Evolution of Marketing
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The Evolution of Marketing Part 1: How Digital Marketing Compares to Historical Marketing

Have you ever watched Mad Men and wished you could have worked at a 1960s advertising agency (except without all the misogyny, questionable morals, second-hand smoke, and rampant alcoholism…)?

mad men smoking GIF

Here at DigitalMarketer, we know the feeling well.

But as cool as advertising was in those days, we can’t really be that nostalgic. Because when you compare those historical marketing efforts with the digital marketing opportunities today, you realize…

We’re living in the golden age of marketing.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re liable to find any one of us curled up with one of the classic marketing books like Ogilvy on Advertising, Scientific Advertising, or Breakthrough Advertising.

After all, many of those direct marketing geniuses discovered advertising strategies that still work like a charm online today.

But when we look at digital marketing next to historical marketing, there’s just no comparison. The evolution of marketing has let us to the era of online marketing, and I don’t know about you, but I’m glad we live in the age of Google and Facebook.

In Part 1 of a series on the evolution of marketing, we’ve compiled the 5 biggest changes we’ve seen in how digital marketing compares to historical marketing.

When you’ve finished Part 1, head over to Part 2, and see the evolution of ads in action. We’ll compare industry ads from back in the day to more modern ads to see what’s changed, and why this modern approach works so well.

For now, let’s jump into the perks of being a marketer in the 21st century…

Digital Marketing is More Trackable

The ability to track your advertising results has to be one of the biggest advantages of online marketing.

Today, you can log into the Ads Manager to see your cost, clicks, leads, sales, and ROI for any ad set you want, over any date range you want:

Showing how you can now track your ads, because of how marketing has evolved.

Depending on the platform, you can even break out your results by different audiences and locations to really narrow down where your sales are coming from and make changes to improve performance.

Historically, tracking results was often much more difficult.

After all, how do you track the results of a radio campaign? A TV campaign? A print ad campaign? (Keep in mind there were no branded searches at the time to use as a measuring stick for brand awareness.)

There are certainly ways to measure these campaigns, of course, but it’s rarely as accurate or as instantaneous as the reporting abilities inside most digital marketing platforms.

The ability to track your marketing results is something that many of us take for granted. But when you compare the evolution of marketing reporting from 20, 30, or 40 years ago to now, you start to realize just how good we’ve got it.

This isn’t just a reporting issue, though. It’s also an optimization issue.

One huge benefit of being able to track your marketing results is that you can make extremely well-informed decisions on what to do with your campaigns… and you can do it quickly!

If a campaign is working well, you can scale it up. If it’s not working, you can test new targeting, new copy, a new offer… or just pause the campaign and try something else.

This visibility means you can begin to optimize your ads almost immediately after launching them—helping to avoid wasted spend and maximize your results.

Digital Marketing is More Highly Targeted

Another advantage of the evolution of marketing to the digital realm is the amount of data you’re able to leverage when it comes to targeting your ads.

Using social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, you can create a highly defined audience for your marketing campaigns. Want to show your ads to men aged 40–60 who are interested in pro wrestling? You can do that!

Daniel Bryan Yes GIF by WWE

Or do you need to target female Millennials who work for a nonprofit? No problem!

With historical marketing ads, on the other hand, targeting was much broader and less specific.

Oh, sure, you could sort of target your ads. You could place a print ad in a certain magazine, knowing that their readers tended to have certain characteristics. Or you could buy a commercial during a TV show that appealed to your general demographic.

But compared to the digital marketing platforms of today, you didn’t have nearly the same level of fine-tuned control when it came to targeting your ads.

With Digital Marketing, You Can Start Small and Scale Big

Compared to historical marketing ads, digital marketing has a lower barrier to entry and is more scalable.

This is because, historically, most ads had to be purchased in advance. You had to pay a certain amount of money to run your commercial, or to include your ad in a magazine or newspaper.

In other words, you had to commit to a sizable investment right off the bat. Before you knew what the results would look like.

You couldn’t test the waters with $10 a day, and you also couldn’t scale up a winning campaign with a few mouse-clicks.

But today you CAN do those things. You can spend as little as $1 a day, on many platforms, and you can scale up to spend millions and millions per month. You can limit your ads to a 5-mile radius around your store, or you can target an international audience.

That kind of freedom makes digital marketing highly accessible to small businesses with tiny budgets, while also giving it the reach to still move the needle for huge corporations.

Digital Marketing Gives You the Freedom to Use More Creative Ad Types

Historical ads were limited to whatever media they appeared in. For example: a radio ad had to be audio-only. A print ad was limited to text and images. A TV ad was just video.

But with the evolution of digital marketing ads, you’re often free to choose any of those formats. And in many cases you can combine them—like Nomatic does with this video ad on Facebook:

A Nomatic ad for a backpack that shows the evolution of marketing

Though this is a video ad, it still contains plenty of text to supplement the messages in the video. It even uses text in the video itself in case the users’ phone or computer is muted.

Plus, marketers today have all sorts of options that historical marketers didn’t have. We can build email lists and Messenger lists. We can embed videos, images, or even games on our website.

Think how much more difficult marketing would be if you didn’t even have a website to drive people to!

In short, marketers today have more freedom, flexibility, and control than ever before over how we present our brand image to the world. And that’s a good thing for business.

Digital Marketing Has More Competition

OK, at this point you might be thinking that this post sounds like a love letter to digital marketing. And it’s true: digital marketing has a lot of advantages over historical marketing.

But what about the disadvantages? Is there anything about the evolution of marketing that has left us marketers in a bad spot?

Yes. There’s one undeniable disadvantage that marketers today have to face:

And that’s the sheer amount of competition online.

The Internet is packed full of companies vying for your consumers’ business, which means that attention spans today are in short supply. So despite all the benefits of the digital marketing evolution that we’ve just explained, you still have to bring your A game if you want to stand out from the noise and get people to notice you.

It’s a big challenge, but we’re up for it.

Are you?

If so, we’re here to help you do it. (By the way… if you’re a DM newbie, check out our Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing).

Still feeling nostalgic? Check out Part 2 of The Evolution of Marketing: How Modern Ads Compare to Historical Ads (*hint* there’s some killer old ads to look at, if you’re into that kinda stuff).

Becky Zieber

Becky Zieber

Becky Zieber is the Content Strategist at DigitalMarketer and is in charge of managing and building strategies for all DM content. In 2018, a year after graduating from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, Becky traded out her job in education publishing to move to Austin, Texas and join the DM team. She has since made it her mission to ruthlessly hound her coworkers about commas and dashes. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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