Look how far we’ve come, Baby!


Marketing is a young profession and it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how it has changed.

It originated in the 1960s as a response to the “product management” drive, which focused on the quality of a product assuming that if the product was of a high enough standard it would be bought and to the “selling” drive, which focused on shifting products without looking at consumer needs.

“Customer marketing” originally focused on a B2C audience and involves researching customer needs and wants, and then developing the product, its price, its promotion, and its distribution to suit those needs better.   As you might expect for a new discipline, “marketing’ had no real centre of focus in the early days.  Company organization charts of the time show the profession as reporting into different product lines rather than existing as a function in its own right.

By the 1980s, customer marketing began to be expanded to cover a B2B audience as well as a B2C one.

At about the same time, branding techniques began to develop as a means of distinguishing one seller’s product from those of others.

Broadly by the 1990s, the discipline had evolved to be the champion of a holistic customer experience focusing on every point at which customers experience an organisation through the life of their relationship rather than on a product by product interaction.  For example, the mobile phone company O2 would look across all of its customer interactions when defining its customers’ experience too – whether at the shop where they buy the phone, or at the customer service centre they call to enquire, or at the bill they receive through the post.

The growth of websites and mobile devices at the same time encouraged this focus further because it has empowered the customer base.  Customer comments on websites and social media can quickly be publicised and so control of information has become more difficult.

These were the years of marketing’s growth as a standalone functional department – existing in its own right apart from HR, Finance, and Manufacturing.  I was starting my career in BT in the mid-Nineties and joined its standalone marketing group.

By the Noughties, marketing began to grow up.  The concept of integrated or holistic marketinghad developed.  This takes the view that you cannot successfully market something by solely focusing on product, price, promotion, and distribution.  Rather, you need to have the whole business on message for marketing to work effectively.  So, marketing teams began to guide each part of the business while being coordinated centrally.   So at PA Consulting Group, my marketing and communications group had a corporate centre, but with marketing teams sitting in each sector, service, and country of operation.

So Marketing has changed rapidly in just fifty years.  Our work as marketers is defined by that change and change is part of the job and what makes our roles so exciting.

So next time you’re wrestling with a stakeholder who doesn’t get marketing or you’re finding change difficult to take effect, just stop, take a deep breath, and consider how much has changed in the marketing space in such a short time. Our profession is a brilliant, transforming roller-coaster ride and it’s great to be aboard!D

About DaveStevensNow

Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors. Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club (www.businessmarketingclub.org.uk) - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders (https://www.hottopics.ht/34199/top-100-b2b-european-marketing-leaders-2019/). He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at www.DaveStevensNow.com.
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