Marketing’s Evolution Keeps Making It More Personal

Marketing has come a long way from the days of billboards and radio ads, and now we're quickly moving toward a new era for email marketers and others alike

The evolution of marketing over the past 50 years brought it from being sales led to being tech led today, and technology will continue to drive this science as it catches up with customers’ interests. People are buying differently, they are smarter and more demanding with what they’re looking for.

When I graduated from business school in France, I thought marketing was just a bunch of creative people trying to create nice collateral for customers because I hadn’t been a part of that world. Obviously, this was a limited view of what marketing is, but I quickly learned what I’d been missing. In today’s world, we’re working with machine-learning technology and identifying how companies can create dynamic websites that display custom content.

Social Business Strategist Bryan Kramer wrote recently that “communication shouldn’t be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, with the humility and understanding that we’re all multi-dimensional humans, every one of which has spent time in both the dark and delightful parts of life.” That sentiment seems to have driven a good deal of the past 60 years of evolution in the marketing industry, and pushed us from one transition to the next. Here’s a look at where marketing came from, along with where it might be headed:

Production is the driver: Buy it, that’s all we got.

1960: The Tupperware sales business is a genius way to communicate to small groups of their friends and families and encourage them to try new products.

1970: One to many: Consumer brands have brick-and-mortar stores people can see miles away. They look like giant billboards (Walmart, McDonald’s), and people are willing to not have exactly what they want as long as they’re solving their general problem. They’re looking to avoid going to too many stores, and this inspires the rise of the grocery store. Everybody has the same message and same products. It becomes much easier to do the weekly grocery shopping.

Sales is the driver: Salespeople master pitches.

1980: Better segmentation, with marketers creating a specific message to different types of customers. As a result, they can talk directly to sports lovers, business people, and stay-at-home moms in different ways. Specialty stores start to develop their stores to engage with their customers and provide a better experience.

1990: Direct mail and catalogs are sent with better personalization to each recipient. This improved personalization increases customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing. Because of this, companies are able to increase their overall reach.

1990s: We create the first websites; it’s the beginning of the Web 1.0. Brands start to use the internet as a way to transfer their static brick-and-mortar marketing to their websites. It becomes extremely easy to create companies with very limited capital. They start to collect email addresses to identify the interest of consumers and understand what they usually like to buy. Marketing is mostly used by sales teams to connect with their target groups.

Customers are the evolution drivers: They decide to buy from companies.

2000s: Social media marketing and targeting. Social networks have created new needs for consumers. They want brands to communicate their values and pay attention individually and collectively. They do 60% of research on the brand online and read reviews of the products they buy. Because of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest, we’ve taken the Tupperware model to the next level. Instead of small groups sitting around someone’s living room, people can gather virtually all over the world.

2015: Big Data Marketing

2017: Connected marketing and Internet of Things. Companies can track and identify the buying journey based on a series of patterns they measure with scoring mechanisms. Retargeting and paid advertisements ensure marketers present ads to the right audience at the right time.

2020: Machine learning and hyper-targeted marketing. Companies are far from the 1990s marketing strategies and now their evolution occurs in a dense market of competitors that are mostly specialized in one single niche segment of consumers. This niche grows faster, as there is more market penetration thanks to the internet, which connects people from small villages in South America to large cities in the United States. In 2020, there will be a total of 7.6 billion internet users in the world — more than the estimated 7.3 billion people in the world. That’s because people owned an average of 3.6 connected devices in 2015, and that number promises to keep growing. (Source: The State of Broadband)

We can learn a lot about where Marketing, Martech, and email marketing came from and where they’re going as the evolution continues by tracing the past. We can see the technology continuing to advance, and businesses finding new ways to connect with their customers. It all adds up to consistent change and one amazingly connected world.