With the year coming to an end, it’s a good time to look back at the history of marketing. E-commerce is a few decades old, but marketing has been adapting to society’s needs for centuries. The earliest marketing we would recognize happened in ancient Greece and Rome!
During the production era of the Industrial Revolution, the outlines of modern marketing appeared. By 1760, companies held massive productive capabilities. They could sell everything they could produce, but had to control costs. Optimizing supply chains was the marketer’s job.
When the Industrial Revolution ended in 1840, print was marketing’s heart. In 1845, Tiffany’s Blue Book became the first mail order catalog in the U.S. Print exploded with brands like Montgomery Ward. Ads focused on a product’s attributes, but soon incorporated modern techniques – catchy headlines, LTOs, and market positioning.
As economic troubles grew in the 1920s, the production era waned. Manufacturing capacity was reduced and much was committed to war. Limited consumer resources brought about the sales era – marketing focused on differentiation, promotion and persuasion.
It wasn’t until after the war that TV revolutionized marketing. Large enterprises centralized their procurement, marketing, and advertising into one function, using market data to make strategic choices about production. At the same time, they needed to master a new medium.
U.S. advertising spend in 1950 was $5.7 billion thanks to TV commercials. Consumer credit was introduced in 1958; people were flush with cash. Advertisers sponsored television shows to create “consumption anxiety” and drive luxury sales. The profusion of new media and better photographic techniques set the stage for marketing’s creative revolution in the 1970s.
Market positioning drove change in the 1980s. In a media-savvy society, comparative advertising highlighted products’ merits versus competitors. The legacy of this endures today with products like “Lite” beer and “diet” soda. Cable TV grew popular, catching share from broadcast networks and launching direct response shopping channels.
What of the 1990s? Looking back, this was the start of e-commerce. Rightly so: Marketing was costly and inexpensive alternatives were urgently needed. Unfortunately, few people saw the Web’s potential. Early online marketing was limited in scope and counterintuitive. After all, marketing could be no better than underlying technology, which was still in its infancy. E-commerce fell back on techniques from print’s direct response period.
Since 2010, sophisticated online marketing techniques have become available to businesses of all sizes. Marketers understand the challenges of differentiating in the Web’s huge trove of content – search marketing – and consumers have broad access to resources that make video marketing possible. Social media connects brands with prospects instantly. Responsiveness is the name of the game – and it’s a great time to be involved in marketing!