The marketing fallacies (and why you should care).

Image source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument#/media/File:Sanzio_01_Plato_Aristotle.jpg

For over the years, the world has enjoyed better access to education and knowledge, brought by the internet and driven mostly by enthusiasts striving to make the world a better place to live. This movement was later supported by several universities, giving free access to its courses’ materials. There’s probably no aspect or body of knowledge left inaccessible to anyone with the internet. Other enthusiasts have facilitated the world penetration of internet with projects to give free access to those that cannot afford it by themselves.

Surprisingly, though, there’re still so many misunderstandings or misconceptions about what marketing is (even more of what marketing is not), it is almost paradoxical why they exist given the amount of academic work done to define marketing. Moreover, it comes from people with very different professional background and occupation. Most often people who are not in business or do not have much of business education (think of doctors, writers, bakers, for example) tend to think of the marketing in a very similar way. It would not be hard to understand where this thinking is coming from, assuming for most of them the job of defining what marketing is not a primary concern, and perhaps they apply “reverse engineering” coupled with common sense, analyzing information from what they see on social media, newspapers or TV. Other folks that happen to work in a company with a marketing department and the interaction or observation of the job of a marketer can lead to forming some opinion about marketing.

As I mentioned earlier; marketing misconceptions come from people with different occupations. If you think your boss, a VP or a CEO cannot have them — you are probably wrong. First I thought this is specific only to the place I used to live. Marketing was a foreign concept and usually applied with no concern for the local environment. However, after spending more than a year in Europe and with several trips to the USA, I found out this is to be a common pattern irrelative of geography. Many people around the world have developed a wrong understanding of what marketing is.

Why should anyone care about it?

Let’s be honest; it does not sound a big deal now. Indeed, why should you care if your or somebody else’s perception of marketing is biased — by the end of the day, if you are not going to be a marketer, it should not bother you much (that is common sense). The truth is there will be (if not already) a point when you will need to use marketing, and it is better to get it right. Imagine you want to, say, build a ship. You have bought a nice wood pile and need to put it together to form a nice carcass. As you do not know how to do it, Google becomes your best friend. Your search returns millions of results featuring different tools and testimonials how good those tools are. You see what others have been talking about — and voila, you order super modern, fast and fancy saw — it is the best tools advertised other there with lots of testimonials. Then you start using it; you realize the result of applying that is far from what you have expected — even worse they can be quite the opposite. By this point, you have spent much time and financial resources to understanding that you used a wrong tool. The analogy is much a fictional one but serves its purpose. Misunderstanding creates costs for you and for marketing professionals as well — you will be less included to use or buy another saw next time when you might need it. That is, both sides suffered from the biased perception of marketing. To help avoid these unnecessary costs, I put together list of most common misunderstandings and misconceptions of marketing

So, here are some of most common misunderstandings and misconceptions of marketing I have met:

Donald Trump in Ottumwa, Iowa by Evan Guest, under CC license, https://flic.kr/p/CKpVmr

Marketing is just applying logic and\or wisdom. Be aware of this trend. There are few pitfalls in it. First, while we all might appeal to conventional wisdom, there’re no universal truths — what makes sense for a person or group of people or society in one part of the world may appeal totally wrong in other societies. Let alone the efficient market hypotheses — I will not go describing it here, but you can google and enjoy it online. Second, while you can find common sense in most of the business function, efficient marketing, as well as other business functions, requires a much deeper set of skills and knowledge to apply.

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Marketing is an advertisement. It is a most common misunderstanding of marketing I have met. While we are all exposed to advertising every day of our life, it is indeed only one instrument of the marketing for communicating the value offer to a potential buyer (or user). In a classical framework of marketing, advertising is one part of marketing mix — 4 P, that is, promotion. However, marketing is a more complex term than advertising and includes many other aspects. By properly combining those together you can expect great results. Digital Marketing is also a part of marketing that uses online tools (channels) to apply marketing concepts. Marketing field, again, is much wider.

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Marketing is selling. Selling is a bit different concept and while sometimes can be seen coming together (I think it is one side of same coin — commercial function) they are different in many facets. Selling can be described as a final process of value exchange (or value extraction), and usually, involves the exchange of goods for money. Marketing focuses more on understanding customer needs and value creation and communication. A good marketing can actually help to reduce sales cost.

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…is making people buy things they do not want. Marketing cannot create demand or generate a need. To those expecting magic pill perhaps it is the biggest disappointment. As well as to marketers — image how powerful a marketer could be if he\she could create a demand for a thing no one needs and\or wants. There eventually would be no need to work for marketers for somebody else. However, the reality is that marketing can help to understand consumer needs and create a product that satisfies it or create one that satisfies it better than existing solution. Sadly enough, marketers do not create a needs.

Copyright Notice — Mikhail Tolstoy — Fotolia. Used under creative commons license. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/22114132936

Another very common and recent trend is putting a fancy name on some concept and confusing it with marketing. Marketing is not related to hacktivism, content or any other trendy phenomena trying to persuade you this is the marketing. Marketing is not about the tools you implement.

Thinking that all this vast amount of different social media tools, content or other digital management tools are going to bring you overnight success (you might be lucky of course, but that is hardly scalable) can lead to the trap mentioned in the very beginning of this article. If you are wondering what marketing is then, the American Marketing Association gives a very good definition of marketing: 
 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. 
 (Approved July 2013)
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Marketing can differ, though, based on market (B2B or B2C), segment(niche marketing vs. mass marketing), by use of channels (direct, digital, traditional). There are more factors that also affect application and implementation of marketing, but they are not changing it that much as those listed above. So marketing is not that simple as it looks that, but trust me — neither it is that difficult to understand. And one step to better understand it is to avoid those common misconceptions that you now know!

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