According to this list of trades typically found in a medieval city, 14th century businesses had to muddle along without marketing consultants, social strategists, account people or creative guys. Makes you wonder how the hell anything ever got sold. On the other hand cursory analysis offers clues to the antecedents of modern day mavens, gurus and the denizens of adland.
A limner for instance was someone who illuminated manuscripts and is of course the natural forbear of those agonizingly pedantic fiddlers we call art directors (although there’s no evidence that limners were particularly avid purchasers of the more fashionable lines on offer at the spectaclesmaker). Whereas copyists, who copied books and documents and were often illiterate… well, they usually worked with limners.
A scullion, the lowliest servant in a household could be flogged, worked until they dropped, spat, shat and sat upon; in fact the poor scullion was available to be wickedly abused by just about anyone and so was the obvious model for the account executive. Today’s scullions work for latter day chamberlains, who waited on lords in the bedchamber. The chamberlain’s contemporary manifestation, the VP account director rarely gets close to the bedchamber (although may on occasion be called upon to deal with a client’s crap) and the serious fawning is now conducted in expensive restaurants or at major sporting events.
Medieval metrics were certainly no match for contemporary models of predictive perfection, but the pissprophet, who diagnosed disease from the sight, smell, and taste of a patient’s urine, surely demonstrated a level of commitment you would be hard pressed to find within the ranks of today’s planners and strategists.
Ragpickers rummaged through old rags looking for recyclables and are easily identifiable as the forerunner of the content curator. But even the lowly ragpicker was a rung up the social ladder from the dung carter who bears undeniable comparison with the content strategist.
Clouters fixed things. They were sometimes referred to as tinkerers, which as everybody knows is the primary preoccupation of the clouter’s modern equivalent, the brand manager.
Absent from this particular list are the simoner who sold nice little ecclesiastical earners, a bit like a modern day head-hunter and the universally despised pardoner who sold guaranteed results in the hereafter, which was the equivalent in the Middle Ages of ROI.
Oddly enough, there seems to have been no direct equivalent to the branding consultant. Then again, someone had to have been responsible for spreading the plague.