In the economic upturn in post-WWII America, marketing became a subject of interest in many business schools. At the time, mass marketing was the primary strategy. Marketing was seen by most businesses as more of a means to simply support sales by managing demand, but it would soon take shape into a more recognizable form.
In the 1950s and 60s, arguably the “Golden Age” of marketing, the focus shifted away from emphasizing the features of products and services towards the showcasing their benefits. In other words, instead of selling what a product or service does, the new trend became to sell what the product or service does for the customer. During this period E. Jerome McCarthy first outlined the four P’s of marketing in his 1960 book Basic Marketing. A few years later, Harvard Professor Neil Borden coined the term “marketing mix” in his article, The Concept of the Marketing Mix.
The 1970s saw a shift to an even more customer-driven orientation. The rise in popularity of conjoint analysis as a practical market research tactic allowed firms to have a better understanding of the preferences of their customer base, and how they valued specific attributes. The first e-commerce transaction can be traced back to the early 1970s, and believe it or not, it was allegedly a drug deal. A couple of students at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory used the ARPNET, the first network to integrate the TCP/IP protocol, to arrange the sale of some marijuana.
The 1980s and 90s saw a rise in what would eventually be called customer relationship marketing which emphasized customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. The relationships between customers and brands became increasingly important to develop and nurture. In the broadest sense, marketing became more personal. With the adoption of the Internet by the masses, and the eventual flooding of content and material, this would sow the seeds of niche marketing.
Niche marketing is hyper-focused, highly-personalized marketing, which is contrasted to the half-century old mass marketing methodology. Niches are the inevitable outcome of information surplus and accessibility. The trend of a more personalized and relationship-oriented approach began a long time ago, and fits neatly into a small package – that being niche markets.
As we can see, as marketing has matured, it has become a unique discipline that has become more personalized and focused on the experiences of the customers. Tightly focused and impactful marketing is a mile deep and and an inch wide, though many companies still operate as if it were the opposite. One of the keys to a successful marketing campaign is to identify your customers, discover what they want and what moves them, and choose appropriate entry points.
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