Friday, February 22, 2008

The AMA’s New Definition of Marketing Misses the Mark

What is marketing?

Now, there’s a can of worms. And here comes the American Marketing Association to further confuse the issue with its new definition:

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.

Sounds more like the definition of overkill. Around the office, we had to pass this around and read it 20 times before it made any sense to anyone. First off, isn’t an “offering” something you do at church? …

OK, so maybe this is an academic definition. But really, that’s no excuse. Marketing is a professional service, paid for by clients. We have to be able to explain ourselves in a way that makes sense to “customers, clients, partners and society.” In an era of tight budgets and fierce international competition, clients demand—and deserve—to know exactly what’s in it for them.

Instead, we get the AMA’s new spew of verbiage, and it’s just the sort of toothless, garbled communication-by-committee we warn clients against all the time.

As a BtoB Magazine story points out, we aren’t alone in furrowing our brows. Marketing blogger Mike Smock has been one of the most vocal critics of the new definition. Here’s his version: Marketing is ideas and actions that generate increasingly profitable market share.

Not sure if Smock’s new take is perfect, but it’s got a lot going for it. It’s clear, it’s concise and it takes a stand—like today’s best marketing communications writing. And it also emphasizes an indispensable element of marketing that gets lost in the AMA definition: business results.

When the dust clears on this debate, whatever way we end up defining the activities and audiences of marketing, the focus must be on helping clients achieve their business goals.

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