Like a lot of 20 somethings, I grew up in a time of vast digital expansion, although I didn't grow up with a cell phone in my hand thanks to my being closer to 30 really. I did watch a lot of TV, listen to a great deal of radio, and play video games regularly. Why am I telling you all of this? Because this is my frame of reference for digital marketing, along with the internet which came with a horrible dialing sound for us in the mid 90’s. What was digital marketing like in the beginning though?
A pop and a crack, some static, the turn of a dial and on came the Lone Ranger...or so my Poppie (grandfather) told me. Suddenly millions of listeners were united around the antics of Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Throughout the radio show though they were united by another common thread too, their marketing demographics or group. These listeners would regularly hear ads for the products of the time (Corn Flakes, Lysol, Castile Soap and more most likely..maybe even some questionable pharmaceuticals from the past).
These were the first buyers, users, and marketers prospects through a digital medium and ads weren’t well regulated, some of them are horrific or look very unintelligent today, to tell the truth, but I digress. They were the first buyer personas as well and the prime way to catch them was during these radio shows and of course marketing to kids was a surefire thing as it is today to get them hounding the parents for the latest hot thing on the toy market. Of course, this was the roaring 20’s so disposable income was flowing and buyers were certainly buying.
The next few decades weren’t so lucky with the Great Depression and World War II though. It’s likely that when my grandparents were tuning into the Grand Ole Opry, or maybe the Saturday Morning Merry Go Round around here, they weren’t in a position to be buying the latest and greatest. So this became a new challenge for marketers to overcome. Learning more about how to reach customers and what they wanted was the ultimate goal, but the ads still kept running right behind Hank Williams or Minnie Pearl for sure.
Of course, the picture show (as my dad calls it sometimes still) or the movies, if you prefer, was also a great place to advertise, with previews and ads for familiar products. Of course, these were mainly aimed at kids unless it was at the drive-in where teens or young adults usually congregated for a night out, or maybe for shows at the theater later in the day. Now advertising was taking on a visual touch and packaging become more important as the years went by along with logos and color schemes to create memorable visual cues for potential customers.
Right about the time Queen Elizabeth II was coronated came the advent of the television into most homes in mass (1952). Television spread throughout the world and brought with it a whole new way to market. Catchy jingles and narration still had a place, but now graphics, demos, and visual proof were in the running too. Then there were Saturday morning cartoons, some morphing out of radio shows like the Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers and others like Captain Caveman stood alone when they came out a few decades later in the 70’s. These shows created again another way to market to kids and get them begging the parents for cool toys like Gumby.
They also created ways to market to housewives, who watched the majority of TV during the day (I don’t know when they found the time between all of that scrubbing but there you have it). So vacuums grocery stores, baby products, and the latest convenience foods were all on the market by the 50’s and being piped into the living room via ads daily. Of course, men weren't immune either with razors, tobacco(loose and chewing), cigarettes, and of course tools or tool chests. Advertising stayed static for many years with complimentary print advertising as a reinforcement in magazines or newspapers and billboards around town. Then came the internet…
I remember the coming of the internet well at our house. The horrible sound of a coarse dialing that sounded like a monster being let loose from the bowels of the digital world...and my older sister yelling that she needed to use the phone to get off the internet right then. Of course I didn’t...what are younger siblings for after all? Yet, it opened up another avenue for advertising.
Banner ads, pop-ups, email spam, sidebar ads in Google, marketing threw up on the internet and it took a long time to clean it up to a manageable level. With many ads leading to viruses with a PPC background internet advertising soon seemed as credible as a used car salesman to most folks. For a while, the internet was like the old west with questionable content and keyword stuffing on every proverbial corner.
Now, like everything, we’re mostly civilized here in internet land and digital marketing has calmed down again for a time. We have valuable content, tasteful ads, and even ratings for ads or previews in some cases which adds another level of safety for young viewers. We no longer have questionable pop-ups of risque pictures gracing our screen in most cases, but ransomware is a new concern that still generates pop-ups to terrify even the savviest of users. So, for now, we’ll just have to take what we have and remember the wild world of digital marketing all the way back from the first time our grandparents or maybe even great-grandparents turned on the magic of radio and heard the Kellogg's commercials or whatever else happened to be the order of the day.