How Do You Explain Marketing to a Six-Year Old?


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The other day, I was trying to explain to my six-year old son what I do at Marketo, and he asked “what is marketing?” I thought for a second, and said “Marketing is what you do in business when you want to help convince people to buy what you have to sell.”

I thought that was a pretty good explanation – good enough that I posted it as a LinkedIn update. Lo and behold, that single post generated more Likes and Comments than any other LinkedIn update I’ve ever made.

Clearly something about work and kids and b2b marketing connects with people. Here are just a few of the comments to the post:

  • Celia Brown Marketing tells the business what, how, and where to sell. And then we have parties.
  • Rebekah Donaldson Marketing = articulating the value (telling what problem your product/service solves) for types of buyers. Sales = when a specific buyer and seller start talking about exactly what they have in common.
  • David Nandhra Is it convince people to “buy”? ….. or … convince people to “want”?
  • Jim Wilton Jon, it gets a bit tougher as they get older. My friend’s eleven-year old daughter explained to me recently that marketing was what happened when people were convinced to buy something that they really didn’t need. I can only assume she was referring to B2C marketing…
  • Ken Anderson Or perhaps, “Helping people learn how to solve problems they don’t know they have”. That could be sales too I suppose.

(Based on this discussion, I’d update my definition of marketing to be “Marketing is what you do in business when you try to convince people to want and to buy what you have to sell.”)

After that basic explanation, I went on to use the example of a lemonade stand. I asked my son what he might do to get as many people to drink the lemonade as possible. I fully expected him to talk about signs and promotions (that’s where my head went first), but he actually started by talking about prices. (Start high, he said, and then lower the price if we need to – pretty clever, I thought.) And then he talked about making sure we had as good a location as possible, with lots of people. And only then did we talk about advertisements. (We also talked about making sure the lemonade was good in the first place.)

For me, this was a great reminder that marketing is so much more than just promotions and marketing campaigns. The 4 Ps (product, place, price, promotion) still matter, and marketing has a strategic role to play in the success of the business. This is actually an important reminder for any of us who spend our days thinking primarily about demand generation.

How would you explain marketing to a six-year old? Let me know in the comments!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jon Miller
Jon leads strategy and execution for all aspects of marketing at Marketo and is a key architect of Marketo's hyper-efficient revenue engine (powered by Marketo's solutions, of course). In 21, he was named a Top 1 CMO for companies under $25 million revenue by The CMO Institute.


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