Today’s widespread use of social media as a marketing tool is increasingly blurring the distinction between marketing on one side and communication on the other.
Communication seems itself to be confused with a tool to reach the widest audience, regardless of any need to target specific market segments, and is turned into mass communication.
While the distinction between marketing and mass communication, as well as the distinction between marketing and its functions (e.g. advertising and promotion) is clear in the mind of academics, top level managers and high skilled professionals, the same might not be true for managers and owners of small and medium-sized businesses.
If we consider the social media campaigns of some important brands and firms operating in different sectors of the luxury market, this might not be true for prominent and big-sized companies either.
Thus, such confusion, along with the widespread diffusion of low cost, self-made advertising tools, is producing a lack of understanding of
- What marketing is about and
- Why marketing is important
A confusion that might produce potentially dangerous consequences in times when marketing is paramount for businesses to survive and grow.
So, what is marketing about?
According to Peter Drucker, ‘The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim is to know and understand customers so well that the product or service fits them and sells itself‘ (Drucker, Peter F., 1973, Management: Tasks, Responsibility, Practices. New York: Harper & Row).
This does not mean that communication, advertising, promotion and selling are secondary functions, but they are part of the marketing mix. That is, tools that need to work together in order for the product or service to meet and satisfy the customer needs and wants, and hit business targets (Kotler, Bowen and Makens, 2014, Marketing for Hospitality and Tourism, Harlow: Pearson).
How to understand customer needs and wants? Answer is simple: analysis. Marketing primarily relies on the analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data – even though the relevance of qualitative analysis to marketing strategies and policies has not been adequately addressed, I believe, by both academics and practitioners, yet.
Once data have been collected, organised, analysed and interpreted, and a clear idea of the extent to which a given product/service is able to meet the customers needs and wants by the requirements of specific market segments, then it is possible to identify the channels through which the product/service is to be promoted and put on sale, and to construct contents (communication, advertising, promotion) to fit such channels.
The importance of data and analysis is such that there can be no marketing without data analysis. In fact, marketing without the the collection and analysis of data means to not know customer needs and wants, which leads to the exclusion of the product/service from the market – market itself being defined as a complex of several different groups of customers who share the same needs and wants.
The analysis of data, the identification of channels and content constitute the three necessary steps to build the organisation’s buyers persona. That is, an accurate picture of costumer(s) and consumer(s) behaviours (to know more about the concept of buyer persona see Heinze A., Fletcher G., Rashid T. and Cruz A., 2017, Digital and Social Media Marketing. A results-driven approach. London and New York: Routledge).
Together, the complex of actions briefly outlined in this article allow business to create value for customers and build strong customer relationships to retain and capture existing and new customers – which is the aim of marketing.