Understanding the Basics of Marketing


When you walk into a store, marketing is everywhere. For instance, when you walk into Target, you are surrounded by marketing -- from the positioning of the clothing and sale signs, to the candy, lip balm, and lighters you see when you check out. It's all positioned to capture your attention and spur you to buy. Usually, you don't even notice this, which is the intent of a good marketer.

Marketing is defined as the ability to match the wants and needs of the consumer with the ability of a company to match those needs. Marketing is the art of selling a product to the consumer.

Marketing Philosophies

There are different marketing philosophies, each with the same ultimate goal: to move a product. The philosophy a company chooses may depend on the type of product. A company that sells a service might have a different philosophy than a company that sells a product.

There are five main philosophies that are accepted industry wide. These are:

1. Production

2. Product

3. Selling

4. Marketing

5. Societal Marketing

We are going to discuss each philosophy, along with its pros and cons.

Production Philosophy

This type of philosophy is very rare, and something every seller wishes they had. This philosophy states that increased demand will result in increased sales. As you can imagine, this doesn't work most of the time, unless you have a product that is incredibly hot and in demand.

For example, do you remember Tickle Me Elmo?

In 1996, Tyco Preschool released the Tickle Me Elmo doll. It was Elmo, from the PBS children's show, Sesame Street. The doll would let out Elmo's famous laugh when squeezed.

For whatever reason, the doll was a hit, and became the largest selling toy during the 1996 Christmas season. The doll retailed for $28.99, but often sold for over $1000 in the secondary market. Yes, over $1000 for a stuffed animal that laughs.

Tyco Toys saw the furor over the toy, and immediately ordered an additional 600,000 units. This lot also sold out, almost immediately. Tyco then ordered another 1,000,000 units, which again, sold out immediately.

This is an example of production philosophy. Again, this is a good problem to have, albeit an extremely rare one. All good things come to an end, and by the beginning of 1997, the fad was over.

Tyco went on to produce similar "Tickle Me" toys, but none met the furor that the original did. But, the production marketing for those two months was successful. It's also unexpected when it happens, and as a large seller of toys, Tyco was able to rush production on more toys. A smaller company might not be able to do that and therefore, not be able to benefit from the production philosophy.


Think of a product that is sold using the production philosophy.

Is it successful? Why or why not?

The Product Philosophy

This philosophy centers on the product, and improving the product so that it sells better, or is more desirable to the consumer.

Instead of giving you an example of good product philosophy, I am going to give you a bad example.

Coca-Cola. It is as American as apple pie. Actually, it is more American than apple pie. Everyone knows Coke, and not just in America, but also worldwide.

In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company changed the formula for their best selling soft drink. The company was losing market share to Pepsi, so their marketing department used the product philosophy to improve their product, which they believed would result in higher sales.

As you know, this move was a major marketing fail. Consumers hated the new formula, and were very vocal about it. Coca-Cola received hundreds of thousands of phone calls and thousands of letters. All of them requesting the company return to the old formula.

To make a long story short, Coca-Cola reintroduced the original cola as "Coca-Cola Classic" just a short three months after the unveiling of "New Coke." New Coke very quickly faded in everyone's memory, to the relief of Coca-Cola executives and marketers.

It turned out that consumers didn't want or need any improvement to this product.


Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Marketing course?

The beauty retailer Sephora has a VIP program where buyers accumulate points for free makeup and skincare products.

How does this benefit the retailer?

Selling Philosophy

The selling philosophy centers on the marketing of a product that a consumer normally wouldn't buy. Can you think of the type of product that would use the selling philosophy?

Here are a few:

  • Door-to-door salesmen selling vacuums

  • Products sold on infomercials

  • Products sold at registers

  • Products sold in mall kiosks

Think about it. If you've ever dealt with a door-to-door salesman, you understand why this method often is a bad one. The salesman wants to make a sale, as that is his income. Because of this, he can be pushy, and in the worse cases, dishonest.

Some vacuum salesmen have been known to throw dirt on the carpet of a consumer as soon as they open the door. They believe that as soon as the consumer sees how well the vacuum works, they will be inspired to buy.

But this method often doesn't work. No one likes a pushy salesman, especially one that invades a consumer's home.

Successful examples of selling philosophy are some products sold on infomercials. Think back to the days of Ginsu knives. Everyone wanted the cool knives that could cut a can in half, and then delicately slice a tomato perfectly.

How about the Snuggie? Did you ever think you needed a blanket with arms? Did you ever imagine such a product existed? Did you ever sit and think that what the world was missing was a blanket with sleeves? Of course not. And that's because it is not something we need.

But the Snuggie sold, and it sold well. Over five million blankets were sold, and the product became famous for its kitschy and often silly commercials.

The parent company of the Snuggie, Allstar, used the selling philosophy to convince consumers that they needed a blanket with sleeves. It was a brilliant marketing strategy, and the philosophy used by most companies that use direct sales. However, for every Snuggie, there is an Eggstractor or a Potty Putter. Haven't heard of them? Of course not.


Think of the last time you were in a mall. Now, think of the mall kiosks and what they sell. Have you ever purchased from a mall kiosk, and if so, did you regret your purchase?

The Marketing Philosophy

This philosophy is what one normally thinks of when they hear "marketing," and is the philosophy used by most sellers.

With marketing philosophy, a company uses market research to determine the needs of the consumer, and then uses that information to better sell their product.

Marketing philosophy is based on the fact that there is a market for the product the company is selling. Then, the company uses that information to develop a sales and marketing strategy.

Companies that use this philosophy use a three-pronged method.

Step One – Determine customer needs and wants before the product is made.

Step Two – Use all company resources to focus on those needs.

Step Three – Meeting those needs will result in profit for the company.

For this philosophy let's use the example of women's makeup.

A makeup company would hire a market research firm to research the market and find out what is missing, or what can be made better. These firms also follow trends and stay on the lookout for new and improving products. They also keep in mind the demographic they are marketing for.

A market research firm would know that women, particularly in the 15-34 age group, are wearing the cat-eye eyeliner look. They would research eyeliners, and see if there is a market for an eyeliner that makes applying the cat-eye look easier.

The market research firm would then meet with the company's executives to relay their findings. The firm determines that, yes, there is a market.

At that point, the company would develop the product, and the marketing department would determine how best to bring the new product to market.

The marketing department would use several methods to get their product to consumers. Some of these methods are:

  • Advertising

  • Public Relations

  • Social Media

  • Sales Force

Using these methods will get the product in front of consumers, with the message that the product is new and needed in the market.


Advertising is an essential part of the marketing philosophy. Think of some of your favorite ads. Did they inspire you to buy the product?

Why or why not?

Societal Marketing

Societal marketing is similar to the marketing philosophy, except that it has an end goal of improving society in some way. Societal marketing is often focused on eco-products, or anything that deals with the environment.

As an example, let's use Tom's shoes. When each consumer buys a pair of Tom's, another pair of shoes is given to a person in need. In addition, some of the proceeds of the shoe sales are used for other things, such as clean water and eye care.

This type of marketing is often very successful, as generally speaking, people want to do good in the world. Often, the product isn't exactly what he consumer is looking for.

Again, let's use Tom's shoes as an example. The shoes are pretty basic, and more expensive than similar styles of shoes. It's a basic style that is very easy to produce. And yet, because of the societal marketing behind it, people rush to buy them.


Societal marketing is often called "feel-good" purchases, as a consumer feels good that they are doing something charitable, without actually doing something.

Have you ever purchased something considering the effect the product has on society? If so, how did it make you feel?


Ethical marketing is an important part of the marketing process, and one that varies depending on who you ask. The term is very subjective, and what's ethical to one marketer may not be to another.

Generally speaking, ethical marketing has the goal of providing honesty and fairness in their marketing and advertising practices. It also promotes a level of social responsibility.

Ethical marketing is practiced by most large brands. For instance, think of Tide detergent. If Proctor and Gamble lied about the efficacy of the product, people would get angry, and stop buying the product.

In addition, Proctor and Gamble finds ways to improve their products to better serve a greater good. Tide products used to be packaged in large bottles that held a lot of product, much of it water. Knowing the consumers saw this as waste, the company condensed the product, and sold it in smaller bottles.

For Tide, not only was this an excellent example of ethics in marketing, it is an excellent example of the marketing philosophy. Proctor and Gamble used market research to listen to what their customers wanted, and what their concerns were. P&G listened to their customers, and in return, the customers bought the product.

Using ethical marketing is a way to prove a company is trustworthy.

Non-ethical marketing usually isn't very successful. However, it can be successful enough for companies to attempt it.

Take, for example, diet pills. Look at late night television, or the back pages of entertainment magazines. You will see ads for pills that promise almost impossible results.

Lose 30 pounds in one month!

Lose weight without exercise!

Lose weight while eating ice cream and cake!

You've seen them, and most people just dismiss them. However, there are enough people that buy these products for the company to make a profit.

Do the pills work?

Of course they don't. There is no way to lose weight while eating ice cream and cake. And the assertion is purely unethical. But, companies continue to use this method as a way to make quick sales. In some cases, these companies face civil lawsuits because their assertions and promises are pure fraud. But by then, the profit has been made and the company is off making their next unethical product.