Week 1.1 Definition of Marketing

In our first lesson, we will introduce the concept of marketing. Everyone has an understanding of what marketing is or what marketing could be. Before formally defining marketing, let’s consider what we already think marketing is. How would you define marketing?

Stop and Think Question: Quickly and honestly, what is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the word "marketing"? Think about your answer before clicking to reveal the most popular answers.

The most popular answers are the following:

  • advertising
  • selling
  • promotion


Here is the formal definition of marketing:

Marketing is the activity of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that benefit the organization, its stakeholders, and society at large.

Marketing focuses on discovering and satisfying prospective customers’ needs and wants. There are four requirements for marketing to occur:

  1. two or more parties with unsatisfied needs
  2. desire and ability to satisfy these needs
  3. a way for the parties to communicate
  4. something to exchange
Man at computer.
Example: Suppose Mike has developed an unmet need. He is interested in learning about how computer technology is reshaping the workplace. The fact is that Computer-World magazine provides detailed research studies on computer use in the workplace. Mike is not aware of the magazine. He also is unaware that several copies of Computer-World are located at the nearest bookstore.

Stop and Think Question: The example above is an example of two parties with unmet needs. What are the two parties with unmet needs? Click reveal after you write your answer on a piece of paper.

Cashier in bookshop.

One party is Mike with a need for technology related information. The other party is the bookstore owner who needs a customer to buy a copy of Computer-World


Do these two parties have the desire and ability to satisfy their needs? For Mike, his ability is related to the finances to buy the item and the time to get to the bookstore. The store’s owner has the desire to sell Computer-World and also the ability to do so, since it is stocked on the shelves. 

Now, let’s think about a way for the parties to communicate because the marketing transaction of buying a copy will never occur unless Mike knows that the product exists at the bookstore. One way for the parties to communicate would be that Mike receives a free sample in the mail. Another way would be that he sees the magazine on display in the bookstore. A way for the parties to communicate is related to the advertising component of marketing. 

The last requirement for marketing to occur is something to exchange. It is the money transaction in our example. Marketing occurs when the transaction takes place and both the buyer and seller exchange something of value. Both parties are better off at the end because each one satisfied their unmet needs.

Social Marketing

Social marketing is designed to influence the behaviour of individuals in which benefits accrue to those individuals or to society in general and not to the marketer.

Social marketing focuses on enhancing social ends.

Warning from cigarette pack," Your kids are sick of your smoking."
  • anti-smoking campaigns by Health Canada
  • early detection ads by Canadian Cancer Society

Social marketing can be conducted by for-profit and non-profit organizations or by individuals. When your relatives or friends suggest healthy food alternatives to influence you to eat a healthy diet, this could also be considered as social marketing. 




Concept Check Questions:

1. Marketing focuses on ____________________ prospective customers' needs and wants.


2. Which of the following is not one of the four factors that are needed for marketing to occur?

Discovering Consumer Needs

Photo of Henry Ford.

The first objective of marketing is discovering the needs of prospective customers. It sounds simple; however, it is not as simple as it looks. First of all, consumers may not always know or be able to describe what they need and want. Especially for new high tech products, it is difficult to imagine what technology would enable us to produce. In some cases, consumers are unable to predict what the future would bring. 

Henry Ford, famous automobile pioneer, once said, "If I asked the customer what they really wanted, they'd have said a faster horse!"

New product launches seem obvious. What we need to do is to find out what consumers need and want, produce those products, and do not produce what consumers do not need or want. Even though it seems simple, it is far more difficult than it sounds.




Package of Hot Pockets.

Example: Hot Pockets were launched in 1983. They are easy to heat and a convenient choice as a hot meat/cheese sandwich. Hot Pockets became a favourite brand especially among students. However, a problem arose. When there are variations in freezer temperatures, excessive ice crystals can form on the product. If ice crystals are formed, they melt when the sandwich is microwaved, which leads to a mushy taste. This is a challenge for many frozen products. Meeting the needs and wants of consumers is a continuing challenge for firms around the globe.


Consumer Needs and Consumer Wants 

Should marketing try to satisfy consumer needs or consumer wants? The answer is both! 

Stop and Think Question: What is a need? What is a want? How do they differ? Think about the answer before clicking reveal.

Woman deciding between apple or chocolate.

need occurs when a person feels physiologically deprived of basic necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter. 

want is a felt need that is shaped by a person's knowledge, culture, and personality. 

Example: If you feel hungry, you have developed a basic need and desire to eat something. The feeling of hunger leads to the need to eat. What you want to eat, such as an apple or a chocolate bar, is based on your past experience and personal taste. 


Diagram explained in caption.
Marketing's First Task. The first task in marketing is to discover consumer needs. An organization's marketing department discovers consumer needs by acquiring information about needs from their potential consumers (the market).

Marketing practices influence what we buy. Marketers create awareness of products at convenient locations, which can clearly shape a person's wants.

Critical Thinking Activity: Do you think marketing persuades prospective customers to buy the "wrong" things—say, a chocolate bar rather than an apple? Another issue is whether marketing really makes us materialistic and desire things that we really can live without. What do you think?


Satisfying Consumer Needs

Discovering consumers' needs proposes an important question: can we address every consumer’s needs? It is not possible to satisfy every consumer's needs. That is why organizations focus on certain needs of a specific group of potential consumers. This subset of consumers is known as a target market.  

Target market is one or more specific groups of potential consumers toward which an organization directs its marketing program.

The process of target market selection requires a step-by-step approach starting with segmentation of customers, grouping of products, and developing a market-product grid. We will cover this process in future lessons.  

Controllable Factors

Once we select the target market, we take steps to satisfy their needs by developing a complete marketing program that creates and delivers value to the target market. The marketing program is designed by four elements. These four elements are known as the four Ps of the marketing mix:

  1. Product: a good, service, or idea to satisfy the consumer's needs.
  2. Price: what is exchanged for the product.
  3. Promotion: a means of communication between the seller and buyer.
  4. Place: a means of getting the product into the consumer's hands.

The four Ps are the controllable factors because they are under the control of the marketing department in an organization. We will cover these controllable factors in detail in the coming lessons. 

Uncontrollable Forces

In addition to controllable factors, there are uncontrollable or environmental forces. These forces are divided into five groups: social, economic, technological, competitive, and regulatory forces.

Uncontrollable or Environmental Forces. The five groups of uncontrollable forces include 1) social, 2) economic, 3) technological, 4) competitive, and 5) regulatory.

These five forces have a big impact on businesses. Sometimes they provide favourable conditions that accelerate organizations’ sales and marketing activities. Other times they serve as brakes and restrict opportunities for businesses. We will cover these five forces in great detail in future lessons. 

The Marketing Program

Marketing program is a plan that integrates the marketing mix to provide a good, service, or idea to prospective buyers. We have mentioned that marketing’s first task is to discover consumer needs. The second task is to satisfy the needs, as shown below. Satisfying the needs is achieved by designing a marketing program by carefully mixing the controllable factors (4Ps). As we have discussed earlier, the 4Ps are under the control of the organization and the goal is to set these Ps in a clever way to satisfy the consumers’ needs.   

Diagram as explained by caption.

Marketing's Second Task. The second task in marketing is to satisfy consumer needs. After discovering consumer needs, an organization's marketing department can find concepts for products that satisfy consumer needs by designing a marketing program with the right combination of product, price, promotion, and place. The marketing program produces products, services, or ideas for the potential consumers (the market).

Man travelling on a zip line.

Example: We can identify the marketing program with the 4Ps for any organization. Let us identify it for WildPlay. It is a full-service outdoor adventure company offering customers bungee jumping, the Primal Swing, aerial adventure tree courses, and zip-line rides. WildPlay targets corporate groups seeking team-building activities, private groups looking for group fun, and school and youth groups looking for adventurous field trips. WildPlay’s marketing program is identified in the table at right. (Current pricing may differ as pricing changes over time in any business). 

Marketing Program for WildPlay Element Parks
Mix ElementSpecifics
Product Outdoor adventure experiences including bungee jumping, zip-line rides, Monkido Aerial Adventure, and Primal Swing.
Price Monkido Aerial Adventure: $43 adults ($23 kids); bungee jump: $100; zip-line ride: $25-$100; discounts available for groups. You can also purchase the Ultimate WildPlayer Package for $250, which includes the Aerial Adventure course, bungee jump, Primal Swing, and zip-line ride.
Promotion Public relations, publicity, website, personal selling--corporations/groups, and Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
Place Four locations in British Columbia (Nanaimo, West Shore Victoria, Maple Ridge, and Kelowna), two locations in Niagara Falls, and one in New York state (Thatcher).

Stop and Think Question: Think about the University of Waterloo. Identify their marketing program with the 4Ps. Think before you click on the feedback.  

Place would refer to the campuses University of Waterloo operates. Price refers to the tuition and other costs of full-time education in the campus. Promotion is the promotional activities of the university such as university open house, publicity, etc. Product is the education and research.   


Concept Check Questions: 

1. An organization cannot satisfy the needs of all consumers, so it must focus on one or more subgroups, which are its


2. Which one of the following is NOT one of the four marketing mix elements that make up an organization’s marketing program?


3. Which one of the following is NOT one of the uncontrollable variables?