How Do You Define Marketing?


by Greg Millman, President AMA Tampa Bay

If you are reading this blog, it is likely you are a marketing professional.  Hopefully, you are also a member of AMA Tampa Bay – this will be my only shameless plug for the next 500 words, I promise!  As an experienced marketer, and the incoming President of AMA Tampa Bay, I am fully committed to our profession and understand the great value that we provide, whether from a corporate perspective or as an agency to its clients, in shaping customer perceptions, promoting goods and services, identifying and nurturing sales prospects, and building lasting business relationships.

And yet, given all that we accomplish and the impact that we have, how many times do you hear “what exactly is a marketer?”  My own mother has no idea what I do for a living – she wanted me to be a doctor after all.  But aren’t there certain professions that seem self-explanatory?  Airline pilot, electrician, nurse, factory worker, firefighter, etc.  Now contrast those with: SEO Strategist, Director of Digital Marketing, Media Planner, or Brand Manager.  I don’t picture my daughter ever playing dress-up with one of these titles…

In my opinion, part of the reason people don’t grasp what we do is because we do so many different things!  When I was studying for my MBA (Go Gators! ok, shameless plug #2), a faculty advisor, who had worked at P&G, shared a construct of marketing that has stuck with me over the years.  He said to picture marketing as a continuum, with statistical and data analysis on one end and Sales on the other.  That is a pretty big umbrella which encompasses distinct disciplines from market research to SEO keyword analysis to brand management to website design to advertising to public relations to telemarketing.  No wonder sales and marketing are so intertwined (or should be). 

Additionally, too many non-marketers get hung up on the concept of design.  The “man on the street” is aware of E-Trade’s talking babies or Dos Equis’ “most interesting man in the world” but they never think about the effort  the brand managers expended analyzing the 4 P’s or the collaboration it took to meld these TV spots with all the other online and offline channels to create a seamless customer experience.  Whether it’s the SEO teams working behind the scenes to analyze and optimize keywords – there’s a reason a Google search for the babies or the interesting man rank so high – or the grocery store end cap display for Dos Equis or the direct mail piece from E-Trade, those aren’t coincidences, but rather the result of highly intelligent, educated and dedicated marketers at the top of their profession.

And then there are the financial folks.  Marketing is viewed by many of them as either a back-office function like HR or IT, or as a bottomless money pit where dollars are consumed voraciously with no hope of providing a positive ROI.  One only needs to look at BrandZ or InterBrand rankings of highest brand value to understand the power of effective marketing though.

So, how do YOU define marketing?  What do YOU tell your family, friends and neighbors when they get that puzzled expression on their face when you say “I am a marketer”?