What is Marketing?

What is Marketing?

There is no single definition of marketing. This may seem surprising, especially when one considers that the discipline has, over the years, become a vital field in business studies. The difficulty of defining marketing stems from the fact that it involves the performance of several tasks, the application of various techniques and frameworks, a broad knowledge of humans and the societies in which they live, and it can adapt to countless organizations, industries, and contexts.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “… 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.”1 The use of this definition means, among other things, that the knowledge you will acquire in this course can be used even in the context of a Canadian non-profit organization that plans to expand its activities abroad. Let us analyze four critical elements of this definition:

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  1. Value creation. Customer value is the difference between the benefits the customer gets from using an organization’s offering (product or service, or bundle of products and services) and the costs of obtaining that offering. Obviously, to create value for its customers, an organization needs to develop a deep understanding of the needs and wants of its customers as well as environmental challenges and opportunities. It does so through marketing research and experience, and it uses its resources and capabilities to design products and services that best respond to specific customer expectations. By doing so, the organization may design offerings that maximize benefits or minimize the costs, or find the right balance between the two to create customer value that is superior to that of the competitors.
  2. Value communication. Designing the best possible offering to address a particular need among potential customers is not enough—marketing should also help to create the awareness of the offering, develop an understanding of what the offering is and what it will do for customers, develop a mental disposition in the customer to buy or use the offering, and encourage people to purchase or use the offering.
  3. Value delivery. Again, it is not enough to communicate the value created—marketing also has to make sure that the organization at least delivers what it promises. Communication creates customers’ expectations, and when the organization fails to meet them, customers are disappointed. Customers are satisfied when the value delivered is exactly what they expect. In a competitive environment, it is even better to delight customers by delivering more than what is promised or more than what customers expect.
  4. Value exchange. This refers to building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships that ensure that the organization, the customer, and the society at large are better off in the long term. A key element in this process is the delivery of superior customer value and satisfaction, while the organization and its stakeholders also realize their own goals.

These four elements can be called the “technology of marketing” because they form the core activities that marketers have to perform regardless of the context, the industry, or the nature of the organizations involved. In this course, we will apply this “technology of marketing” to international markets. As previously stated, this approach will work equally well for both businesses and non-profit organizations.



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