History of marketing

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Marketing, as a diverse business procedure, has seen significant evolution over centuries. The term first made its appearance in dictionaries during the 16th century, primarily denoting the process of buying and selling commodities in a marketplace. By the late 19th century, the definition broadened to include activities related to sales and advertising[2]. This broadening was directly related to the emergence of consumer culture in Europe, where advertising, branding, packaging, and labeling became widespread practices. The Industrial Revolution further refined these practices, laying the groundwork for contemporary marketing strategies like market segmentation and product differentiation[1]. Marketing evolved into a professional practice in the 20th century, with its different orientations mirroring the business philosophies of the era. Presently, marketing not only aims at satisfying consumer requirements but also endeavors to contribute positively to society and the environment, an idea referred to as societal marketing.

Terms definitions
1. product differentiation. Product differentiation is a tactic employed by companies to set their goods apart from similar market offerings. This strategy focuses on establishing a unique selling point or emphasizing particular characteristics that render the product superior or distinct from its rivals. The primary forms of product differentiation are vertical, horizontal, and other variations like spatial differentiation. Vertical differentiation pertains to variations in quality and price, which consumers can objectively assess. Conversely, horizontal differentiation is subjective, relating to individual tastes, such as color or taste. Spatial differentiation utilizes geographical location as a distinguishing factor. This strategy can result in a competitive edge, augmented profits, enhanced consumer value, and market segmentation. Nevertheless, it can also influence pricing and demand, particularly when substitute goods are available.
2. advertising. Promoting a product or service through communication, also known as advertising, aims to inform or persuade a target audience. Its roots trace back to early civilizations where sales messages were inscribed on Egyptian papyrus, and wall murals were utilized for promotional purposes across ancient Asia, Africa, and South America. Over the centuries, advertising has adapted to technological advancements and the rise of mass media, transitioning from newspaper prints to audio-visual and digital platforms. The strategies employed in advertising vary, with some focusing on raising awareness or boosting sales, targeting different demographics at a local, national, or international level. Common methods encompass print, radio, web banners, and television commercials, among others. Modern advertising models have introduced innovative trends like guerrilla marketing and interactive advertisements. Women's contribution to advertising is significant, with their perspectives highly valued due to their influential purchasing power.

The study of the history of marketing, as a discipline, is meaningful because it helps to define the baselines upon which change can be recognised and understand how the discipline evolves in response to those changes. The practice of marketing has been known for millennia, but the term "marketing" used to describe commercial activities assisting the buying and selling of products or services came into popular use in the late nineteenth century. The study of the history of marketing as an academic field emerged in the early twentieth century.

The term 'marketing' comes from the Latin, 'mercatus', meaning a marketplace. Pictured: La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain
Scholars have found evidence of marketing practices in the marketplaces of antiquity. Pictured: The Moorish Bazaar, painting by Edwin Lord Weeks, 1873

Marketers tend to distinguish between the history of marketing practice and the history of marketing thought:

  1. the history of marketing practice refers to an investigation into the ways that marketing has been practiced; and how those practices have evolved over time as they respond to changing socio-economic conditions
  2. the history of marketing thought refers to an examination of the ways that marketing has been studied and taught

Although the history of marketing thought and the history of marketing practice are distinct fields of study, they intersect at different junctures. Marketing practitioners engage in innovative practices that capture the attention of marketing scholars who codify and disseminate such practices. At the same time, marketing academics often develop new research methods or theories that are subsequently adopted by practitioners. Thus developments in marketing theory inform marketing practice and vice versa. The history of marketing will remain incomplete if one disassociates academia from practitioners.

The publication, in 1960, of Robert J. Keith's article, "The Marketing Revolution", was a pioneering work in the study of the history of marketing practice. In 1976, the publication of Robert Bartel's book, The History of Marketing Thought, marked a turning-point in the understanding of how marketing theory evolved since it first emerged as a separate discipline around the turn of last century.

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