<B>Pure marketing?</B>

Gildo Seisdedos. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

27 October 2005

The science of marketing is often misunderstood. Rather than focus on mere image-building, as many people believe, marketing actually plays a vital social role; it ensures that business caters to the consumer.

The word marketing often has negative connotations. Politicians accuse each other of ‘marketing themselves rather than devoting their time to finding real solutions to real problems’. Something is referred to as ‘pure marketing’ when it appears to emphasize image over content or when its sole aim is to ‘sell the product’ at any cost. In short, pure marketing is seen as form without substance. Marketing is bad. If all you do is marketing, then it’s worse than being a politician; you’ve hit rock bottom.

This interpretation is unfair and the reason for this widespread view (we can find this type of argument in the media almost every day) lies in a misconception of what marketing is and the social role it fulfils.

Marketing as science

All sciences begin with a definition of the object under study. What is it that marketing studies? For many people, the answer boils down to one word: selling (no matter what the price). But this is just not correct, although selling forms a crucial part of the process. Marketing involves the inter-exchanges and the transactions that take place on a market under normal circumstances. It helps markets operate successfully, which arguably makes it one of the most ethically-committed areas of business management. That is because marketing is concerned with customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction is at the heart of business success. Marketing puts the emphasis on the market, the individual, the consumer and on the strategy design centre. This is far removed from the concept of selling at any cost through advertising. Nor does it evoke the image of a sales team bent on breaking down the defences of the overwhelmed customer.

The real change wrought by marketing is that it inverts the starting point of all strategic thinking: A manufacturer no longer begins with his product, selling what he knows how to make (producing is very easy, today anyone can do it). His true strength derives from his ability to adapt to market demands, and this requires a deep understanding of consumer needs. Thus a manufacturer no longer sells what he can produce but rather produces what he knows he can sell. From that point of view, marketing can also be defined as demand management.

Marketing and society

The question now lies in winning satisfied customers. Traditionally, there were two ways of achieving this: A manufacturer gives a buyer a product with high-technical quality (but very expensive) or he gives him a low-cost product. However, marketing opens up a third and potentially more successful option: The manufacturer offers the best product at the best price, and succeeds at satisfying the buyer. It is not the best product per se but rather that which best meets the consumer’s needs and the specific demands of a market segment. This is the social role of marketing: It is the driving force behind the market economy—the mechanism that ensures a highly segmented supply of goods fits our individual needs like a kid glove. Perhaps higher social aspirations exist, but there are undoubtedly fewer areas in which our civilisation is more efficient than in the production of a wide-selection of seductive goods. And for this we should be grateful to the science of marketing.

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