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Parent Category: 18th Century History Articles
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If someone asked you to define the term marketing, your mind would project you the last commercial you saw on social media or TV. You’re living in a world where companies use the Internet and other visual means to promote their services. In fact, marketing became a business itself, and all industries rely on it to advertise services and products.

Everywhere you turn, you’re inundated with ads over magazines, your devices, billboards, in film theatres, over television, radio, and even in front of stores. You cannot escape the messages companies put out there to capture your attention and try to sell their products and services. 

But for the marketing industry to reach the point where it inundates the public’s life, it took it centuries to develop. And while some may take the present advertising means for granted, it’s best to remember that it didn’t always look like this. There was a time when businesses struggled to reach their audience because they had no tech to support their promotional efforts. 

In order to have a full picture of how marketing has evolved, it’s best to rewind and take a look at the past. Let’s check the timelines upon which change in marketing triggered turning points, to understand how it evolved and how businesses responded to these changes. 

Evolution of marketing

Historians of marketing do a job similar to detectives because they need to investigate the early evolution of marketing, from its emergence point till present days.

A kind of marketing sprang in the 16th century 

The term marketing first appeared in dictionaries in the 16th century, but it referred to something different than it does today. People then used it to define the process of buying and selling at the market. Growth in the number of markets in cities and the development of merchant circuits in Europe at the middle ages triggered a migration of traders from smaller regions to towns. They purchased goods from the countryside and sold them in centralised town markets. 

Slowly, they opened permanent shops to provide buyers with a constant flow of goods, and peddlers filled in the gaps of distribution. 

Europe wasn’t the only continent to show signs of marketing in the 16th century; China also had a rich history of marketing practices. Chinese people used packaging in an attempt of early branding. Each product packaging included the seal of the family, place name, product quality, and other details to signal its provenience. In the 16th century, marketing was in its adolescence. 

Marketing in the 17th century

Throughout the years, the trade between regions and even countries evolved and in the 17th, and 18th centuries, businesses and individuals needed information to make a purchasing decision. Companies also researched to learn new ways to improve their operations. Daniel Defoe, a London merchant, travelled to gather information and published books like Trade of Britain Stated, Trade of Scotland with France, The Trade to India Critically and Calmly Considered, to document marketing activities and practices.

Marketing in the 18th century

In the 18th century, the term marketing slowly started to take shape in the form it has today. In Britain, Italy and France, advertising was evolved for its time. Marketing historians define it as sophisticated in its execution and able to reach the right public. While some may think marketing in the 18th century was primitive, the fact is that early advertising fit the purposes just right. Josiah Wedgewood and Matthew Boulton, two English industrialists, are often called the pioneers of modern marketing because they led most of the movements in this century. Wedgewood used various marketing methods like catalogues, travelling salespeople, and direct mail, while Boulton prefered celebrity marketing and obsolesce. 

In the age of Jane Austen, when buyers walked to a local market, they spotted everywhere shop signs, hired walkers who wore advertising boards, and hawkers. Professionals from all industries used advertising means to promote their trades. The shopping area worked similar to the Internet, where people could find information about experts from all sectors. If now, companies use video marketing to promote services, then they used word of mouth and walking advertising boards to sell shoes, clothes, or food supplies. 

In the 18th century, companies were using leaflets, handbills, and glues posters on brick walls or glass windows to advertise their services and products. High-income traders also posted advertisements in newspapers and hired street criers. 

Other advertising methods were external paper hangers and bill stickers plastered on empty shops and blank walls, but the authorities taxed them and merchants preferred other means to save money. Instead of billboards placed around the town, like we see these days, then people wore sandwich boards and hand placards. 

With the improvement of the printing press, businesses turned to newspapers and printed products to reach more people. They were advertising their services in the newspaper and printed posters and bills to attract buyers. Even if the posters contained little colour and plenty of spelling mistakes, they were effective. Most printed posters were created to advertise events or large sales and posted in high-traffic areas where they could attract many buyers. When creating printed marketing materials, advertisers focused on products that appealed to the mass market. They targeted the groups that afforded to purchase those products or services, and they mainly addressed the middle and upper-middle classes. 

By the mid of the 18th century, the promotional means were varied. If before only businesses selling essential products and services invested in advertising, by the middle of the century, companies that sold accessories and ladies’ fashion were using shop bills to announce new collections. Printed cards have become the way merchants informed the public about their operations. Most printed cards were a combination of text and image, often including information about the location of the business, the type of services or goods the company offered, and other details that could attract the public. 

As the society grew, the demand for more sophisticated marketing increased, and it took the form it has today. To meet the demand for high-quality marketing, universities added it as a discipline in the 20th century.