Thought experiment: What is marketing?

Cow pasture with sunlight pouring over the mountains like in a dream
Credit: “dream” by Luigi Alesi is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flikr.

Poof! The internet, TV, radio, cellphones, print and all other marketing tools have vanished in a flash. No modern media exists. How then does a company get the word out about its products?

I suppose that in our imaginary world a company would have to get people to share its products–at least verbally through conversation with another. The more target customers who receive word about a company’s products, the more sales a company receives.

A company might deploy thousands of door knockers to spread the word about its products. For every one door knocker, they could get many customers. But if door knocking were abolished, how could a company ensure its products continued to be shared? Perhaps the answer would be to develop many-to-many relationships where customers share with others, who in turn share with others, and so on without continued involvement from the company’s door knockers.

See also: What do successful marketing campaigns have in common?

To create such many-to-many relationships, the company would need to craft a story that was easy to learn and tell others. Customers would hear the story and share it with others. Others would eventually seek out the company, and the cycle would continue as long as the company’s products and services became part of the customers’ daily lives.

Could marketing, therefore, be defined as the art and science of telling a memorable story and providing a benefit that customers cannot live without? The purpose of this thought experiment is to provide you with a visualization to form your own conclusion. I encourage you to step into this world and carry the insights you receive back into your daily practice of marketing.


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