First, a premise: marketing and communication are thematic giants that already enjoy sufficient space in the literature of the sector, authoritative or otherwise. Marketing, marketing mix and communication strategies have been defined, deepened, probed and recomposed by the most illustrious minds that the academic and professional panorama has offered us, to which I have no claim or ambition to be compared to. However, they were also discussed by a large army of quick pens which, by desiring to offer simpler categorizations and more frequent updates, found themselves generating as overly simplistic vision of a complexity that instead has great value. To offer it for € 9.90, eBook version.
What I would like to do here is to go back to the origin of things, to keep in mind the deep meaning of what we do: to create lands of mutual satisfaction between those who offer products and services and those who use them. So what is marketing and who is it for? What is the relationship with communication? And more importantly, to what end do we spend time and resources on this?
Let’s start with a simple question: What is marketing and how is it born?
The birth of the concept of “marketing”, unlike its definition, can easily be circumscribed in the decade between 1910 and 1920, when the National Association of Teachers of Advertising was born in the United States (yes, always them). Those were the years of the Ford Model T and the assembly line, those in which mass production was the result of an excess of consumer demand over the entrepreneur’s supply. At that time, given the scarcity of products on the market, any good that was produced was devoured by demand. In other words, the needs were so obvious that the consumer study was unnecessary. With the industrial boom that would take place shortly thereafter and the consequent increase in supply, however, this “corrupt” equilibrium that governed the market would be reversed, leading the market to a state of overproduction that demand was unable to absorb, pushing manufacturers to identify new techniques to make their product attractive if compared to that of the competition. Push communication, in short, today – evil, is defined by the eternal fed up with too much intrusive advertising.
Hence the term “Marketing“, which can be translated into Italian as “commercialize” or more generically “bring to market” (to market something). Marketing was therefore badly and improperly defined as the tool to make consumers aware of their product. Marketing seemed to coincide with the advertising of one’s product and only came into play in the sales phase, a mere synonym for advertising.
Luckily Kotler put things back in place. Product promotion is not the only lever that contributes to its marketing. There are three other fundamental ones which, depending on the market trend, have been exploited in a more or less conscious and more or less strategic way. You will certainly know them, but repetita iuvant: product, price, positioning (also called, in a more correct Italian, distribution).
If you are lucky like me, you have already approached marketing in the academic field, and therefore you cannot fail to know the Marketing Mix, also known as the Model of the four P’s, or the personal vision of what marketing is according to Philip Kotler, recognized as one of the fathers of the subject. As I said above, the model, which has become a reference point, consists of a combination of variables (“levers”) that must be used to achieve marketing objectives:
Over the years the concept of marketing has evolved, just like the needs of the society it aims to satisfy, but ultimately these four levers remain milestones. The experts (and not) of the sector, when questioned ), have limited themselves to give a subjective and experiential interpretation of the theme, often creating confusion or even contradicting themselves.
When we started talking about 4 C’s, the focus shifted from the Product to the Consumer, from Price to Cost, from Promotion to Communication and, finally, from Distribution to Convenience.
Marketing therefore begins to give value to those who buy the product: its area of interest starts from the idea of the product, which responds to a need, and reaches its delivery to your homes, and even beyond. Because it shapes around your purchasing process, from the moment when you realize you need something to the moment you throw it in the recycling bin. And how does it become a valuable business? Through research and listening to people’s real needs.
So the dimensions of a product system, regardless of how you call them, do not change in their essence, at most they evolve step by step with the time. Although, unfortunately, this favor has not been given to communication: for many, in fact, this change of term has not represented an evolutionary process, but merely a substitute that levels the differences between communication and promotion.
Promotion and communication. Synonyms. No.
Communication’s very fluid nature contributes to increase the confusion that sorrounds it.. Because while on the one hand communication leaves its mite to marketing contributing a quarter, on the other, communication is much more than marketing. How can the quasi-paradox be explained? With the distinction between communication and promotion .
The 4 Cs model I mentioned above introduces the concept of communication as a marketing lever. And in this context, the commonly shared definition in the economic field is linked, although not univocal and official, which sees communication as the branch of the economy that deals with promoting a product, directly or indirectly and which, as a consequence, brings the producer closer to the client. This is actually promotion, that is the part of communication that is part of marketing and is linked to pricing, product and distribution policies to finalize the marketing of a product system. Advertising in all its forms, testimonials, influencers.
But communication is not just that.
In general terms, corporate communication can be defined as an essential strategic lever for the creation, maintenance and strengthening of relationships of trust between the company and all the subjects directly or indirectly involved in its activity (customers, commercial partners, suppliers, shareholders, etc.), commonly known as stakeholders.
The peculiarity of communication lies in its double referential direction: internal and external to the company. Internal communication is mainly adressed to employees and has the purpose of conveying corporate values and developing a precise brand identity. External communication, on the other hand, typically performs more commercial functions and aims at obtaining measurable and concrete results, such as increasing sales and market shares. The main players are customers, media and business partners. But also employees, investors, institutions, competitors and society: these audiences of interlocutors exist, they should not be ignored, and addressing them and how to do it must be a choice. And this is communication too.
Communication is therefore a transversal function to all company dimensions with well-defined characteristics, known as the 7Cs of communication:
In summary, if it is true that one cannot not communicate, valuable communication, conceived from a strategic point of view, is a model, if you want a practice, much broader than simple commercial promotion, which must necessarily be adopted by every company, without limiting itself to its application in the marketing plan.
We have seen how the definition of a marketing strategy and the related business objectives cannot be independent from an effective communication plan. On the contrary, the drawof an effective communication strategy also ranges in areas not limited to the sole function of promotion. Corporate communication is divided into flows of information, culture, and corporate values that are addressed both outside the organization, and therefore partly attributable to a marketing plan, and internally, with functions unrelated to the commercial ones.
In an era in which we are surrounded and constantly exposed to commercial information, conveyed on the basis of web marketing strategies, it is useful to take advantage of the awareness that, although mutually necessary, marketing and communication are different concepts that respond to different objectives. Using an explanatory metaphor, it could be said that if the product was a person, Marketing would model what he “is”, while Communication would give him a voice.