The War of Words over the Definition of Marketing in the 21st Century

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  • Topic: Marketing, 2008, 1913
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The War of Words over the Definition of Marketing in the 21st Century

The definition of marketing has been a strongly debated topic in the new Millenium. For more than 70 years the American Marketer Association’s (AMA) definition has been the guideline for academics and scholars alike. A number of academics have been unsatisfied with the AMA’s 2004 marketing definition , and it has stirred many debates (Grönroos, 2006, Dann 2008). Christian Grönroos in particular focuses on four elements of the AMA 2004 definition he does not approve of. Firstly on the creation of customer value, secondly on managing customer relationships, thirdly on marketing as an organizational function and finally on how marketing is done. The key focus of this paper is to to analyse the problems Grönroos encountered and show that his critique is mostly adequate.

Grönroos believes that ‘Customers should get value from the actions and activities of marketing’ (Grönroos 2006, p. 398). The AMA 2004 definition states that value is delivered to customers, which implies that value creation must take place in the production process. It is more commonly believed that the value of a product is created by the customers themselves and not by the organization producing the good (Vandermerwe 1996, cited in Grönroos 2006, p. 399). Marketing is always centred around the consumers and the producers are in a constant struggle to improve their products to cater for the consumers’ needs by learning more about them (Vargo & Lusch 2004, p. 6). Value creation is part of the marketing process; it is not being delivered (Grönroos 2006, pp. 400-1).

“… It is not advisable […] to include the phrase managing customer relationships in a generic marketing definition” (Grönroos, 2006, p. 402) since there is no widely recognised definition of what a relationship is (Harker 1999 cited in Grönroos, 2006, p. 401). Although the terminology of the word is not clear, it is fair to say that in the definition every...
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