The Evolution of Marketing: A Brief History

Industrial Era Brands Were Self-Obsessed (Perhaps with Good Reason?)

During the industrial era, product supply largely drove product demand. The introduction of so many new goods and technologies during this period, combined with the minimal output from factories who hadn't yet figured out the most efficient way to produce goods, led to scarcity within the market. This led to the product-centric "Build it, and they will come" mentality. Businesses did not have to adapt to consumer needs, therefore marketing did not yet have a large role to play.

The minimal amount of input consumers had in the development of these new products was best represented in Henry Ford's rumored remark about the Model T, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

When factories mastered efficiency and competition flooded into the market, so did the supply of goods, ending any consumer fears of scarcity. Sales tactics and other promotional activities began sprouting out of companies, which eventually led to the emergence of the marketing department.

Competition Provides a Reality Check

Distribution channels, pricing strategies, segmentation strategies, and brand experience all became a factor in pointing the marketing strategy in the right direction. The previously product-focused, art- and copy-based mass communication messaging slowly began to evolve, taking into account who the buyer of this product might be and why they would use it.

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Consumer insights began to play a bigger role in the development of new products and promotional strategies. As a result, marketing agencies and the mad men era emerged, acting as an extension of company marketing departments with a focused expertise in providing creative perspective. Marketers began to target specific segments of consumers, preying on the segment's behaviors, desires, and fears.

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Brands Benefit from Data

With growing consumer insights, marketers learned quickly that acquiring new customers represented a much larger expense than keeping existing customers. Marketers needed to build brand loyalty, which meant the need to build a relationship between the customer and the brand. Suddenly, marketing was less about the company and more about the consumer. Direct marketing and more advanced segmentation tactics attempted to address the issue by making the brand personally relevant to the consumer.

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The Internet: A Metaphorical Wake Up Call

The advent of the Internet did much to impact brands and marketers. The Internet, most importantly, snagged the power from the company's hands and provided customers with a voice. The feedback loop shortened, market barriers to entry decreased dramatically, and brand parity skyrocketed. Suddenly, consumers held all the cards!

Then & Now: Shift Happens

The traditional (now referred to as generalist) marketing agencies struggled then and now to continuously adapt to consumer demands and technological innovations. Digital marketing, a term that previously encompassed this new faction of marketing no longer holds water today.

Digital marketing is just plain marketing, and consumer data has given rise to marketing agencies that specialize in a single discipline, including video marketing, event marketing, public relations, email marketing, social media marketing, and other consumer-centric forms of marketing.

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What brands once saw as a one-way street to push impersonal mass communications has become a consumer-driven highway comprised of highly customized, two-way communication.

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HubSpot's The History of Marketing Infographic