Monday, March 24, 2008

What is Marketing?

I caught a post over at Make Marketing History blog commenting on a line from a recent SXSW panel.

Marketing is the price you pay for creating mediocre products.

That's a phrase that was apparently repeated at a panel at SXSW. It went down well, but it's so wrong. Without knowing the context, I can only observe that it sounds like yet another example of the tendency (prevalent in geekdom and beyond) to believe that marketing and advertising/promotion are synonomous and that great products sell themselves. They're not and they probably won't.
I also don't know the context in which the comment was given. But it does resemble an idea that seems to be strongly held in 'geekdom' (read geeks that start companies and sell stuff).

Unfortunately, in my opinion, neither the comment or the comment made about it are right.

The reason everyone gets 'the definition of Marketing' wrong is that people are trying to define a set of behaviors/procedures/tactics/ideas/etc. that have (almost) no similarity given different contexts. Geeks that produce great tech. products and sell them effortlessly are going to flounder at P&G with a $100m marketing budget trying to move Tide off the shelves.

It's two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT situations. In both cases, you need marketing. It's just radically different marketing.

But people lump them together and try and write books about what one situation can learn from the other. And then we get into arguments at conferences about what the 'nature' of marketing is.

We make up laws (how many P's have you heard of?); we talk about rules; we pass down advice on the proper way things are done. We pontificate on ridiculous nuances in rules and laws that have no real consequences (or at least no useful ones).

Marketing is not a DISCIPLINE. Marketing is a REACTION.

Marketing is what you do when you are a business person presented with a problem to do with a product, a potential consumer and a cost/benefit equation. That's it. After these initial conditions, Marketing branches off into a thousand different areas depending on how you react. There are no global rules, only local ones.

Marketing is when you've been told by your mother you can't move your lemonade stand past the end of the driveway so you put a sign on a lamp post at the corner to get people to come down your street.

Marketing is building the next generation of telecommunications and realizing that the only way you are going to get scale is to take the big boys on by buying market share with a massive ad campaign.

Marketing is building the best search engine in the world.

Marketing is giving your product away for free to build a fan base.

Problem, action, reaction, action.

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