Category Archives: Marketing

The Evolution of Marketing

Marketing is commonly believed to have progressed through five distinct phases of evolution since the beginning of time: the simple trade era, the production era, the sales era, the marketing department era and the marketing company era. This is the classical progression taught in business schools today to tomorrow’s marketing leaders. But is it an accurate and complete representation of the different eras of marketing? In my opinion, the answer is no.

The premise of this blog is that since post-World War II, marketing is evolving in twenty year cycles, more or less. Thus, while the classical five era progression is taught in business schools, seven distinct eras are apparent. Why is this important to marketers? It may not be. Or it may represent the difference between success and failure. Knowing the game and how it is played is a necessary and critical component of winning the game. Let’s review the five classical eras before making the case for the two new eras.

The first is known as the simple trade era, where everything available was made or harvested by hand and available in limited supply. Exploration (some contend exploitation) and trade in resources was the focus of the economic activity. Commodities ruled the day. Because we’re somewhat lazy as theorists, this era is described as having lasted from the beginning of time through the mid-19th century. The simple trade era was replaced by the production era at the time of the industrial revolution. Mass production increased the availability of product options in the marketplace. This is the era of the field of dreams business philosophy of “if you build it, they will come”, successful only because there were few alternative product options available. This marketing era lasted approximately 60 years from the 1860’s until the 1920’s.

The sales era (1920’s – 1940’s) followed the production era once pent-up consumer demand became saturated. No longer could businesses easily and readily sell everything they produced. Competition for market share increased. Companies had to work harder to sell their product to consumers. Commoditization emerged: products became commodities and price became the distinguishing competitive advantage. The archetype representing the end of this era is Willy Loman. The post-WW II economic boom fostered the emergence of the marketing department era where manufacturing firms realized that the sales orientation of the past was not resonating with consumers. New levels of affluence provided consumers with more power in the marketplace. Businesses consolidated marketing-related activities (advertising, sales, promotion, public relations, etc.) into a single department. In my opinion, this is the period of “the great awakening” in western business: the time when the realization that marketing is the reason that business exists emerged. This period lasted from the 1940’s through the 1960’s and is typified by my favorite brand repositioning phrase: new, improved and lemon-scented.

The marketing company era emerged once the premise of the marketing concept became widely accepted. The marketing concept, in brief, contends that businesses exist to address customer needs. That is, the customer is the focus of our business endeavors. No longer was marketing compartmentalized – it became the goal of the business. All employees became part of the marketing effort, either directly or indirectly, and the customer became king. In the classical theory of marketing evolution, this is the final phase. It began in the 1960’s and is still in play.

But is it? Obviously not. In an article entitled “Marketing: Historical Perspectives”, a sixth era is identified: the relationship marketing era. The goal is to build a long-term, mutually beneficial, relationship with the customer. The focus changed to lifetime customer value and customer loyalty. Peppers and Rogers ushered in this era with their 1993 book “The One-to-One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time” (disclosure: Martha Rogers was my advertising professor). Customer relationship management (CRM) and data-mining became the buzzwords in marketing. Getting all systems in sync to capture information about each customer’s behavior is still, at best, a work in progress. The key to building relationships is trust, thus its importance as the central tenet of relationship marketing. Clearly the relationship marketing era exists and is in play today, from the 1990’s to 2010. But is it the end of the evolutionary process?

In April 2009, Forrester released “The Future of the Social Web” in which they identified the five eras of the social web. As with each previous change in marketing eras, this report serves to announce the paradigm shift from the relationship marketing era to what is identified here as the social/mobile marketing era. It subsumes the knowledge and theories of its predecessor era, as did each before, but focuses on real-time connections and social exchanges based on relationships driven by the consumers (permission-based or opt-in relationships). In this era, businesses are connected 24/7 to current, future and potential consumers in real-time. Communication and exchange of information is a critical success factor. But much like the predecessor eras, trust and maintaining a positive image are just as important.

From a marketing standpoint, two lessons are apparent. First, in the past the diffusion of innovation in marketing was unidirectional, from the academy (business schools) to business. Marketing theory drove business implementation of marketing practices. Today, this is no longer the case. Business schools lag businesses in the adoption and implementation of best practices in marketing to the point where current marketing education is out of touch with reality. A new game has developed and we’re barely aware that it exists. Thus, lesson one is to get your marketing education via sources from outside of traditional business schools. And second, as we transition from the relationship marketing era to the social/mobile marketing era, opportunities exist to grab market share, or share of voice, in the new era. Lesson two is that the time is now.


The Importance of Branding

Think of any product category (e.g., beer). Think of your favorite beer. If your favorite beer isn’t available, what are the one or two acceptable substitutes? How many acceptable substitutes can you name? Congratulations – you’ve successfully completed a branding exercise designed to illustrate the concept of evoked set (aka, consideration set): a set of acceptable brands of which the consumer is aware when seeking to satisfy a need. Such is the power of branding and the reason that branding is so important in marketing. Our goal as marketers is to position our brand, vis-a-vis the competition, in your mindscape as part of your evoked set.

The perfect analogy for branding, in my opinion, is building an in-ground swimming pool and filling it with water poured from a shot glass. First, you need to establish a strong foundation. Don’t forget to include the supporting functions required to make the foundation operative. Next, branding requires consistency of effort over a long period of time (shot after shot poured into the swimming pool). In the beginning, you may feel discouraged and may not see measurable results from your efforts. If you’re confident that the foundation is solid, keep working. As you get closer to your objective, you’ll notice and enjoy some of the benefits of your work. And after you finish your initial task (filling the pool, shot by shot), it’s easier to maintain your branding efforts (top off the pool) than it is to drain the pool and start over.

What are the critical success factors for branding? Start with a solid foundation including the establishment of ancillary support functions, build on that foundation with consistent effort over time and maintain position/pertinence in the consumers’ mind-space through intermittent reinforcement.

Since 7 June, Dr. Angela Hausman, has posted a series of blogs about branding on her site. Click here to join in the discussion.

And finally, when you think of marketing professors, please don’t forget to include me in your evoked set. My goal is to become your preference for “All Things Marketing”.


Zero to 150: Guidelines to Establishing Your Social Media Presence in 150 Days

Are you among the early majority who are just jumping into social media? I am. My journey into the social media foray began in mid-January. Here’s how to establish your social media presence and to develop the foundation for your personal brand in 150 days.

Guideline 1: Stake out your domain on as many social media sites as you can manage

Unless you’re famous, or have a common name (such as Steve White), it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to select and establish your name consistently across multiple social media (the key is consistency – using the same branding for the social media selected).

Without question, the big three are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. MediaSauce describes the three like this: LinkedIn is business formal, Facebook is business casual and Twitter is a cocktail party.

Since Twitter is a micro-blogging platform, many famous Tweeple recommend blogging as the first step. Blogging takes time and discipline, and may not be your idea of fun, but it’s worth thinking about starting a blog if you’re willing to make the commitment.

There are many more social media options available. Part of the fun is trying to figure out which one is going to emerge as the next hot social media platform. And it gives those of us in the early majority a chance to be a part of the innovative crowd (or at least an early adopters) in an emerging social media platform.

Guideline 2: Use a flattering picture in your listing, write an interesting description and let people know (in general) where you live

There are probably a lot of interesting people worth following who will not be followed because they don’t provide us with any reason to do so. Although content is king, initial decisions (follow/not follow) are made on the basis of appearance, interests and location. My rule of thumb is that if someone isn’t into social media seriously enough to upload a picture of themselves or secure enough to let people know that they live in Massachusetts, then they aren’t worth engaging online.

Include links to your personal website or blog. Provide a way for people to connect with you on other social media sites. This is the speed-dating phase of social networking, so try to provide a compelling reason for people to network with you.

Guideline 3: Use Google Search to find and identify people to follow from your city, region, state and industry

An article from Twitter Power System changed the way that I found people to follow on Twitter. It provides instructions on how to use Google to find people on Twitter.

Start with location-based searches and expand from there. A word of caution: Google monitors the number of searches that you conduct via this method and limits your access each day if they believe that you’re a searchbot and not a human.

After establishing your Twitter account and gaining a couple of followers, use a service like Mr. Tweet to identify interesting people to follow.

Most social media sites that you sign up for provide assistance in identifying and connecting you with people who you know. Typically, this is done through access to your e-mail address book (it helps if you’re using gmail or yahoo as your email service), through other social media connections (Facebook and Twitter) or through a search function.

Using Guideline 3 and 4, plus screening your own new followers, try to add 10 or so targeted new people each day to the list of people who you follow (especially on Twitter).

Guideline 4: Your friends are my friends

LinkedIn refers to this as 2nd and 3rd level connections. After you’ve identified a friend, colleague or otherwise interesting person to follow, see who they follow or befriend. Select and connect with friends of friends to build your network. This works on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo. Likewise, click on Retweets on your Twitter home page and see who the people who you’re following are retweeting. Adding friends of friends is a fast way to build your network and you already have something in common.

Guideline 5: Not everyone that you follow will follow you back (and that’s ok)

Although the goal is to build quality, mutually beneficial relationships, on Twitter not everyone that you follow will follow you back. Likewise, not everyone that you invite to connect on Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo will accept your request.

Don’t read too much into either scenario. You’ve made the attempt. Just over 45 percent of the businesses, charities, causes and people who I follow on Twitter are not following me back. Yet I selected each for a reason and I have benefited from following their postings. My goal is to learn something from each person that I’m following and to date, I haven’t been disappointed.

Guideline 6: Use the power of the Internet to monitor and diffuse interesting content

I wish that I could remember who turned me on to this, but set up Google Alerts for topics that interest you. Daily, you’ll receive an e-mail digest of 20 or so links to articles, blogs, press releases, etc. that meet your search criteria. Post the links that you deem content-worthy to your social media accounts. However, before posting, check each link to make certain that the content is share-worthy.

This provides you with a way to stay current on a topic, to establish the content as a personal area of interest or expertise and to generate content to post daily.

Guideline 7: Not all items posted are worth sharing across multiple platforms

I’ve had a Facebook site for about three years. My friends and followers did not appreciate the automatic postings from Twitter (between five and ten per day) to my Facebook wall. Likewise, I unlinked Twitter from LinkedIn after someone commented that they were tired of seeing my face on their LinkedIn page 10 or so times daily.

Selectively decide what you share across your social media platforms. Be careful how you link these platforms together – you don’t want your Facebook and Twitter accounts automatically updating your Plaxo account with the same posting/same content (duplicate postings). In my opinion, you should have unique communication strategies for each of the social media options. A family branding approach works, but the content should be tailored for the audience. An additional benefit is that your provide fresh content to people who engage with you across multiple social media platforms (friend you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter and link with you on LinkedIn).

Guideline 8: Engage daily

It is, after all, called social media! And although it can seem tedious, invest at least an hour a day (or more if you can afford the time) in your social media endeavors. In a perfect world, you’ll update your blog daily and use the other social media to drive traffic to your website. It takes a focused and committed effort, but you are investing in yourself, you’ll learn more than you can imagine and you’ll connect with people globally. Thus, in the long-run the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Guideline 9: Make it Mobile

It’s no secret that I believe that mobile phones and devices, like the iPad, are destined to replace desktop computers, laptop computers and netbooks within the foreseeable future. Make certain that you have the ability to stay connected to your social media via your cell phone. Find an application or two that allow you to update your status and share pictures, videos, podcasts and music from your phone.

Location-based marketing platforms such as Foursquare and Gowalla will increasingly be competing with mobile advertising services such as AdMob and iAd for your attention soon. Mobile applications make it possible to be connected 24/7 from all four corners of the globe. Get ahead of the learning curve and stay connected.

Guideline 10: Advertise Selectively

Ok, so some of you think that this advice is heresy. But I come from an advertising background and view this type of advertising as an investment in my personal branding efforts. Be selective in how you advertise and where you advertise. I’ve used FeaturedUsers.Com with some success. Over five months, with a total outlay of less than $140, purchasing a small banner ad through FeaturedUsers has built my Twitter following immensely.

And although the quality of the social relationship established is much more important than the quantity, services like this provide you with a way of putting your name in front of a large number of people in a short amount of time. Ultimately, it’s their decision on whether or not to follow you, but at least you will have put yourself in a position to be seen.

Guideline 11: Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

Not everyone that you follow will live up to your expectations. You’ll be amazed at how many people ambush you with a direct message on Twitter offering to sell you something within hours of connecting with you. If someone consistently sends content that is too assertive for your taste, or sends links that you suspect are not reputable or secure (link hijacking attempts), it’s ok to unfollow them. Ultimately, you’re looking to build a network of people from which you can learn, share, connect and grow. You decide with whom to establish contact, from whom you feel that you can learn something useful and with whom to spend your time.

On the other social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo, you decide whether or not to respond to a request to connect (you have a say in your followers). Thus, unfollowing or unfriending someone on these social media services sends a more severe message. Proceed with caution if you’re considering doing this on social media sites other than Twitter.

Guideline 12: Have Fun and Let Your Personality Shine Through

The final guideline is, in my opinion, the most important guideline. Social media is all about being social. Provide insight into your personality, be playful and upbeat. Use your network to share content, ideas and expertise. Remember to keep things professional and don’t say or post anything that causes damage to your personal brand or endangers your future job-seeking opportunities. A word of caution is that a large percent of interpersonal and public communication is non-verbal. Written communications can be misinterpreted and/or misunderstood. Be cognizant of this when you’re posting. But conversely, don’t be afraid of sharing your personality or sense of humor. You can’t try to be who you aren’t – be genuine, sincere and true to yourself.


There you have it, 12 guidelines for going from Zero to 150 as you build your social media networks. Invest an adequate amount of time daily, strive for consistency of effort and provide value in your postings. You’ll be surprised at how much you grow both personally and professionally!