Photo Credit: Bridge2More
In my recent post on Blog of the Fly, I mapped the world of Marketing as seen from a consulting/execution point of view. I left it open-ended as to the direction Marketing is headed in. The captivating video at the end of this article explains it in a nutshell. For those who would like a more detailed history of Marketing and the reason why it’s going where it is, read on.
As I had mentioned in the post ‘The Map of Marketing’, the function has always been the butter in our bread-and-butter routines. Yet, the concept was first actively employed as far back as the 15th century, with the Gutenburg’s invention of Movable Type, thereby facilitating Print advertising through mass printing. Changes were slow, and the first magazine only came into existence in Philadelphia in 1741, leading to posters in 1839 and billboards in 1867. So far it was all about readables. Audible and visual media only took over in the first half of the 20th century, with radio (1922) and TV (1941) based advertising. Telephone advertising penetrated 50% of the market five years later.
In the early 1950s, TV ads had begun to push aside non-visuals. Yet, the bane of us innocent consumers – Telemarketing – arrived nearly two decades later, bringing a whole lot of irritation with it. But it was our increased awareness to such tactics that truly began to change the game, necessitating subtler ways of promotion by companies. As a result, during the ‘70s, magazines had started to feel threatened for the first time in 500 years!
The digital channel was born during this time, with the arrival of mobiles (1973) and computers (early 1980s). Oh, and that epic super-bowl commercial from Apple that challenged our imagination? 1984. In 1985, the Print space was accorded a breather with an easier way of producing it through desktop computers. Suddenly, everyone could, and was, doing it. By early 1990s, 2G had arrived on one hand, while visual content had eclipsed reading articles on the other as preferred form of data consumption. Videos are more interesting and quicker, after all.
Where is the internet in all this? In April 1994, about the time I was celebrating my 7th birthday, Phoenix law firm Canter & Seigel spams by posting a message on several thousand newsgroups. The infamous dot-com bubble starts to build and inflates through the change in millennium. However, a more constructive development during this period is Yahoo’s search engine that sees a 350% increase in surfing population to 70 million in US by 1997. What does that lead to in 1998? Google. This period brings analytics to the fore, to understand and produce relevant content to users. That very year also sees the emergence of Blogging. A certain fly, of course, would not start blogging for more than a decade.
The analytics mentioned above truly find prominence only when the Dot-com bubble bursts. As is true for any techno-economic paradigm, seen consistently since the Industrial Revolution – and something I dealt with in a different post – the recessionary fall forces marketers to rethink their communication strategy. This brings in the age of Inbound Marketing. Unlike the message-forcing Outbound ones, Inbound focusses more on engagement, discussion, and the feel or experience a consumer goes through. Resurrections also result in the Can-Spam Act of 2003 on the legal front, barring unsolicited emails. The year that follows introduce us to the likes of Linkedin, MySpace and (drumrolls) Facebook. The option to opt-out of Telemarketing calls also comes into effect the same year. What follow in Twitter, E-commerce, 3G etc. are more about numbers now as milestones are reached one after the other, steadily “cloud”ing us all in an online presence. So it is by the end of the first decade of 21st century that TV is finally dominated by the internet, which becomes the darling of a new generation.
Our interest in social media was due to an unmet need that humans had silently suffered through the years. In an age where our entire social world was limited in geography, finding people or information of common interest was difficult. Ask any person with a GLBT affinity, or a die-hard Harley-Davidson fan, and he/she will tell you why. Once we were given a virtual window to a far larger population, everything changed for us. And that is where we now come to the future.
A fallout of the above change has been how susceptible it has made us to instant gratification. This has had a more subtle impact - the shortening of human attention, as put together by Adam Hayes on Wyzowl. In 2015, our capacity to focus had shortened to 8.25 seconds, lower than that of a goldfish! That is worsened by the fact that we have become both forgetful and distracted. We spend some 10-20 seconds on a webpage; a recruiter spends some 3-4 seconds on our resume. However, the frequency of our engagement has increased, with quick email checks some 30 times per hour, and over 3 hours of distributed gazing at our phones. What does this mean in the field of Marketing?
Marketers are facing consumers who expose themselves more often every day to various media, but for a shorter period each time they do. Our conscious self takes longer than our sub-conscious to register information. And we are talking microseconds here. There are enough of those in those 10 seconds you spend looking at a webpage. Repeated subtle exposure in flashes to a certain idea or image registers it in our brain without us realizing it. Often called Priming, it is a way to induce certain action/response.
For example, a group of candidates were handed a glass of one among cold / hot water for a while. Later, when asked to describe the character of some specific individual, the ones who had held cold water saw the subject as more cold-hearted in nature! Also known as Subliminal Marketing, Marketers have actually been using this technique for decades. It just wasn't accurate. But that too changed once information on our behaviour and the ability to analyze it became available, thanks to the internet and social media. More and more of this analysis is being automated. In a future defined by constant connectivity, customization and augmented reality, as seen in the video in my post on the history and future of offices, you will increasingly see advertisements or feel preferences geared towards specific interest to you as companies start to know you better than your friends, depending on how you expose yourself online. I dealt with this aspect of a future scenario of virtual imagery at a football match in my book Kalki Evian – The Ring of Khaoriphea.
There is one other tantalizing possibility that follows in the world of Marketing. And it literally exists beyond our planet. Let's save that for another time. Meanwhile, here's what does subliminal marketing looks like in real life.
By the way, did you more or less jump to this spot after the fourth paragraph? Just curious. :)
Stay aware & have fun.
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© 2015 Malay Upadhyay