Marketing IS Business: The Wisdom of Peter Drucker

Marketing IS Business: The Wisdom of Peter Drucker

April 13, 2022
4 min read

The timeless wisdom of Peter Drucker is sprinkled throughout the world of management and business. His insightful definitions of marketing and business are quoted quite often – and for good reason! He had a knack for articulating his complex ideas in a way that was elegant and simply put.

We reference his influential thinking often – like in this blog post on our favorite inspirational quotes, and in another on building a customer-driven marketing strategy. One of my personal favorites is as follows:

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself… The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”

In my recent research of Drucker and his influence, I’ve gathered a few key takeaways from his thoughts on marketing, innovation, and business.

Quick Takeaways

  1. Create a customer because the customer is what defines your business.
  2. Collaboration creates a successful business.
  3. Great management inspires new ideas.
  4. It’s a great time to be in marketing.

Druker on Business Purpose

I’m sure I’m not alone in my thinking that Drucker’s above quote is one of the best descriptions of the aim or goal of marketing overall. You may be surprised to learn that Drucker himself did not actually consider himself to be an expert in marketing – trust me, I was too!

Drucker considered marketing to be the responsibility of the managing leadership within a business, and not a separate function. This is a view that often gets lost in many B2B Marketing strategies where marketing is subservient to sales. When in fact, we should work hand-in-hand to support our buyers through their journey.

Published in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices Drucker defines the purpose of business. In this definition, he identifies marketing and innovation as being the two chief functions of business, “to create a customer…because it is its purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two – and only these two – basic functions: marketing and innovation.”

For my fellow visual learners, here’s a good representation of how one of the ‘founding fathers’ of modern marketing defines business purpose:

Marketing and Innovation: Two Key Elements of Business Success

As the two chief functions of a business, marketing and innovation have to work together for a business to be successful.

Marketing is really important. It encompasses everything that affects the exchange of a product or service for profit. Innovation, then, is finding new ways to do that better.

We know that the most important aspect of a successful business is its customer focus. Druker’s thoughts on creating customer value and satisfaction just make sense. He emphasizes a customer-focused strategy again in this great quote from Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, “it is the customer who determines what a business is… the customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. He alone gives employment”

These values articulated by Drucker continue to be at the core of modern marketing practice today. It’s an on-going, continuous process – and marketing and innovation work together to deliver customer satisfaction at a profit.

Here’s how they do it:

Marketing communicates.

It’s a customer-driven process of discovering and translating consumer wants into products. Things like planning/development, and marketing research help to get the job done.

Successful innovation marketing begins with thought leadership.

The idea behind this strategy is to tap into the talents, experiences, and passions inside your business to answer the biggest questions that are on the minds of your target audience.

Marketing and innovation are overlapping processes – and they need to be treated as such. It’s important for marketers to be included in innovative conversations around development for this reason. Together, marketing and innovation are a business-growing powerhouse.

Creating a Synergetic Environment: Drucker’s Fundamentals of Management

To create a collaborative environment that encourages new ideas, you need strong leadership. Look to Druker’s insights on mangement. In his book, The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done, Druker identifies the following key principles on management and leadership:

  • Management is about humans.
  • Management should define an organization’s values, objectives, goals, and mission.
  • Management must enable the organization and its members to grow and develop.
  • Results only exist outside of the organization.

This video here, sums it up pretty nicely as well.

An Optimistic Future

Peter Drucker’s definitions on marketing, management, and business paint an optimistic picture of marketing’s future for me. His thinking stands the test of time – and marketing continues to have a comprehensive role in business today.

Of course, an argument could be made that the role of marketing has diminished in recent years. With the growth of artificial intelligence algorithms and predictive analytics that offer up information and services to consumers, there could be a case for less marketing rather than more.

However, I’d even argue that new methods of search, content, and loyalty strategies as customer generating tactics provide an even larger space for marketing today. And Drucker’s words on the importance of customers to business continue to ring true. How you market your product to your customers can make or break your business. In fact, the 2021 Moengage Report stated inconsistent brand messaging as being the #1 frustration among consumers. Great customer service is among the most important.

Marketing is central to business as the advocate for customers and as the core communicators of a value-based message. According to Hubspot’s 2021 State of Marketing Report, websites were listed as being the #2 channels used in marketing. With so many people heading to websites for information, your content marketing strategy needs to work hand-in-hand with innovative thinking – these collaboration efforts will help you to stand out with fresh ideas!

Using the work of notable thinkers like Peter Druker can help to inspire and elevate the way you are marketing your content.

So, I’ll leave you to ponder the following: Do you agree it’s a good time to be a marketer? Have you been inspired by Peter Drucker and his famous quotes? Have you used them in your own business? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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10 thoughts on “Marketing IS Business: The Wisdom of Peter Drucker

  1. Eric Wittlake

    I definitely like this quote, although I haven’t used it myself recently:

    The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself… The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.

    In many organizations, this is beyond the scope of the marketing function, residing in product development and service groups. In these organizations, ‘marketing’ activity isn’t business, it is communication, and marketing either does not own the customer experience or they are responsible for it but do not have sufficient influence over it.

    What is particularly interesting to me is how this comes full circle with the social business, which firmly puts the customer at the center again.

    Yes, it is a good time to be in marketing. The pace of change equates to a new pace of opportunity. 🙂

  2. Zoe Callista

    This article is very inspiring.

    As a Marketing student who is just entering the industry, it is very easy to get overwhelmed with the new direction marketing is taking (social media etc). It’s important to remember that it is a good time to be a marketer.

    I think Peter Drucker is a very smart man and the quotes you have mentioned bring a smile to my face. “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself…” It’s exactly right. And I agree with you as well Marketing IS Business!

    Very good article, thanks Michael. 🙂

  3. Michael Brenner

    Great points Eric. This is quite often not the realm of marketing departments in many organizations, particularly in B2B where marketing is the slave to sales. But the consumerization of information over digital, social and mobile networks is certainly helping to put marketing back on top of customer interactions. Even more evidence of the need for marketers to get their social game on…

    Thanks as always for your insights!

    Best, Michael

  4. Michael Brenner

    Zoe, thanks so much. You can never go wrong telling me that an article is inspiring!!!

    Your comment is exactly why I am so excited for young marketers like you to enter the workforce and start schooling some of the traditional folks on how to BE social and apply it to help our businesses engage with customers.

    And isn’t it amazing that Drucker wrote most of this stuff in 1954 and the lessons still apply today. It’s a real shame that he isn’t taught and understood by even more marketers and marketing professors. hence why I wrote this. Thanks so much for your comment and keep up the great work!

    Best, Michael

  5. Tiffany Brown

    Great post! Have you heard of the concept of Conscious Capitalism? There are a fair amount of articles and interviews I’ve come across recently with regard to Conscious Capitalism that echo some of your statements here, such as the need for businesses to have a long-term focus, for equal attention to be given to stakeholders (i.e. employees, investors, society) as opposed to just shareholders, having organizational cultures and leaders that foster trust and innovation instead of cultures of fear.

    Companies that are adopting this type of forward-thinking approach to their business, such as Zappos, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Southwest Airlines, are finding themselves to be just as profitable as ever while at the same showing up on the “Best Places to Work” lists.

    As a result of these changes, the traditional role of marketing has morphed. There are a couple of blog posts I wrote recently about these topics that you may be interested in:

    Is Traditional Marketing Dead? (includes a video clip from the chairman of Conscious Capitalism institute)

    Megatrends in Business: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism

    The Holistic Brand Building Strategy of Zappos

    Such a dynamic concept!

  6. John Fox

    Michael, really appreciate you posting this and for your synopsis as it is quite timely for me.

    I’m writing an article for Huffington Post Small Business titled: The Marketing Director is the Hope of Small Business. While I agree with Drucker that Marketing IS Management, in an SMB firm, the ultimate playmaker is the Marketing Director (or any person, consultant, adviser filling that role). They are tasked with the responsibility for getting it done and often operate without a net.

  7. Michael Brenner

    Thanks Tiffany. I will definitely check out the links. I totally get the concept and look forward to reading what you have written about it.


  8. Michael Brenner

    Hi John,

    How exciting. I have been that Marketing Director at a small firm and was tasked with getting it done. And with very little budget or staff. I look forward to seeing your views.

    Best, Michael

  9. Maria

    Hi Michael,

    I am interested to hear how you see Drucker’s marketing perspective apply to the non-profit sector, where an organization provides a public good and is supported by individual donors and foundations. Thank you in advance for your response and for sharing any relevant resources you have on this topic.

  10. Michael Brenner

    Hi Maria, I think his ideas are even more important for non-profits. Peter’s assertion is that the business’ only purpose is to serve. And marketing’s job is to creative innovative ways to both do that (the service itself) and communicate that service (the classic definition of marketing). I’m not aware of any resources to direct you to but that’s at least my interpretation.

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