Marketing 4.0: evolution in the digital age

Marketing has had and will always have a key role in our daily lives; what is changing instead is us, i.e., the consumers. Analyzing today’s market, needs, desires, and habits have changed considerably.

This is reflected in a new declination of consumerism due to the rapid changes that have occurred not only in technological development and the birth of new tools but, above all, in their adoption in normal daily life. So what is Marketing today?

In order to better understand its changes and developments, it is helpful to dwell on those that have evolved up to today and what can be defined, thanks to the digital revolution, as Marketing 4.0, a new marketing concept introduced by Philip Kotler, the father of modern marketing. So let’s find out what Marketing 4.0 is and its correlation with digital marketing. 

digital marketing evolution

Marketing 4.0: definition

The idea of Marketing 4.0 was first proposed by Philip Kotler, an international marketing specialist and professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

It can be said that Marketing 4.0 marks the entrance of companies into the digital age and that marketing activities are geared towards a complete combination of online and offline interaction, focusing on the creation of relevant content for customers.

Philip Kotler, therefore, lays the foundation for understanding this new approach, which he sees as a development of Marketing 3.0, which has evolved more into the digital age. 

Today, Marketing 4.0 constitutes a large part of our daily lives. Artificial intelligence, predictive algorithms, and machine learning have developed considerably in recent years, making it increasingly easy to predict consumers’ expectations, purchasing behavior and psychological barriers. In this way, Marketing 4.0 is an effective resource for selling products very close to consumers’ wants. 

The name Marketing 4.0, therefore, indicates a new way of relating on the part of companies, which sees brands “humanizing” themselves to establish an emotional connection with the customer, but above all, to communicate at 360 degrees through a multi-channel approach.

Therefore, the new challenge for companies is correctly conveying brand values and establishing a bond, a relationship, involving the consumer. At this stage, marketing is aimed at good branding and providing valuable content for customers.

In fact, compared to the traditional consumer, today’s customers are more aware and demanding; having more information at their fingertips, they are much more informed and consequently less inclined to choose a service or product blindly.

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Marketing 4.0 and Digital Marketing

Consumers’ purchasing behavior has changed over time: they have moved from buying products and services offline to buying them online. All this is a consequence of digital marketing, which many companies now use to reach their customers. In fact, more and more companies are deciding to invest in digital marketing to promote themselves and their services. It can therefore be said that digital marketing is the engine of Marketing 4.0.

Digital marketing has taken the stage, becoming no longer a supporting element for tools and strategies but a core strategy, enabling companies to reach customers worldwide and, consequently, increase sales globally.

Compared to Marketing 3.0, digital marketing has enabled companies to deliver content easier and faster. Marketing 4.0 can therefore be defined as an upgrade of 3.0 in the digital age, but we must be careful not to consider digital marketing as an option but rather as an essential choice.

online marketing technology


Marketing evolutions

As mentioned earlier, over the last few decades, marketing has been strongly influenced by technology, especially in the sphere of social relations.

Indeed, thanks to increasingly advanced technologies, it has become increasingly in line with the desires of potential customers through techniques capable of anticipating the possible needs of the consumer, creating “ad hoc” proposals and offers for the individual consumer. With time, however, more was needed to guarantee customer satisfaction.

So how did we arrive at Marketing 4.0? What were the steps that led us to what is now considered the marketing of the digital age? Starting from a product-focused approach, we have come to a more “humanized” marketing. To better understand this evolution, it is useful to dwell on the steps that led us to the marketing of “connected relationships”.

Marketing 1.0

Most companies aim to sell products and services; therefore, one can speak of a “Product Centric Approach”. It follows that marketing activities formulated based on these needs are totally designed on the basis of what the companies want, with an eye on the consumer.

Therefore, The mission is to achieve customer satisfaction to win over the competition and generate ever greater profits. This approach has its roots in the 1960s marketing developed in the United States and is generally referred to as Marketing 1.0. Historically, the media of reference for Marketing 1.0 have been radio, printed media, and television.

These mediums, however, are now in decline compared to the exponential growth of cyberspace, but they are not destined to disappear.

Marketing 2.0

Marketing 2.0 was born in the early 2000s with Web 2.0, thanks to which anyone could express their opinion on a product or a service. Initially, through forums and blogs, then through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, the consumer’s voice began to be heard, disrupting the canons of the past.

This approach designs marketing activities prioritizing the consumer’s needs, creating a direct dialogue between the customer and the company. Marketing 2.0 is, therefore, customer-centric, which is why it has been referred to as the “customer-centric era”.

Through this approach, companies first learned about customers’ wishes and created products based on this. In addition, marketing 2.0 also encompasses activities beyond the mere use of the web; in particular, we find greater customization of the offer, with customers looking for products and services that are similar to them and the realization of which they can make a contribution.

For example, some car manufacturers have broken the mold by allowing customers to customize their cars according to their needs, as in the case of the Fiat 500, relaunched in 2007. It is clear that these approaches in no way replace those of marketing 1.0 but complement them for a more interactive customer relationship.

Marketing 3.0

Marketing 3.0 corresponds to the third phase of the globalization era; marketing activities see companies focused on concrete and real values that can lead to the maximum well-being of consumers and companies themselves.

Thus, marketing 3.0 is focused on society as a whole, which is why it has been referred to as “human-centric marketing”. In this phase, companies have taken care of both the product and the customers, and marketing activities have been designed not only from a functional but also from an emotional and spiritual point of view.progress of marketing


In conclusion, the evolution of technology and the new possibilities related to it have led us, on the one hand, to a greater humanization of the brand and a development of the dialogue between company and consumer that is more and more personalized.

On the other hand, however, digital exposes us more, as everything is in the public domain, subject to scrutiny and judgment. All this implies greater awareness on the part of companies in outlining their image, as well as their content, which must be of value, and original to convey reliability, authenticity, and professionalism.

To face the new challenges of the digital age, and thus of Marketing 4.0, in the right way, companies will have to consider marketing planning that integrates offline and online, with an ear to the needs of the consumer, with whom they seek to create empathy. Marketing 4.0 is therefore delineated as relational marketing, reflective marketing, and a value-creating tool.

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