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Background

The marketing industry is a young industry compared to other industries—it dates back unofficially to only the early 1900s. According to many business schools and marketing professionals, the history of the marketing industry can be categorized into several eras: production era, selling/sales era, and the marketing department and company era.

Production Era

Up until the mid-1800s, many people made their own items, from clothing to food. If they needed something that they couldn’t make, chances were good that they could find it in a town nearby, and they would be able to trade goods for those items. Marketing wasn’t required for this subsistence type of lifestyle. This changed with the Industrial Revolution, however, which brought factories and mass production of products. The reduced manufacturing costs gave customers cost savings on products. This was known as the production era because companies focused solely on reducing the cost of production. They believed that customers preferred to buy products that were widely available at low costs.

Selling/Sales Era

From 1929, when the Great Depression hit, through the 1940s, the weak economy caused companies to scale back on mass production and forced them to brainstorm other ways to sell their products. Many companies had excess products that they couldn’t “move” because customers had tightened their wallets. Unemployment was at an all-time high and for many people the priority was making sure they had the necessities in life: a roof over their heads, food on the table, and clothing on their backs. They no longer had disposable income for luxuries. Companies had to find ways to sell their products and services, so they developed sales teams to do just that. Tactics during what became known as the sales era included door-to-door sales and advertising signs in stores and on billboards. Advertising jingles and singing commercials on radio shows were also popular in the 1930s.

Marketing Department and Company Era

After World War II, the U.S. manufacturing industry gained strength again because there was little competition from manufacturers overseas. Many research and development companies and departments had been created during the war to help manufacture military machinery and equipment, and they were continuing to create new products after the war. The lack of urgency to meet the war effort gave companies the time to reflect on what their purpose was in business. Many wanted to streamline their product offerings, and the idea of satisfying customers started to move to the forefront. Companies were considering themselves more as marketers, rather than as strictly manufacturers of products. This type of customer-oriented thinking was the start of the marketing era, and with it came the incorporation of marketing departments in firms, and then the creation of companies dedicated to providing marketing services.

In the 1960s and 1970s, telemarketing became popular when telephone service was extended to customers for long-distance usage at flat rates. In its early days, telemarketing consisted of companies calling potential customers to tell them about their services and products. Telemarketing became so rampant that people started to complain about getting phone calls at all times of day and night from telemarketers. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in 1991 to restrict these calls. The FCC has since added other requirements and rules, such as time frames for calls, a national “do not call” registry, and an opt-out mechanism for the automated robocalls. Today, companies hire telemarketers for a variety of reasons, from political campaigns calling for voter support to resorts offering time share opportunities.

Computers, mobile devices, the Internet, and social media have expanded how marketers conduct their business and communicate with customers. There are now more ways than ever for customers to learn about products and services, whether through traditional media such as TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers, or via blogs, e-mail, the Web, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and more. Today’s marketers focus on providing integrated marketing communications, which is a consistent brand message that is adapted to various media.