What is Marketing?

I was at a WPI Venture Forum event last week and had an interesting discussion with another marketer. Well, I thought she was a marketer. But she insisted what I did and what she did were completely different. So you tell me, am I confused?

This person came from a big agency environment. I forgot to ask, but from the way she talked, I expect she dealt with non-tech markets. She said she worked in communications – strategy, public relations, and branding. She said she worked with senior execs in client companies. So far, so good. Then she went on to say how sad it was that sales & marketing people couldn’t get along better with communications people.

That’s where I got confused. Yes, in many tech companies sales & marketing have a love/hate relationship. But in all the organizations I’ve worked in and with, marketing and communications are either the exact same department or they are very closely aligned and they report to the same people.

I guess it depends on how you define “marketing.” There are product managers, product marketing managers, pr folks, communications folks, industry market managers, corporate communications folks, etc.

In my first roles in the computer industry, I worked in small to medium sized companies. I was a product marketing manager reporting to the VP of marketing, then I was a product manger reporting to the VP of marketing, then I was a marketing manager reporting to the VP of marketing. Then I went into the agency business and worked with all size companies. In small companies, we tend to work with CEOs. In larger companies, we work with various marketing managers.

I know in some cases product managers report to engineering with a dotted line to marketing. But I have never seen a communications department that wasn’t part of the marketing team.

So I’m confused.


  1. ajmaryben says:

    In each of the three large tech firms I have worked for “communications” (media relations, industry analyst relations “PR”) have had a reporting structure separated from marketing. Makes no sense — very hard to keep both sides on a consistent message and working together…. On the other hand the small/medium sized companies have had comms and marketing together….

  2. sharilee says:

    You’re right. Makes no sense. How can communications and marketing not be part of the same process? Here’s the definition of marketing at http://www.businessdictionary.com:

    MARKETING: Management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer. As a philosophy, it is based on thinking about the business in terms of customer needs and their satisfaction. As a practice, it consists in coordination of four elements called 4P’s: (1) identification, selection, and development of a product, (2) determination of its price, (3) selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place, and (4) development and implementation of a promotional strategy. Marketing differs from selling because (in the words of Harvard Business School’s emeritus professor of marketing Theodore C. Levitt) “Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about. And it does not, as marketing invariably does, view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs.”

  3. juliann says:

    You are right, this does not make sense. When I worked in corporate for one organization, the communications team was focused on getting the message out, not necessarily making all the messages, which was left to industry and product managers. Reporting was different also. It is an inefficient way to operate, and created vulnerability for chinks in the chain. I’m not sure why they do that. It always took so long to get anything done there.

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