Most business professionals would be able to provide some reasonable definition of “marketing,” when asked. By reasonable, I mean it would likely include a connotation of expanding sales and profit, or even more down to earth, “making more money.” In other words, they would think in terms of the end result that good marketing is supposed to provide.
But what is the actual definition of “marketing”?
This is the definition of Marketing from the American Marketing Association (AMA):
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large”
The above definition was “approved” by the Board of Directors of the AMA (click link above) in July 2013.
It’s interesting that tucked into this definition, which primarily reflects a connotation of action and results, is the additional concept of a “set of institutions.”
Here are pertinent definitions of institution from the American Heritage Dictionary:
a. An established organization or foundation, especially one dedicated to education, public service, or culture.
b. The building or buildings housing such an organization.
Institutions (which would include the AMA) are associated with marketing, but they should NOT be part of the definition.
The AMA Board of Directors either do not truly understand marketing, or more likely, are attempting to formalize a sense of professional self-importance in an era whereby the relevance of marketing “institutions” are in decline with the advent of 21st century marketing technologies.
On the other hand, regardless of the useful products and services that marketing institutions do provide, and have provided, the notion of including “institutions” within the definition of marketing would not have been applicable at any time in the past. It’s just more erroneous nowadays with the advances of technology and the decentralization of institutions within the marketing industry.
Including “institutions” within the definition of marketing would be like including “soap box” within the definition of “speaking.”
Standing on a soap box may be helpful for a speaker to make his voice heard over a crowd of listeners, but it is certainly not relevant to the fundamental action and results of “speaking.”
A more accurate and workable definition of marketing would be presented by removing the concept of institutional self-importance and leaving only the essence of what marketing is all about:
Marketing is the activity and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
In other words, marketing is all about action and results!
[updated May 28, 2019]