What Are the Four Eras in the History of Marketing?

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The four eras in the history of marketing are known as the production era, sales era, marketing era and marketing control, or relationship, era. Some analyses only include the first three of these.

The notion of different eras of marketing was first introduced by Robert Keith in his article “The Marketing Revolution” published in the Journal of Marketing in 1960. He examined the marketing practices of the Pillsbury Corporation between 1869 and 1960. The four different eras correspond to the evolution of the marketplace.

The production era, up to the 1930s, is characterized by an abundance of raw materials and new mechanical processes that fueled an investment into mass production. Many companies concentrated on producing one single item. Marketing efforts generally consisted of informational brochures and catalogs.

In the sales era, which ran from the 1930s to the 1950s, companies began to get more aggressive in their search for a competitive edge. Sales campaigns were devised to persuade customers or the advantages of the specific product over others. The customer’s wants and needs became important and distribution networks were developed.

Brand marketing emerged during the marketing era, which was the 1950s to the 1960s. In marketing departments, the brand manager emerged as the individual responsible for all marketing activities associated with a brand, and competition increased.

The period from 1960 until the present has involved an increased focus on the customer, such as identifying needs, wants and buying behaviors. In the 1980s, what is known as “relationship marketing” became common marketing practice.