A Brief History of Marketing


In honour of the new decade, we’ve taken a look back at the evolution of marketing, how it got to to the current state, and where it might go from here.

Birth of Modern Marketing

Pre-Industrial Revolution, goods were more scarce and businesses could normally sell as much as they could make, as long as there were people who could afford them.

With the innovation and technology of the Industrial Revolution, goods were able to be produced on a grander scale. Combined with the development of mass media and transport infrastructure, businesses had the need and means to start encouraging people to buy more: the birth of marketing as we know it.

  • 1867: The Earliest recorded billboard rentals.

Sales Era

Thanks to The Great Gatsby, everybody knows the 1920s as a period of excess. This decade is when the ‘sales pitch’ and the ‘salesman’ were born. Despite being interrupted by World War 2, competition in market continued to grow and businesses had to increase their focus on differentiating themselves from their competitors.

  • 1941: First recorded use of TV for advertising.

Marketing Era

Market research was born in the 1950s, marking the beginning of businesses taking more care to produce and sell what people actually want. By the 60s, markets were already saturated and Marketing became a more strategic role within organisations.

Research began into what should be made, where it should be sold, how it should be priced, and how best to communicate with customers.

  • 1954: TV ad use exceeds magazine and radio ads. The real ‘Mad Men’ of advertising emerge.

Relationship Marketing Era

Salesmen started adapting their pitches and building closer relationships with customers. Recommendations, brand reputation, and return custom moved to the forefront and became nurtured more actively.

  • 1990: Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web.

Digital Marketing Era

The Digital Era is marked by the societal and individual dependance on the internet and technology.

Facebook was launched in 2004 and marked the beginning of explosive growth in social media, as well as its integration into our everyday lives. Everyone has some kind of smart device and, and even outdoor media like billboards are often digitised now.

The wealth of automation and personalisation currently available has allowed marketers greater insight and a plethora of tools to target individual consumers.

The flip side of this is that consumers are more accustomed to being targeted and brands have to work twice as hard to gain their trust.

  • 2019: 2.71 Billion people worldwide have a smartphone.

Where to next?

AI is the next big buzzword, and uses for AI and machine learning in marketing continue to develop. We predict the slow decline of email marketing as it gets replaced with more instantaneous alternatives like chatbots and text message marketing.

The use of video content and voice search will continue to rise, shaping the marketing strategies and technology we use.

Devices will also continue to become increasingly ‘smart’, and IoT (Internet of Things) will step further into the mainstream as our digital world becomes more and more intertwined with our physical world.

Consumers these days are well informed digital natives who quickly become accustomed to overt selling efforts. 

Just like we saw the rapid rise of (and subsequent disillusionment with) Influencer Marketing on social media, marketers will be challenged to continue to innovate as consumers become accustomed even to personalised content marketing.

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