AMA’s Definition of Marketing


The American Marketing Association’s Definition of Marketing Explained

Probably the best definition of marketing to consider is the one that is published by the American Marketing Association. Although many textbooks will have their own variation of the definition of marketing, the American Marketing Association is really the peak body for marketing practitioners, and therefore reflects current perceptions and understanding. The American Marketing Association also reviews their definitions every few years, ensuring that the definition is kept up-to-date.

AMA’s Definition of Marketing

Their most current marketing definition is:

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)

Link to AMA

At first glance, this definition may appear to be a little bit cumbersome, especially compared to some of the more pithy text book definitions of marketing. However, let’s dissect this definition to gain a better understanding of the broad concept of what marketing is all about.

The first group of words in the definition are “… the activity, set of institutions, and processes…”. These are interrelated words which essentially communicate similar points. Firstly, we should note that marketing is an activity, rather than an outcome. Essentially, it is the things that we do for an organization that are designed to achieve overall corporate goals.

The term “set of institutions” refers to various tools, practices, approaches and mechanisms that we would use in a marketing role. Therefore, as you can see, the words “activity” and “set of institutions” and “processes” are essentially similar – and highlight that marketing is all about doing certain tasks in order to achieve certain goals.

This leads into the concept of goals – and as highlighted in the definition above, typically our goals are “creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value”. This part of the definition highlights the key outcomes of marketing. It is quite similar to our 4P’s marketing mix model that we tend to know well.

For example, “creating value” essentially refers to creating and/or developing suitable products that provide benefits and solutions to the marketplace. The word “communicating” obviously refers to our promotional mix, and the word “delivering” refers to our channels or our place mix.

Exchanging” refers to actually achieving some form of sale in the marketplace – where we typically exchange a product for a financial return, that is, a price.

The final part of the definition refers to “customers, clients, partners and society at large“. The definition says we want to provide value to these various stakeholders. Customers are a key part of most businesses and organizations and quite obviously belongs in this definition.

Clients” is a broader term which suggests a non-profit focus. This is important because marketing activities extend beyond simply profit motivated firms. Many non-government organisations, not-for-profit firms and even government institutions, and locations and events and ideas, and so on – are marketed. Therefore the word “clients” reflects a broader perspective beyond just customers.

Partners” refers to the array of supporting businesses and relationships that are critical in achieving commercial success. Partners would include suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, as well as consultants, legal advisers, strategic partners, and so on.

Society at large” reflects the current trend towards firms providing overall value to the broader community, rather than being simply focused upon their own profitability. It is a reflection of the shift to the societal marketing concept.

Therefore, if we take all the above points into consideration – the American Marketing Association’s definition of marketing simply states – marketing is the tasks undertaken to deliver value in the marketplace.

It is presented in its formal definition in little more complex manner simply to ensure that a broader view of marketing is understood.

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