What Is MARKETING and What Is NOT [2021]

In this article, we’re going to understand What Is MARKETING and What Is NOT, and why there is so much confusion surrounding this topic.

So what is marketing, anyway? Is marketing the same as sales, advertising, customer support, or visual arts? We compiled the best examples and case studies to set this debate straight once for all.

Most articles on marketing we found online would begin by just throwing a blunt definition of marketing and let the reader do the heavy lifting down the road. So, what is marketing, anyway? We will get the hang of it in just a second. 

Instead of getting fried by fancy terms and cryptic definitions, let us strip off everything we know so far and look at marketing with a fresh set of eyes.  

Note: This series of articles is aimed at people willing to get a general understanding of marketing as well as those ready to start their journey into traditional or Digital Marketing.

Let’s get started!

Why is Marketing So Confusing?

When you ask a marketer what they do, most of the time will get a vague answer like this:

“We leverage technology to develop strategies that help our clients and projects accomplish their goals, as well as help customers (…)” 

In other words: 

“We’re not sure what exactly we do, either”

There is no wicked intention behind a vague answer like this. Some marketers are just as unclear about their role as you probably are. But why is marketing so confusing?

Marketing has evolved a lot since the 1950s and continues to change. Think of a doctor. A few decades ago, doctors used to perform a wide array of medical tasks. It was not uncommon for a pediatrician to perform an appendectomy – for example. In today’s medical standards, that sounds clearly insane. 

The same applies to marketers. Back in the day, a certain set of marketing skills were required to get the job done; our society evolved, and it became increasingly difficult to catch someone’s attention; decisions are made in split seconds. 

Advertisement, digital marketing, internet marketing, content marketing, SEO, and the list goes on, are just a few terms that throw a fair amount of confusion on anyone willing to understand what is marketing nowadays. 

For the sake of clarity, let’s clear the confusion first before jumping in hot waters.  

What Marketing Is NOT?

For most people, marketing is just a fancy word used as a substitute for selling something. Check the job description for some marketing jobs listed online and quickly realize they are looking for advertisers, customer support, graphic designers, or SEO experts. 

Ask your colleagues in the marketing department about their roles and find out they are dealing with direct sales or placing ads on social media.

Many companies believe marketers are inherently salespeople, advertisers, or graphic artists (to name a few) and end up combining multiple roles in the same job position. That is a confusing practice. Let’s have a look at some of the most common mistakes about what marketing is not.

Marketing is NOT Sales

Thinking that marketing is also sales is probably the most common mistake of all. At this point, I feel compelled to explain the difference but hang on with me for just a bit. 

Think of visiting your favorite shoe store. You enter and start browsing for what is new and fancy. A shop staff offers to assist and shows you what is new and on promotion. You decide to try a design but feel undecided. The shop staff intervenes and points the shoes are made from authentic leather and on sale for just a few days. You do not want to miss this chance and decide to buy it. In this scenario, what would you likely say about the shop staff? 

He/She is a good salesperson.


He/She is a good marketer.

It feels quite natural to think of the person that pushes and executes the sale of being a salesperson – such as in this case. Selling is all about convincing people to want your product.  

Selling is a push strategy.

Now, let us imagine a different scenario. You finally decided to start your first online business. You have a few business ideas in mind but did not decide yet which one would work best. What you think would be the most suitable approach here? 

A) Get a business idea you think would work. Find a name, make a logo, build your website, and upload your products. You then start to advertise your products online and wait to see if sales increase. 

B) Go online and start researching what people look for on the Internet. Select a business niche and find a few keywords with low competition and decent daily search volume. Then you pick-up a name, make a logo, build a website, and upload your products. 

If you chose B), you used marketing as a research tool to identify your potential customers and their needs. 

Marketing is a pull strategy

In other words, you chose to identify your future customers first so that the product or service you plan to sell fits the market and sell itself without much effort. 

You can think of Marketing as the planning part of Sales. Marketing is NOT sales but rather companions walking together to achieve a business’s goals. I hope you understood the difference.

Marketing is NOT Advertising 

It is common to think marketing is simply telling others about a product or service. After all, advertising plays a major role in the marketing effort.

Though advertising itself covers a wide range of activities and can be quite a lucrative process, it is just a small piece of the overall marketing strategy of a business.

Think of marketing as a factory with many departments where each department focuses on building a specific component. All departments work closely together and are essential to the final product. Advertising is one such department; it is a tool that marketing uses to achieve its goals. 

Advertising typically involves publishing ads in magazines, radio & TV, mailboxes, billboards, the Internet (social media, emails, various types of ads), flyers and posters (print or digital), etc. 

Marketing is NOT Graphic Design

The moment you browse online, we are blasted by beautifully designed ads, elegant logos, impressive animations, etc., meant to do one thing: get your attention fast. 

It is only fair to say that good visual skills have never been more relevant in passing a message across the board or build a compelling visual identity – especially since social media took over our lives. 

Regardless of its importance, graphic design is just another marketing tool among many others used in communicating and promoting a product or service across the board. 

Marketing is NOT Customer Support

Customer support became an essential part of maintaining a healthy relationship with consumers and build brand loyalty. Customer support is a prime source of constructive feedback for a company, its services, and its products. Nonetheless, customer or product support is not marketing.

Though marketing does not involve day-to-day contact with customers across platforms and channels, it works close enough with the customer support team to understand the ins and outs of every promotion and be able to close and upsell prospects.

What is Marketing, Anyway?

what is marketing and what is not
What is Marketing and What is Not

Now that we stripped down a fair amount of confusion, it’s finally time to define what is marketing. We reviewed hundreds of marketing definitions, ranging from academic literature, journals, and online sources, and we finally decided to spin our own. So what is marketing in a nutshell?

Marketing is the SUM of ALL EFFORTS a company MAKES to promote the buying or selling of a product or service.  

In simple words, marketing is everything you do to grow your business.

Think of marketing as the face of your company, the very first thing your customers see when engaging with your organization, products, and services. Marketing is the image of your business in the eyes of your customers. If you’re looking for more marketing definitions, check out Heidi Cohen’s list of 72 Marketing Definitions.

By all means, marketing is a complex and lucrative process, requires a ton of research, planning, preparation, and execution. Even so, it does not guarantee success, and it takes a lot of trial and error to get things right.

Marketing is not exactly science. 

I hope you got a better understanding of what marketing is and is not. Let us continue our marketing journey with the The 5 Essential Marketing Concepts (2021) to plan your marketing strategy. 

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