What is Marketing?

I get this question quite often, and for everyone interested in the subject (as breadth or career)- let me answer properly and hopefully pique your interest.


What marketing is NOT:
-Lies and deception
-Selling you useless products
-Just embellishing and advertising
-Madmen (The TV show)

What marketing is:
Lots of definitions exist, but essentially marketing is the provision and communication of value to customers.

So marketing has a terrible connotation for selling products which people don’t want or need. This refers to the field of advertising (a very small part of Marketing).. and bad advertising at that.

Marketing consists of every step from market research and product design to packaging and promotions. You will often hear marketers refer to the four Ps: Product, Place, Price, Promotions. Marketing refers to consideration of all of these aspects to improve customer experience.


The four Ps?

Within product, marketers are at the backend making sure your products are well designed (eg. fit into your hand, nice colors, easy to learn) and that packaging is done appropriately (protect product, teach about how to use, are appealing and interesting).

Within Place, marketers design stores or locations to enhance experience (eg. congruent music, nice atmosphere, appropriate lighting, convenient location)

With price, marketers design it to be optimal for both the seller and buyer. This will become more obvious to later.

With promotions, marketers design ads to increase knowledge, awareness, and liking of the brand or product (eg. you feel good when buying a Coke, Nike, or Bodyshop product. You know about what the benefits are and are better able to make decisions).

What good marketing looks like:


A good marketer knows to design the product so the consumer loves it. They know if the consumer finds the product useful and entertaining, they will come back and tell their friends about it without any advertising at all.

A good marketer designs the “Place” aspect to add to your experience. Apple’s “Genius Bar” helps people solve problems. Their clean and spacious layouts help people try out new products to see if they like it or not. They are conveniently located near people who are interested (accessible from highways, in malls you visit).

A good marketer designs price to increase value provided as well as influence profits. They know if they price something as very expensive and it fails or is faulty- the customer will never again shop there. They also know if they price it too low, they will lose money, there would be shortages, and customers would think it’s a bad product. They price appropriately- not too high nor low so customers can say “that is definitely value for money”.

A good marketer also promotes fairly- knowing if they over-exaggerate their product, expectations will exceed experience leading to low satisfaction. Promotions should be about informing, increasing decision making efficiency, creating a relationship, and exciting the customer.

What bad marketing looks like:


Bad marketing is about creating something first (no market research and design consideration) and pushing it out to people who don’t really want it. Think of your typical door-to-door salesman: they don’t have anything you want but keep insisting you need it. As a customer, marketing succeeds when you line up at the store for days to get something, not when they have to force you to buy it.

Bad marketing is about designing the place to attract customers without providing value. Big, distracting neon signs to catch your attention or blocking your way in a busy mall so you have to stop are examples. Clear, clean signage so you can spot them from far but is not overly attention-grabbing (unless you’re looking for the store specifically) should be the way.

Bad marketing prices really badly designed products cheaply so you’ll impulse buy and never use it (they get it off their shelves). Or maybe they price well designed products so cheaply that even if you don’t need it, you will buy it. (Did you really need that really expensive X that was on sale? Have you used it since you bought it?) Pricing things so expensive that nobody buys it (or if you had, you immediately regret it and never come back) is obviously also wrong.

Bad marketing designs ads which neither entertain nor inform viewers to something, and over-embellish products.


So the next time you meet IPG paintball in the mall (this group of people selling paintball tickets which are deceiving and overpriced. I can write 3 books about how they are complete rip-offs.. but I shall save that rant for next time), or get an annoying telemarketer call- don’t attribute that to marketing. That’s idiot salesmen given minimum wage by some company who has hired wrong or no proper marketing staff. (Disclaimer: not all salesmen are pushy, dishonest, and stupid. Some really do love their products they are selling and for good reason. But not IPG Paintball.)

When you find a product which is well designed and that you love, and receive excellent service- that is good marketing. When you learn something new and interesting from ads and salesmen- and when you leave the place delighted about your purchase and after use are still incredibly happy- that is well designed marketing.

And if you are interested in this whole process of how you can cause delight, marketing is something you should look into studying even if it’s only one subject.

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