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What Is Marketing?

In Kalman Applbaum’s The Marketing Era, we find some useful definitions ofmarketing. He quotes the American Marketing Association Board, which defines marketing as (2004:24) “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.” He also quotes Theodor Levitt who describes marketing (2004:24) as “The idea of satisfying the needs of the customer by means of the product and the whole cluster of things associated with creating, delivering, and finally consuming it. ”

Then Applbaum offers his own definition of marketing (2004:25)

It is paramount to recognize that marketing works through more than just advertising messages. Marketing’s role encompasses management of the entire circulatory path from market research to product creation to distribution channel selection and management to pricing to advertising generation to media planning to point-of-sale promotion to merchandising to setting the terms of exchange to administrating sales and after-sales service and sometimes to supervising the discarding of the object (trade-ins, for example, or recycling) repurchase stimulation, and more.

Applbaum’s laundry list of functions connected with marketing suggests it is involved in everything from the creation of new products and services to advertising them, and everything in between. He quotes Levitt’s pithy definition of marketing as (2004:24) “separating customers from loose change. ”

The big question that marketers face is how do they find ways to separate their customers from their loose change? A number of years ago, I spent three weeks at an advertising agency in San Francisco, Goldberg Moser O’Neill, and it had a marketing director and a staff of marketing researchers. From what I got out of my time there I concluded that, roughly speaking, the marketers are the strategic thinkers who search for information about the needs, desires, and interests of potential customers for a product or service and the copywriters and creatives are the tacticians who create print advertisements and television commercials based on the information provided by the marketing people. Their relationship, roughly speaking, can be seen in a table of oppositions:






Applied or Operational



The disease

The symptoms

Fred Goldberg was kind enough to write a case study showing the relationship between marketing and advertising. It deals with a campaign his advertising agency, Goldberg Moser O’Neill, ran that was very successful. It follows in a boxed insert.

Fred Goldberg

Marketing and Advertising: A Symbiotic Relationship

Advertising is but one element of marketing. There are other critical components like packaging, distribution, product placement, sales, pricing, promotion, public relations, and more. But it is advertising that is generally responsible for generating fast, broad, and efficient awareness, interest, and trial of a product or service and doing so in an affordable manner.

Marketing a product without the benefit of advertising is substantially more difficult: takes far longer to generate expected sales volumes and there is much less control over the way the product or service is perceived and received by the intended customer.

Advertising: Very Often Shaped by the Marketing Elements.

There is a plethora of examples where a product or service’s marketing have shaped and even dictated its advertising. Most smart and informed marketers expect their advertising to support and extend other aspects of the marketing mix.

One of the most illustrative examples of a product where its marketing most definitely shaped its advertising was California Cooler.

California Cooler, a low-alcohol mixture of fruit juice and white wine: a wine cooler. This recipe was packaged in long neck bottles with screw caps, with a beer-like label, sold in a four pack cardboard carton; distributed at retail in supermarket, convenience stores, and bars; placed on-shelf and in coolers positioned next to beer. And, although California Cooler was essentially a wine product, its marketing elements were designed to be more like beer brands.

California Cooler was a refreshing, thirst-quenching beverage that was more often than not consumed at informal and casual situations (picnics, lunch, at the beach), a drink that could be sipped or chugged right out of the bottle. It was a refreshing social lubricant just like beer. The drink was clearly similar to beer in the way it looked and felt in the bottle, in the way and where it was consumed, and in its alcohol content (albeit a bit higher). Despite the fact that its taste was very different. At the time, a significant proportion of the beer drinking population (light and medium beer drinkers) as well as a large group outside of it who never drank beer, while attracted to the beer drinking experience (its idea and usage occasions) didn’t enjoy the bitter, strong taste of beer all that much, if at all. This was particularly true of women, the vast proportion of whom did not drink beer because of its bitter taste.

With all this said, targeting the lighter consuming end of the beerdrinking market and non-beer drinkers made a lot of sense. California Cooler was the best thing since beer particularly if you didn’t really enjoy the taste of beer and didn’t want to have to acquire a taste, but still wanted to enjoy its experience. California Cooler tasted good (sweet, fruity, carbonated, refreshing) and happened to have an added benefit having a somewhat higher level of alcohol than did beer. It was a “beer-drinking experience” with a taste everyone could enjoy.

So it is not surprising that the advertising that was developed came directly out of the essence of the way the product had been developed and marketed.

The ads exploited the beverage’s beer-like attributes and benefits and in particular the experiential aspects of consuming the product.The advertising recognized, too, that beer drinking, and the selection of a particular beer brand, was a statement of a consumer’s personality. It was a “badge” just as it was for a traditional beer drinker (i.e., a Bud drinker was perceived as a different guy than a Coors Light drinker).

The California Cooler advertising reinforced what a unique brand it was: its essence and attributes. It helped clearly distinguish California Cooler from its direct competition (other coolers) and from other indirect competitors as well (other alcoholic beverages, particularly beer).

The advertising set the brand apart as the real stuff. From the product ingredient perspective: made with real fruit. The ads featured the bottle, the label, and often showed it in its four-pack, beerlike carton. And, from an historical and experiential perspective, California Cooler positioned the brand as the first, the original, the authentic one... “The Real Stuff.” No other cooler could make these claims that were unique to California Cooler.

The ad campaign utilized the great California surfing lifestyle and attit ude as a backdrop to drive home the brand positioning. After all, that’s where its inventor, Mike Crete, first made the product. On a Cali fornia beach, in a large steel tub filled with ice, white wine and fruit juices along with grapefruit, lemon and orange halves bobbing a-top the icy brew.

All the advertising portrayed the intended target audience: young good-looking surfin’ guys and gals on a beach, having fun, chuggin’ the real stuff, and enjoying it in a widely envied California experience. The ads used only original and authentic surfing music like “Louie, Louie,” “Surfin’ Bird,” and “Pa Pa Oom Mau Mau.” After all, the product was the original and authentic cooler so everything in the ads had to be, too.

The advertising was attention getting and impactful, and importantly it defined the essence of the product and the brand experience in a way that help protect its authenticity. The adsgrew directly out of its marketing and marketing efforts: the product, the package, the label, the product placement. The business was rewarded with phenomenal sales results.

Along with recognition from Advertising Age Magazine, and separately, the One Club (the most prestigious award show for excellence in advertising). California Cooler “The Real Stuff” ad campaign was selected as one ofthe ten best ofits decade.

Fred Goldberg describes himself as an Ex-Adman, Ex-Madman, and author of The Insanity of Advertising: Memoirs of a Mad Man. He has a website:

Fred was also kind enough to write an introduction to my book on advertising, Ads, Fads & Consumer Culture, 5th edition.

Having read this case study, we can see now how marketing and advertising have a symbiotic relationship. Where there is advertising, there is also marketing—generally operating behind the scenes. A website, eMarketing, offers daily statistics about the size of the global advertising industry now and estimates how it will grow in the near future. We see that it is an enormous industry, and one that affects various areas of our lives, from purchasing products and services, entertainment, tourism, to politics.

Total Media Ad Spending Worldwide, by Region, 2014-2020

billions and % change








Total media ad spending (billions)



























Latin America








Middle East & Africa








Central & Eastern Europe
















Total media ad spending growth (% change)

Latin America
















Middle East & Africa








North America








Western Europe








Central & Eastern Europe
















Note: includes digital (desktop/laptop, mobil and other internet-connected devices), directories, magazines, newspapers, out-of-home, radio and TV Source: eMarketer, April 2016b


Total Media Ad Spending Worldwide

These figures show that advertising in the United States in 2016 is a $202 billion dollar industry and this represents a large proportion of global advertising, which is a $525 billion dollar industry. The United States, with five percent of the world’s population, spends twenty percent of money on advertising and marketing.

Speculations on Marketing and Its Impact on American Culture and Society

Let me offer some notions that I will deal with in this book that will offer other insights into marketing and its role in our society and our lives:

Marketing is all-pervasive in American culture and has helped shape it. Marketing and advertising have created our contemporary American consumer culture.

Marketing has been a force in American society for a long time. Marketing has been analyzed by different academic disciplines.

Marketing is interested in the demographics and psychographics of target audiences.

Marketing provides the strategy for advertising.

Marketing by individuals is what we call “personality. ”

Marketing believes consumption decisions are not always based on personal choices.

Marketing shapes American elections.

Marketing and advertising are two side of the same coin.

Marketing ourselves is done on Facebook and similar sites.

Finally, I would like to suggest how a cultural studies approach looks at marketing.

Imagine, if you will, a group of professors—each from a different discipline or with different perspectives on things—sitting at a round table. In the center of that table, where it says “text,” is a bottle of Coca- Cola or a McDonald’s Big Mac or some product of interest to marketers. The professors are semioticians, psychoanalysts, sociologists, anthropologists, Marxists, discourse theorists, and so on.

Each sees marketing from a different disciplinary perspective and each has an explanation of what motivates a consumer to purchase a bottle of Coca-Cola or a Big Mac or whatever. (Some professors may be both Marxists and semioticians or both sociologists and discourse theorists or whatever combination you might imagine.) These disciplines are central to cultural studies, a multidisciplinary approach to understanding cultural phenomena with shared meanings of all kinds. With this understanding of cultural studies in mind, let me turn to my next chapter on semiotics and marketing.

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