From the stone age to the post-modern digital era, our civilization has undergone a fascinating evolution in human history. The world of marketing is no different. In this article, we’ll go back in time to highlight how it has evolved and came to influence our capitalist society over the years.
In a free-market economy, marketing is so ubiquitous that we don’t stop to think about how it started and grew to what it is today. How did people discover products in the early 1900s? It’s hard to imagine, for this social media generation, how old folks traditionally did their commercial activities without smartphones.
Marketing, in and of itself, has seen dramatic transformation for centuries. We didn’t feel its effect right away. It started as a distinct discipline that went through different periods of refinement. With economic forces at the helm, businesses were faced with the reality of competing for customers’ attention while ensuring that they lock in their ROI.
In today’s article, we’ll take a deep dive into how marketing evolution took place. It’s important to look back in time to appreciate what it has to offer in the future.
Eras that Shaped the Evolution of Marketing
Production Orientation Era (1800s-1920s)
This era highlighted a tunneled focus on mass production. Companies thought that customers are willing to pay for products that are cheap and readily available. Thus, business efforts were primarily geared toward increasing the quantity rather than the quality of the output. Manufacturers followed the principle of mass production to lower costs and more sales.
This economic movement triggered the rise of the Industrial Revolution, which started in Britain and expanded worldwide. Companies such as Slater Mill and Ford Motor Company dominated this industry. They hired thousands of factory workers to sustain the demand for production.
More importantly, their goal was to increase efficiencies in production and distribution. When it comes to marketing, businesses focused their efforts on promoting low prices and beating their competitors.
Sales Orientation Era (1920s-1940s)
As more companies join the field, the sales tactics become even more competitive. Generally, mass-produced products were already the norm. Back then, companies cared more about sales volume rather than customer satisfaction.
This ushered an idea that consumers will want to buy a company’s products if they are enticed through eye-catching sales promotions. The Sales Orientation was an era when companies heavily rely on marketing promotions to sell products that companies made.
Advertisements through different platforms such as radio, print, and television were incredibly popular at this time. Additionally, sales professionals went door-to-door to sell products in customers’ homes. The concept of marketing took place only after products were produced. It’s no surprise that even today, some people associate marketing with selling.
Marketing Orientation Era (1940s-1970s)
It was around the 1940s when industries realized that focusing only on their business needs often leaves customers unsatisfied. At this stage, businesses’ marketing tactics include identifying what customers need and effectively customizing activities that address these needs.
Hence, the marketing concept was born. It revolves around the idea that reaching the business goals relies on understanding the needs of target customers first. Additionally, it concerns providing them with the desired satisfaction than its competitors.
Marketing orientation (a.k.a, customer orientation) is all about focusing on customer needs. A marketing-oriented organization begins with pinpointing the customers’ needs. Then, they segment them according to buyers’ specific purchasing goals. They offer products unique to each group.
This type of segmentation allows businesses to cater to the needs of the entire group as a whole. That’s because each market segment can satisfy its needs by purchasing one or the other products from the company.
Societal Orientation (1970s-Present)
In this era, a marketing theory called societal marketing came into existence. It’s a concept that emphasizes an organization’s responsibility to develop strategies that positively impact the consumers’ well-being and the environment. It stemmed from a conflict of interest between satisfying the customers’ short-term needs with society’s long-term welfare.
In the 60s and 70s, many companies were exposed to the public for their unethical practices. Business owners and marketers started to take notice of the effects of their actions on the environment. They understood that their activities—while profitable—are destroying Mother Nature, which eventually harmed society.
During this phase, companies shifted their goals to provide a better-quality lifestyle while ensuring that the environment is not polluted. They don’t just create high-quality products; they were environmentally friendly, too.
What’s great about societal marketing is it also creates a favorable spotlight on the company’s image. The more socially and ethically responsible an organization is, the more customers patronize them. This concept is closely related to sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. However, it should not be confused with social marketing or social media marketing.
Digital marketing (1990s-Present)
It was in this period that the world witnessed a shift in the dynamics of marketing. Marketers struggled with developing their marketing campaigns through traditional means. They didn’t get as many leads as expected. Moreover, the old marketing strategies limited their reach, making it difficult to reach their potential customers.
Then came the advent of digital marketing. It opened the doors of opportunities for better traffic and exposure for products or services. From the early 90s to today, almost half of the world’s population is online. Businesses’ have since then moved on to digital platforms to effectively reach their target market.
On the other hand, the modern-day digital era gave consumers the power to dictate how they want to receive marketing content. Subscription-based sites such as Amazon Prime made commercials obsolete. Likewise, consumers no longer have to sit through ads they don’t like. Thanks to social media, they only follow brands or organizations they support.
The surge in mobile phones and other smart devices has also contributed to the popularity of digital marketing. Since more people are now on their smartphones, this enables marketers to reach a wider audience. Content marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and mobile marketing are a few of the strategies they use to dominate different digital platforms.
Along with the growth of the digital era, it also created new jobs that were not available in the past years. Nowadays, there’s a huge demand for SEO specialists, social media managers, content writers, and software developers.
As you can see, marketing did not happen in a few years. It has significantly gone through an evolution in the past centuries until today. It all began when production was the sole focus that led to the rise of the Industrial Revolution.
Subsequently, it became sales and marketing-oriented so businesses can stay on top of the competition. As the decades wore on, it was apparent that pushing products to customers’ consciousness just won’t cut it. Thus, marketing shifted to building a genuine relationship with customers—one that will keep them happy and loyal to brands.
Finally, we’re now in an era of a societal and digital revolution. More and more companies today are aware of the environmental consequences of their actions. They no longer limit themselves to traditional marketing. Instead, they use digital marketing at their disposal. It’s no secret that the Internet has opened more opportunities for companies to reach and engage customers globally.
And the evolution of marketing all boils down to one thing—change. As the market pivots and new marketing channels emerge, what we consider revolutionary today, might be obsolete tomorrow. And, there lies the beauty of marketing. It never stops nor stays the same.
If you want to be at the center of a marketing disruption, we recommend that you listen to our podcast, Startup Hustle, with Matt DeCoursey and Matt Watson as the hosts. Each week, they invite important guests to discuss topics that hinge on startup, sales & marketing, leadership, and many more. If you have questions about launching a startup, you might want to take a FREE consultation with the Matts today.