Representing is sometimes better than marketing

Summary:The term "marketing" is broadly used but it carries a lot of baggage such as "spin" and "selling." Yes, marketing means so much more than the commonly understood term--it is how product development is monetized.

The term "marketing" is broadly used but it carries a lot of baggage such as "spin" and "selling."

Yes, marketing means so much more than the commonly understood term--it is how product development is monetized. But in many uses of the term "marketing" there is an uncomfortable implication that there is some kind of persuasion or manipulation going on, to sell something for which there might very well be no actual need.

"Selling refrigerators to Eskimos," or "taking coals to Newcastle," are examples of sayings that describe this baggage. Marketing sometimes seems to be about the use of persuasive marketing/selling techniques rather than the meeting of real needs--not that the two never coincide.

Nevertheless, a lot of people are uneasy about doing "marketing" or "selling" because of cultural associations that make the activities seem to be more about smoke and mirrors rather than creating value.

For example, many times I have had people tell me that the iPod is rubbish because it is "just marketing." As if "just marketing" can be applied by anybody, as if it can be bought off-the-shelf. Clearly, that is not the case but that sentiment serves as an example of a less than positive attitude towards the term marketing.

Also, the term marketing doesn't seem to fit easily within the culture of the emerging generation of Silicon Valley Web 2.0/Internet 2.0 startups, (and older companies too). Those companies constantly talk about communities: customers, developers, consumers, etc.  

But, do you apply "marketing" to those communities...? Within such a context, the term "marketing" feels uncomfortable, awkward, and even inaccurate.

A better term might be "representing." When you represent someone, or a company, or a service there seems to be an associated meaning that there is some personal integrity involved.

For example, it is difficult "representing" something if you don't believe in it. It is much closer to the concept of "keeping it real."

But "marketing" or "selling" doesn't seem to require the same kind of  personal involvement or personal integrity.

"Representing" is also a more apt term in describing the way companies or organizations integrate into their communities. Startup teams and their members "represent" themselves, in their day to day activities, and in their interactions with their communities and peer groups, based on their actions as good citizens, and as good members of their communities. That is much more powerful than "marketing" because it is about walk-the-talk rather than spin-and-win.

 If I am "representing" something, rather than "selling" something, it feels like I am much more invested personally--with a company, or product, or service. And it is these types of nuances in meaning that are important and have to be recognized when you represent your business, IMHO.

 Also, marketing is different function and set of skills from corporate communications. Corporate communications should not be run by marketing, as it is in most organizations. Corporate comms should have its own seat in the C-executive suite. Communications is a strategy-level function and  one of the most important departments within a company.

 It is no accident that at Cisco Systems,  Dan Scheinman, who heads corporate M&A (the core strategy of Cisco's growth), also heads corporate communications.

Topics: Telcos


In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to become a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley. Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leading comput... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.