People have been marketing from the earliest civilizations. As long as there was a place where people traded and sold goods, people would have to grab buyers’ attention using creative ways. Marketing in its core was best stated by Peter Drucker: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits them and sells itself.” This has fit into each of the major stages of marketing eras. From looking at each of the marketing eras, you can get a pretty good idea what’s going to happen next.

Trade Era (Pre-Industrial Revolution)
Everything was hand crafted and in limited supply. Trading items with people from newly explored lands was the driving force of this era. Since goods were so unique individuals marketed their products as exotic and rare to people who’ve never seen it before. The idea of “never seen before” facilitated trade.

The Production Era (1860s – 1920s)
The Industrial Revolution kicked off this era. With the demand of goods rising, businesses needed to focus their efforts in meeting supply. Basically, if we make it, they will buy it. With only a few businesses making a few products, such as the flour company Pillsbury, this type of marketing worked because their production process was meeting demand thus reducing the purchase price of their high quality product. But soon competition started to pop up, and now companies needed to differentiate their products from the others.

The Sales Era (1920s – 1940s)
As competition between businesses increased, the focus of churning out high quality goods to consumers changed to selling to the consumers to generate volume. Here branding became a key player to move goods to the consumers, with brand wars sparking between companies to gain part of the market share. Pillsbury achieved this by diversifying the product portfolio by offering different consumer products from their one key product which was flour.

The Marketing Era (1940s – 1990s)
Brand wars started to overwhelm the consumers, and companies needed to understand their consumers and their buying habits, a “why us and not them?” approach. Marketing started to take a role where they would try to mold the product to the consumers rather than selling what we want them to have. The consumer became the key focus, and businesses had to learn why they wanted to buy. Again, Pillsbury took to this approach and started to offer products that were geared to the needs of the consumers such as prepackaged cake and biscuit mix, which helped fill a need of time and convenience for the housewife.

The Relationship Marketing Era (1990s – 2010)
With businesses starting to drive more effort into marketing to the consumers, they realized that customer loyalty and retention was important. Philip Kotler said, “getting a new customer is five times the cost of keeping one.” Repeat purchases from those consumers became the driving force. Marketers had to establish lasting, trusting and win-win relationships with customers in order to satisfy them.

The Social Media Marketing Era (2010 – Present)
With the ability to tap into our consumers in real-time with social media, a 24/7 ability to engage their potential and current consumers became a key factor in conversions. Having your loyal consumers talk about your business and share it is the best kind of marketing. That trust is already built from word of mouth.

Thoughts and the Future
Marketing has changed a lot during its humble beginnings. The focus from products to understanding what the consumer really wants is the whole goal. With social marketing tapping into the consumers in real time and driving conversions through relationships and engagement, it’s going to be interesting where we are headed next. I believe we are headed towards something I’d like to call “The Consumer Marketing Era.” Facebook recently launched their Facebook Graph Search, which connects people with information that others are already talking about on the social network. Businesses that had a group of individuals who liked or shared information about their business page will instantly become a referral for them. Emphasis on consumers promoting what they like on Facebook and other similar platforms will push what could influence purchasing decisions. As a business, you’re no longer telling consumers what to buy. Consumers are in control of what should be produced. So does that mean the consumer is always right?

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