Joel Gunderman ’21 LABB Intern – On June 7th, alumnus Mike Simmons from the class of ‘88 lectured the LABB group about the fundamentals of marketing. He began his lecture by asking everyone what marketing meant to them. The responses ranged from advertisements to manipulation. Our answers were not rooted in reality but in a cartoonish misrepresentation of marketing. While some of the answers such as advertisements were indeed a part of marketing, they did not encompass marketing as a whole. We finally arrived at “anticipating and identifying customer needs” as the definition. This definition clearly states the first main lesson Mike taught us: always focus on the people. Marketing is not about convincing someone to buy something useless. Instead, marketing is about improving another’s life. However, one needs to find information through research.
Market research illustrates how others’ needs are not being satisfied. This information can then be used by a business to find their niche and improve their customers’ quality of life. Mike wanted us to focus on the macrolevel of economics first before moving down into analyzing one business. He taught us three different analyses that are meant to illustrate where a business’ risks are. The first one he showed us was a PESTL analysis. PESTL is an acronym that stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, and Legal factors. These factors demonstrate what challenges a business faces within its ecosystem. The next analysis Mike taught us was Porter’s five forces, which includes buyer power, seller power, competition, compliments, and substitutes. Porter’s five forces like a PESTL analysis help us understand the ecosystem of a specific company. Mike’s last form of analysis to assess risk was SWOT analysis. SWOT focuses on factors inside and outside the company. In a SWOT analysis, one looks at the strengths and weaknesses of a company’s product as well as the opportunities and threats the company has as a whole. These three analyses demonstrate how a large portion of marketing is simply about gaining an understanding of the world.
Mike’s lecture helped me gain a better understanding of the real business world. Marketing does not consist of business executives trying to manipulate the masses. It focuses on people’s problems and how to solve them. Marketing relies on both quantitative data and qualitative observation and feedback. I am thankful that a Wabash alumnus dedicated the time necessary to help me understand a crucial part of every business.