An enlightening and entertaining appreciation of the man-made forces that transformed the US into a mass-market consumer society. In organizing his subject, Tedlow (associate professor at Harvard Business School) discerns three phases in the development of corporate marketing in America. The first was marked by homemade wares and bulk commodities (like crackers or flour from a barrel) sold at relatively high prices in response to local demand. But in the second stage--during the pre-WW I era--manufacturers able to realize economies of scale began to sell branded merchandise from coast to coast and from border to border. The third stage, the author argues, represents a reaction to the second as enterprising vendors began to segment markets long dominated by single products (e.g., Coke and the Model T) with sales pitches keyed to the age, education, income, life styles, or other attributes of potential customers. Tedlow notes, however, that while venturesome entrepreneurs and great companies with household names may propose, consumers dispose. As he makes clear in a series of case studies, substantive risks (that do not always pay off) are involved in the scramble for commercial rewards. For object lessons, the author draws on such storied rivalries as the one pitting Coca-Cola against PepsiCo. Covered in detail as well are the Ford/GM and Sears/Montgomery Ward face-offs, plus the self-inflicted defeat of A&P in the retail grocery trade. Throughout, the author displays a keen eye for daring strategies, offbeat distribution channels, audacious (or even absurd) advertising/promotion campaigns, and other bits of business that bring competitive marketing to vivid life. A literate, frequently witty overview that offers a vastly superior alternative to Susan Strasser's Satisfaction Guaranteed (1989). Included is an abundance of evocative illustrations--vintage ads, labels, trademarks, product shots, photos of pre-mall stores, and the like.