After “Strategy”, value is probably the most abused word in marketing.

A quick survey of agency, consultancy, studio and creative/strategy collectives’ websites will turn up multiple claims to “create value for clients and their customers”. Whether talking about campaigns, brand experiences or new products, the result of any initiative is usually “added”, “newly created”, “delivered” or “unlocked” value.

But what do we mean by “value”?

Is “value” in marketing a euphemism for something more difficult — for an outcome that we find hard to measure or pin down, for something that is different depending on where you sit in an organisation or department? To paraphase Montoya, we “keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Mariana Mazzucato’s superb “The Value of Everything” points out that value is often understood as anything that can fetch a price in the market; as a result, price determines value. And yet she also avoids trying to define “value”, instead asking what is value, why does it matter, and who creates it?