An Answer To The Question- “What Is Marketing?”

Its quite common for people who work in marketing to get the question \”So what exactly is marketing?\” and it can’t be answered with one quick sound bite. Here is my attempt at trying to answer it.

The main responsibilities of a marketing department are:

1. Staying close to customers, understanding their needs and wants and constantly look for beneficial product or service enhancements to introduce – and then to mobilise their organisations to go ahead and introduce them.

2. Communicating the product’s or brand’s unique benefits to potential customers so that those people become aware of why they should prefer their particular organisation’s product or brand to competing ones.

3. For existing customers, making them stay loyal to the brand, buy more frequently and (or) buy in larger quantities. Loyalty schemes are a good example of this.

In an ideal scenario a product or service being marketed has something about it that, in the eyes of customers, is genuinely different and better than the competition.

The marketing team responsible can then use that competitive advantage as the foundation on which to base their promotional activity.

Unfortunately, for most organisations this “ideal” scenario does not exist. What is more commonly seen in many sectors is that truly unique product benefits are hard to find and, if you do find them, very quickly copied.

Marketing in larger companies

This set of circumstances often leads to a situation where the highest profile marketing activity is often generated by larger businesses that have a limited amount of real product or service advantage but enjoy relatively high gross margins. They can then use these higher margins to fund significant advertising in an attempt to “talk-up” the very small differences they actually have.

In this scenario, if a product is experienced or seen without the presence of any visible branding, customers often can’t find any apparent differences with competing products.

The marketing executives responsible therefore seek to make the combined package of product and brand stronger by using high visibility, powerful marketing (often TV advertising).

These marketing campaigns are intended to “wrap” the product in a brand that makes customers believe in its superiority or shows them that it can satisfy other needs they have – some examples might be their psychological need for enhanced social status or maybe a need for enhanced attractiveness to the opposite sex.

These types of psychological benefits are often referred to as a brand’s \”emotional benefits\”. Combined with any “physical benefits” the product may have they are the key ingredients that can go to make a strong brand.

Smaller company marketing

Smaller organisations have smaller marketing budgets and the marketing activities typically carried out are more likely to be lower profile things like trade shows, advertising (but not TV), product or company videos, e-mail campaigns, online banners and promotions through social media.


Organisations invest in marketing to drive growth. It might be revenue growth, profit growth, membership growth but growth is what they are looking for and is the criteria, in well run organisations, by which marketing success will be judged.

Sam Turnbull blogs at about marketing and

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