Updated on Wednesday 27 February 2013
As you consider the massive set of career options open to you, you may find yourself asking the question, "what is marketing?" You aren't the first to wonder. Marketing is an abstract concept that has been defined in different ways by different people. In this article, we'll examine a couple of definitions to hopefully make your decision—if not easier—at least a bit more informed.
In our pursuit to define what is marketing, let's start with the dictionary. If you look up the definition of marketing in the Oxford Dictionary, this is what you will find: "Marketing is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services…"
Sounds simple, right? However, it's not quite as simple as it may at first seem to be. As an international student studying marketing in the US, you need to understand that marketing is so much more than just promoting and selling. The US has a history of producing marketing masters like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. International students should look to such industry leaders for inspiration as they study marketing in the US.
A more accurate and comprehensive definition of marketing would be:
"The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself." — Peter F. Drucker
Drucker's definition suggests that to be successful in marketing, you need to thoroughly understand your customers. You should know things like their ages, income, sex, and hobbies—any detail that enhances your understanding of your audience. This knowledge is critical to have, so you can develop your product to meet their wants and needs because, as the definition suggests, your product should sell itself.
Apple, Inc. provides a great case study of successful marketing strategy. Apple's marketing team constantly listens to and communicates with their customers and makes progressive enhancements to their products based on the feedback they receive. Why do you think so many people own multiple Apple devices? First, there was the iPod™ which was great for music, but then we wanted to be able to talk to our friends and surf the Internet—so Apple developed the iPhone to fulfill those desires. Apple has listened to its customers and has evolved the design of its products according to their expressed needs and desires.
In our dictionary definition, marketing is described as an action, which is quite appropriate, considering all of the activities performed daily by marketing professionals. BusinessDictionary gives a more detailed answer to the question, "what is marketing?"—it explains that it's a bit more complicated than just promoting a product. Marketing involves researching the target audience, advising clients how to develop their products to suit consumer desires, determining product pricing structure, selecting effective channels through which to communicate with your customers, and developing and implementing promotional strategies.
Let's use Apple again to illustrate this process: Apple design their products based on their perceptions of consumer desires. They make improvements in both software and hardware, then establish different pricing levels to fit into different customers' budgets. Finally, all Apple products are sold together in a convenient location—the Apple store—making them easy to find. The company advertises in a variety of media, from promotions at tech events to online advertisements and television, in order to reach as many potential customers as possible.
Based on these definitions of marketing, a clearer picture of what marketing is emerges. Studying marketing in the US presents a great opportunity to see some of the world's best marketing agencies in action and learn about marketing first-hand. Just don't forget that there's more to marketing than simply promoting and selling products; it's about knowing your customers, developing your products to fulfill their needs, and maintaining constant communication with them.