During the 80’s, it seemed like technology was everywhere. From the rise of the PC and Apple making computers cool, to bands on the radio drenching their sound in synths, things were moving forward fast. Of course, the world of marketing had its finger on the pulse of the era, and it was during the 80’s that advertising started to go digital. Electronic databases made it simple to reach out to existing customers and attract new ones with tempting deals. This also led to the development of “relationship marketing”, where companies provide customers with information that’s specifically relevant to them. Now, instead of giving everyone the same message, marketing could now be tweaked, making it a lot easier to reel in leads.
It was also during the 80’s that companies started thinking bigger when it came to ads. One of the most famous adverts in history, Apple’s “1984”, was the brainchild of Hollywood director Ridley Scott, and cost almost a million dollars just to make. With a distinctive sci-fi feel that captured the feeling of the era, while also showing the Apple Mac as something futuristic and cool, the ad became an instant sensation. Despite being broadcast nationally only once, during the Super Bowl, it became such a talking point that news broadcasts even included clips of it that night- generating millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity for Apple. Just as Michael Jackson was pushing the boundaries of what music videos could be, now the marketing world was starting to think big, too.
With big corporations now regularly spending millions on ad campaigns, smaller companies needed a way of keeping up without blowing their budget. In 1984, Jay Conrad Levinson came up with a solution- guerilla marketing. In his book of the same name, he put forward a type of advertising based on the guerilla warfare used by small-scale armies to take on bigger enemies- by using everything at their disposal. By using these same sorts of tactics, and thinking outside the box, Levinson saw a way for small businesses to capture the minds of consumers without spending a lot of money. Guerilla marketing relies on creating a social buzz around a campaign, and relying on word-of-mouth to spread your message. Not only does it save a fortune compared to big-budget campaigns, but Levinson also saw it as a way of reaching out to a public tired of bland, boring print and radio ads. From art installations and spray-painted slogans to zany stunts like having people tattoo logos on their faces, all bets were off when it came to where companies would turn next for guerilla marketing.
While the possibilities grew, so did the number of people who could put together their own marketing materials. With desktop publishing becoming commonplace, anyone with enough computer savvy and creative skills could put together a strong marketing campaign with real results. No longer was marketing something that only big corporations could afford- thanks to a wealth of smaller ad agencies, the 80’s marked a huge change in just how accessible marketing was to the average business. Businesses could even create their own marketing materials from scratch, making advertising a whole lot more democratic.
So, the 1980’s were a time of great change for the marketing world. At one end of the spectrum, big corporations were spending unprecedented amounts on campaigns designed to wow the public. At the other end, those without a big budget to spend were coming up with innovative new approaches that worked through word-of-mouth. However, everything was about to change with the advent of the internet- and next time, we’ll take a look at just what impact this had on how businesses looked at advertising.