IMG_0463We found ourselves in Central Park this last weekend, after getting up early for a typical Saturday stroll. After a cookie the size of my face from Le Pain Quotidien, we decided to walk up Museum Mile and visit the Museum of City of New York.

This museum is one of the best in New York and on my recommendation list to anyone visiting the city.

One of the exhibitions that stood out to me was the recently opened Posters and Patriotism. As a marketer, I’ve been interested in the history of the business function. The marketing orientation or the marketing concept did not emerge until the 1950s, post World War Two. Walking through this particular exhibition, it became clear that what we now know as marketing, has actually played a vital role in how we communicate long before it became a recognized business practice.

Many marketing studies have found evidence of advertising, branding, packaging, and labelling tactics as early as the antiquity.

During the Middle Ages, market towns sprang up across Europe. Some historians have theorized that the term, ‘marketing,’ may actually have first been used in the context of market towns, to denote the process of buying and selling.

Marketing first appeared in dictionaries as early as the sixteenth century, where according to etymologists, the term referred to the process of buying and selling at a market. The more contemporary definition of ‘marketing’ as a process of moving goods from producer to consumer first appeared in 1897. It was this definition that was the first to emphasize sales and advertising.

WW1 Propaganda PosterThe Posters and Patriotism exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York focuses on the use of propaganda to essential “sell” the Great War (First World War) to the American people.

The Second World War is a case in point of the power of marketing. Hitler, a famed orator and propagandist, used marketing tactics to take his party from a small faction in 1919, to power in 1933. Using these tactics in the following years, he also swayed many to his extremist views.

Likewise, the US used propaganda to promote its own war effort; raising money for its troops, and encouraging those at home to do their duty and support those fighting abroad.

Propaganda is an interesting case, as it has both negative and positive connotations. If you think of modern marketing, branding is much the same. It can ignite negative, or preferably positive reactions in a target consumer.

The first reference to ‘modern marketing’ came in 1957 when Hollander and others debated the emergence of the marketing as a business function. From then on Marketing was defined as a planned, programmed professional practice that incorporated activities such as segmentation, product differentiation, positioning and marketing communications. ‘Marketing’ was no longer seen as a simple form of distribution and exchange.

Throughout history, be it a political movement or a theatre production, people have used marketing tools to communicate a message.

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