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What marketing is and how it has changed over time

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

What does marketing mean? What’s the difference between digital and traditional marketing? Why is marketing important and how has it changed over time?

In this article, you will learn the fundamentals to run and manage a marketing campaign. I’ll show you examples, case studies and definitions about every type of marketing. This article represents the basics in understanding a #MarketingPlan.

Now, don’t be shy and dig in!

Table of contents

  1. What marketing means;

  2. Difference between traditional and digital marketing;

  3. The evolution of marketing;

  4. The holistic marketing approach;


According to Marketing and management of Kotler and Keller, marketing is the ability to identify and match human and social needs. In a few words, meeting needs profitability.

Definition of traditional marketing

Marketing is a process composed by marketers and prospects. Marketers search for a response from another player called a prospect.

Marketers role is understanding prospects’ needs and wants, stimulate their demand, and offer a solution that brings value to both sides. They can represent a middle person who aims at meeting companies’ and prospects’ objectives.

A traditional definition of marketing is given by the American Marketing Association (AMA):

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.

It is clear that everything starts from the consumer and their demand of goods and services. In marketing, there are different types of demands:

  • Negative demand: consumers don’t like the product/service and are also willing to pay to stay away from it;

  • Non-existent demand: consumers don’t have interest in buying the product/service or are unaware of its existence;

  • Latent demand: it is a strong request of a product/service, but the product/service itself doesn’t exist yet. It represents a huge potential for marketers;

  • Declining demand: the need of a certain product/service is decreasing and consumers stop buying it. For a company, it represents the time to innovate or change the offering;

  • Irregular demand: consumers purchase a product/service seasonally. It represents a risk for a company, since it causes an irregular cash flow;

  • Full demand: the product/service is regularly purchased by consumers;

  • Overfull demand: the demand of a product/service is greater than its availability in the market;

  • Unwholesome demand: consumers buy products/services that have negative social implications. For instance: cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and others.

Marketers should understand the underlying reasons of a certain demand to increase the desirability of their offering.

The concept of demand is critical in marketing. According to a survey of CB Insights the major reason why startups fail in 2019 is because the market doesn’t need their product/service (42% of startups fail for mismatch between their offering and demand).

We have just understood the meaning of demand, but what about the market?

Difference between market and industry

Defining a market as a physical place where supply and demand meet is not enough.

A market represents a group of consumers expressing a specific demand.

Sellers are considered part of the industry, instead buyers are part of the market. When marketers target a distinct audience, it means they aim at a specific market.

The image below represents the interactions among the five types of market in a modern economy.

Five types of market in a modern economy
Structure of flows in a modern exchange economy according to Marketing and management of Kotler and Keller.

Manufacturers buy resources (raw material, labor, money…) and transform them into products and services. Then, they sell finished products to intermediaries (companies or individuals) that in turn sell them to the final consumers.

Consumers sell their labor in exchange for money which they can spend to purchase products and services.

The government collects taxes and uses them to buy products and services from the other four markets to provide public services.

Every nation’s economy consists in exchanging processes between interconnected markets.

This is just a fictional representation and some flows must be adapted case by case. For example, online businesses can use digital platforms and advertising to easily reach the final consumers without passing through traditional intermediaries.

Nevertheless, a digital platform itself is an intermediary. Facebook Ads allows companies to reach their target audience and a CMS (Content Management System, like WordPress, Magento, Wix and so on) facilitates the dialogue between a business and multiple visitors at the same time (just think of a website).

This flowchart can be broken down into even more passages. Let’s consider the traditional publishing industry. A writer who wants to publish their book must find an agent, the first intermediary. The agent sells their work to a publisher, a second intermediary, which sells the book to the final consumer or can sell the rights to a film producer, which is another intermediary.

Example of marketing system

A marketing process can be depicted as a stream of mutual interactions between a market and an industry. The image below illustrates a basic marketing system.

Marketing system example
Marketing system example by Marketing and management of Kotler and Keller.