Implications of misunderstanding marketing in higher education

In a previous post, I outlined the definition of marketing as cited in the literature. I concluded that marketing is frequently mistaken as advertising or promotion in many organizations. Advertising and promotion are critical parts of marketing, but they are not marketing themselves.

As a scholar-practitioner, I must ask a simple question: So what?

I have two responses, and the first is pragmatic. The term “marketing” may be shorthand for “marketing communications” or “integrated marketing communications” (“IMC”). This is fine for everyday parlance. As a professional in the field, I adapt to the expectations of my client. Case in point, I have used “marketing” when I actually mean “communications” or “promotion” because I know my audience will understand my message. With a few exceptions, I don’t make a fuss about how to use the term “marketing.”

My pragmatic response indicates no substantive implications in practice of equating marketing with advertising or promotion.

My second response is more strategic and considers what this misunderstanding means for marketing in higher education. If higher education administrators lack an understanding of marketing, then marketing opportunities will be undersupplied in the field. For marketers, it may mean a shortage of professional development or the motivation to seek positions outside of higher education. For colleges and universities, it may mean a scarcity of academically and professionally trained strategic planners proficient in developing programs and services to meet the needs of students and other stakeholders.

This implication is obviously more serious. It suggests that higher education leaders are missing a perfect opportunity to cultivate talented professionals to respond to changes in technology, the economy, and other areas.

Which of these responses is more applicable in your setting?

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