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History of marketing

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“Marketing” is a multifaceted term with roots dating back to ancient civilizations and evolving over centuries. Its beginnings are traced back to early practices in Mesopotamia and China, with refinements occurring during the Middle Ages. Modern marketing techniques took shape between the 17th and 20th centuries, with a focus on branding, product differentiation[1], and demographic segmentation. Marketing orientations and philosophies have also progressed over time, highlighting various corporate perspectives. A significant shift occurred with Phillip Kotler’s proposal of the societal marketing[2] concept in 1972, which emphasized customer[3] needs and societal welfare, balancing profitability with societal benefits. This concept encourages sustainable marketing strategies, stakeholder-oriented approaches, and a focus on social responsibility. The evolution of marketing theory has seen an increasing emphasis on this societal perspective, paving the way for a more holistic approach in marketing practices.

Terms definitions
1. product differentiation.
1 Product differentiation is a marketing strategy that businesses use to distinguish their products from similar offerings in the market. This approach involves creating a unique selling proposition or highlighting specific traits that make the product superior or different from its competitors. There are three main types of product differentiation: vertical, horizontal, and other types like spatial differentiation. Vertical differentiation refers to differences in quality and price, objectively measured by consumers. Horizontal differentiation, on the other hand, is subjective and related to personal preferences, such as color or flavor. Spatial differentiation considers geographical location as a differentiator. This strategy can lead to a competitive advantage, higher profits, increased consumer value, and market segmentation. However, it can also impact pricing and demand, especially in the presence of substitute goods.
2 Product differentiation is a marketing strategy that businesses use to distinguish their products from similar offerings in the market. This approach involves creating a unique selling proposition or highlighting specific traits that make the product superior or different from its competitors. There are three main types of product differentiation: vertical, horizontal, and other types like spatial differentiation. Vertical differentiation refers to differences in quality and price, objectively measured by consumers. Horizontal differentiation, on the other hand, is subjective and related to personal preferences, such as color or flavor. Spatial differentiation considers geographical location as a differentiator. This strategy can lead to a competitive advantage, higher profits, increased consumer value, and market segmentation. However, it can also impact pricing and demand, especially in the presence of substitute goods.
2. societal marketing. Societal marketing is a concept that combines traditional marketing practices with an emphasis on social responsibility, aiming to make a positive impact on society. This approach, introduced by Philip Kotler in the 1970s, takes into account non-economic criteria and focuses on the long-term interests of society. It involves promoting ethical consumption habits, improving moral conduct, and emphasizing societal and individual welfare, alongside business profit. Societal marketing can be seen in action through initiatives like Avon's breast cancer awareness campaign or The Body Shop's ethical practices. This strategy has evolved over time, now incorporating sustainable, ethical, and ecological considerations, and is expected to continue developing in the future. Companies often use societal marketing as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts, aiming to improve their public image and build a strong brand. However, consumer suspicions about companies' motives and criticisms regarding the implementation of public interests can pose challenges. Related concepts include sustainability marketing, social marketing, and green marketing.

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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