History of marketing

The study of the history of marketing, as a discipline, is meaningful because it helps to define the baselines upon which change can be recognised and understand how the discipline evolves in response to those changes.[1] The practice of marketing has been known for millennia, but the term "marketing" used to describe commercial activities buying and selling a products or services came into popular use in the late nineteenth century.[2] The study of the history of marketing as an academic field emerged in the early twentieth century.[3]

The term, 'marketing', comes from the Latin, 'mercatus', meaning a marketplace. Pictured: La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain
Scholars have found evidence of marketing practices in the marketplaces of antiquity. Pictured: The Moorish Bazaar, painting by Edwin Lord Weeks, 1873

Marketers tend to distinguish between the history of marketing practice and the history of marketing thought:

  1. the history of marketing practice refers to an investigation into the ways that marketing has been practiced; and how those practices have evolved over time as they respond to changing socio-economic conditions
  2. the history of marketing thought refers to an examination of the ways that marketing has been studied and taught

Although the history of marketing thought and the history of marketing practice are distinct fields of study, they intersect at different junctures.[4] Marketing practitioners engage in innovative practices that capture the attention of marketing scholars who codify and disseminate such practices. At the same time, marketing academics often develop new research methods or theories that are subsequently adopted by practitioners. Thus developments in marketing theory inform marketing practice and vice versa. The history of marketing will remain incomplete if one disassociates academia from practitioners.[4]

The publication, in 1960, of Robert J. Keith's article, "The Marketing Revolution", was a pioneering work in the study of the history of marketing practice.[5] In 1976, the publication of Robert Bartel's book, The History of Marketing Thought, marked a turning-point in the understanding of how marketing theory evolved since it first emerged as a separate discipline around the turn of last century.[6]