Marketing is a term too much used, a wildcard term. It is applied to many situations in a diffuse manner, and usually it has a negative meaning.

When something is “a marketing operation” means that’s something with no substance, it’s some more apparent than real. It doesn’t understand that could be a good product, a good concept, a good process, with good presentation or good communication, or other characteristics that make a good overall result. In my opinion marketing Is something very different, I prefer the academic version.

How can we apply marketing to higher education institutions (HEIs) or CIEs? What does marketing orientation means in the context of HEIs? Who are their customers? Is it possible for universities to be really marketing-oriented?

First, we must recall the concept of relationship. Relationship is something that everyone does and practice every day. Evolution is relationship, it’s exchange. The first contact (relationship) between strangers is exchange: gifts, gestures, words, objects, products …
There is always at least two parts (may be more and with different roles) in a specific relationship one could be called as a buyer, consumer, customer, user, etc. (each with different meanings) and the other part could be called supplier, provider, seller, vendor, etc.  Of course every situation is different and also in the case of higher education.

To S. Hunt (Journal of Marketing, 1983;4) marketing science is the behavioral science that seeks to explain exchange relationship, take into account de customer/buyer  (or even better one part of exchange that demand something) the fundamental explananda of marketing science are to answer all the “W”s (why, what, where, when, how, which) about the behaviors of buyers (it said one part of exchange), the behaviors of the sellers/suppliers (the other part), the behaviors of the institutional framework at facilitating exchanges and the consequences on society (and environment) of these behaviors.

According to American Marketing Association (2007), “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large”. That’s the key concept: value.

In this context, Kotler and Fox (1985, 10) applying the marketing orientation philosophy within HEIs (it said with societal marketing orientation) “holds that the main task of the higher education institution is to determine the needs, wants and interests of its consumers (please understand broadly) and to adapt the institution to deliver satisfactions that preserve or enhance the consumer’s (please understand broadly) and society’s well-being and long-term interests”.

The “customers” of HEIs, or even better stakeholders of HEIs, can be four types: internal direct (students, teachers); internal indirect (staff, administrative office, board of trustees); external direct (community, employers) and external indirect (parents, taxpayers). The question is how to increase the value offered to the stakeholders (individually and globally) by HEI o CIEs?

On the other hand, in Spain the Campus of International Excellence (CIE) initiative has the following objectives:

—     to foster teaching quality and adaptation to the EHEA, with a particular focus on internationalisation and achieving international excellence at Masters and Doctorate level;

—     to create centres considered to be international benchmarks for excellence in strategic areas in order to generate transfer;

—     to create knowledge environments, offering quality of life, environmental sustainability, student focus, and effective urban design, all within the concept of a social, didactic campus and, again, representing an international benchmark of excellence.

Well according to this, in my opinion it is relatively easy to find the connection between marketing and CIE initiative. In fact, this idea guided our CIE project: CIE BioTic Granada (, you can see the figures ((

And also this connection, marketing-CIE, is the explanation of the central or main concept of our project: “a commitment to shared development”. In other words:

1.       The determined commitment of a strategic partnership composed of public and private players that bring a high level of shared involvement and a sense of shared identity around a common trajectory and model based on a set of differentiating strengths.

2.       The development of an ‘intelligent’ project that seeks to learn and innovate at the same time as designing actions considered imaginative, that has a firm commitment to achieving international excellence and that places the emphasis on its own organising capacity.

3.       Shared commitment, in the sense of an open and socially responsible proposal.

So we determine the needs, wants and interests of the stakeholders and to adapt the project to deliver satisfactions that preserve or enhance the stakeholders’ and society’s well-being and long-term interests

Definitely, marketing can play an important role in the conception and development of the CIEs. Known my orientation, when I say this I don’t mean to make media noise, neither the “sale pressure” of the CIE projects. Unfortunately, that’s more frequent that a real marketing orientation.

For those who don’t believe that marketing “ is not Art of Deception”? and not “Art of the Sale”?” I’d like to share the following story. It’s the act of Honoris Causa nomination for Prof. Dr. Wagner Kamakura (Duke University).

As far as I know, he is the first specialist in marketing invested as Honoris Causa by a Spanish university. I had the honor to propose and defend his candidacy. It seems very wise to read his speech.




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