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Is it Time to Reconsider the Definition of Marketing?

There appears to be some effort to redefine the term marketing and the sub-topics related to the overall meaning of the process of sellers’ efforts to connect to buyers. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines Marketing as; “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

According to the AMA, the “definitions of marketing and marketing research are reviewed and reapproved/modified every three years by a panel of five scholars who are active researchers.” The current definition was approved in 2017. In a hyper, fast-paced, technology-driven, and highly competitive environment it may be a bit harsh to criticize a lag in performance, but for the purpose of advancing a scholarly discussion, the question remains: In the dynamic marketing climate of 2022, is it essential or even necessary to change or expand the definition of marketing?

In an article titled “Expand Marketing’s Definition From Campaigns to Customer Experience”, author Beth Billingsley, senior director of Martech strategy, notes that “with changes in consumer behaviors comes the need to shift from simply pushing messages out to customers in single channels to building a holistic view of the entire customer. Who are they, how do they interact with your brand, and where? It’s time we evolve the definition of marketing and move more closely to something resembling influencing the consumer experience.”

In this high-tech era the traditional components of marketing (product, promotion, place, and price) seem as outdated as The Elephant Trunk and the poodle skirts of the 1950’s, but the core activities of marketing; creating, communicating, delivery, and exchange, are still relevant to its core mission and definition. How we define and measure our performance of those four activities is what needs to be expanded and redefined.

Content marketing is revolutionizing the way brands are connecting with customers through two-way conversations on social media channels. Simply touting the four “P’s of marketing is no longer relevant. Gaining the attention of an audience today must begin with creating messages that are relevant, personal, and authentic to the targeted consumer. The ability to reach the correct listeners, optimizing the quality of engagement, and achieving increased conversions are hallmarks of today’s digital communication channels and social media platforms. As the pathways of connecting with an audience expand, marketing professionals must react creatively and adjust and expand methods of making meaningful connections to take optimal advantage of new opportunities.

In a time where consumers expect to be central to a brand’s marketing strategy, the traditional activities of delivery and exchange are indeed being redefined as the “customer experience.” A seamless and orderly customer experience at every touchpoint from introduction to a purchase decision is critical for a brand’s success, either in the traditional physical marketplace or the world of ecommerce.

While the core definitions of many missions can survive revision every three years, the dynamics of building relationships between seller and buyer demands agility and real-time reactions and adjustments to consumers’ changing behaviors and expectations. It may not be as much about changing definitions, but more about expanding and redefining how we achieve the purpose of our profession.