A Definition of Marketing in Nine Words

In business schools, we were force fed many comprehensive, yet meaningless definitions of marketing –and were then forced to recite, write, and regurgitate it. Two days ago, Chris Kenton asked the community roundtable for their definition of marketing, I coughed up mine:

[Marketing is the act of connecting customers to products]

Usually, I’m very thorough in my blog posts, but this time, I’ll keep it simple. Submit your definitions below, or critique mine.

169 Replies to “A Definition of Marketing in Nine Words”

  1. I like the one I saw recently – I think it was from Duct Tape Marketing –

    The art of getting known, liked and trusted.

    Works for me!

  2. Nice…

    How about some new ones?

    Here’s the 2.0 one:
    Marketing is the communication between producers, pro-sumers, and consumers.

    Here’s the 3.0 one:
    Marketing is the community between producers, pro-sumers, and consumers.

    I guess you don’t sleep either Jeremiah? 🙂

  3. I like the simplicity, but for full accuracy you need to add two more words at the end “… or services.”

    Then it works in the real world and at an academic level.

    “Marketing is the act of connecting customers to products or services.”

  4. Jeremiah,

    I’d tweak it slightly: “The art and science of connecting companies with people”

    We’ve been having a good debate online re: the language we use to define “people” in commerce: targets, consumers, audiences, etc. I’m working to humanize the language we use in our branding practice, and using “people” makes me feel differently about the what we do, and the impact it has. It makes our work more personal, more meaningful, and in the process, more likely to establish the connection we’re seeking to create.


  5. In the Web 2.0 world I see the marketing more as an ART:

    Marketing is the ART of connecting customers to products

    Marketing was in charge of Awareness and Knowledge, now the Knowledge is being gathered through the internet. Know how is becoming the ART.

  6. marketing is what we used to do to promote ourselves before the marketplace figured out what we were doing and decided they could do a better job

  7. It’s smart to re-write the ‘traditional’ definition of marketing and I like the direction you are headed. I wonder about the choice of the word ‘customer’, which assumes a commercial relationship already exists. I have to think about what other word I’d suggest because ‘consumer’ doesn’t work in the B2B world (even though arguably they ‘consume’ business solutions, it’s just not the vernacular).

    Also, is there a goal to the ‘act’ of connecting or is it just connecting for connecting’s sake? If there should be a ‘goal’, does marketing need to have a commercial bias (e.g. to ‘buy’ something, to ‘transact’ in some way)? Should marketing be done with a goal of creating advocates?

    With your proposed definition, how is marketing differentiated from the related disciplines of sales and advertising (which arguably could be sub-sets of marketing)?

    This could be a very interesting thread.

  8. Jeremiah-

    Great post. It gets even murkier when you specify what type of marketer you are. There’s a great deal of hand-wringing going on in the affiliate marketing world this week after Jason Calacanis’ “wake up, y’all” keynote Monday at the Affiliate Summit.

    Even if you’re not in affiliate marketing (or don’t have a taste for it), there are some interesting meta-memes popping up:


    Fun stuff to ponder and practice.


  9. I currently use ‘Marketing is the act of communicating and building community with current and potential customers in order to facilitate value exchange’.

    I like the simplicity of yours and that it’s broad enough to be timeless (no Marketing 3.0 vs 1.0 dichotomy). It does need at least a mental hyperlink to a customer definition (do we include potential customers? Is a free visitor to a web site a customer?) and an end goal (I assume we’re not just doing this for fun).

    B-school definitions are comprehensive and incomprehensible. I once interviewed a half-dozen new graduates of a top b-school for a Marketing role. Most looked like a deer in the headlights when asked to define the discipline.

  10. Marketing, branding, advertising, are all interrelated activities whose goal should be the creation of memorable experiences for people (in both B2B and B2C) that encourage trial and repeat purchases of products an services.

    Re: Experiences they come in a multiplicity of forms:

    The Guggenheim Museum’s architecture: beholding it makes one *feel* something, that lures on inside.

    The service at The Mercer hotel keeps me returning to it.

    The passion Jeremiah displays for sharing his knowledge and facilitating dialogue, encourages me to recommend Forrester.

    It goes on and on in many guises . . , all experiences that create associations with brands in ways that encourage specific commerce related responses.

  11. I like your definition, Jeremiah, and the one Jon Moss mentions is priceless in its simplicity (note use of word “art”). Love that.

    Here’s one I use, based on a Peter Drucker quote. Another angle, but nets it out pretty damn well:

    Marketing is one of only two basic functions of business. The other is innovation. Both produce results; all the rest are costs.


  12. Another one I use often, more to help people realize what marketing isn’t:

    Marketing is outside-in thinking.

    Simply putting yourself in their shoes. Hey, not rocket science…:-)

  13. Okay, one more (off-topic) comment and I’ll stop. Loved your reference to the Warren Zevon classic” “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” Too bad the man did before his time, thanks to all that smoking. My personal fav” “Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money.”

  14. Graeme, for what it’s worth, Zevon died of mesothelioma – a type of lung cancer not related at all to smoking. More related to, in his words, “a tactical error in not seeing a doctor for twenty years.”

    No, I don’t work for Philip Morris, I just think the irony is compelling. So enjoy every sandwich!

  15. Jeremiah,

    I’ll critique yours without offering an obvious upgrade, if I may.

    The gap I see in yours is that “connecting customers to products” implies (in my mental model, at least) a limited scope of taking Users A, B, C, and D, and Products 1, 2 and 3, and saying that:

    – A should have 1 and 2
    – B should have 3
    – C isn’t a match.
    – D isn’t a match either

    Surely, marketing is also about listening to A, B, and C and using their feedback to produce:

    – product 4 (which combines the benefits of 1 and 2 and is an even better match for A)

    – product 5 (which suits C very well)

    – a study that shows while product 6Beta might suit D, it would never be profitable, and D is better served by the competition 🙂

  16. It’s not just about products, it’s also about services. It’s about connecting people to needed and desired products and services. So maybe, “Marketing is connecting people with beneficial products or services”

    I even kept it at 9 and added an adjective!

  17. Transactions occur from person to person, at least in high-tech. What about services?

    [Marketing is the act of connecting customers to products]

    This is a great conversation and I’ll probably continue it on my blog.

    Thanks for doing this!

  18. I agree with some above comments. The “connecting consumers with products” is a bit limiting. Often marketers are communicating an idea or experience – not the related products.

    I propose simply:
    “Marketing is the art of building relationships with consumers”

    There are many ways we can do it. At the end of the day we want our offerings to relate with our customers.

  19. Great blog post. It really makes you think.

    I agree with your 9 word definition, but I’m still trying to get mine to be 9 words or less!

  20. How about some of these:

    – enabling a two-way relationship between a brand and a person
    – growing awareness and allegiance
    – scratching the itch
    – satisfying needs through communication
    – matchmaking
    – reinforcement of ideals

    In all of these I am taking the emphasis off the transaction and onto the driver that results in engagement. Marketing is not always about products or services… just thought I’d point that out. Yes, it is about a market. But what sort of market? A market for an idea, a message, a movement, some entertainment, a war, etc?

  21. Thanks for driving this discussion, Jeremiah.

    The problem with all of the definitions so far–unless I missed it–is the classic problem that explains why the average CMO has a life-expectancy of 18-months on the job. Profit. After years of being beaten over the head with ROI, marketers still neglect the concept of connecting with customers to drive profit. Marketing is, after all, always driving business. If you’re connecting with customers but losing your shirt in the process, you’re evangelizing, not marketing.

    My simplest definition of marketing? Maximizing an exchange of value between a company and its customers. Unfortunately, that implies a lot that isn’t explicitly stated. But the two general categories of marketing function, to me, are about maximizing value and minimizing risk. Minimizing risk is all about strategy–selecting the right markets, developing the right products, understanding what customers want. This is the footwork you have to do to make sure you have a basis for business. Maximizing value is all about operations–developing the right team, building the right channels, executing effectively. The latter is the domain that marketers have become most comfortable with–marcom–and they’ve relinquished their seat at the strategy table. If you think that’s overstated, do a search on the number of corporate board members who come from marketing. It’s a very, very, small club. By far the majority of people directing the strategy of business in the US come from Finance, Sales and Operations. Which is too bad, because marketers do have a unique set of skills and insights to offer.

    But this is a big, big topic. If you’re interested in digging a little deeper into the truly strategic side of marketing thought, pick up Competing for Customers and Capital by Victor Cook. I did an extensive book discussion which you can bore yourself with here: http://scribb.typepad.com/marketonomy/2006/10/competing_for_c_1.html.

  22. Two attempts in 5 words:

    “Marketing is satisfying customers’ needs”

    “Marketing is making customers happy”

    But these are blurring the lines between “marketing” and what the rest of the company does. Which is exactly my point.

  23. Given than marketing has always been about human beings -i.e. their needs and wants- and since human psychology remains the same then marketing is, well, what has always been; satisfying consumer needs and wants at a profit.

    Ok, we may be seeing all sort of “New Marketing” developments and techniques, and other buzzword-heavy, essence-light “revolutionary”, “this-changes-everything” ideas but the fact remains that marketing is about satisfying consumer needs and wants at a profit. So simple.

  24. Although a little warm and fuzzy, I think I’ve got a decent four-word answer:

    “Marketing is fostering conversations.”

    Conversation presumes that those who are engaged in it are just that – engaged. They derive some benefit from it. That benefit may be monetary, emotional, academic, etc. but it exists.

  25. Here’s a very simple definition:
    Marketing is the art of making the consumer want what you’ve got to offer

  26. I kinda like Sergio Zyman’s definition: “Marketing success is selling more stuff to more people more often for more money more efficiently.”

    I think this definition contrasts nicely with Doc Searls’ belief that “Sales is real; Marketing is bullshit.” Heh.

  27. I would actually challenge all of these posts by defining marketing as the process of creating a demand. “connecting” doesn’t really mean anything in my opinion.

    Marketing used to be about convincing people that your product or service is best suited to solve their needs.

    Now marketing is about creating a demand, thanks to social media marketing, this is not longer that big of a challenge.

    Everyone markets someone, whether it’s apple, or the guy down the street trying to sell you fake sun glasses.

  28. “Marketing has been replaced by customering”

    “Customering is creating, selling and delivering products to customers.”

    Dealing with customers as groups in markets is older than 1.0.

  29. The whole marketing/comms space has metamorphosed so dramatically over the last 20 years. And marketing isn’t even just about products any more. Now people also have to market themselves – to employers employees and even prospective partners. So I figure we have to besimpler still…

    ‘Marketing is the art of inspiring desire that leads to action’

  30. Good enough. It’s wide enough to be interpreted to advertising or a holistic approach. The only other function of a business is innovation. Everything other than that is a support function.

  31. Just curious…

    Does it worry anyone that we have 44 posts proposing definitions for a core business function that’s existed for more than 100 years as an organized discipline?

  32. The best definition I’ve heard came from (not surprisingly) Seth Godin– something like “Marketing is ‘influencing the actions of others.'” It’s much bigger than products and services– it can go as far as impacting the response (or lack thereof) to a human rights issue or the decisions/actions of a government.

  33. Marketing is the act of connecting PROSPECTS to products.

    Marketing is more about getting “prospects” (people who have never heard about your product) to learn, understand and turn into loyal customers. Customers are already “converts.” Growing market share and becoming the #1 brand is all about conversion of prospects.

  34. Brad

    Thanks, but I was a marketing manager at Hitachi, we marketed to existing customers all the time!

    The reason I chose customers, not prospects, because that was the ultimate goal.

  35. “Marketing is creating a need out of a want”

    best example: apple ipods

    There’s been a lot of talk here about “connecting customers to products” but thats Community Marketing. Marketing, as its been for 100s of years, its just making things more desirable. I like and want to listen to music, but I NEED an ipod to do it (not any mp3 player, but an IPOD).

    How are we (marketers) really connecting customers to products? In a way, I guess we create some kind of connection, whether it be emotional or physical, but its the act of “wanting” something that makes marketing work. Feeling connected and wanting something are two different monsters…connected drives interest, but wanting something drives $$$. I don’t think everyone is emotionally attached to the stuff they buy…nor do I think people buy something because they feel connected…at least not yet. Instead, the vast majority of us buy something because its a must-have in this society…everyone has ipods with the white earphones…so I need one…but do I feel a connection? Nope.

    disclosure: i dont work for apple, but they are just one of the select few who have mastered marketing.

  36. bonjour everyone

    if i try to define what marketing is to me, i’d say that it is an attempt from the brands to control (or at least influence) the way brands and consumers interact.

    neither clear nor universal, i know.
    i still like the first one, “Marketing is the act of connecting customers to products” (or services, as Gordon wrote).

  37. Marketing is responsible for all things that cause a desired audience to believe that you are worth trying, choosing, coming back for and telling others (advocacy) about. Good marketers are able to simplify the essence of the value proposition that promotes all of these things. Marketing should have more of a role in defining the actual product or service prior to the above but that is another problem – usually marketers do corporate communications, not product/service/experience design. The web 2.0 definitions could be: marketing is understanding what customers see in you and finding low cost/no cost ways of letting others know in a stealth word-of-mouth way that you a cool firm that is anti-marketing all the while making sure to stay out of the loop in fear that customers will feel it is another technique of being tricked. Ultimately, marketing is crafting the tune that folks whistle when they leave the theatre.

  38. It’s interesting how we each interpret this based on our industry or the type of marketing we do.

    Building on Jeremiah’s definition, here’s mine:

    “Marketing is the art of compelling customers to engage with organizations, products and services.”

    I used the term “engage” because I think of marketing more in the sense of having customers/prospects take some sort of action, whether it be buying a product, signing up for a service, asking for more information, or what have you. While the connecting is important it is just the first step in having them do something.

  39. As a counter-marketerian 🙂 (a trained non-believer), marketing is an overall flawed concept to begin with. Start with the premise upon which it was built and why.

    Businesses exist for and because of relationships and transactions. Eliminate either one and the business fails to exist (transactions in the business model of a Foundation, could be to give money away). What purpose does marketing serve? — to facilitate both of those.

    Marketing doesn’t need a description. Marketing needs a focus: “Experiences are the Transactions of Relationships”

  40. Michael Brito

    You wrote: “Marketing is an ongoing two-way conversation between consumers and their target audience.”

    There’s lots of marketing activities that don’t involve a conversation, such as market research, advertising, buying lists and sending out email blasts and direct mail.

    I’m not so sure ‘conversations’ (while important) are the only activity in marketing.

  41. “between consumers and their target audience”?
    do consumers have a target audience?

  42. where is the bludy definition of marketing of this page i am getting this website done for false advertising

  43. Here’s a Friday afternoon shot at the prize. (There is a prize, right!?)

    “Marketing is your organization’s commitment to your brand and sales.”

    “Your brand is your reputation, commitment and connection to your customers.”

  44. Marketing is about connecting to customers and employees in ways that make them feel like you are talking only to them.

  45. Without just regurgitating the actual textbook definition of marketing:

    Marketing is learning, anticipating, listening, engaging, contributing, compelling, submersing, innovating, capturing, captivating, motivating, inspiring, responding, adapting, personifying, influencing, converting, conversing, differentiating, through various methods, vehicles and mediums.

    A nice run on sentence but in college my professor always stressed the importance of the ‘marketing mix’. I think those descriptions encompass that idea.

  46. Marketing is a very broad topic and I suggest that many of the definitions deal with marketing communications – marcomm – but not the holistic concept of marketing so here goes,

    Understanding need, creating demand, communicating value, interpreting experience, sharing insights. Rinse and repeat

  47. My statement:
    “Marketing is the building of a relationship between a company, a product, and a consumer by understanding the value of their needs.”

    Naturally if those marketing do not understand the value of their product in relation to the customer’s needs, then will fail.

  48. I agree with Mark — a lot of commenting over just 9 words! Very cool.

    A lot of these definitions could equally apply to PR. I think the difference is in the purpose: a marketer’s goal is to get a transaction, the connection results in a sale. In PR the goal is to bring awareness, enhance image, provide information. No transaction needed.

  49. Reading the more than 70 comments above made me pause and reflect.

    For me its all about distinguishing between consumer products and others as well as brand and no brand.

    So if you are small business with neither a consumer product to sell nor the worries of a global brand, is marketing still the same for you and can you use social media effectively?

    I think it is similar to stiletto heels. Proceed with caution and yes it is a fashion statement for Gwyneth Paltrow but maybe not for you.

    I did a blog post about this including my tweets about the subject to Jeremiah:


    If I am wrong, please let me know.

  50. ‘Marketing’ is the investment in a system to improve sales at touchpoints, or key occasions.

    Everyone goes to Vegas hoping to win; Las Vegas uses a system that allows the dealers to win for them. A system makes success easy. Marketing isn’t something that just happens.

    Some companies use touchpoints in their planning; others, like Coke, use occasions. As systems go digital, companies have an opportunity to rethink every touchpoint and reinvent how they relate with their customers.

    At the end of the day, customer service is when something is done FOR you: i.e., you feel that someone listened to you, and an action took place as a result. The opposite, customer dissatisfaction, is when something is done TO you.

    On these same lines, a recent brain study showed how the brain’s ability to process sarcasm may be linked to one’s ability to connect with people, covered in greater detail on my blog:

  51. Nine words? Tough gig – here goes:

    Marketing is (start counting now) …

    “putting consumers at the heart of your business thinking”

  52. marketing is getting inside the head of people in order to allign thier perception with that of a companies offering

  53. Interesting discussion. To me it boils down to this:

    Defining and communicating value propositions.

    My definition is only 5 words and perhaps a bit vague, but I think it’s vague enough to be accurate given what a catch-all term marketing has become. Marketing can be about communicating an idea or personality as much as a specific brand or service. As marketers our goal is drive sales/adoption rates, etc., but when we do our jobs exceptionally well we create an emotional connection between consumers and our clients that becomes the basis of a long term relationship.

    Connecting consumers to a product is the first step. Building a relationship after the connection has been is hallmark of marketing greatness.

  54. I have been in product management for 23 years. I am also an adjunct professor for the University of Phoenix and teach a few marketing classes each year. As I read the many definitions of marketing in the textbooks, I come back to the definition from Philip Kotler that is simple and to the point:

    Satisfying needs and wants through an exchange process

    Need: Basic human requirement
    Want: Specific objects that might satisfy the need

    Exchange process
    -At least two parties.
    -Each party has something that might be of value to the other party.
    -Each party is capable of communication and delivery.
    -Each party is free to accept or reject the exchange offer.
    -Each party believes it is appropriate or desirable to deal with the other party.

    Although this definition may not be comprehensive, it defines the core of marketing. It find it very interesting to read how complicated the definitions have become in textbooks. I needed to streamline it for adult learners who are not in the marketing field.

    Many of the commments and definitions to this post I have read refer to “communicating to consumers about a product”. In my opinion, I think this is limiting in this new era of relationship marketing. I need to think more about my own definition. Thanks for the post!

  55. Marketing is to advertise your products to customers (8 words)
    Marketing informs the customer about products and there benefits.
    Marketing is to spread the information about the product.

  56. I like the defination when i see for the first time ,its very simple,why people and big organization mske it very complicated…

  57. I came across your definition as I am preparing to explain my job to K-5th graders at an elementary school career day. Perfect definition!

  58. mAEKETING is process of displaying yourself and posing. You need to sell yourslef before your product.

  59. Marketing focuses on the needs of the buyer and the needs to satisfy the customer thru product produce 🙂

  60. market is an human activity which is directed by satisfying human needs and wants through exchange process 

  61. Marketing is the engagement in a
    dialogue with customers, clients and the culture to bring about a
    behavioral change, specifically to bring attention to a company’s
    product offering and benefits of such an offering to the individual.
    At it’s center, marketing is about communication between a productive
    entity and a consumptive entity to promote exchange between the two.
    The conversation can be direct, by way of in-person conversation, or
    indirect, by way of advertisement. It can also be direct and explicit
    in it’s provocation or indirect and subtle in it’s provocation.

    In many ways, the topics of Marketing
    seem to be topics of Psychology or Sociology, overlayed with the
    motivation to provoke behavior, specifically patronage of a business
    or company entity.

    I’m having difficulty, however, finding a definitive text to read on the topic, or one that doesn’t hem and haw so much about what it actually attempting to do.

  62. Marketing is the engagement in a
    dialogue with customers, clients and the culture to bring about a
    behavioral change, specifically to bring attention to a company’s
    product offering and benefits of such an offering to the individual.
    At it’s center, marketing is about communication between a productive
    entity and a consumptive entity to promote exchange between the two.
    The conversation can be direct, by way of in-person conversation, or
    indirect, by way of advertisement. It can also be direct and explicit
    in it’s provocation or indirect and subtle in it’s provocation.

    In many ways, the topics of Marketing
    seem to be topics of Psychology or Sociology, overlayed with the
    motivation to provoke behavior, specifically patronage of a business
    or company entity.

    I’m having difficulty, however, finding a definitive text to read on the topic, or one that doesn’t hem and haw so much about what it actually attempting to do.

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  67. Thank you for keeping it simple and understandable for the students – the text books are way to technical. 

  68. Marketing is the act of manipulating impressions tot sell products or services.

    unfortunately, successful marketing is measured in sales generated with total disregard for message integrity. 

  69. Hey Jeremiah – I’m not actually sure “products” is necessary here … I can market myself (maybe I’m a “product,” but not sure!), I can market ideas, etc. Think the keys are engagement and action. So maybe:

    The process of creating awareness, establishing engagement and initiating a positive action on the part of a targeted audience.

  70. Hey Jeremiah – I’m not actually sure “products” is necessary here … I can market myself (maybe I’m a “product,” but not sure!), I can market ideas, etc. Think the keys are engagement and action. So maybe:

    The process of creating awareness, establishing engagement and initiating a positive action on the part of a targeted audience.

  71. I am a Drucker purist “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service sells itself.”

  72. I’m studying SM Theory and Practice with @dr4ward at @NewhouseSU. Just started subscribing to your blog! I love your direct and brief definition of marketing and agree that engaging with customers is key as well as building trust. #NewhouseSM6

  73. Identifying needs & wants of a customer and satisfying those needs & wants by introducing a product into the Market is called Marketing

  74. According to me,

    ”Marketing is like a magic,You can even sell refrigerator in a cold season”                                                     Kaleem Abbas Emrani.                                                      Head Of Marketing                                                       at Adam Holdings

  75. marketing is a business activity that direct flow of goods and service from manufacture to consumer …

  76. marketing is a act of identifying the needs and wants of the customer
    and help the customer to achieve those needs and wants through our
    valuable product.When
    it comes to shipping services, Jasico is known for rendering quality services.

  77. According to me…….

    It is the management process which identifies customer wants,anticipates their future wants,& then goes about satisfying them profitably.

  78. Marketing is the performance of business to direct the flow of goods and services from producer to consumer who needs it.

  79. the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

  80. thnx a lot for sharing. was really helpful for my business studies presentation in school.=)

  81. you don`t’ create needs, you identify them and then create satisfactors for such needs. How sophisticated, appealing or profitable the satisfactor are depends on marketing.

  82. one of the very good definitions of marketing Jeremiah. i would change only 1 letter of it: “Marketing is the art of connecting customers to products”

  83. Marketing is the art of satisfying and keeping your customers happy to deal with you . also its the art od making your product’s consumers to loyal customers .

  84. marketing is an tool in which that help to advertise the product and fulfill the customer needs.And maximize the profit of organisation

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