Marketing Defined

It seems reasonable to establish a definition of marketing, which Kotler (1976) defines as follows:

a management orientation that holds that the key task of the organization is to determine the needs, wants, and values of a target market and to adapt the organization to delivering the desired satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than its competitors. (p. 14)

Marketing as defined in the literature involves adapting an organization to the wants and needs of target markets. This definition does not include either the word advertising or the word promotion.

A more contemporary definition of marketing is as follows:

the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return. (Armstrong & Kotler, 2007, p. 6)

Neither the word advertising nor the word promotion was added to the definition of marketing in more than 30 years.

I have observed in practice that marketing is often misunderstood as advertising or promotion. For example, I have been asked on many occasions to help “market” a program or event, as if “marketing” is the same as advertising. Usually the implication is that motivating more customers to buy a product or service or attend an event (i.e., selling more things) is the desirable end of marketing. I’m certain that many others have experienced the same.

Upon examination of the definitions above, it is clear that the goal of marketing is not to produce a thing and find customers for it, but the goal of marketing is to find customers (or target markets) and produce a thing for them. These are opposite approaches.

The conclusion from this is that marketing is often grossly misunderstood in organizations today. Marketing may be understood as advertising and promotion. The outcomes of advertising and promotion plans include websites, social media outreach, display advertisements, email and direct mail campaigns, television commercials, and personal selling. These are critically important outcomes, but they are not marketing by themselves.

Marketing is a management orientation that identifies targeted customer groups, learns about the wants and needs of those groups, and delivers products or services that satisfy those wants and needs in a superior way than competing organizations. Promotion is part of marketing, but marketing is not entirely promotion.

The definition of marketing will be an important consideration in this blog, and I welcome your input about how the term is used in theory and in practice.


Armstrong, G., & Kotler, P. (2007). Marketing: An introduction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Kotler, P. (1976). Marketing management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


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