Why do we need a definition of marketing?

  • We have an education problem. There seems to be a never-ending confusion on the difference between advertising and marketing. When you have companies like Forrester Research and uber-blogger/ VC, Fred Wilson propagating the wrong definition, you know we have a problem.
Isn’t there already a definition out there?
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. (Approved October 2007)
  • This isn’t necessarily incorrect but I would say that it is a definition by marketers for marketers. If you want to explain marketing to someone that doesn’t understand it, this is not going to help. The mainstream definition needs to be simple, to the point, and short.
So, what definition do you suggest?
Marketing is the name we use to describe the promises a company makes, the story it tells, the authentic way it delivers on that promise.
  • And then let’s follow it up with Seth’s explanation on the difference between advertising and marketing (from Mitch Joel’s most excellent podcast) just to make sure it hammers the point home:
Advertising is a price you pay for an undifferentiated product for the masses. Marketing is the way you avoid paying that price. You avoid paying that price by designing a product worth talking about.
That works for me, so now what?
  • My idea is that one of the ways we can get others to start understanding that there is more to marketing than advertising (or social media, or content marketing, etc) is by making sure that this definition turns up first when someone searches for the term. This makes sure that when someone is trying to get educated on the topic, they start off on the right foot.
  • So here’s the ask,
Please go to The Definition of Marketing and share the page, link to it, blog about it and anything else you can do to make sure that it gets lots of Google attention.
  • It may be a small act, but as Howard Zinn said, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
Why did you pick this definition?
  • It was the shortest and simplest that I could find from one of today’s leading authorities when it comes to marketing. Have a better one? Would love to hear your suggestion.
Image credit:  Jose Téllez

2 thoughts on “We Need A Definition of Marketing

  1. I 100% agree with you, Josh. We not only have an education problem born of tired old ways of viewing our profession, we also have an inside problem with two-bit hacks out there calling themselves “internet marketers” and “social media marketers”. They’re no more a marketer than I am a juggling lion tamer. And what we have to deal with is the resulting cynicism that comes from those who see marketing as a collection of spin doctors and weavers of convenient lies.

    This definitely calls for a deeper dialogue from us practitioners. We’ll never come up with a true definition that everyone likes but at least we might be able to separate what marketing is compared to advertising, PR, etc.

    1. Chris,

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. Really appreciated.

      For the most part, I try to ignore the cynicism but I think this becoming an issue that we need to address. I know that this most likely won’t have a major impact but figured that if I didn’t at least try to spread the right message, it wouldn’t happen on its own.

      Thanks again,


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