Title: What is the meaning of 'marketing'?
Authors: Keefe, Lisa M.
Source: Marketing News; 9/15/2004, Vol. 38 Issue 15, p17-18, 2p, 1c
Document Type: Article
Subject Terms: *ASSOCIATIONS, institutions, etc.
*CONGRESSES & conventions
*CUSTOMER relations
Geographic Terms: BOSTON (Mass.)
NAICS/Industry Codes561920 Convention and Trade Show Organizers
Abstract: Explains the official definition of marketing in the 2004 Summer Educators' Conference of the American Marketing Association in Boston, Massachusetts. Need of an alternative paradigm of marketing; Overview of the collaboration between the customers and partners; Purpose of revising and updating the definition of marketing.
Full Text Word Count: 1088
ISSN: 0025-3790
Accession Number: 14348536
Database: Business Source Elite

What is the meaning of 'marketing'?

The chance to define something--anything--not only for yourself but for an entire industry and for years to come is a rare opportunity indeed.

Since 1948, the American Marketing Association has been responsible for the official definition of marketing, used in books, by marketing professionals and taught in university lecture halls nationwide. For the last year or so, Dr. Robert Lusch has had the privilege of leading the effort to rewrite and update the AMA's official definition of marketing.

Dr. Lusch, a former AMA chairman and head of the marketing department at Eller College of Management at University of Arizona in Tucson, incorporated the contributions of many correspondents from around the world, both academics and practitioners. The fruits of their labor were unveiled at the AMA Summer Educators' Conference in Boston in August.

"(It was most rewarding) working with a group of concerned professionals who were serious about making the AMA definition more contemporary," Dr. Lusch says.

Marketers are nearly unanimous in feeling that the industry is rapidly changing (see "Marketing redefined: Nine top marketers offer their personal definitions," page 16). That was not always the case.

The first official definition of marketing was adopted in 1935 by the National Association of Marketing Teachers, an AMA predecessor organization. The AMA adopted it in 1948, and again in 1960 when the AMA revisited the definition and decided not to change it. This original definition stood for 50 years, in fact, until it was revised in 1985.

The original, 1935 definition read:

"(Marketing is) the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers."

In the mid-1980s, the first revisions were made to the definition. The new version read:

"(Marketing is) the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives."

"The thing about the '85 definition that was so appealing was that it juxtaposed the 4Ps and the focus on 'exchange.' In '85, that was probably a pretty big deal," says Dr. Greg Marshall. Dr. Marshall is immediate past head of the AMA's academic division, which oversaw the most recent rewrite, and professor of marketing at Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. The new definition, as released by the American Marketing Association, is:

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

Says Dr. Marshall, "What we have is more strategic. Now it says marketing is really something that makes the organization run."

The impetus to examine the official definition, with an eye on possibly rewriting it, came from AMA CEO Dennis Dunlap. Some members had suggested it might be time for an update. Also, in the late '90s and early '00s, several industry thought leaders had noted the dramatic changes underway in marketing.

"... (A)n alternative paradigm of marketing is needed, a paradigm that can account for the continuous nature of relationships among marketing actors," wrote Jagdish Sheth and Atul Parvatiyar in the Handbook of Relationship Marketing in 2000.

Dunlap and Dr. Marshall began to consider whether and how to tackle the project, beginning in late summer 2003.

"As we got into this, it was clear the definition didn't reflect marketing today," Dunlap says.

Dr. Lusch was tapped for the project, in part because he had worked on the 1985 revision.

In 1985, Dr. Lusch served on a committee, but this time he worked independently, keeping his collaboration with others on a continuous, but less formal, basis.

"The reason we were able to (work with a committee then) is that the existing definition of marketing had been used for 50 years. It didn't talk about planning, customer satisfaction, feedback," Dr. Lusch says. "Everybody agreed we needed to change.

"As I surveyed people (in 2004), there were a number who thought the (1985) definition worked fine and we should leave it alone. And we ended up with ... a more evolutionary change than in 1985," he says.

The Internet proved vital to Dr. Lusch's mission. He first solicited feedback on the 1985 definition via the Elmar listserv. Later, he used e-mail to circulate a short white paper that included a proposed rewritten definition. Ultimately, the members of the AMA's Board of Directors were asked for their thoughts.

Dr. Lusch acknowledges there was no shortage of opinions.

"There was discussion about marketing being about 'collaborating with customers and partners,' but that (language) did not survive. Many argued it was ... what marketing should do, but many firms were not yet practicing" that kind of collaborative marketing, he says.

Dr. Lusch says he was most struck by the diversity of correspondents' views: "Some view it as a managerial activity, but others view it as a broad societal activity. And e-mails from other parts of the world gave additional perspective." Europeans and Australians, for example, were most likely to argue that marketing is a societal process (although some Americans thought so, too).

"I don't disagree," Dr. Lusch says, "but if we tried to define every kind of marketing, (the definition) would be wordy and confusing. Because it's used to introduce students to the discipline, we needed something comprehensible."

Dr. Lusch says the most challenging part of his assignment was "being patient and listening."


By July '04, the e-mail exchanges, conference calls and negotiations had come down to a 32-word sentence that had broad-based support. This definition was endorsed in a vote of the Board in time to be introduced at the conference in August.

"It's appropriate that this would be unveiled first at Summer Ed," Dr. Marshall says. "AMA is really re-energized in this initiative toward thought leadership. One thing academics can do is disseminate knowledge. This will filter down into the textbooks and give us the opening to talk about marketing at the strategic level."

By revising and updating the definition, notes Dennis Dunlap, "AMA reinforces our marketing leadership position. Also, this speaks in a small way to how we are more contemporary today as an organization."

Looking ahead, those involved with the process sense that fewer than 19 years will pass before the definition is updated again.

"It's something that should last a while," Dunlap says. "But logic would suggest it should be revisited maybe every five years."



By Lisa M. Keefe, Editor