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

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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 marketing had 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 can be difficult to cope with.

What all of us as B2B marketers need is a support network and that’s where the Business Marketing Club comes in.  Whether you’re looking to connect with fellow B2B marketers at our events, in our mentoring, or digitally we’re here to make the change a bit more predictable, a bit more manageable, and a lot more fun.

Dave Stevens

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