New Lanark

a seminal time in marketing practice

One of the tenants of marketing, one that separates marketing from the production or selling concepts, is that marketing is built on profitable exchange relationships. And how:

  • profit should be considered as a profit for the customer, the organisation, the people involved and society
  • exchanges should be considered not just between the buyer and seller but be extended to include all people who produce value
  • relationships should be nurtured to be synergistic, symbiotic, sustainable, and strategic.

It would be natural to think that profitable exchange relationships is a modern idea, however, there are historical examples from the industrial revolution that demonstrate that by harnessing the resources of the organisation a competitive advantage may be achieved.

Improving efficiency by creating a better workplace environment was a topic that discussed on our drive back to Glasgow. At the time of the industrial revolution Scotland played a key role. Whilst, the quality of the workplace and the quality of worker performance is generally well understood today, this was not always the case. It is well documented that during the time of the industrial revolution working conditions were generally poor, however, there were exceptions. To gain a better insight into the relationship between conditions and profitability I decided to explore some of the early reforms in Scottish industry. One of the better known examples of early worker welfare was at the village of New Lanark just outside Glasgow.  Here in 1785 in a picturesque location, at the base of a series of waterfalls, on the banks of the Clyde River, with a reliable water flow a weaving mill was established.

At the time selecting the right location for a mill was critical as this was before the steam engine and a time when industry was powered by water or wind. The mill was first established by David Dale who had enlightened views for the time, later his son-in-law Robert Owen took over the management of the mill and expanded on the idea of a society without crime, poverty, or misery. Owen’s model, put forward the ideal that for an organisation to prosper it did not have to inflict miserable working conditions and hardships on their workers. The mill and village prospered and soon became one of the largest industrial developments of that era. Robert Owens innovative model – investing profits to provide workers with acceptable housing, humane treatment, free access to education and health services, providing a worker’s cooperative shop, and a good social and garden environment, was viewed by some as radical , however, others more benevolent and profit savvy employers adopted the model. In many respects Owen’s ideals were the first step in what are accepted workplace practices today.

In the late 18th and in the early 19th centuries David Dale and Robert Owen crafted a competitive advantage through innovative management practices. They built a village and factories that played a major role in changing entrenched attitudes; their example helped shape modern society; this is one of the major stepping stones in the history of post-industrial revolution marketing – it began a process which we outline in the e-book as profitable4 exchange relationships4. Fortunately, this historic exemplar of marketing, now over 200 years old, is preserved for visitors to explore and appreciate. Today this area the buildings, the woodlands, and the ideals it represents are protected; it has UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

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