Pretty much every social media blogger and podcaster I come across today writes as if marketing and communications were the same thing. Communication certainly has an important role to play in marketing but it isn’t the same thing as marketing.
Marketing is the practice of identifying people’s unmet, or unconscious, needs and fulfilling those needs profitably through appropriate goods or services. It creates tangible value that people are willing to pay for. Fundamentally, it has nothing to do with communication.
Defined in this way, there is nothing bad, unethical or manipulative about it. What could be wrong with understanding people’s needs and fulfilling them, at a price they are ready to pay? We do that every day in our personal relationships. We may not get paid in money, but we certainly are rewarded for it. It’s the same thing that a local store owner will do every day to keep his customers happy and loyal. Understand who they are and provide them with what they need. No one has a problem with that. Certainly his customers don’t.
Why does it matter? Because it’s this confusion that has turned marketing into a dirty word. And stops people from thinking about the true nature of marketing and how to do it well. Marketing can be done poorly. But poor marketing has nothing to with exaggerating the truth, playing to people’s insecurities and fears, dominating the conversation and knocking people over the head with 1000+ GRP TV media plans. Those are the sins of bad communication, not bad marketing.
Recently I heard a podcast suggest that companies should already be thinking about consumer needs at the early stages of product development. That this is what good marketing ought to be about. Excuse me? This is what good marketing has always been about. This isn’t new. Except, apparently, for those social media podcasters and bloggers who believe that marketing and communication are the same thing.