History Of Marketing & its Evolution

When we think of Marketing today, it’s over 100% Digital. While this was not always the case, the transition from trade to tech took centuries to develop.

In order to see the entire picture, let’s first rewind and define the timelines upon which change in marketing was recognized and understand how marketing evolved in response to these changes.

History & Evolution of Marketing

Historians of marketing have undertaken a considerable investigation into the emergence of marketing, yet there is little agreement about when marketing first began.

Marketing (Kind-of…) in the 16th Century

Etymologists believe that the term ‘marketing’ first appeared in dictionaries in the sixteenth century where it was referred to as

Marketing — the process of buying and selling at a market.

An upsurge in the number of market towns and the emergence of merchant circuits in England and Europe, at the middle ages, saw traders bulking up surpluses from smaller regional, different day markets and reselling them at the larger centralized market towns.

Over time, permanent shops began to open up and peddlers filled in the gaps in distribution by travelling door-to-door in order to sell produce and wares.

Even countries such as China exhibited a rich history of early marketing practices. Chinese packaging and branding was used to signal family, place names and product quality, and the use of government imposed product branding.

Marketing was at it’s adolescence then, who knew where it was headed?

Marketing in 17th Century

As trade between countries or regions grew, in Seventeenth & Eighteenthcentury, companies and individuals now needed information on which they could base their business decisions.

Daniel Defoe, a London merchant, traveled places to gather information about industries he had to work with and soon became a prolific publisher. Among his many publications are titles devoted to trade including;

Trade of Britain Stated, 1707;
Trade of Scotland with France, 1713
The Trade to India Critically and Calmly Considered,1720;

All 3 books were highly popular with merchants and business houses of the period. While such activities might now be recognized as marketing research, at that time they were known as ‘commercial research’ or ‘commercial intelligence’ and not seen as part of the repertoire of activities that make up contemporary marketing practice.

Marketing in 18th Century

In countries like France and Italy and part of Britain, early advertising was far from primitive.

It showed a high level of sophistication in its execution and ability to reach mass audiences. Far from being primitive efforts, early advertising showed a high level of sophistication in its execution and ability to reach mass audiences.

English industrialists, Josiah Wedgewood and Matthew Boulton who were often portrayed as pioneers of modern mass marketing methods. were the key players of this era.

Wedgewood was known to have used marketing techniques such as direct mail, travelling salesmen and catalogs, while Boulton, practiced planned obsolescence and understood the importance of ‘celebrity marketing’

Marketing in the 19th Century

The improvement in the transportation systems saw the rise of a more unified economy allowing companies to distribute standardized, branded goods a national level.

This let to the a broader mass marketing mindset where manufacturers started talking about standardization in order to achieve scale economies with a view to keeping production costs down and also to achieving market penetration in the early stages of a product’s life cycle.

In the same period the concept of branding also emerged, where companies could come up with a high quality product or service and provide good customer service with that to instantly get termed as a brand. This resulted in companies experiencing an improvement in their margins, and reputation.

The term digital marketing was also first coined in the late 90’s

Marketing in the 20th Century

In this era, the likes of George B Waldron, used tax registers and census data to show the first demographic segmentation of a population, Paul Cherington, developed the ‘ABCD’ household typology, which became the first ever socio-demographic segmentation tool , and Wendell R. Smith was codifying implicit knowledge that had been used in marketing and brand management from the early twentieth century.

As industry grew, the demand for skilled business professionals also grew. To meet this demand, universities began offering courses in commerce, economics and marketing. Marketing, as a discipline, was first taught in universities in the very early twentieth century.

Digital marketing became a little more sophisticated, when the proliferation of devices capable of accessing digital media led to sudden growth.

Marketing in the 21st Century

Marketing is now a new specimen altogether. Computers have now become sophisticated enough to store huge volumes of customer information. Not just information, customers themselves are inhabitants of this alternate dimension — The World Wide Web, and in the present day it’s where all the magic takes place.

Here’s an info graphic on marketing timeline courtesy Wikipedia

Marketing Evolution Timeline
Marketing Evolution Timeline

What do you think of the transition? Although we’ve just skimmed over marketing in different ages did you notice a trend in the transition? Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

14 − 9 =