In some ways marketing is as old as civilization
itself. You may have seen films based in ancient Greece or Rome
with images of bustling market stalls and traders actively engaged
in persuasive communications. Of course these traders would not
have called their activities marketing and their activities may
seem far removed from someone ordering airline tickets via a website.
The concept of marketing that we now see has more to do with
developments during the industrial revolution of the 18th and
19th centuries. This was a period of rapid social change driven
by technological and scientific innovation (see BBC history website).
One result was that for the first time the production of goods
was separated from their consumption. Mass production, developing
transport infrastructure and growing mass media meant that producers
needed to, and could develop more sophisticated ways of managing
the distribution of goods.
The production orientation era
For much of the industrial revolution goods were generally scarce
and producers could sell pretty much all that they could produce,
as long as people could afford to buy them. Their focus was therefore
on production and distribution at the lowest possible cost and
what marketing management that there was considered these issues
(for example, reducing distribution costs, opening new markets).
The sales orientation era
From the start of the twentieth century to the period
following the Second World War (although the development was interrupted
by the wars) competition grew and the focus of marketing turned
to selling. Communications, advertising and branding started to
become more important (see archive at the History of Advertising
Trust website) as companies needed to sell the increasing outputs
of production in an increasingly crowded market. Marketing was
therefore still a 'slave' to production, but focussed on distribution,
communication and persuading customers that one manufacturer°s
goods were better than another°s.
The marketing orientation era
From the 1960s onwards most markets have become saturated
(the size of the market remains the same). This means that there
is now intense competition for customers. The sophistication of
marketing management has therefore developed into what we now
see in a modern marketing department. Marketers are involved at
a strategic level within the organisation and therefore inform
an organisation about what should be produced, where it should
be sold, how much should be charged for it and how it should be
communicated to consumers. Modern marketers research markets and
consumers. They attempt to understand consumer needs (and potential
needs) and allocate organisational resources appropriately to
meet these needs. Modern marketers are particularly interested
in brands. They are also increasingly interested in ensuring that
employees understand marketing, i.e. that everyone within the
organisation involves themselves with marketing activities.
So what might you take from this very brief historical perspective?
Firstly, consider that marketing started as an inward looking
discipline – focussing on what the organisation produced.
Now marketing is outward looking. It brings an understanding of
markets and of consumers into the organisation.
Secondly, you might consider that the marketing that you are familiar
with today is, in fact, a very recent development – marketing
is still a very new subject. You might also note that although
we can talk about a ‘marketing orientation’, many
organisations – especially small and medium enterprise –
act as though they are still in the period of production or sales
orientation. In the absence of a good understanding of marketing,
organisations may still focus on production or sales.
Thirdly, modern definitions of marketing hide the fact that the
development of modern marketing management has not been a coordinated
process. Origins in production and managing distribution mean
that manufacturers have been quicker to adopt marketing practice
than, say, the service sector, including banks and much of the
Finally you might consider that marketing has changed rapidly
over this century and it continues to change. The sorts of activities
that you might be involved with at the end of your marketing career
might be very different from the marketing we see today. As a
professional marketer you should be particularly sensitive to
changes in society, technology, and the world economy.
If you are interested in history, the Zenithmedia timeline provides
a good overview of the major media developments that have influenced