What Does Marketing Do? ( In Theory ) Make Selling Superfluous

Revisiting Drucker’s definition of Marketing — What Does Marketing Do? (Part 1) {2006}. Still Useful.

Here are the highlights.


Let’s start by referring to Drucker. We get the following definition from pages 20 & 21 in “Essential Drucker“.

There will always, one can assume, be the need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superflous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.

Here are some more supporting points from those pages:

  • Business has 2 basic functions: marketing and innovation.
  • Despite the emphasis on marketing and the marketing approach, marketing is still rhetoric rather than reality in far too many organizations.
  • True marketing does not ask, “What do we want to sell?”. It asks, “What does the customer want to buy?”
  • It does not say, “This is what our product or service does. It says, These are the satisfactions the customer is looking for, values, and needs.
  • Indeed, selling and marketing are antithetical rather than synonymous or even complementary.

Discussion — Overall, this is a very tall order.

How many products/services fit this bill? The product that comes to mind quickly is iPod. The iPod, and its ecosystem, illustrate just how difficult it is to get a product to sell itself. It’s iPod, iTunes Player, iTunes Store ( they solved legal DRM problem and got music industry on board), an O/S for multimedia, the CD ripper/burner, and more details. It’s taken ~ 5+ years to get going on all cylinders. It was obvious in the early years that people wanted music on the net ’cause Napster was such a huge thing. But making iPod mainstream, that is a work of pure genius (and loads of hard work). It was a good idea that was refined, refined, refined, and is still being refined. It’s like a non-stop loop of listen & react. ( I think the Japanese have a word for this “kaizen”)