Last time in this series, we looked at how marketing carved out a brave new world for itself in the 80’s. This time around, we’ll be exploring the ways in which marketing approaches changed during the 90’s and 00’s- and how the internet turned everything on its head.
During the 90’s, the world faced its biggest cultural revolution since the invention of the printing press- the internet. With more and more people getting online and discovering the world wide web, people became connected in a whole new way. Now, instead of the regular post, people were using email to communicate- and that presented a huge opportunity for businesses. By getting people to sign up to mailing lists, companies could send out ads and information about special offers, all for free. That prospect was a little too tantalizing for some marketers, though, and it led to the development of so-called “spam” email- unsolicited messages that simply took up space in people’s inboxes.
In 1998, the world of marketing was turned on its head with the launch of Google. Before then, search engines weren’t really a thing, and if you wanted to get to a certain page, you either needed the URL or a link to it. Mass email was always an option to reach out to people, but many people were wary of spam in these early days of the internet. Now, though, consumers could easily find what they needed with just a few clicks- which naturally led to all sorts of companies vying for the top spots in search results. Search Engine Optimisation and paid search ads quickly became the norm for businesses that want to succeed.
Throughout the 00’s and into today, social media has become the king of the internet. It’s now the main way that people get information online, with hundreds of millions of us catching up on our newsfeeds every single day. Sites like Facebook have gone from small pet projects only intended for a select audience to huge, world-conquering corporations. The reason why social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are so important for marketing is because it’s incredibly easy to not just reach out to people, but to create a two-way relationship. Consumers can now talk back, and that lets businesses listen to their comments and tailor their approach accordingly.
Meanwhile, in 2005, YouTube launched, totally transforming the way that people accessed content online. Instead of paying for extra bandwidth to host videos on their own sites, there was now a handy place where anyone could upload their videos to be seen by the whole world- all for free! It wasn’t long before companies started to take advantage of that by launching quirky video ad campaigns designed to go viral. On top of this, companies started to launch dedicated sites for ad campaigns which, like guerilla marketing, spread through word-of-mouth. One notable example of this was Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken”. By visiting the site, users could give the chicken (played by an actor in a costume) commands to follow. Originally intended to promote a single new product, the chicken was a runaway success, and the site ran for over three years.
There’s no doubt about just how much the rise of the internet during this time changed the face of marketing. In just a short space of time, things had moved on from mimicking traditional advertising in a digital form, to coming up with brand new ways of capturing the public’s imagination. Things were moving fast- and in our next and final piece in this series, we’ll take a look at the state of the marketing world today, and what we can expect to see in the near future.