Marketing is often the most misunderstood function in a business today. If you ask ten people what marketing is you'll usually get ten different answers. I think it will be helpful to learn more about the history of marketing and how it evolved so we can incorporate it more effectively into our businesses today.
1) Simple Trade Era – Beginning of time to mid 1800’s
During this time, everything was made or harvested by hand in limited quantities for your own use. As we began to produce more products than we could consume -- barter, trade and farmers’ markets were created. (The word marketing actually emerged from selling at a farmers’ market). If you believe in the Biblical account of creation, Eve had to convince Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and became the first to incorporate marketing tactics but others would say it was the snake who had to first convince Eve.
2) Production Era – Mid 1800’s to the 1920’s
Industrial revolution, mass production, wider product selections were available. The focus was on products. Selling was easier because there was less competition. Advertising agencies emerged and progressive companies began to experiment with newspapers, magazines and then radio to sell their products or services. If you build it they will come became the marketing messaging.
3) Sales Era – Through the 1940’s
Competition increased and consumers had more choices. The focus was still on the product which became harder to sell based on their features only. Products became commodities and price became the main distinguishing competitive advantage. This is when TV was introduced into the media mix. It’s when discounts, two for one and $.99 cents began to give the impression of a deal.
4) Marketing Department Era – Through the 1960’s
Manufacturing firms realized that their old methods of product based selling were not working any longer. Consumers exercised more power in the marketplace. To deal with this reality, businesses consolidated all research, product development, manufacturing, distribution, advertising and sales activities into one internal department although they met with extreme push back from the old guard. Branding and sponsorships were experimented with and incorporated. Some call this time “The great awakening”. The time when companies began to realize that marketing is the primary reason a business will grow and survive.
5) Marketing Company Era – From the 1960’s and is active today
This is the time when businesses decided that they exist to satisfy customer needs and that the customer should be the focus of all their endeavors. All employees became part of the marketing effort and the customer became king. Cable TV was introduced. Find a need and fill it became their mantra.
I believe there are two more eras not taught much if at all in our universities and business schools. As new technologies and media is introduced, causing marketing strategies to evolve, we must accept and learn how to incorporate these new realities or be doomed to failure.
6) Relationship Marketing – 1990’s to today
As we move our emphasis from the product to the customer, the natural extension of this strategy then would lead us to focus on developinglifetime customer value by building relationships and creating loyalty.It costs much less to keep a customer than to find a new one.Customer Relationship Management (CRM), segmentation and data mining became the buzzwords. The key to building relationships is trust which should become the central tenant of relationship marketing.
7) Social / Mobile Marketing Era – The new game in town
In this era, businesses are connected 24/7 to current, potential and future customers. The focus is on real time connections and social exchanges based on relationships developed from permission based or opt-in sources. And when these customers or prospects talk, you better listen and respond. They call it “social media” for a reason and you have to be willing to create conversations and become more sociable. The explosion of smart phones makes this imperative.
This then leads us to the most recent approach in advertising and promotion which is content marketing. This is when you provide relevant and useful information that attracts and educates potential customers and lets them know you are an expert. And finally, what is becoming the most important effective tool in all of marketing is presenting content through the use of video.
CEO's tend to see marketing as a department that comes into play after the product has been made and the only job left is to sell it. I would argue instead that marketing must be seen as setting the strategic direction for the firm long before the product exists. Peter Drucker stated it well over thirty years ago: “A company has only two basic functions: innovation and marketing.”
According to Drucker, marketing is an essential component for the success of any venture. This may come as a shock to you, but when it’s all said and done, what really matters for any enterprise is not the products or services you offer, what you do or how you do it.
What matters is that you communicate what you have or do in a way that others will take interest in it, buy it, support or join it and most importantly be excited enough to tell their friends about it.
How you communicate is key -- that’s what marketing is all about.