What is the “marketing concept”?
One of my students emailed me with a question about a working definition of “the marketing concept” for a homework assignment. Her textbook had not arrived yet, and she wanted to know whether the WikiAnswers discussion she had found online would be appropriate.
After looking through my collection of marketing textbooks and comparing their definitions of “the marketing concept” with the online search-engine results, a few thoughts occurred to me.
The phrase “the marketing concept” is incomplete. It needs a qualifying prepositional explanation—something like, “the marketing concept of business,” or, “the marketing concept of exchange facilitation.”
And the reason for that need is that, as it is used in all these textbook and online discussions, “the marketing concept” can be properly understood only in the context of its evolution from earlier concepts of doing business or facilitating exchange.
The standard story of this evolution goes something like this:
The Product Concept (of Doing Business) – made by hand, often by experts using proprietary methods, products are relatively scarce. Demand far exceeds supply, and virtually all functional products will be sold. The more products you can make, the better for your business. This “concept” was dominant from the dawn of time until very recently.
The Sales Concept – the industrial revolution and mass production made it possible, for the first time in human history, for businesses to supply enough products to meet or exceed demand. To succeed in business, you now needed to be able to sell your products and to be able to charge enough to make a profit on them. Most of the textbooks and online discussions suggest that this “concept” held its position of dominance for only a tiny slice of the human timeline—variously described as from the 1920s or ‘30s or ’60s until the day before the authors wrote their books.
The Marketing Concept – here, finally, we have reached the pinnacle of human perfection with a business concept in which product producers compete with one another to satisfy the wants and needs of customers. Those who offer the greatest customer satisfaction will achieve the greatest success. Our most successful businesses now focus their product development, delivery, pricing and promotional efforts on building a reliable, friendly image. This is done by conventional ads, but more so through social media with external companies that provide youtube views and likes like any other online product. On social media the line between customer and producer become blurred and there is an imitation of a one-on-one, peer-to-peer relationship. Of course this is done rather cynically on the big companies part, they have zero intentions of becoming anyone’s friend or at least that is only a means to the final goal, which is money.
building satisfying exchange relationships with a loyal customer base—and long-term success requires nurturing and growing that customer base.
So How Smart Are We?
According to our marketing experts, this “marketing concept” of doing business—this advanced approach to developing exchange relationships—has been alive in the world for a few decades at most.
But vanity is the nature of humanity. We consider ourselves the most intelligent, advanced and successful life-form to ever inhabit the Earth – this despite the evidence that Neanderthals had larger brains, and yet died out; that insects and bacteria outnumber us by multiplication factors in the millions; and that a strong argument can be made that the dominant life-form on Earth is the virus.
Consider the orchid, of which there are thousands of successful varieties, most considered brainless. For millions of years, orchids have been building and satisfying loyal customer bases using all the methods of humanity’s most advanced business concept:
Product offering: sweet, satisfying and health-promoting nectar—just what a hungry insect and/or bird might need.
Distribution scheme: self-service. We have locations in your neighborhood, and we’re open for business whenever you’re hungry.
Price: so much to offer, so little weight to bear. All we ask is that you carry our pollen to other orchids.
Promotion: you can see our distinct colors and shapes from meters away, and you can smell our unmistakable aroma for hundreds of meters. And when you get here, we’ll make it worth the trip. Come back often, and be sure to tell your friends!
“What is the evolution of the marketing concept” (n.d.) Accessed 7/9/14 at
Pride, W; Ferrell, O (2009) Marketing Express. Mason, OH: South-Western, p. 7-12.
White Orchid Image: White orchid blossom photo taken at Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh in 2005. Accessed 7/9/14 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:White_Orchid.jpg
Tiger Orchid Image: Found in one of the Pictures folders on my hard drive.