In the early era of mass production, marketing focused principally on the production of goods that satisfied the wants of the consumer. At this time, marketers usually looked solely at the discipline of economics to find guidance for their strategies. The proposition of Adam Smith that "consumption is the sole end and purpose of production" influenced marketers to view products as convenience goods, emergency goods, and shopping lines, with more emphasis on categorized production than on consumer orientation.
It was in the 1950s that marketing ultimately earned the honor of being designated as a managerial function. With an increase in the number of producers of similar goods in the market, it was quickly recognized that information drawn from other disciplines besides economics—like management—was needed to conceive successful marketing strategies. The term "marketing mix," with its four Ps (product, price, place, and promotion), coined by Neil Borden gained influence with the rise of the managerial school of thought, and it continues to dominate the core of marketing strategy.
The 1960s saw the managerial school of thought shift toward the importance of market segmentation. Theodore Levitt, in "Marketing Myopia," stressed the need for marketing to shift from product orientation to consumer orientation. Other theorists focusing on market segmentation took marketing theory forward, focusing on the fact that different market segments differed in their consumer needs. In the 60s, theorists decided that marketing needed to recognize and orient toward market segments rather than myopically targeting a non-existent homogenous market.
The recognition of a non-uniform market and the need to segment it led marketers to seriously consider consumer psychology. From this time, the discipline of psychology started to influence marketing strategies more heavily than other social sciences. Consumers' purchasing behavior was heavily analyzed, and the findings were then applied to marketing.
In the 1970s, Kotler stressed the importance of values in the marketing process. Kotler saw marketing as a process through which individuals and groups obtained what they needed by creating and exchanging products for others. Kotler recognized that the "exchange process" of marketing involved a lot of work. Marketing required sellers to look for and find buyers, pinpoint their needs, design products that could satisfactorily meet those needs, set acceptable prices for products, and promote and position products in the market. Thus, in the "social exchange" school of thought, research, product development, pricing, distribution, communication, and service became the central marketing activities.
Ultimately, the marketing world came to terms with the fact that return on investment depends upon brand equity, and brand equity depends upon brand loyalty. Over the last two decades, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the advent of globalization coupled with leaps in communications technology, marketers have come to realize that it is better to first find out what the customer wants and then offer a suitable product rather than make a product first and then try to find a customer.