History of Product Marketing and Top Product Marketers

History of Product Marketing and Top Product Marketers

Michael Schipper, who worked as a product marketing manager at Google for almost 20 years, said that a product is like a building under construction. As a B2B product marketer, you’ll be coming back to the product, understanding how new features have changed it, and then positioning your product in the market depending on it. 

Being a continuous and developing process makes product marketing different from other forms of marketing. It’s not a construct of the 21st century and is not a new concept. It has been a part of marketing centuries ago, although it didn’t differentiate itself from marketing. Here, we’ll see:

What is Product Marketing?

Product marketing involves introducing a product to the market, promoting it, and generating demand by creating content on various marketing channels. By creating content relevant to the product and the marketplace, your target audience viewing those contents can turn into leads, and then into customers. The ultimate aim of product marketing is to generate sales and bring revenue to the company.

A product marketer is someone who does product marketing. A B2B product marketer will clearly understand the product and how it would solve customers’ pain points. This knowledge helps them to better position their product in the market and produce content relevant to prospects, depending on their customer lifecycle journey.

To become a great product marketer, you should know the market and your target audience thoroughly, and have a passion to solve their problems.

History of Product Marketing

The word ‘marketing’ has been in use since the Middle Ages and it meant selling things in the market. The word got its meaning following the spread of smaller and bigger market towns in Europe, which were held once or twice weekly. They later gave way to permanent shops, and the meaning associated with the word ‘marketing’ changed.

Early Marketing Practices

For marketing practices, China started — branding, packaging, and advertising — from as early as 200 BCE. The Chinese resorted to them mainly due to hidden social demands in consumer culture and to provide social status. In contrast, the West focused on branding to stand out from their competitors, gain market share, and boost profits.

The earlier forms of market research came during the first half of the 18th century in England. Daniel Defoe, a publisher and an entrepreneur from London, wrote books on trade which were popular among British Industrial houses, as they used them to make business decisions. His titles include Trade of Britain Stated (1707), Trade of Scotland with France (1713), and more. At that time, they were known as commercial research or commercial intelligence.

Apart from showing ancient forms of market research, 18th-century advertising methods differed from before in their complexity and implementation. Mass marketing at the core of advertising led to the invention of some modern marketing techniques like sales promotion, product differentiation, and fancy showrooms, among others.

Some evidence suggests that market segmentation examples were present before the turn of the 20th century, as retail shopkeepers treated people depending on their wealth. They made innovations to keep lower-class people outside the shop and welcomed wealthier people to the store’s back-room or their houses.

Marketing since the 19th Century

The industrial revolution led to the growth of transport and mass media, which brought plenty of changes to trade and marketing. Increased market size made manufacturers produce goods that appeal to different market segments, paving the way for modern market segmentation and product differentiation practices.

As the economy grew, demand for skilled professionals to handle multiple operations in business — including marketing — also increased, and universities taught marketing as a discipline. In 1902, the University of Michigan offered the first marketing course ever. 

From the 1920s to the 1950s, advertising platforms showed a drastic change. Cinema, radio, and television advertising started during this time and soon began the systematization of telemarketing. In 1960, Jerome McCarthy, a pivotal figure in marketing thinking, published the classic text Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, which top universities included in their marketing courses. 

The whole of marketing transformed since computers developed in the 1940s. In the second half of the 20th century, e-commerce, database marketing, and relationship marketing emerged, and we had modern search engines like Google available by 1998. From 2003 to 2006, social media sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter appeared, which led to the rise of social media marketing.

Top Product Marketers in the Last Three Centuries

1. Josiah Wedgwood

Product marketed: Pottery

Josiah Wedgwood was an 18th-century English potter known as the father of modern marketing. The sales and marketing techniques he implemented to sell his wares were revolutionary and ahead of his time. One of Wedgwood’s marketing techniques was to give his pottery as freebies to the Royal Houses of Europe so that people from the noble and middle classes would see his work. 

Josiah Wedgwood
Josiah Wedgwood(1730-1795)

Wedgwood was sure that once the nobility used his products, the masses would follow suit. In his quest to pursue the upper class, he finally got the title of ‘Her Majesty’s Potter’ from the Queen herself. His “Queen’s Ware” was not only famous in England; he shipped them to Russia, Germany, Ireland, and Holland, among other countries.

Wedgwood Jasperware Vase
Wedgwood Jasperware Vase

By making some of his products hidden and permitting only a few “selected” people to see them, Josiah created an air of exclusivity. He was one of the first to build a luxury brand and implement free returns on broken items. Also, offering free returns from unsatisfied customers, he was well aware of the importance of trust for any business to survive.

2.Matthew Boulton

Product marketed: Steam engine

Another prominent 18th-century English manufacturer, Matthew Boulton, played a central role in the industrial revolution along with James Watt. As business partners, James Watt and he installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines, and he owned two-thirds of the total shares of Watt’s patent to the steam engine.

Matthew Boulton
Matthew Boulton(1728-1809)

Boulton’s B2B marketing tactics were crucial in the success of steam engines; he developed media stunts and case studies that helped for faster its adoption. He compared steam engines to its competitor, Newcomen engines, and showed how efficient their products are in coal consumption and deeper mining. Product marketing was done extremely well in the case of steam engines since mine owners put off purchasing Newcomen engines, and hoped for the release of Boulton & Watt engines to the market.

Boulton & Watt
A Boulton & Wattt blowing engine re-erected on the Dartmouth Circus roundabout, inn Birmingham, UK

Boulton was the crucial figure in making the engine commercially viable. He lobbied Parliament to pass an act to extend Watt’s patent until 1800 and began improving the engine. Instead of producing the engines themselves most of the time, Boulton and Watt assigned a purchaser to buy parts from different vendors and assembled them under the supervision of a Soho Manufactory engineer. Boulton also foresaw opportunities shrinking in the pumping engine market and recommended changes to the engine. He was the mastermind in modifying the engine to have a rotary motion so that it could be used in mills and factories, and he could successfully expand the engine’s application. Undoubtedly, Boulton was a true pioneer in B2B product marketing and an example to look up to for all the product marketers out there.

3.David Ogilvy

Product marketed: Hathaway Shirts, Rolls Royce, and Schweppes.

A great marketing professional of the 19th century, David Ogilvy, is known as the “Father of Advertising” for his contributions to the idea of branding and soft selling. He was the founder of Ogilvy & Mather (advertising agency), and did ads for companies like Hathaway Shirts, Rolls Royce, and Schweppes.

David mackenzie ogilvy
David Mackenzie Ogilvy(1911-1999)

Ogilvy’s customer-centric approach to advertising is still relevant, and through his ads, he taught how to market products effectively by getting into the audience’s mind. He regarded market research and understanding the audience as central concepts to the success of any marketing practice. As a copywriter himself, he promoted the idea of thinking like the prospects and writing in the language they use daily to make the ads easier to connect with them.

Rolls Royce Ad featuring one of Ogilvy"s greatest headlines
Rolls Royce ad featuring one of Ogilvy's greatest headlines

He advocated for writers to convey the product’s unique selling proposition to stand out from the competition and sell more. In his Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963), he said, “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it,” showing how important brand positioning and providing value to the audience are.

5.Steve Jobs

Product marketed: iPod, MAC books

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod in 2001, he didn’t start like, “Here’s the iPod. A music player with 5 gigs of storage and 32 MB of RAM.” Instead, he said, “The iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket.” Undoubtedly, it will last forever to show B2B marketers how to sell the benefits before selling the product. Steve Jobs shows us that people engage with marketing materials to know what’s in it for them; if the marketer can’t convey that, there’s no business.

Steve jobs(1955-2011)
Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

As the co-founder, chairperson, and CEO of Apple, Jobs was one of the few who had an enormous impact on the world. His marketing genius is visible in his Think Different advertising campaign and the iPhone release in 2007. With the photos of revolutionary people and events, Jobs himself narrated the ad, and the Think Different campaign connected with people on an emotional level.

Steve jobs
Steve Jobs holding Macbook Air

Similarly, the iPhone release in 2007 accompanied marketing tactics to create hype, and they ultimately delivered by letting people — who had been only calling, texting, and taking photos on their phone — listen to music and watch videos on iPhone. Steve Jobs certainly is one of the great marketers the world has ever seen, and he understood ads like no other person.

If you look at the trend, you can see the interest in product marketing has almost quadrupled over the last three years. The need for product marketing is inevitable in an economy where multiple products are available for customers to solve a problem, and companies are competing for market share and profits. 

Product Marketing Graph

Nowadays, a product launched with little to no marketing won’t probably reach the target audience and is doomed to fail. Even if you have a fresh product, you’ll soon see competitors with the same messaging, and you’ll need a proper product marketing strategy to differentiate your product and educate your audience on the same.

To better understand the importance of product marketing, let’s look at a Super Bowl commercial that set the stage for Apple to become a gigantic computer manufacturer, leading to the transformation of computing.

Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl Ad

In 1984, Apple introduced its first Macintosh and ran a Super Bowl commercial, a perfect example of well-done product marketing. The commercial hinted at revolutionizing technology to bring freedom instead of letting it control people, and it established Apple as a global futuristic technological company. Within 100 days since Apple released the ad, they sold 72,000 Macs.

The ad had everything: it focused on the values of the target audience, spoke in their language, made fans, and ultimately differed from any product marketing tactics the world had seen yet. And the result of this disruptive ad is clear as Apple became one of the best computer sellers of its time and continues to do so even now. 

The ad is a textbook for B2B marketers on identifying your customers, differentiating your product from your competitors, product segmentation and positioning, and most importantly, the significance of product marketing.

Product Marketing - An Old but Evolving Concept

Since we’ve traced the history of marketing and top product marketers of the last three centuries, it’s clear that product marketing is not new but an old, continuously growing concept. Although how we do B2B marketing may change in the years to come, the core of it will remain the same: empathizing with your customer’s pain points in a problem life-cycle, and convincing them how your product can help solve the pain.

At Innoventsoft, we provide a scientific approach to help B2B startups do product marketing through organic content with our AI-based platform. It will take care of understanding your audience, making a content strategy, optimizing the content, and providing you with key metrics to track your content performance. Besides helping you focus only on releasing the content, you can see the results they would bring as traffic and leads.

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