A Trip Through Time: The Evolution of Marketing

What do logos on product packaging, your email subscriber list, and a Super Bowl commercial have in common? We bet you can guess where we’re going with this… 

All forms of marketing are essential for businesses to be successful. Content, ads, buyer personas, SEO, audience engagement, and so on, play an integral part in establishing connections with consumers. Otherwise, how else would you attract customers, clients, and the like to use your services or buy your products?

We’re going back in time to show you the evolution of marketing and how all of today’s marketing strategies came to be. The purpose of this post is to highlight why marketing is so important for businesses to implement properly. By the end, you will understand how marketing can make or break you!

Continue reading to discover the evolution of marketing from as early as the 1400s (yes, you read that right!) to what it is today. 

The Eras that Formed the Evolution of Marketing

The Simple Trade Era 

1400s – 1700s

You might struggle to wrap your mind around what type of marketing was even happening this far back, but there are tons of documented examples of marketing being used to promote business. One of the first being the conception of market towns, the equivalent of today’s farmer’s markets!

At this time, the industrial revolution had not yet begun and only handmade products were being sold and exchanged. People made food and other goods for their own household, and would go on to sell (or exchange) anything they didn’t use to make some profit. In 1440, movable type — one of the first forms of a printing press — was invented and thus began the start of mass printing. This is said to be groundbreaking because it was the first time human thought was mass produced. 

The Production Era 

1800s – 1920s

This era came about as the focus on mass production became more of a priority and resulted in the first industrial revolution. Machinery became fashionable and factories employing hundreds of workers were built to keep up with production. 

Companies began following the idea of mass production in order to reduce costs and sell more. Simply put, the sole focus was to sell, sell, sell! The Ford Motor Company’s assembly line defined this era, as other companies soon followed suit and efficiency became their one and only goal. They also focused their marketing efforts on how to beat out competitors with the Coca Cola vs. Pepsi rivalry being one of the most memorable examples in changing the evolution of marketing. 

Unlike today, companies believed a low price was much more important than quality. This is a  practice most companies shy away from nowadays thanks to customer-centric ideologies such as the inbound method of marketing

The Sales Era 

1920s – 1940s

As more businesses stayed in competition with each other, their sales tactics became more and more aggressive. Mass-produced products were now the majority of what was available on the market, and this pushed companies to then only care about sales volume, with no concern for quality or customer satisfaction. 

Tactics such as advertisements through multiple channels like print, radio, television became extremely popular. Sales professionals were hired to go door to door selling products in consumers’ living rooms. It seems back then everywhere you looked you were being sold something you (likely) didn’t need. These selling tactics were all considered part of ‘marketing’ and now play a significant role in the do’s and don’ts of modern marketing efforts.

The Marketing Department Era 

1940s – 1960s

In the ‘40s, industries began realizing customers were left highly unsatisfied and that focusing only on their own business’ needs was not sustainable. Together, the advertising and sales departments created the marketing department. Interestingly, marketing was used to tell people the value of their products and why they had to have them, rather than letting consumers decide for themselves. 

The Marketing Company Era 

1960s – 1990s

At this point, marketing departments were now the ones spearheading the company’s initiatives and strategies across every department. A good customer experience now became the company’s main mission.

During the 1984 Super Bowl, the first commercial was played featuring Apple’s Macintosh computer showing people why they needed this new technology, rather than spewing out facts in order to convince them to buy. Right then and there was the start of the beloved Super Bowl commercials that continue to this day.

The Relationship Marketing Era 

1990s – 2010s

Eventually, creating long-lasting relationships with customers became the objective of most companies. The famous saying “the customer is king” was popularized during this time, further showcasing the shift in their focus. 

Yahoo and other search engines became mainstream as consumers looked to the internet for answers to any questions they had. Additionally, the first ever marketing campaign was created through internet advertisements. Excedrin, an over-the-counter drug for migraine headaches, offered free samples to the over 30,000 internet users who signed up. 

The Social and Mobile Marketing Era 

2010 – Present

By this point in time, the tables have now turned and consumers are the ones to dictate how they receive ads and other marketing content. Ad-less streaming platforms like Netflix have taken off, making commercials somewhat obsolete. Similarly, consumers only follow the companies they want to hear from thanks to social media, email subscription lists, and blog posts. In 2017 digital marketing became a $24 billion dollar industry, with social media and blogs being the top method of marketing! 

As you can see, the evolution of marketing has changed significantly over the past decades.  Today, the marketing industry is completely dependent on the consumer, with a heavy focus on quality rather than quantity — unlike our friends back in the 1800s. 

Marketing in the Modern Era

It’s easy to get stuck in ways of the past, but you can bring your marketing efforts up to today’s standards with our Marketing 101 Checklist. This free resource will teach you the basics of how to generate leads and provide valuable information to your ideal customers. 

Download your free copy of the checklist to get started on modernizing your marketing efforts!

This post was originally published May 2018 and refreshed May 2020.