At dinner this evening with some friends, the question of how to define the function of a marketing department came up. I related a story from the 1990s. A (very profitable) division of Hewlett-Packard asked for assistance with building an online community for several hundred marketing employees who wanted to share documents. “Most of these are PowerPoints,” it was explained to me. I was proud of being a quick study and said “Oh, I get it. People trade these PowerPoint presentations back and forth and then, when the final version is approved you want it to be accessible to customers from the server.” Everyone in the conference room blanched with horror. “We would never allow customers to see these presentations,” they exclaimed, “they are only for internal use.”
I thought for a moment and then asked “You mean that you pay several hundred people to sit in their cubicles and create PowerPoint presentations to show to each other?” The answer turned out to be “yes”.
So that’s my definition of marketing: A group of employees paid to show PowerPoint presentations to each other.