What is marketing?

What is Marketing?

The definition of marketing  is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.


Every product we buy, service we experience, a store we visit or media message we receive has been influenced by marketing. As marketers, we can understand the different levers that shape these interactions, what goes on behind the scenes and when we are being marketed too – although even when we know it’s an ad, sometimes we can’t resist. Consumers are becoming much more acutely aware of the 1000s of messages being served to them every day, and as marketers, we are constantly competing for attention. But, there is a reason that marketing works – it’s designed with the customer in mind. What makes them tick? What message is going to resonate? What need or want is marketing fulfilling? If you get this right, then marketing will have a cut-through. So, let’s explore in more detail what marketing is. 

Defining Marketing

We’re often asked how to define marketing. Youngsters aspiring to a marketing career may have preconceived notions of marketing. Social media comes to mind, working with influencers to gain traction with a new brand or product, tongue-in-cheek banter between brands. Advertising is another popular answer. 


But, when you get into the nitty-gritty of marketing, it’s a lot more complex and strategic. The essence of marketing is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services to customers. It’s about identifying a customer’s want or need through research and developing offerings that will answer those needs.

The Four P’s of Marketing

Traditional marketing is centred around the four Ps: 


Product: successful companies start with research to identify a gap in the market or customer need and then develop the right product to meet their expectations. When we talk about products, this can include services, for example, insurance. 

Price: pricing strategies are extremely important for ensuring the product value is in line with the customer’s expectation – this means how much are they willing to pay for the product or service, and what is its perceived value? Of course, if you are offering a more premium product, the price tag is likely to reflect this. 

Place: the place is all about where a customer can buy the product. Is there a physical space, or will it be eCommerce led or both? There are so many considerations when thinking about how to get the product into the hand of the consumer, including ease and speed. 

Promotion: this is all about using communications to sell products and services, including branding, advertising, PR, events and sales. This area gets a lot of attention when thinking about marketing, but it’s vital to get the product, price and place correctly before diving into promotion. 


Many academics have evolved this model to include other factors such as people, process and physical space; however, ultimately, the basics stay the same – we know that they work and do the job they need to do. 

Getting Marketing right

Although many definitions of marketing and models are widely used in the industry, there are some simple reminders to get the strategy right. Professor Mark Ritson explains this best operating Diagnosis + strategy + tactics. 


Completing market research to understand the market and customer before jumping into tactics is critical to success. Strategy is all about defining where and where not to play by answering three key questions: who are we targeting, what are we trying to achieve (marketing objectives), and how will we position the product or service to accomplish this? If you can answer those questions, then the tactics you choose to execute the marketing should be evident.


Ultimately, marketing can be a fun but complex industry that is constantly evolving, particularly in the digital age with new technologies emerging. But, it’s important to remember that the essence of marketing and the basics of strategy will never change. 


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