Marketing and marketers have an ugly reputation. According to popular opinion, we're pushy, dishonest, manipulative, and greedy. In podcast episode 1, my friend Nick had nothing good to say about marketers' efforts to target children. And before learning more about the practice of marketing, I would probably share in this popular opinion. But that's because I didn't understand what marketing (with a capital M) was all about.
The Purpose of Good Marketing
There's a difference between marketing – little m, and Marketing – big M . Little m marketing is what most people understand marketing to be – clever advertising, endless promotions, worthless coupons, and fancy logo designs. But marketing is fundamentally more than any of that. All of the stuff that gets thrown in our face every day is just the expression of what marketing hopes to be. It's a symbol meant to communicate reality, just as a shadow expresses the shape of an object, but is not the object itself. So what is the thing that little m marketing is trying to express? Value.
Big M marketing is about creating value for a specific group of people. That's it. That's what real marketing is and what good marketing does. Bad marketing never gets beyond the shadow, and we see a lot of it. It's just noise. But it's always short-lived, because if a product or service fails to deliver value it won't last.
Everyone is a Marketer, and That's OK
Creating value is simple (but not easy). You create value by first understanding your customer's needs and motivations, then you create something (a product or service) that delivers to those needs and motivations. So with this definition of marketing, who isn't a marketer? We're all trying to create value. People need to be valuable to their employers, their community, and the students they teach in school and youth group. That's right, Nick, my youth pastor friend. You are a marketer.
I'm calling you out, Nick. For years you've been working with students – trying to connect with them, motivate them, and influence them. You've built a youth program that is fun, inspiring, and thought-provoking. Why? Because you want your youth program to be valuable to them. You have been marketing to kids in our church from day 1. And it's not a bad thing. It's a great thing.
We should all be working to be better marketers. "How can I create value for the world today?" What a great question to start with every day.
So as a marketing professional (yes, I'm a little biased), I'd like everyone to stop lampooning marketers as the scourge of the modern media world. Yes, think critically about the messages you consume, and condemn bad marketing as empty noise making. But also think differently about the true nature of marketing, and consider taking on the mantel of a marketer as a means of making the world a little more valuable.