More Thoughts on the Definition of Marketing

October 27th, 2015
Steven Howard

Marketing means creating and keeping good customers


In the previous Keeping Good Customers Blog, we offered the following as a new definition of marketing:

“The ultimate role of marketing is to create and keep good customers, to the benefit of customers, the organization, and stakeholders.”

When I first proposed this new definition of marketing in my Monday Morning Marketing Memo newsletter a few years ago, many readers responded with thought-provoking responses, a few of which I would like to share with you.

Susan Ward from The Chartered Institute of Marketing wrote that “It is my belief that CIM’s widely used definition still holds true:

“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

She adds, “Customer relationships will not last long if the company is only in that relationship for its own ends. However, I don’t believe that the relationship would last very long if the customer was given exactly what they wanted at any cost to the business. In that situation, it could be said that customers want excellent quality products and service at low prices. Not many companies would stay in business if that was how they operated. The definition given by CIM aims to give a balance between all stakeholders, including customers, recognizing that their requirements are indeed paramount — but crucially, it conveys that the reason a company is in business is to make profits.”

While the CIM definition is definitely better than either of the definitions proffered by the American Marketing Association and the Australian Marketing Institute (both cited in the previous memo A New Definition of Marketing), the emphasis on profits is a bit bothersome to me. After all, marketing is not something that is limited to just corporations.

This focus on profitability by CIM limits the application of their definition to non-profit organizations, statutory bodies, and government entities, none of which engage the principles and techniques of marketing in order to make profits.

Jacques Chevron, from JRC&A Consulting in Canada wrote, “The head of Caterpillar in France told me many years ago that ‘marketing is a state of mind.’ I am still not sure of what he meant exactly but I am increasingly convinced of the statement’s wisdom.”

I think Jenny Bigio, then Managing Director at Write-Angles in Singapore, may understand what the head of Caterpillar meant. She wrote, “It seems that marketing has been hijacked entirely by the left brain — coldly rational, logical, and calculating. Your definition harnesses the right brain’s warmth, creativity, sensitivity, intuition. If today’s number-crunching managers are living in the past (figures revealing performance) or the future (forecasting), your vision for marketing’s role brings balance, so that marketers harness the ‘power of now,’ being in the present, and totally tuned into their customers and the circumstances in which they operate.

Jenny adds eloquence to my definition, but then again I am probably more “left brained” than her, since she owned and operated a highly successful graphics design and advertising company.

Whether marketing is a state of mind, a deep-seated philosophy, or an ethos for the way one conducts business and interacts with customers is a subject best left for another day.

Successful marketing — and by that I mean highly effective and efficient marketing practices that produce solid, long-term results — is certainly the result of a proper mindset. To me, this proper mindset focuses on customers first, the organization second, and shareholders third.

Many thanks to Susan, Jacques, Jenny, and many others for their inputs. Their thoughts, words, and ideas have given me a reason to pause and reflect on what it is that marketing is all about.

And that’s what I hope to accomplish with our readership with each of these Powerful Marketing Memos and our associated book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo.


Key Point: the ultimate role of marketing is to create and keep good customers, to the benefit of customers, the organization, and stakeholders.

Taking Action: review your mission statement. Is the emphasis on your customers, the organization, employees, or shareholders? If the answer is anything other than your customers, now would be a good time to create a new mission statement.

How involved is your Board in your marketing activities? What steps can be taken to get the Board more interested in marketing and other leading-edge factors such as customer satisfaction, product and service quality, operational performance, and employee commitment?

What role does marketing play in your organization? Is it confined to a solitary functional department? What would it take to create a marketing ethos that permeates throughout your entire organization?

This article is partially excerpted from our book Powerful Marketing Memos, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

Leave a Reply


Copyright © 2011 Howard Marketing Services · All Rights Reserved ·
Website maintained by Bramhall Web Designs , UK