Three Decades of Marketing

An Industry Veteran's Viewpoint

By Rob Duboff

The start of the new year and our milestone 15-year anniversary bring into focus how much marketing has changed since our company’s founding. One of our marketing veterans, Rob Duboff, summarizes marketing’s modern history and reflects on the possibilities the future holds for our craft.

Marketing in the 1990s

Decisions are primarily driven by System 1 thinking (quick, effortless)

Marketers have few tools to aid their decisions and rely on their instincts, experience and broadly defined targeting criteria to guide them. Consumer buying decisions are influenced by System 1 thinking, with mass advertising creating brands which rule the day by tapping into buyers’ emotions and unconscious.

Marketers increasingly focus on measuring ROI, but tools are limited

Analytics and data collection in the 1990s measures short-term contributions to ROI by individual channels or campaigns, but measurement of longer-term results or intangible inputs are elusive.

Targeting is imprecise and done with limited data

One-to-many marketing rules the day with one-to-one engagement starting to evolve.  Tools for data collection and analysis are improving our ability to segment and target customers based on attitudes, behaviors and demographics; but, we are still challenged to target the right person, at the right place, at the right time, with the right offer.

Trust becomes harder to earn with greater access to information

As information access is democratized by the Internet, and communication becomes easier, consumers are less likely to take the claims of a TV ad as gospel.

Marketing in the 2000s

Digital marketing leads to more channels and touchpoints

Marketing that was once limited to traditional advertising and sales channels grows to encompass many new digital channels, including various forms of online advertising, search, and email marketing.

The marketing life-cycle (and process) accelerates

The linear marketing “funnel” begins to evolve into more of a customer journey with many touchpoints that are not sequential in nature.  This requires marketers to adapt quickly from old processes and frameworks.  Furthermore, with online business growing, time-to-market is shortened and brands must react to market signals faster.

Technology reduces barriers to entry, increases competition

Big brands from the previous century (even new giants such as AOL and Netscape) are quickly displaced by the likes of Apple, Google, and Amazon. Digital advances and scale allow new businesses to start and to threaten established brands. Innovative business leaders begin to disrupt older, more established industries (healthcare, automotive, travel), and new, less costly digital media breaks down barriers to entry for start-ups ranging from FinTechs like SoFi to socially-conscious brands like Warby Parker.

Social media gives more power to consumers

Brands have much less room for error as opinions, bad experiences, or lackluster reviews can be shared quickly via Google, Yelp and other online review sites. Online reviews are a big factor in consumer decision making and start to impact B2B purchases.

Trends Today (2019) and Beyond

Reputation has a greater impact on brand equity, even for the most respected brands

In this era of immediate worldwide communication and political polarity, risks are immediate (e.g., Uber, Facebook, etc.) and spread instantaneously (e.g., Wells Fargo and United Airlines). Social media and other online sites like Glassdoor give prospective employees insight into the inner workings of an organization, making culture and internal branding no longer confined within an organization’s walls. Combine this transparency with the buying power of Millennials who care about purpose, and brands need to pay attention to who they are and what they stand for now more than ever.

Database marketing evolves into “big data”

With the advent of marketing automation technology, point solutions like email marketing databases have been taken over by systems that offer a complete 360-degree view/understanding of the customer – from capture to closure—across all touchpoints.  Types and sources of data proliferate (e.g., sensors, GPS), allowing for even more personalized marketing.

Real-time data forces brands to balance short-term sales with brand awareness building

Previously, marketers had little to no insight into the process buyers went through in making purchasing decisions. As consumers increasingly interact with brands through digital channels, sales results are immediate and provide clear evidence when an offer works. This puts more pressure on marketers to prove their worth through their combination of messaging and offers to boost immediate sales.  The push for marketing to have measurable ties to revenue generation, drives an increase in lead generation campaigns and a decrease in general brand-awareness efforts that build long term equity.

Once just an emerging function, “digital marketing” now dominates

Marketers are increasingly required to prove their worth as nearly 75% of the sales process is conducted online before a consumer ever engages with a sales person. For these reasons, marketers choose digital channels because they are cheaper, faster, yield immediate results, provide better targeting and are easier to measure.

Marketers learn to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to personalize the customer experience

The use of algorithms and predictive modeling isn’t new to marketing, but advancements in AI and ML are providing rocket fuel to these old tools, allowing marketers to serve up highly personalized messaging, tactics, and experiences. Good marketing has always been a potent brew of artistic creativity and instinct combined with scientific sampling, methodologies and analytics. AI/ML will magnify the impact of these traits.

As we reflect on marketing through the years, we realize how far our craft has come in a relatively short period of time. Today, technology moves at the speed of light with new tools, apps and other technologies popping up seemingly daily to enhance our marketing capabilities. We see that the limits we once experienced are now limitless, and the future promises marketers the ability to be much more precise in their targeting and offers, and to deliver higher ROI to the organizations they serve.    

Reach out to Rob Duboff to explore how to bring the latest advances in marketing to life in your organization.