What on earth is marketing?

One of the questions I was asked in my interview for a copywriting job at this very agency was: “How would you define marketing?”. I’m from a journalistic background — having just finished a postgrad in journalism — so I have very little knowledge about marketing, really… But, like every dependable journalist, I’d done my basic research beforehand.

With Google as my trusty sidekick, I typed in ‘marketing’. Wikipedia topped the list: “Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers”. Pretty straightforward, I thought.

Interview jitters, though, timed my answer into gobbledegook mixed in with abstract nouns and sprinkled with adjectives that even I didn’t realise I knew. I read somewhere that the term marketing may replace the term ‘advertising’. I nearly had my head ripped off…

My soon-to-be boss sitting to my left, however, said that actually many people who have been working in marketing for over 20 years struggle to give a definitive answer to the ‘what is marketing?’ question.

I wonder… How often do we stop to think about what marketing actually is?

Now that I’m a copywriter here at Gloo, I decided to ask some of my colleagues what their definition is and how they would explain it to a newbie like myself.

Charley, our marketing consultant, said: “Marketing is a strategic function that stimulates, facilitates and fulfils customer needs by creating value.” I think I prefer the Wikipedia definition. It says exactly the same thing — without woolly words like ‘facilitates’.

Sarah is a senior copywriter here at Gloo. She shrugged her shoulders and issued the standard statement given to journalists: “No comment.”

Lisa, Gloo’s designer, popped her head up from behind her computer screen at this point. Was she about to enlighten us all with a succinct and understandable definition? No.

Anthony, our Content Director, believes that many companies have still yet to grasp the concept: “A lot of companies think marketing is promotion. Some even think it’s just advertising or brochures.”

Clearly, Ant has never typed in ‘marketing’ to Microsoft Word, right-clicked and it and perused the synonyms. I think he’d lose his rag.

So after doing some more research, I thought I’d see how marketing compares with my background: journalism.

  1. Marketers have to persuade people of the value of a product or service. Journalists have to communicate the value of their stories to their audience — to persuade readers to choose their newspaper, blog or news channel over another.
  2. Marketers must know their target audience. Journalists must know their readership. For example, if the Sun referred to the Queen as HRH rather than Her Majesty, nobody would bat an eyelid. Woe betide the Daily Telegraph if they did that. The country would be up in arms.
  3. Marketers must make a link between what society needs and how they respond to the economy. Journalists understand this relationship so they can report it effectively.
  4. Marketers build long-term relationships with customers in ways that benefit their organisation and its shareholders. Journalists build long-term relationships with contacts and readers to deliver groundbreaking news stories or features.
  5. Marketers look for innovative ways in which to use language and unusual designs to engage their customers. Journalists equally look at how they can use language and unusual design to connect with their readership.

I know there are only five points above, but they are an important five. Without them, people in both industries would fail at their jobs.

The commonalities between journalism and marketing are strong enough that those who work in one industry can learn from those who work in the other. They both use their skills in their own way to engage their audience. In all, the end product is that they’re both trying to persuade their audience to invest — whether that’s in a product or service, or in a newspaper or a magazine.

And so, the good news is that my previous training and experience will be very useful in my marketing career.



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