Marketing Strategies in the Ancient World We Still Use Today

Many entrepreneurs and marketing specialists often take pride in many modern strategies that we use in today’s markets. They cite recent developments such as social media, the internet, and even celebrity culture as revolutionary moments in marketing. But whether it’s a traditional approach or marketing in the digital domain, some of these strategies were present in the ancient world.


Ancient Pompeii’s most famous fish sauce producer Umbricius Scaurus was very successful in selling his sweet and sour fish sauce because he used branding. Scaurus produced nearly 29 percent of the fish sauce containers found, which means he controlled a third of the market. His containers included labels that said, “product of Scaurus” and, “the best fish sauce.” Though his labels were not as elaborate or as visually appealing as those of many brands today, the labels in his clay containers assured the ancient consumers they were buying from the fish sauce king of Pompeii.


The ancient Egyptians used writing to advertise the sale of goods. They carved most of their ads on stone steles, but they also used papyrus to spread the word. The Egyptians were most effective in using advertising to promote their god-kings. They carved images and words in buildings and walls to promote the most recent successes of the pharaoh, whether it was military or diplomatic.

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One unique strategy came from Pharaoh Amenhotep III. He made his scribes carve his latest accomplishments on stone scarabs, which he then sent to all of Egypt. The scarab was a holy symbol for the Egyptians. So it was partly a propaganda tool, a memento of an important royal event, and a piece of advertising that promoted the pharaoh’s latest achievements.


The ancient Greeks are known to have invented several things that matter to our modern world: democracy and drama are the most famous, but people forget that it was the ancient Greeks who turned language into the art of rhetoric, which led to the art of persuasion.

And for any marketer, using words to persuade an audience is one of the essential skills. The Greeks sometimes used pathos, appealing to the emotions of their audience; other times, they used logos or logic to call to the audience’s reasonable side. They also used ethics or ethos; the ancient word covers credibility and self-knowledge, as well.

All three are employed by all marketers today. We see it everywhere, whether they’re advertising on television, pitching a product online, or delivering campaign spiels on the streets. And all three still work, whether they want their target audience to donate, buy a product, or take their side.

Marketing is Not New

Marketing has been around for a long time, and most of what we see on television, hear on the radio, and see on the internet is nothing new. The only difference is that the size and the number of advertisers have grown, to the point that everything is marketed to a target audience. But as audiences, we should know how these marketing strategies affect our decision, and also use logic and self-knowledge to decide.

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