The Marketing Concept

During the 1960s, the term ‘marketing concept’ emerged. It was a ‘revolution’ because what can be considered as modern businesses have changed their strategies and the total activities of their businesses. William J. Stanton, Professor of Marketing at the University of Colorado stated:

“The marketing concept is based on two fundamental beliefs. First, all company planning, policies and operations should be oriented toward the customer; second, profitable sales volume should be the goal of a firm. In its fullest sense, the marketing concept is a philosophy of business which states that the customer’s want satisfaction is the economic and social justification of a company’s existence. Consequently, all company activities in production, engineering, and finance, as well as in marketing, must be devoted first to determining what the customer’s wants are and then to satisfying those wants while still making a reasonable profit.”

A marketing executive at the General Electric Company, one of the first companies formally to recognize and implement the marketing concept, emphasized the important role of marketing in a nice way when he said: “We feel that marketing is a fundamental business philosophy.” It is obvious that this definition recognizes the importance of implementing the philosophy of marketing’s functions and methods of organizational structuring. Although it must be realized that marketing’s functions and methods are not, in themselves, the philosophy.

But the best-known writer on the subject at that time was Professor Theodore Levitt of Harvard. He had this to say: “Every major industry was once a growth industry. But some that are not riding a wave of growth enthusiasm are very much in the shadow of decline. Others which are thought of as seasoned growth industries have actually stopped growing. In every case the reason growth is threatened, slowed, or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because there has been a failure of management. The failure is at the top. The executives responsible for it in the last analysis are those who deal with broad aims and policies.”

The excuses used for declining growth of the railroads, for example, were not because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads were in trouble not because the need was filled by others like cars, trucks, airplanes, even telephones, but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. The railroads companies let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry wrong was because they were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented.

Peter Drucker, the world’s leading writer on the whole field of management, says: “It is the customer who determines what a business is. It is the customer alone whose willingness to pay for a good or service converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods. What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance-especially not to the future of the business and to its success… What the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers value, is decisive-it determines what a business is, what it produces and whether it will prosper. And what the customer buys and considers value is never a product. It is always utility, that is, what a product or service does for him…. Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two-and only these two-basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are ‘cost’. It is vital for every company regularly to ask this question ‘what business are we in?’ and to answer it in terms of what its customers buy not in terms of what it produces.”

More recently, Professor Peter Doyle has said that “Marketing-the task of seeing to provide customers with superior value-is so central that it cannot be seen as just another function alongside production, finance or personnel. The central task of management is to find better ways of meeting the needs of customers.”