MARKETING, noun. The act of wearing your Sunday best while engaging in a shouting match with a pod of well-groomed and poorly-mannered blue whales. See also: MADNESS.

Every single business transaction is the end result of some form of marketing, whether it is intentional or not. We live in world saturated with marketing. It takes strategic planning to maintain a pure and thoughtful portrayal of a company, but the reward is well worth it. Successful marketing is oftentimes the difference between success and failure of a business. That’s why we feel it is important for everyone to know exactly what constitutes marketing to make sure that they are implementing best practices for their company.    

 What It Means

If we examine the etymology of the word “marketing,” we discover that it derives from the Latin word mercarus, meaning “to buy.” This is the same root from which “marketplace” and “Marky Mark” derived (the latter is still pending verification). From its very inception, marketing has implied an exchange of something – a person validates the value of an item or service by providing payment for it. In return, the person doing the selling obtains currency. This simple transaction seems to be a far cry from what people mean today when they refer to marketing, as the term implies so much more than a mere exchange of goods or services. Nowadays, the word “marketing” has many working definitions, and experts can’t quite agree on one standardized definition. So, we’ll defer to the American Marketing Association’s phrasing, which seems to be the most comprehensive: “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.”¹

Let’s break this down a little bit.

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes…

Contrary to some people’s belief that marketing can occur haphazardly, this means that to engage in marketing is to engage with effort, authority, and strategy. Hence, marketing is an activity. Similarly, marketing is not only a subsidiary of, or department within, a larger company—rather, marketing extends to all institutions that engage with the larger company, including but not limited to manufacturers, wholesalers, nonprofits, and marketing firms.²

“…for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings…”

To market a company or product is to put a creation or idea out into the world for others to receive. That could be something tangible, like a magazine advertisement, but it can just as easily be an idea shared during a sales support call. It is any action taken to make others aware of the potential benefit that your company can provide. Also notice that marketing can consist of “exchanging offerings,” implying a multi-directional transaction between consumer and company, rather than a unidirectional relationship of “buyer” and “seller.” The act of marketing can provide just as much benefit to the company as the customer. An example of this is implementing customer feedback as part of a company’s marketing strategy. Not only will this strategy demonstrate attentiveness and care, but it can also provide valuable insight to the company on how to give their customers exactly what they need.

“…that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

The keyword here is value. To market is to find the value in your company and share it. If your product is shit, why are you going to invest resources to market it? A successful marketing campaign is the one that communicates the value of a product to the rest of the world. It’s also important to note that the value is not only for the customers. Value extends also to “clients, partners, and society at large,” once again reinforcing that marketing is so much bigger than a single transaction. The definition also acknowledges that nonprofit organizations or business to business companies have “clients” rather than the traditional “customer.” To engage in the act of marketing, a company has to be in conversation with the rest of the world while contributing something meaningful.

Where It Comes From

Over time, the nature of buying and selling changed alongside shifting societies. The act of buying goods at a central marketplace has declined, but the act of marketing as an integral part of a business has skyrocketed. Companies noticed how useful this form of communication was on their business and leveraged it to the fullest potential. Knowing how marketing has evolved, particularly within the past century, allows us to understand why what is considered successful marketing today would have been unsuccessful just 50 years prior. Such exponential growth in technology also plays an important role in how we reach our customers, and this will continue to shape how we market for years to come.

The field is always trying to find the new method that will gain consumer’s attention. As these methods become standardized, the consumers become desensitized to the effects and are more reactive to new ways of learning about companies. This has led to an ever-changing field that oftentimes feels like engaging in a ridiculous routine of meaninglessness. Hang in there, though. In our next article, we’re going to explore the benefits of marketing and drop some statistical knowledge bombs that you can take to your boss.



  1. “Definition of Marketing,” About AMA, American Marketing Association,

  2. Rob O’Regan, “AMA Proposes New Definition of Marketing,” Blog Post, May 21, 2007,