Marketing is French, English, German or Latin? Well, Yes!

Posted by | October 18, 2015 | French Marketing

History of Marketing like the Tower of Babel

Brief (still incomplete) History of Marketing

A query in a Search engine will inform you that Marketing in France comes from the borrowed word in American English.

Ok, done. You can stop reading. But not really. The tru(er) story is a little bit more like the Tower of Babel.

Source: Wikimedia Tower of Babel by Pieter-Bruegel

Let’s start with Marketing History sources

We will differentiate somewhat between the act of Marketing and actual meaning and intent of the word itself.

In the beginning, it is believed but unproven that the Etruscan (700 BC to AD 50) and Latin Word Merx (Merk) leads to Latin Mercor ‎(“I trade, traffic, deal”) Mercātus ultimately giving us the word designating Market.

Merx to Mercor to Mercātus to Market, Markiet, Marchié, Markat

Old English (5th – 11th century), especially Old Northern French (circa 500 to 1500) use Market, Markiet, Marchié from Old French and Old High German Markat (700 to 1050 AD) and Frisian contend for the later origins of the word Market. But keep in mind that Old French (9th to 14th century) borrows from other sources such as Frankish (4th and 8th century) West Germanic language that gives loanwords to Old French.

Note: I am skipping the contrasts between langues d’oïl and langues d’oc “Occitan” (influencing English, Italian words), clustering them as the bridge language for commerce Lingua Franca. So the jury is still out on the influence each language had on the other.

Some Marketing Confusion Online

There is little evidence provided by online sources that cite “buying and selling” (1560) “produce bought at a market” (1701), and “process of moving goods from producer to consumer with emphasis on advertising and sales” in (1897). Just Google it!

But here is what I suspect. Let’s look at these dates more closely:

  • 1560 is well after innovations such as Gutenberg’s Press
  • 1701 relates to the emergence of Magazines (so I would believe this one)
  • 1897 follows the era of trademarks as branding (1880s)

Therefore, I think more or less that although Marketing occurred well before the dates cited above there is some truth to these online references. Only problem is that no one seems to provide a credible quote!

Use of Market word designations in Middle English (1066 to 15th century) and Middle French (circa 1340 to 1611) fall within the period of German communication innovation – Gutenberg’s (1450) metal movable type that right after the publishing of the Bible would soon give rise to Flyers and pamphlets.

Later, the world print would explode with content among sources like Bibliothèque bleue (between c. 1602 and c. 1830) would be the origins of “popular mass media” in France, to be followed by Magazines (1730s) and the first paid advertising in a Newspaper in France (1836), Posters (1839), the first – you guessed it! – SPAM through Telegraph (1864), and Billboard Rentals (first OOH 1867).

Fast-Forward Marketing

Marketing in the 20th Century moves fast, from the Michelin Tires printing its first Guide for French Motorists (1900-1901), and the University of Pennsylvania offering “The Marketing of Products” (1905). Market and Product Segmentation starts in 1910 followed by the creation of Associated Advertising Clubs of the World (First Meeting in Chicago 1915), Radio advertising (1922) and the emergence of Marketing Research as we can attest through AC Nielsen (1923), Gallup (1935), GfK Germany (1934), Ifop France (1938).

Marketing Era

Modern Marketing starts right after the Sales Era (1930-1950) with early pioneers formally adopting the word Marketing in their Titles like the American Marketing Association (AMA origins date back to 1915) in 1937, Chartered Institute of Marketing in UK (Originally the The Sales Managers’ Association) changing its Magazine name to “Marketing Magazine” in 1931.

All of these new professional marketers converge with pre and post-war TV Advertising (1941), brands becoming keenly aware of the power of ads will give rise to the zenith in the 1950s – The Marketing Era, with associations that group Marketers such as Adetem France (1954).

Therefore, French Marketing in France borrows the business meaning from American English – the word “Marketing” as we understand it today is adopted everywhere in the world through a long and winding road.

However, when you ask if Marketing is French, English, German, Italian, Roman, Etruscan or Latin? Well, the answer is obviously Yes!

Hope it helps!



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