A Brief History of the Evolution of Marketing


We're walking you through the evolution of marketing from the use of propaganda in Ancient Egypt, through the impact of the printing press during the Renaissance, mass marketing in the Industrial Revolution, the "Mad Men" era of the 1960s, all the way to the transformative power of the internet and social media in today's marketing landscape. It's quite the ride!

Senior Marketing Manager
March 4, 2024
  (NZDT - GMT +12)

We’re turning back time this week and taking a look at where it all began… From the humble beginnings of ancient civilisations to the AI-driven marketing of the digital age, join me as we tell the story of how marketing has transformed over the centuries.

Chapter 1: The Ancient Art of Persuasion

Our journey begins in the dusty annals of history, where ancient civilisations laid the groundwork for modern marketing techniques. Picture bustling marketplaces in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, where merchants showcased their wares with vibrant displays and persuasive storytelling. From hand-painted signs to charismatic sales pitches, these early marketers understood the power of captivating an audience's attention and appealing to their desires.

One of the earliest recorded examples of marketing comes from the time of Ramses II in Ancient Egypt. He commissioned massive statues and monuments boasting of his military victories, effectively using propaganda to solidify his rule and influence public perception.

Chapter 2: The Renaissance Revolution

Fast forward to the Renaissance era, a time of innovation and enlightenment. With the advent of the printing press, marketing underwent a seismic shift. Suddenly, pamphlets, posters, and advertisements could reach a wider audience than ever before. Enterprising merchants seized this opportunity, employing colourful imagery and catchy slogans to entice consumers. It was the birth of brand identity, as businesses sought to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.

During the Renaissance, the Medici family of Florence were not only prominent bankers but also savvy marketers. They used lavish patronage of the arts to enhance their social standing and promote their brand, commissioning works from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Chapter 3: The Industrial Revolution and Mass Marketing

As the wheels of industry turned, so too did the gears of marketing. The Industrial Revolution ushered in an era of mass production and mass consumption. With the rise of factories came the need to sell products on a larger scale. Enter stage left: mass marketing. From billboards to radio jingles, advertisers sought to capture the hearts and wallets of the burgeoning middle class. It was the age of big brands and even bigger dreams.

In the late 19th century, P.T. Barnum emerged as a master showman and marketer. His creation of "The Greatest Show on Earth" and his promotion of extravagant circus acts captivated audiences across America, showcasing the power of spectacle in marketing.

Chapter 4: The Mad Men Era

Now onto the swinging sixties – a time of social upheaval and cultural revolution. Enter the Mad Men, suave ad executives who ruled Madison Avenue with slick campaigns and smooth talk. With television becoming the dominant medium, advertisers tapped into the power of storytelling to sell everything from cigarettes to cars. It was an era of glamour and excess, where the line between advertising and entertainment blurred.

In the 1960s, Volkswagen revolutionised advertising with its "Think Small" campaign, which embraced simplicity and self-deprecating humor to promote the Beetle as an alternative to the oversized American cars of the time. This campaign is often cited as one of the most successful in advertising history.

Chapter 5: The Digital Age and Beyond

And finally, we arrive in the digital age, where marketing has undergone its most radical transformation yet. With the advent of the internet, the world became interconnected in ways previously unimaginable. 

Apple's "1984" commercial, aired during the Super Bowl in—you guessed it—1984, is an iconic example of marketing in the digital age. Directed by Ridley Scott, the ad depicted a dystopian future broken by conformity, with Apple's Macintosh positioned as a revolutionary tool for free-thinking individuals. It's remembered not only for its cinematic quality but also for its impact on the perception of personal computing.

Social media, search engine optimisation, influencer marketing – the arsenal of tools at a marketers' disposal today is vast and it’s hard to imagine marketing without them. Today, brands must navigate a landscape that's as dynamic as it is unpredictable, where authenticity and engagement reign supreme.

As we reflect on the evolution of marketing, one thing becomes abundantly clear: while the tools and techniques may change, the essence of marketing remains the same. At its core, marketing is about storytelling – about connecting with people on a deeper level and inspiring them to take action. So whether you're crafting a compelling Instagram post or scripting a TVC, remember that you're part of a rich tapestry of history – a legacy that stretches back through the ages.

And there you have it, dear readers: the evolution of marketing in all its glory. As we sign off on our little liaison through time, let us carry forward the lessons of the past as we forge ahead into the future. The main one that comes to mind is to keep staying ahead of the game and across the new technology. After all, in the ever-shifting landscape of marketing, the only constant is change.

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