The Heck Does Marketing Do?
By Zuhair Suidan, December 2005
An IBM Tivoli advertisement leads with "MISSION – Keep
systems running, sales selling, accounting counting and marketing
doing whatever it does". It's catchy; maybe even funny.
But it makes you think… What the heck does marketing
Gurus Peter Drucker and Philip Kotler tell us plainly that marketing
is not selling, that its role is to create goods that sell themselves,
making sales superfluous… On the practitioner side, you
get Sergio Zyman, former Coca-Cola Chief Marketing Officer, proclaiming: "The
job of marketing is to sell lots of stuff. " Well, which
Then we get Silicon Valley marketing legend Regis McKenna telling
us that the marketing function is increasingly being marginalized
into marcom (for marketing communications). He adds that marketing
strategy is so integral to business strategy, that it is becoming
the responsibility of the chief executive.
The reality of it is that you get as many different definitions
of what marketing is as the number of people you ask, and you
find as many different implementations of the marketing function
as the number of companies you look into. Unlike other professions,
such as accounting, engineering, sales, software development,
human resources… marketing seems to defy tight definition.
Although marketing includes marketing communications, public
relations, promotions and advertising, Marketing with a capital
M is much, much more. Marketing covers everything relating to
understanding who the customers are, their needs, their values,
their perceptions and their buying behavior… It includes
understanding competition, its offerings and its position in
the market place vs. one’s own position... It also encompasses
understanding the company’s internal capabilities and limitations,
as well as its opportunities and threats.
Marketing leads marketing strategy development, in particular,
deciding which markets the company focuses on (and just as importantly,
which it does not), which needs it aims to satisfy (and just
as importantly, which it does not), and which offerings it should
bring to the marketplace (and just as importantly, which it should
not). Marketing segments the market and coordinates the tailoring
of the company’s strategy for each segment.
Marketing’s most important role, however, is still bigger
than the functionalities listed above. That role is to be the champion of
Marketing strategy implementation within the organization,
ensuring that all functional areas are on the same page, speaking
the same language and pulling in the same direction. It is
the glue that keeps all parts of the company focused on the customer.
You have good Marketing then when development develops what needs
developing, services provides the required services, support
delivers the right support, pricing prices competitively, sales
sells what should be sold, and their individual plans are part
of an integrated, synchronized Marketing strategy.
As I work with client cross-functional teams, I lead them in
realizing that they are all part of (capital M) Marketing. The
research people are doing Marketing research, the strategists
are developing Marketing strategy, the developers are creating
Market solutions, the services people are providing Marketing
services, manufacturing is producing Market satisfying goods… and
Back to Tivoli’s ad, the more appropriate question then
is not what does marketing do, but rather what does Marketing
What do you think? I’d love to hear