The Evolution of Marketing

The Evolution of Marketing

Mark Raffan

Marketing has come a long way over the years—changing with society. If you think of marketing as the art of persuasion, then it’s as old as civilization.

The marketing goals of today are quite different than those of the past. Focus has shifted being from being production centered to developing consumer relationships and concentrating on their needs.

And even more recently, we have seen a move to societal marketing, which believes organizations have a responsibility for the needs of society—including ethical and environmental considerations.

Marketing today has been shaped by the stages it has gone through since the late 19th century. Advancements in science and technology have altered the way we live, receive information, sell, and purchase. Looking at the evolutionary stages of marketing, you can see just how much it has changed.


  • Production Orientation

Production orientation started at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Before this, nearly everything was handmade and limited. The idea during this era was that corporate success was in production efficiency. And the focus turned to manufacturing. With machines to speed up manufacturing, costs dropped dramatically. And for manufacturers, the key to success was more efficient and low-cost production. Consumers accepted products that didn’t necessarily meet their exact needs but were less expensive.


  • Product Orientation

Over time, attitudes changed, and importance shifted from production to the product. Consumers started to favor products that offered more quality, and so marketers began to focus on making quality over quantity. Less emphasis was placed on promoting the product and more on the product itself.


  • Sales Orientation

As competition grew, attention turned to selling. With more choices available to customers, marketers believed that customers would only buy products that were sold to them. Advertising, branding, and sales rose as products exceeded demand, and companies competed for customers. Even though companies focused on promoting the best product, they didn’t consider the customers’ needs and wants. And they typically used aggressive sales tactics to drive profits.


  • Marketing Orientation

From the second half of the 20th century onward, marketing became driven by customer needs. In this era, the idea is that customers want to satisfy their needs and will buy whatever product to do so. Companies can place customers into groups according to their different needs, and then produce products based on them. This allows a company to reach the needs of more people. There is a belief that every department in an organization—from manufacturing to packaging and delivery—will influence decisions in the organization.


  • Relationship Marketing Orientation 

In this modern approach to marketing, companies focus on customer loyalty and building relationships. In the relationship era of marketing, generic marketing campaigns, hard sells, and one-size-fits-all messaging are no longer acceptable. In the past, a relationship with a customer often lasted until they made a purchase, or they had issues with the product. But now long-term connections with customers continue well past the initial investment—leading to better company success.


  • Societal Marketing

The most recent stage in the evolution of marketing believes companies have a responsibility not only for the needs of its customers but the needs of society as a whole. Societal marketers think sustainability is essential for the company to persist long-term. After all, how can an organization endure if all of the resources are used up too quickly? And with consumer preference shifting towards sustainability, it’s become a useful strategy for brands small or large.

Marketing has changed significantly over the years. Just think about how much it will continue to shift as technology and society advance. Reviewing progress and seeing the different views helps marketers get a better understanding of their field. It can help them discover where they align and how they can evolve.


Mark Raffan

Mark Raffan

Mark is a serial entrepreneur and lover of marketing and influence. Mark built the #1 negotiation podcast in the world and is an expert negotiation, influence, and persuasion coach that has coached executives and their teams in some of the largest companies in the world.