Marketing has always been driven by changing technology. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, marketers immediately saw the potential of new inventions like the telephone and television for selling and promotion. So when the internet and digital technology entered our lives at the end of that century, marketing departments were quick to respond.
The arrival of email in the nineties saw the medium immediately adopted as a useful outbound marketing tool, with companies competing to establish digital mailing lists to replace the physical mail-based ones that had previously been so important to their efforts. As search engines emerged, allowing internet users to find websites that were then ranked in order, marketers developed the first primitive SEO techniques to improve their clients’ rankings.
Information as a commodity
The internet also allowed the advent of big data, which let marketing teams collect, store and analyze so much more information about not just our buying habits but also every other aspect of their customers and potential customers’ lives. The early years of the 21st century saw the initial dot com bubble burst and the rise of internet 2.0. This was dominated by interactive social media: first Myspace and then Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. One consequence of this was that ordinary people were sharing far more information about themselves online, and all marketers had to do was sweep it up. Companies specializing in big data harvesting and analysis became increasingly important.
Buying on the move
As well as social media, the other major force in internet 2.0 was ecommerce. Giant online stores cornered more and more trade across the board, with Amazon soon emerging as the biggest of the bunch. Whole marketing departments became devoted to developing an effective Amazon advertising campaign strategy, and smart companies swiftly moved to partner with an Amazon advertising strategist in order to improve their listings and stand out from the competition in this massive online marketplace.
Marketing is still adapting to the fact that smartphones are now the primary method for most of us to access the internet. The arrival of the first iPhone in 2007 was a pivotal moment. If people access the internet on the move then their relationship with online marketing changes, becoming more immediate and direct. They are enquiring, searching and buying often in a series of contemporaneous actions, radically compressing the traditional customer journey.
Breaking down barriers
The barriers between traditional marketing (selling a product) and social marketing (changing behavior) have to a large extent been dissolved. Marketing is now far less about direct selling than it was even ten years ago. It’s now much more about building communities, establishing relationships and initiating a conversation with the customer. Marketing is more holistic, and brand identity has become a much more important concept.
As the public have become more media aware, one result is that they can easily see through attempts to sell them a false picture. We can all do our own research, instantly pulling up the real facts about a product or brand, making comparisons and sourcing alternative points of view. Marketing has had to become more sophisticated in its message, which actually means greater honesty and transparency.
The public want quality at a competitive price, but they also want to buy ethical products from a brand that they can trust.
The science of marketing
Marketing is now much more of a human science, and one that uses the tools and terminology of behavioral psychology, sociology and even neuro-biology. Much more use is made of close analysis of who is buying certain products, how, why and when. Targeted advertising and focused promotional campaigns, based on buying and browsing history as well as demographic profiling, are now key tactics that will become increasingly important over the coming years.
Marketers need to know their public inside out. They need to know exactly what makes them tick and what will prompt their actions. At the same time there is also greater respect for a more clued-up populace that won’t listen to the huckster-like hyperbole of yesterday. Marketers are content providers, creating video, images and text that is valuable in its own right, as well as hidden guides gently steering you towards the thing that you really wanted all along.
How will marketing develop in the future? We can’t truly know, but it will almost certainly be more individually tailored and more closely woven in with other non-marketing content. Agile, spontaneous and guerilla marketing on social media will become more a part of our everyday online conversations. Marketing will perhaps become so ubiquitous we hardly notice it, which will be its greatest triumph of all.
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