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How marketing has changed and evolved during the years

Kirjoittanut: Ariel Cohen - tiimistä SYNTRE.

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Marketing is one of the most important parts of running a successful business to educate your customers about your products or services. You sure do know your products but do your consumers? In order to buy your product, your audience needs to have a solid understanding of what are you selling and what does it do. Throughout history, there have been loads of different marketing campaigns and you clearly can see, that the companies that had the best ones are nowadays super successful.  


How did these companies come up with these campaigns and what made them so good that people fell in love with the product? This essay is about the history of marketing, successful marketing campaigns, what made them so successful, and how to create your own successful marketing campaign.  



So how did marketing start?  


The practice of marketing has been there from the start of human civilization without people really thinking about its meaning or importance. Before the industrial revolution, the only marketing really happened were signs in front of stores or rumors heard from other people. People didn’t really understand the importance of marketing and how could you use it as an advantage. Marketing didn’t even play that big of a role in the economy since people didn’t understand even the meaning of economy. (Stoddard, J.)  


Households and people mostly made their own products and if they had any excess production, it could be brought into town for selling it or trading it for other goods. The main importance was to provide for yourself and your family.   


This type of living was called pure subsistence economy and it basically means that usually, the economy relies mostly on natural resources like fishing, hunting, and gathering, rather than money. Although there is evidence that people started to use metal objects as a tool of exchange as early as 5000 B.C.   


We could say that the concept of marketing really started in the late 19th century when people realized that it’s easier to buy products rather than make them by themselves. The industrial revolution started mass production, and it became easier for consumers to get their hands on new and fancy products at a cheaper price. Businesses realized that basically who markets their products best sold usually the most. (Hardy, J. 2016)  



It created a need for producers to find better ways to develop products for the customers and you had to come up with new and brilliant ways to inform them about these commodities. The marketing race has started.   


From the early 20th century to the late 1940s the competition in the business world became intensive. New businesses rose like mushrooms in the rain and marketing became an essential part of selling products, being competitive and it also started the need for specialists in the direct marketing section. This was the time when companies started to dedicate entire areas of their business to market their products or services.  Before the 1950s there were already over 130 books related to marketing and it became a huge part of the business world.   


Although new marketing strategies were implemented all the time it was difficult to find a timeline of the biggest game-changers in the marketing section before social media marketing came out, so l will take some examples of the most iconic marketing campaigns. Most of the biggest companies nowadays had the best marketing campaigns in history and they were so effective that they still are using them.   




Let’s start with maybe the most iconic one that surely most of the people living on the surface of earth know: Nike’s “Just do it”. In an advertising agency meeting in 1988, the founder of Wieden+Kennedy agency Dan Wieden comes up with this slogan: Just do it. The surprising source of the slogan comes from convicted prisoner Gary Gilmore, who was the first one to be executed after 10 years in the United States.  His famous last words were “Let’s do it!”. This is probably not the ideal brand heritage Nike would ideally choose but no one really cared about it since it worked so well. Only in a decade, Nike boosted its sales worldwide from 877 million to 9,2 Billion.  (Anderson, T. 2019)  


The slogan is short and memorable, it compressed everything that people felt when they were exercising. Combine that with ads that show athletes that have different ethnic backgrounds, women and everyday people, and wola. You get the perfect marketing campaign.   


People got even a small taste of equality since racism was a huge problem back then and women’s rights really were nonexistent. I’m not saying they aren’t now big problems but at least we have come a bit forward from these times.   




Marketing of women’s beauty products in history included always these hot airbrushed models that gave the message “use these and you will look the same as me”. Although there was a great idea behind that, women couldn’t really relate to them. In 2004, Dove found out that only 2 percent of women in the world would describe themself as beautiful so what did they do? They launched their biggest marketing campaign, where they used normal beautiful women instead of the perfect models. The main message was that women’s unique differences should be celebrated, rather than ignored. Women could really relate to these ads since they saw normal everyday people there and it gave this feeling that the definition of beauty wasn’t just the perfect models out there. It gave the feeling that you are beautiful just as you are. (Gelebre, A. Denton, A)  


Although here are just two examples of the most memorable marketing campaigns, you can see the similarities. Marketing experts found a way to people’s hearts and they gave them things that they could relate to.   





Old Spice is a male grooming brand that includes for example aftershaves, deodorants, shampoos, body washes, and soaps. In history, Old spice mostly advertised its products for older men and after assessing market trends, they decided to start marketing their product for younger users since their target audience was too small for growing the business well and taking it forward.  


Old spice tumbled across this problem that clearly their brand had an image problem and it was getting crushed by companies like axe for example. Their brand and marketing were made for younger people and they were their major target audience. Old spice was clearly outdated and even the name left this non-trendy image. So what did they do?  


In 2010 they decided to launch a bold marketing campaign with the help of Wieden and Kennedy, the marketing gods who also started Nike’s “Just do it” slogan. Wieden and Kennedy made market research, on who is buying body wash products and they found out that 60 % of the purchases were made by women.  


Rather than entering toe-to-toe with other similar brands and their marketing, they went the opposite way. They wanted to convince women to stop buying “lady-scented products” for their men.  


Their ads were perfect to the audience, it kicks right off with the old spice guy, only in a towel addressing the audience as women. “Hello, ladies.” He goes on to make lighthearted fun that the viewer’s man will never look like him, but if they stop using “lady-scented body wash” (a dig at Old Spice’s competition), they could at least smell like him. What follows is campy, over-the-top transitions through many sets and jokes, before the actor proclaims, “Anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady.”  


They made the calculated decision to launch it in social media, the desired millennial market, and the move worked perfectly. On youtube, it went immediately viral with over 20 million views in three days and it became the #1 all-time viewed brand on youtube.  Now the whole world knew about Old spice. 


What did this campaign return to Old spice?  


Nearly 105 million youtube views, 1.2 billion earned media impressions, 2700 % increase in Twitter followers, 800 % increase in Facebook fan interaction, and 300 % increase in website traffic. It was even the recipient of the 2010 Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix and an Emmy nomination for outstanding commercial.  (Moore, S. 2020)







Marketing is an essential part of running a successful business nowadays and has been like that for over two centuries. After the industrial revolution businesses started to focus more on marketing and little by little people understood its importance better. Although marketing has come to a long journey it didn’t really evolve that much before the real-game changer in marketing. Social media. Back in the day, the only marketing businesses could really rely on were newspapers, tv-ads, and radio. When most of the people got their hands on the internet and spent lots of time there, the businesses found the new holy grail of marketing.   


What makes social media marketing so good, is that it is so cheap and effective compared to other “older” styles of marketing. You can target the ads directly to potential customers. Newspaper ad may cost you thousands and only reach a few who actually reads the ad section, social media ad that is targeted correctly to potential customers is way more effective and costs you way less.  

Now, when millennials and gen-z are taking over, it is hard to imagine that the old marketing styles will stay around for long.  


Nowadays there are 4,33 billion active internet users and marketing is evolving constantly like crazy. (Johnson, J. 2021)  


Imagine a sword ad in the 14th century that says: “Excalibur, Suitable for every man, every day and every situation. Cuts a head off in only 1 swing and is so light that even children can use it. Made from the finest steel and is of very superior quality. Excalibur, just cut it”. I would imagine that there would be a lot of buyers for that in the sword market. At least l would buy that. It seems like a damn good sword with a cool name and a great slogan. 









Stoddard, J. 2019. Marketing: Historical perspectives. Read on 21.10.2021  


Hardy, J. 2016. The history of marketing: From trade to tech. Read on 28.10.2021   


Anderson, T. What’s The Secret Behind Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign? Read on 01.11.2021  


Celebre, A & Denton, A. 2017. The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Read on 06.11.2021  


Johnson, J. 2021. Global digital population as of January 2021. Read on 11.11.2021  


Moore, S. 2020. The campaign that saved old spice. Read on 23.2.2022.






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