5 Things History Taught Me about Marketing

history-bookOne question I get asked fairly often is, "Why did you pick history in college?" The honest answer is that I picked something I had a passion for and enjoyed doing. Looking back however, being a history in major taught me a number of important skills that today I use as a marketer.

Among the most important of these skills are: 1) ability to write 2) ability to read lots of material quickly 3) ability to research topics effectively 4) ability to analyse data from a variety of sources 5) ability to make, defend, and revise theories.


For those that aren't aware, when I switched from Penn State and resumed my degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, I decided to also change my degree from Media Studies to History. At UNC Wilmington, I found a variety of great professors that helped to foster my existing passion for history.

What they probably didn't realize is that almost everything they taught me I was able to use in my current career as a business owner and as a marketer.


As a history major, writing was one of the core ways we expressed ourselves. Today, as a marketer, it is no different. This is especially true when I work with Media Relations or Social Media. Writing quickly and coherently is simply one of the most important skills that anyone in business can develop.


Again, as a history major in college, it was not unusual to be assigned a ton of pages to read. It was essential that we read quickly, but also read well enough to comprehend the information. Today, I have the choice to read or not read, but with the Internet moving at the speed that it does, it is essential to be able to read multiple different sources on a regular basis.

Even more important than the volume of reading, history taught me how to read critically and how to read sources with different opinions or perspectives. It also trained me on how to take those different (and often contradictory) sources and synthesize an opinion on what the "truth" might be.


While much of the research process does involve reading, the research process that I learned in college also involved finding ways to gather data and find answers to questions.

Data Analysis:

Just finding the data isn't enough - you need to know what it says, and how to use it. This is just as important while looking at census records as it is web analytics.

Creating, Defending, and Revising Theories:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly is the ability to form, defend, and revise theories based on new data and changes in environment. This is an essential skill today that unfortunately I find many people do not possess.

As a history major, we were constantly assigned the task of evaluating the factors that led to a historical event and then presenting the theories to the rest of the class. This isn't that different than looking at sales data or customer response patterns and creating a theory about what led to the decrease in sales and how to address it.

How are you to be an effective marketer if you aren't able to have a credible theory as to why things happen and what to do about it? More importantly is the ability to discuss those ideas with peers, clients, and customers that might challenge your ideas.

I am not always correct in everything that I do - no one is!

However, I try to make sure that I make the best possible judgements for my clients and invite alternative ideas so that I can make my theories even better.







Contact James Hills

email: james@aboutjameshills.com

phone: 630-779-9302