This year the Queen celebrates a record breaking 70 years on the throne marking an important moment in British history. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth II has lived through a substantial amount of change – especially when it comes to marketing.
So, what better time than the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee to explore the major marketing milestones of the past 70 years, as well as a few predictions for what’s to come…
Often seen as the start of the golden age of marketing, the 1950’s improved the way marketers could communicate with the masses. It goes without saying that radio, newspapers and magazines were still extremely important channels for marketers during this decade – in fact, newspaper readership had never been higher. But substantial improvements to the CRT TV and the introduction of the transistor radio were groundbreaking and allowed marketers to level up. Marketers would now have access to audiences across multiple channels and platforms in a way they never had before.
Marketing theory also evolved alongside these technological advancements. It wasn’t long before the marketer’s trusted ally, the unique selling point (USP), coined by Rosser Reeves, also took form. Brands would now find unique and snappy phrases to cement their identity and product in the consumer’s mind.
The Swinging Sixties marked another explosive decade for technological advancements that would have great impact on the marketing industry – so much so, an entire hit series, Mad Men, is about just that.
Print, TV and radio remained strong in this decade, but there was also a new kid on the block – direct mail. Initially this began on a macro scale, with campaigns sent to the masses in the hope of broad appeal.
The introduction of personal email in 1965 paved the way for a new type of marketing, since more demographic information could now be used to target smaller groups. Of course, this wouldn’t take off in full force until the widespread use of the internet, which despite being created in 1969 didn’t become an integral part of everyday life until much later…
It’s no surprise this decade was referred to as the Me decade, since it represented a clear move towards individualism.
In the 70s, more people than ever had TVs in their homes and as a result, became a big part of our culture. It wasn’t long before TV advertising was brought to life with colour in 1972.
The addition of multiple channels gave consumers more choice over what they wanted to watch – which in turn meant brands had to think about why consumers would choose to watch their advert. Product based marketing gave way to ‘comparison ads’, and advertisers started to recognise the impact that emotionally charged messaging could have on consumers.
During the 70’s the web was also becoming more prominent – especially for agencies, who would conduct better market research and as a result, run segmented campaigns. This could well have marked the start of the customer-centric marketing we know today.
Often evoking huge amounts of nostalgia and pride, as well as being labelled by some as the Greed decade, the 80s is when computer technology for personal use really took off.
The first versions of the personal laptop that today we can’t live without were created mid-decade by tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft. This led to desktop publishing becoming commonplace, providing even smaller companies with the chance to produce professional looking campaigns. Telemarketing also started taking shape in the 80’s, with expenditure overtaking direct mail.
In 1989, the web became world wide – although not widespread until 1993 – and improvements in databases allowed marketers to continue to level up their segmentation efforts for better results.
During the 90s, the internet was becoming more accessible thanks to Netscape and Internet Explorer, eCommerce sites such as Amazon and eBay were born, and the number of users globally was increasing exponentially.
Email would now become the new outbound marketing channel and email addresses would be collected in strategic online efforts. Towards the end of the decade in 1998, Google was founded, which soon released many marketing tools to open up digital marketing to the masses.
The turn of the millennium signalled a new era in marketing – think the launch of Google ads and 2005 Google analytics and of course, social media. Marketing was becoming more accessible to more people. On top of this, Google’s pay as you go or low barrier approach coupled with some well placed incentive schemes persuaded businesses of all sizes to dip their toe in the digital water.
The birth of the Advertising Exchange and RTB at the start of the century levelled the playing field, allowing smaller brands – that previously couldn’t have afforded to put their name on big publications – to buy space and use it in a way that suits their marketing goals and audience though strict targeting.
The naughties saw the creation of social media platforms such as LinkedIn in 2002, Facebook in 2004 and YouTube in 2005. This, coupled with the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, meant that marketing was well on its way to what we know today. Certain channels gained large numbers of subscribers and were offered sponsorships to become brand influencers.
2010 and beyond
Thus began the rise of influencer marketing – what started in the previous decade took off like wildfire in the 2010s, and the launch of Instagram in 2010 and TikTok in 2016 only added fuel to the flame.
While the concept of influencer marketing has technically been around for longer, the launch and rise of social media channels made it possible for anyone to become an influencer. All you needed was access to the internet, an email address and a niche community following.
Instagram was a huge catalyst to the social media influencer marketing era where celebrities and – now due to the celebrity lifestyle being less relatable – ‘micro influencers’, are paid to promote products and services to their loyal follower bases.
The last decade up to the present has focused on social realism and self aware advertising. Evolving alongside the socio-economic landscape, the traditional ‘oxo family’ has been replaced by advertisers reflecting who their consumers really are. Social influencers have played a significant role in creating more relatability to brands compared to the exclusive use of hand-selected actors of the past.
In an overall tone change, often the most popular and successful campaigns are those that are more self-aware. A good example of this is Oatly who communicates its values using a unique tone of voice which is instantly recognisable, humorous and self aware.
So what’s next?
Just looking at how much has changed over the past 70 years makes the possibilities of the coming 70 seem limitless.
The move away from cookies signals the next big shift in marketing. Contextual and semantic targeting will likely reign supreme, and we will lose access to the precise attribution measurement we’ve become so accustomed to. Will this kick the door open when it comes to less traditionally attributable formats like audio and connected TV? It remains to be seen, but a boom in innovation where common sense and memorability carry more weight than conversion rates seems plausible.
Fast forward a few decades to the metaverse, will it live up to Mark Zuckerburg’s vision? Who knows, but if one thing’s for sure, it will likely transform marketing as we know it today, potentially making life easier in every scenario – except for when you lose your phone.
Sci-fi is sounding more like sci-reality. Love him or hate him, Elon Musk has some pretty radical plans for the future. Could this lead to advertising directly to our brains? Or maybe digital out-of-home on another planet?
On that note, see you on Mars….
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