History of Marketing

It is hard for many to believe, but when compared to economics, production and operations, accounting and other business areas, marketing is a relatively young discipline having emerged in the early 1900s. Prior to this time most issues that are now commonly associated with marketing were either assumed to fall within basic concepts of economics (e.g., price setting was viewed as a simple supply/demand issue), advertising (well developed by 1900), or in most cases, simply not yet explored (e.g., customer purchase behavior, importance of distribution partners).

Led by marketing scholars from several major universities, the development of marketing was in large part motivated by the need to dissect in greater detail relationships and behaviors that existed between sellers and buyers. In particular, the study of marketing led sellers to recognize that adopting certain strategies and tactics could significantly benefit the seller/buyer relationship. In the old days of marketing (before the 1950s) this often meant identifying strategies and tactics for simply selling more products and services with little regard for what customers really wanted. Often this meant companies embraced a “sell-as-much-as-we-can” philosophy with little concern for building long-term customer relationships.

But starting in the 1950s, companies began to see that old ways of selling products were wearing thin with customers. As competition grew stiffer across most industries, organizations looked to the buyer side of the transaction for ways to improve. What they found was an emerging philosophy suggesting that the key factor in successful marketing is understanding the needs of customers. This now famous Marketing Concept suggests decisions made by marketers should flow from FIRST knowing their customers and what they want. Only then should an organization initiate the process of developing and marketing goods and services.

Today, the Marketing Concept continues to be at the root of most marketing efforts, though the concept does have its own problems (e.g., doesn’t help much with marketing new technologies) a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this tutorial. But overall, marketers have learned they can no longer limit their marketing effort to just getting customers to purchase more. They must have an in-depth understanding of who their customers are and what they want.