The Changing Definition of Marketing

Over the past 100 years, the definition and focus of marketing have changed significantly. Today, businesses view customers differently, which is a testimony that marketing has been changing over time. According to Lusch (2007), marketing should be viewed as a societal process that involves stages that are defined by changing themes and perspectives. Major themes have emerged over the past ten decades, and marketing has slowly moved in three critical stages; from the concept of “to market” products and services to marketing to customers and now to marketing with customers.

These two stages of marketing focus on the product and have never considered the role of customers in the product development and distribution. Here, companies and their marketing agencies viewed customers as external and exogenous entities which role was to receive products (Lusch, 2007).

A shift from products to customers

As the economy grew stronger and more robust, especially with the growth of industry and distribution sectors, the market became more difficult to penetrate into because of inefficient channels. For this reason, marketers began to focus on customers as the hinge of their marketing doors.

This shift was further necessitated by customer need to receive quality products at their convenience as opposed to relying on companies to determine the quality and value derivatives. During this stage, the definition of marketing has changed dramatically. According to Lusch (2007), marketing abandoned the banner of taking a product to the market to marketing the products to customers with a view to convincing them to buy it.

A shift from outbound to inbound marketing

A major landmark shift in the field of marketing is the changing role of marketing from outbound to inbound approach. With increased supply and less than stellar marketing and distribution channels, marketers learned that it was necessary to pull customers from buying their products rather than sitting in a comfort zone and pushing their offerings to potential customers. Outbound marketing was characterized by feeding consumers with print, radio and television advertisements, and all these techniques were not only costly, but also ineffective in reaching out to buyers.

Three major areas have changed over the years, including the changing the marketing focus, the emergence of exchange theory and the role of customer relationship management in steering marketing efforts (Lusch, 2007). Businesses started targeting at change in their marketing tactics since the focus on ‘the product’ concept could not stand the test of time. As such, businesses have to think outside the box and refocus their efforts. There was a need to engage customers in co-creating value for their money.

A growing number of businesses and marketing experts feel that the emergence of the tech-savvy and knowledgeable customers and demand for high quality deliverables caused this shift. At this time, marketers realized that the future of their marketing outputs was inextricably linked to co-creating products that derive value for customers. Here, customers have been viewed as co-producers that are no longer the end in the channel.

Emergence of customer relationship management

Marketing has shifted from a mere presentation of products and services thanks to the proliferation of technology and particularly the Internet. Relationship building through seamless communication channels has become inevitable in marketing and more than ever before, businesses are beginning to redefine their marketing strategies to reflect the changes in how people communicate. Subsequently, marketing has become an adaptive process within which businesses and customers communicate, develop and deliver value while ensuring that the needs of all the stakeholders are met (Lusch, 2007).


Lusch, R. F. (2007). Marketing’s Evolving Identity: Defining Our Future. American Marketing Association, 26(2), 261–268.

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