Marketing is a human activity. The origin of marketing is as old as humanity. During the primitive and antiquity age, individuals or families exchanged the farm produce they had for those items that they did not have. As the society developed, designed objects such as cowries, beads, feathers, etc. were use in exchange for goods and services. Marketing as a subject of study and discipline has gone through some levels of evolutionary changes in its meaning, understanding and scope. These changes are a product of the shift from a primitive and subsistence economy to a market-driven economy.
Marketing is defined differently by various writers. One of the earliest definitions was given by the American Marketing Association (AMA) in 1960. The association defined marketing as "the performance of business activity that directs the flow of goods and services to the customer or ultimate user". This definition has become obsolete. This is because it is no more consistent with the contemporary dynamics of marketing. Marketing is more than the dividends of goods and services.
Some definitions that captured the meaning of marketing were subjectively attempted and new perspectives are emerging. Let us look at a few of them:
1. The British Chartered Institute of Marketing defined marketing as "the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisficing customer requirement profitably and efficiently"
2. The British institute of marketing defined marketing as "the creative management function, which promotes trade and employment by assessing consumer needs and initiating research and development to meet them"
3. Kotler (1997: 9) defined marketing as "a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need or want through creating, offering and exchanging products of value with others"
4. Nickels et al (1999: 379) described marketing as "the process of determining customer needs and wants and then providing customers with goods and services that meet or exceed their expectations"
Content analysis of the last four definitions shows that there are core concepts, which are common among them. The concepts are needs, wants, demands, products, value, satisfaction, exchange, market and marketers.
Modern marketing requires marketers to analyze customer's needs and requirements. The goods, services and ideas so produced are directed at satisfying the firm's customers and creating value. The definitions also show that marketing comes into play long before goods and services beginning to flow from producer to customers. This is because it is marketing that conceives or anticipates the needs or desires, which are the antecedents of production. Marketing today is not the domain of business activities only; nonprofit organizations are beginning to appreciate the importance of marketing in the fast changing business environments. Marketing is there pervasive and used by schools, churches and mosque, public services, industries, military, etc. to elicit desired responses from target audience.
Fifield (1993: 1) described marketing from a completely different perspective. He conceived marketing as possessing four distinct but interrelated aspects. The four aspects are:
(1) an attitude of mind,
(2) a way of organizing the business,
(3) a range of activities and
(4) the producer of profit.
An attitude of mind – As a way of life marketing concept
Way of organizing the business – Structuring and adapting the organization to meet customers' needs and wants
Marketing, simply put, is a social and managerial function that aims at satisfying human needs and desires through exchange of goods and services by individuals and / or institutions at a profit.
Exchange process and gaps.
For exchange transaction to be completed, the two parties must exchange something of value. A satisfactory exchange process may be hindered by the presence of gaps or separations between the parties or producers and consumers of good, services and ideas.
Cox et al (1964: 56) wave five important gaps. These are:
1. Spatial separation: Producers and buyers are usually geographically separated. That is, goods are produced in one geographical area but spread to different geographical areas. These goods while they remain with the producers are separated from the consumers by geographical distance.
2. Temporal separation: parties to a potential exchange usually can not complete and exchange at the time products are produced. The product has to be made available to the consumers.
3. Perceptual separation: the two parties to the exchange may not be aware or not interested in each other's offering.
4. Separation of ownership: in the beginning ownership is incidental on the producer. The marketing system facilitates the transfer of ownership from producer to consumer.
5. Separation of values: Producer and consumers place different values on a product.