Is everything marketing?

April 16, 2008 at 1:03 am 10 comments

The other day I was having a conversation and someone made the remark that “Some people think everything is marketing!” This, as usual, got my brain thinking… everything marketing?

Backing up, you have to have a clear understanding of what marketing is and what marketing is not to make such a judgment. The American Marketing Association defines marketing as:

“Marketing is an organizational function and a set of process for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”

Now, let’s say you get that definition…and lets even go as far to say that you have some marketing experience and academic marketing background…is everything marketing?

What if you have none of these…what’s your perspective? What’s your view on marketing then and – is everything marketing?

I ask this question because of one observation I made the other day getting off the metro…

A homeless man stood need the escalator and asked for a quarter. Walking further along, I saw a homeless man sitting, with his cup on the sidewalk as he read a book. And it occurred to me, that the man by the escalator who asked for a quarter is smart – in a marketing way. But, I don’t think many people other metro goers would pick up on this…but this is why I found this man marketing-smart:

  1. Place: He picked a prime location, where people are coming and going, so there is higher traffic and a greater chance that someone would give money
  2. Price: He asked for a specific amount. If someone asks for money, nothing new. But, this was the first time I had heard a man ask for a specific amount, and I wondered if this saw a better return, a strategy so to speak that he had learned from experience.

So, I ask you…is this marketing? I would say yes. Is everything marketing?

From my perspective, because I’m so entrenched in my marketing world, I might say yes (though realistically and in academia, it is a big, no.) But, I would say that everything might be considered…strategic communication. My undergrad major is strategic communications. I think this might be a better way to approach the question…is everything marketing? No, but everything involves strategy.

This question is similar to other statements like…everyone is selling something or everything comes down to sales. I bet some of our corporate friends and corporate agencies would sure feel like its that way! In regards to how the infamous ‘Double-Ds,’ data and dollars, seem to drive many organizations.

(as a disclaimer, I know the dangers of using absolutes like everything, never, always…but I wanted to use it for dramatic purposes….perhaps dare I say, to be strategic?)

What do you think?? Is everything marketing?

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Entry filed under: Blog Talk, Experience This?. Tags: , , , , , , .

(Ad Council and IAA) Survey Says: More Social Marketing! Get to Know Your Neighbor: Beth Kanter

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rkenneth  |  April 16, 2008 at 2:36 am

    Yes, IMHO, everything is marketing. There’s a (presumably) homeless guy in Seattle. He hangs out at the entry to a walkway that people use to get to and from the ferry terminal. Tens of thousands of people walk by him every day. He doesn’t ask for money, he just smiles and holds a small sign that says “SMILE.” I give him a buck every now and then, but I always smile. How many homeless people get dirty looks or worse? This guy gets lots of smiles and an unknown quantity of cash. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he lives in a cushy downtown condo. Now that’s marketing!

  • 2. Nedra  |  April 16, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Marketing is essentially about trying to influence other people’s behavior. So, not everything in life is marketing, but a lot of our interactions with other people — either consciously or subconsciously — involve elements of trying to affect people’s attitudes or to get them to do something. I don’t think most people think about it, but whenever we decide to use certain words and not others to achieve a particular end, that could be considered a form of marketing.

  • 3. jack  |  April 16, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I was busy doing something else when I stumbled across this post and it reminded me of Theodore Levit, author and frequent contributor to HBR on the subject of marketing. What caught my attention was the AMA definition. I am struck by often we are lead to believe marketing is communication sometimes forgetting the product development part of marketing.

    As Levitt said…”you must seriously orient your entire operation toward discovering the customer’s total needs and problems and then satisfying them, even if it takes you beyond what you now believe is your range of abilities and interests.” It seems that this is marketing or a real marketing orientation for an organization. By the way, this was published in 1962.

    Typically customer needs are a complex bundle of value satisfactions, both rational and emotional.

    It seems the CMO job tends to brand or product campaigns and problems. Yet, in the truer marketing sense, shouldn’t the job focus on a sensitive, continuous analysis of business opportunities based on systematic study of markets and economics?

  • 4. socialbutterfly4change  |  April 16, 2008 at 6:01 pm


    First, thanks for your comment. I would agree with you that when people, groups or orgs practice marketing…much more effort is spent on promotional efforts, rather than the other 3 P’s…one of these being product. Personally, I have a J-School background in advertising, hence, much of my focus and academic training focused on promotion efforts. It’s only been through conducting my masters thesis that my eyes have been opened to the real implications of what a wider scope of marketing entails including: product design, organizational development, business procedures and more…all of which can fall under the umbrella of marketing. And, to your point about studying markets and economics….the more research and collaboration with other practices the better in my book.

    and I agree with you @Nedra, that every choice we make carries with it a consequence of influence…so perhaps, everything isn’t marketing…but everything involves influence or strategy.


    I liked your story of the SMILE man. Sometime, life’s reminders come from perhaps the most unexpected places. Thanks for sharing! =)

  • 5. rkenneth  |  April 24, 2008 at 3:20 pm


    After graduating with a BS in mechanical engineering, I got a “street degree” in business with a emphasis in marketing. I started my first company with no more than a business plan and 20-something hubris. I was an ad agency copywriter and became its creative director. I’ve consulted and coached hundreds of companies from 2 guys in a garage to one of the nation’s largest retailers. In academia, marketing is everything. In the real world, marketing is promotion. Sales is everything else. I once had the VP International Sales & Marketing of a F1000 company confide that he didn’t really understand what marketing was, he just knew that it cost him money.

  • 6. Soul Economy  |  May 23, 2008 at 2:33 am

    I just came across this interesting discussion and, while a late entry, felt compelled to comment. With many years of experience in marketing and sales, I agree that everything is marketing as well as sales. If conducted effectively, the 4 Ps of the marketing process provide the customer a great value proposition. This makes promotion and selling easier. The sales process involves negotiation, influence and strategic communication but ultimately it is the ability to sell the product, service, support etc that you are offering. This purchase/buy-in ensures the survival of the offer. In the case of the homeless guy in Seattle it is his own survival – this has no doubt helped him to develop this creative marketing strategy.

  • 7. socialbutterfly4change  |  June 6, 2008 at 5:22 am

    @souleconomy thanks for your great input. I like how you described more in-depth the relationship btwn sales and marketing, along with being creative, strategic and innovative…and how this comes down to the theory of exchange. Kinda like, even if the product is bad or the cause is bad, you can try and market the heck out of it, but in the end, it won’t be a success.

  • 8. socialbutterfly4change  |  June 6, 2008 at 5:24 am

    @rkenneth thx again for your follow-up. Sounds like you’ve probably got some great ideas and experiences. I like the VP’s openness and honesty…his thought of not knowing what marketing is, begs the question…if eveything is marketing? then, does that mean nothing is ‘marketing’ per say? as in, it”s something else….that make sense?

    A wild, abstract idea…maybe I shouldn’t be blogging at 2am, lol. =)

  • 9. Alex Herder  |  August 31, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Yes. I think everything is selling. In university I was a history major and focused on (neo)colonial relationships. Many of my cohort and professors were very opposed to the idea of capital-mediated interaction and seemed to live in this strange half-reality in which “human interaction” was somehow separate from monetary/marketed exchange. The fact is that commercial exchange is the very BASIS of society.

    The way we dress, speak, walk, work, and project ourselves is all strategic communication. There’s also nothing wrong with this. I’m sorry to respond so late after the post was made, but I enjoyed reading it and found it to be a refreshing perspective.


  • 10. Sohail  |  January 4, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Marketing is about creating new ideas & then advertising in a unique way. finally its all about generating new ideas!


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Meet Alexandra Rampy, aka SocialButterfly

I am a social marketing believer, blogger, practitioner, researcher and enthusiast. This site highlights the growing movement of social marketing. Learn more about social marketing and how to be your own socialbutterfly--> here.

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