AuthorBert Spector
ProfessionProfessor of Strategy at Northeastern University
Marketing 59
“The purpose of business,” wrote management gu ru Peter Drucker, “is to
create and keep a customer.” Marketing involves the set of activities that
seeks to analyze the marketplace, identify and attract potential c ustomers,
and design the optimum approach to monetizing the interaction between
the customer and the company. Although often thought of in terms of “sell-
ing” or “advertising,” marketing embraces a far broader set of activities.
Researching the ma rketplace, segmenting potential customers, determin-
ing the best conditions under which to sell a company’s products, pricing,
and maintaining c ustomer relationships—all within the framework of a
business’s strategy—are core to marketing.
At the same time, a company’s approach to marketing raises a num-
ber of significant legal is sues. Developing new products for the market-
place requires attention to intellectual property protections, while the new
products themselves raise issues of quality and liability. Particularly in
this Internet age, market research finds itself in the middle of an ongoing
tug-of-war between consumers desire to maintain control over personal
information and marketers’ desire to exploit personal data for commercial
purposes. Pricing and promotion decisions raise their own concerns rang-
ing from price fixing t o deceptive advertising. By understanding the overall
functionality of marketing in a business context, legal advis ors can help
60 Marketing
focus activities and enhance a business’s capacity to implement its market
strategy effectively.
Core Marketing Activities
Marketing focuses attention on the interaction between the business and
its customers—both current and potential future c ustomers. Although
much of marketing takes place in a special ized functional area, the entire
organization is focused on creating value for the customer. Marketing is
largely a business-level function in that it supports a business’s who/what/
how strategy. Multi-business corporations often maintain a corporate mar-
keting function headed by the chief marketing officer (CMO) that can sup-
port business-level activities, lead initiatives that impact multiple divisions,
and promote the corporate brand.
Marketing is prominent in consumer goods industries (electronics and
restaurants, for example, referred to as B2C businesses). Many B2B busi-
nesses (businesses for which the main customer is another business) either
downplay or ignore marketing as a separate activity. That contrast between
B2C and B2B marketing can be seen w ithin General Electric.
GE allows its separate divisions to decide whether to create a market-
ing function. Some B2C businesses did: GE Appliances and NBC Universal,
for exa mple.1 B2B businesses, including GE Aviation, avoided creating a
marketing function altogether, relying instead on the quality of their prod-
ucts and personal relationships with a few key customers in the industry to
fuel revenue.
In 2003, CEO Jeffrey Immelt altered the corporate strategy, seeking to
find growth from within: GE- developed products and technology. To help
shepherd t hat inte rnal grow th (referred to a s “organic gr owth”), he cr eated
a corporate marketing department and added a chief marketing off ice to
the GE C-Suite. That office beca me the “torchbearer” for internal inno-
vation. Corporate marketing first initiated Im agination Breakthroughs, a
portfolio of growth projects across the many GE business units, and then
Ecoimagination, a corporate initiative to develop clean technologies.
When it comes to customer focus, B2B businesses face a specia l chal-
lenge not typical of the B2C world. Identifying the end user of consumer
1. NBC-Universal Media is now a separate company owned jointly by
Comcast and GE.

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