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Marketing as a discipline evolved

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How has marketing as a discipline evolved over the past 20 years and over the past six weeks?

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Marketing as we know it today began in the 1970s with the birth of the "marketing orientation". During the first stage of capitalism business had a production orientation. Business was concerned with production, manufacturing, and efficiency issues. By the mid 1950s a second stage emerged, the sales orientation stage. Business's prime concern was to sell what it produced. By the early 1970s a third stage, the marketing orientation stage emerged as businesses came to realize that consumer needs and wants drove the whole process. Marketing research became important. Businesses realized it was futile putting a lot of production and sales effort into products that people did not want. Some commentators claim that we are now on the verge of a fourth stage, one of a personal marketing orientation. They believe that the technology is available today to market to people on an individual basis (see personalized marketing, permission marketing, and mass customization). They feel it is no longer necessary to think in broad aggregated terms like market segments or target markets.

Marketing has become an academic discipline in itself, with tertiary degrees in the field now routinely awarded. Masters and Doctrinal degrees can be obtained in numerous subcategories of marketing including: Marketing Research, Consumer Behaviour, International Marketing, Industrial Marketing (also called b-to-b marketing), Consumer Marketing (also called b-to-c marketing), Product Management, and e-Marketing.


There is an endless game of hide-and-seek going on between marketers and consumers who are empowered in their brand and media choices like never before. Here, Marketing's editorial director STAN SUTTER analyzes five mega-trends shaping marketing communications today

1. Consumers are empowered like never before
Marketers and communicators like to say that the consumer is king and is in control of the relationship. But that is often merely lip service. Consumers always had the power to vote with their dollars, but their choices were pretty limited in the past.

As Richard Tobaccowala, an executive vice-president with Starcom MediaVest Group in the U.S. told Fortune magazine last summer: "Companies must recognize that they increasingly have to engage gods and are not dealing with helpless consumers anymore. This is particularly true of young people."

Mass marketing is an increasingly obsolete idea. Definable, identifiable niches and consumer market segments are proliferating, with the idea of one huge, amorphous "consumer" all but disappearing. Even Procter & Gamble, McDonald's and General Motors are embracing niche segmentation marketing principles and tactics. Think of Tide. P&G in the U.S. now has 14 finely differentiated versions of the mothership product, each pitched at a different market niche. According to BusinessWeek, between 1999 and 2003 P&G reduced its TV spending on the Tide brand in the U.S. by 16%-cutting its spends on network TV by a whopping 75%. At the same time, it doubled the amount it spends promoting Tide on TV targeted to Hispanics. Jim Stengel, P&G's global marketing officer, insisted to BusinessWeek that P&G has "not one mass-marketed brand... Every one of our brands is targeted."

Advertising Age named McDonald's as its 2004 marketer of the year-a major deal for a company many felt was lost and doomed. Ad Age noted that McDonald's network TV spending dropped 30% in the first half of 2004 just as its spending on specialty cable networks rose 35%. And the company is embracing the Internet and even target print magazines like never before with niche messages.

Consumers have gained the upper hand in the power-balance with marketers, in part because there are just so many more product choices out there every year.

Our North American society is also far more ethnically diverse than in the immediate post-Second World War era when one-size-fits-all mass marketing was perfected.

Consumers simply know more about products and services now. The Internet-with corporate sites allowing instant price and quality comparisons, and blogs and chat rooms airing uncensored consumer opinions-means a better informed consumer today than even a decade ago.

And there is less consumer desire to conform and fit in. Larry Light, the McDonald's worldwide chief marketing officer, told Fortune: "From a consumer point of view, we've had a change from 'I want to be normal' to 'I want to be special.' "

Now, we're seeing limited editions of things as mundane as soda pop. Coca-Cola, for example, has created limited edition flavours of Sprite for the past two summers in Canada: Sprite ReMix Berryclear, and mint-flavoured Sprite Ice. "We have remixed the Sprite beverage in the same way teens remix music by taking a classic taste and adding an extra element to make it familiar yet unique," says Sprite brand manager Nicole de Larzac.

Last September, Levis created a custom co-brand: the Levi's alife Custom 501's. The company made just 501 pairs, in five colours, and sold them through a single downtown Manhattan store for US$165 each. This is what the New York Times ...

Solution Summary

An explanation of the evolution of marketing over 6 weeks and 20 years.