October 3, 2016 / Melissa Faudree

Marketing has been around for quite some time. In fact, our history shows that it existed shortly after the beginning of civilization. Now that’s a long time! There is no doubt that throughout the centuries, marketing has transformed and evolved. Just look at the difference from marketing during the 1930s versus today. You can’t say that marketing has remained unchanged. Some have even classified marketing into different stages in history known as marketing eras.

We have shifted away from what is often referred to as traditional marketing. Today, marketers are not only focusing on the needs of consumers but actually communicating with them too and in real-time! The keyword being “with.” Marketers are no longer talking at consumers. We are building relationships and creating long-term and loyal customers.

Just how much has marketing changed in the last 200 years? Let’s examine the seven major eras of marketing.

The 7 Eras of Marketing


Simple Trade Era (Pre-Industrial Revolution): The simple trade era was a time when everything was hand created and only available in a limited supply. It was also a time when basic commodities ruled. Households would produce what they consumed.

Mass Production Era (1860s-1920s): The production era began during the Industrial Revolution. Products were produced in mass and at a low cost. Typically businesses only produced one product at a time. Also during this era, businesses had the mindset of, “if produced, someone will buy” and thus increase profitability. Due to the current market, businesses could sell anything they produced.

Sales Era (1920s-1940s): As the market continued to become more saturated and intensify, competition increased among businesses. This created a need for marketing and sales techniques. Companies hoped through persuasion techniques that they could convince customers to purchase their products. However, companies were concerned with selling products simply to get rid of them for a profit, not because it would fulfill the needs of their customers. Everything in the sales era was about the price, not the quality of the products or the customer needs.

Marketing Department Era (1940s-1960s): The marketing department was defined during this era. We see advertising, sales, promotions, and anything marketing related all grouped into one department.

Marketing Company Era (1960s-1990s): This is an era when the marketing department takes control. We see the marketing department help guide a company’s direction. All employees are also involved in marketing, making it important for the success of the company.

In addition, there is a shift from mass production to the need to satisfy customers. The customers become king and are now the main focus. Businesses survive because they are here to fulfill the needs of customers. Distribution channels and pricing strategy are also defined during the marketing company era.

Relationship Marketing Era (1990s-2010): During the relationship marketing era, the focus is not only on creating relationships with customers but also long-term relationships. The ultimate goal for businesses is to create customer loyalty. Businesses want to create products that will ensure their customers come back every time.

Social/Mobile Marketing Era (2010-Present): Businesses focus on being social and connecting with clients in real-time. Due to technology, businesses and customers can communicate 24/7. The customer is in the driving seat now, not businesses.

Have You Been Given Permission?

During much of the sales era, marketers and advertisers pushed content to consumers regardless of if they were interested in the product or service. Marketer and entrepreneur, Seth Godin calls this type of traditional marketing “interruption marketing.” Just as it sounds, advertisers would disrupt your day with content. This kind of disruption could be something such as a TV ad during your favorite show or phone call from a telemarker at your family dinner. Traditional marketing hoped to grab your attention and distract you from what you were previously doing. Consumers did not have control over the type of content they wanted, at least not until the social marketing era. In some way, consumers didn’t have a choice over the type of advertisements they saw or received.

We see the emergence of permission marketing during the relationship era. According to Godin, permission marketing no longer interrupts consumers but instead seeks permission to send content. As thousands of messages saturate the world on a daily basis, advertisers must ask for permission from consumers. This type of marketing incentivizes consumers to want to know more. Permission marketing allows companies to create relationships with customers because they must communicate more.

However, permission marketing is not an immediate process, it is gradual. You aren’t just given permission immediately from consumers. With each step you must ask permission before you even consider selling or promoting your product. Communicating and providing value plays a major role. The purpose of permission marketing is to build trust and promote brand awareness. Permission marketing focuses on anticipation, personal, and relevance.

Today we still utilize permission marketing. Think about when you subscribe to a business newsletter or like a brand’s page on Facebook. That’s permission marketing. Can you come up with other permission marketing examples?

permission marketing quote

Who Has the Power?

Believe it or not, you as a consumer have the power. You control the game today. This is ultimately due to the Internet and shift to the digital world (social media). The way we access information has changed. Therefore, altering consumer behavior and the buying process. Marketers can no longer rely on traditional marketing. They need to create a strategy that provides relevant and valuable messages to consumers. It’s time to get personal. It’s time to be customer-focused.

We are currently in the social/mobile marketing era where the focus is primarily on engagement with customers. Businesses seek to innovate and collaborate together with customers and consumers in order to find success. While consumers want to engage on social media or other means of technology, there is still a desire for building real relationships. Many businesses use community influencers to impact their reputation and success. These influencers can help shape your brand and bring more awareness.

Today it is not uncommon to see businesses that are open and honest with their products or service both in person and online. They aren’t afraid to be real and show their flaws. This type of transparency helps to not only create trust but build brand loyalty as well. Buffer is a great example of a company that is transparent. They even have a blog devoted to it! People want to be able to relate to a brand. Always remember, consumers buy from people, not the brand.

Where to next?

Marketing has evolved over the centuries and while it is probably here to stay, I suspect something new is coming. Where do you think we are headed next? What comes after the social marketing era?

Posted In: Blog, Marketing