From the time of simple trade to now social media marketing, evolution of marketing can be studied in 5 distinct stages. These will be:
Simple Trade Era
The first is known as the simple trade era, where everything available was made or harvested by hand and available in limited supply. Exploration (some contend exploitation) and trade in resources was the focus of the economic activity. Commodities ruled the day. Because we’re somewhat lazy as theorists, this era is described as having lasted from the beginning of time through the mid-19th century.
The simple trade era was replaced by the production era at the time of the industrial revolution. Mass production increased the availability of product options in the marketplace. This is the era of the field of dreams business philosophy of “if you build it, they will come”, successful only because there were few alternative product options available. This marketing era lasted approximately 60 years from the 1860′s until the 1920′s.
The sales era (1920′s – 1940′s) followed the production era once pent-up consumer demand became saturated. No longer could businesses easily and readily sell everything they produced. Competition for market share increased. Companies had to work harder to sell their product to consumers. Commoditization emerged: products became commodities and price became the distinguishing competitive advantage. The archetype representing the end of this era is Willy Loman.
Marketing Department Era
The post-WW II economic boom fostered the emergence of the marketing department era where manufacturing firms realized that the sales orientation of the past was not resonating with consumers. New levels of affluence provided consumers with more power in the marketplace. Businesses consolidated marketing-related activities (advertising, sales, promotion, public relations, etc.) into a single department. In my opinion, this is the period of “the great awakening” in western business: the time when the realization that marketing is the reason that business exists emerged. This period lasted from the 1940′s through the 1960′s and is typified by my favourite brand repositioning phrase: new, improved and lemon-scented.