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A History of Marketing Analytics: Before the Digital Takeover

Last updated: April 16, 2020


a-history-of-marketing-analytics-before-the-digital-takeoverThe philosophy behind marketing products or services to consumers has been around for centuries. Since the introduction of the printing press in the 1400’s solidified our ability to communicate on a mass scale, businesses have been targeting consumers to convince them to purchase their goods.

While we all have some idea of the big shifts in the history of marketing since the digital revolution, what was marketing like before then? How did marketers leverage the tools and techniques available to them across the centuries to convey value and engage with audiences? More importantly, how did marketers develop measurements to help them optimize their efforts before the digital revolution?

A Brief History of Marketing Before Digital

While the philosophy surrounding marketing as we know it didn’t come about until the early 20th century , marketing in one form or another has existed for centuries. The introduction of the printing press in the mid 1400’s revolutionized our ability to communicate, and ever since, we’ve been looking for new ways to connect consumers with the products and services they need.

The power of print media and its ability to reach more people faster did not go unnoticed. Within a decade of the introduction of the printing press, the first recorded print advertisement was made in the 1450’s. From there, use of print skyrocketed, and with it, came more sophisticated advertisements. From the first magazine ad in Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine in 1742, to the introduction of direct mail advertisement in 1862, advertising the number of print ads during this time skyrocketed.

By the time radio advertising entered the marketing landscape, it didn’t take long for radio ad spend to overtake print. Similarly, the introduction of Television ads in 1942 added even more opportunity for brands to reach consumers across a growing media landscape.

Marketing as a Focused Discipline

As more brands began leveraging mass communication to advertise their products and services, it didn’t take long to recognize the need to understand the effects of their advertising efforts and how they could be optimized. In fact, need for focused, professional marketing efforts was noted back in 1902, when the University of Pennsylvania offered the first marketing course, dubbed, “The Marketing of Products.”

When broadcast media entered the scene, it was the first time marketers needed to manage a then, large number of marketing channels. Brands were spending millions of dollars on print, radio, and television advertising, and as a result, they needed to understand where and when those channels performed. In order to generate the most ROI for advertising dollars, marketers began to shy away from engaging consumers with generic messaging  and set out to understand the consumer. As a result, modern marketing measurement was born.

The Birth of Marketing Measurement

Soon after the introduction of broadcast media, the marketing landscape was saturated with advertisements from the scores of brands vying for the attention and business of consumers. In turn, marketers had to develop strategies that went outside of traditional, “spray and pray” methods of sending advertising to as many people as possible. As a result, the first modern marketing measurement concept, “marketing mix,” was introduced to the marketing industry.  

First coined in 1952 and made popular in 1964 by Neil Borden, the marketing mix focused on outlining the key ingredients needed to understand what a product or service provides consumers, how marketers can best align those ingredients to market products and services effectively.  It was in this marketing mix strategy that the first iteration of the “marketing mix four Ps” was realized.

In his initial marketing mix outline, Borden identified product, promotion, place, and price as the four key ingredients for marketing success. In other words, the marketers that could understand the demand for the product, the price consumers would pay for it, the promotions that got their attention, and the place those promotions could be put in front of consumers, would have the most successful marketing campaigns. Over the years, this concept was expanded upon, eventually leading to the first modern marketing measurement strategy marketing mix modeling (MMM).

When MMM was first created, the marketing mix used to engage audiences was limited to print, broadcast, and out-of-home advertising. This made it possible for marketers to collect long-term, aggregate data that could determine the relationship between marketing mixes and their overall impact on sales.Taking into consideration the four Ps of marketing, marketers could then aim their efforts toward placing the right message, in front of the right consumer, at the right time.

Final Thoughts

Since gaining the capabilities for mass communication, marketing efforts have gone from simple, rudimentary messages that “intruded” on the consumer, to a more refined process aimed at understanding the consumer. In this effort, marketing mix model was developed, and remained a staple measurement marketers could rely on up until the digital takeover.

For more information on the history of marketing analytics, stay tuned for our next article, A History of Marketing Analytics: The Digital Revolution.

Written by Marketing Evolution