The philosophy behind marketing products or services to consumers has been around for centuries. Even in pre-literate societies, artisans would give their goods a namesake design so consumers could discern their quality with a glance — a rudimentary form of branding and advertising.
However, the impact of marketing has grown considerably since the introduction of the printing press in the 1400s. This device revolutionized communications on a mass scale, providing businesses with a quick and cost-effective way to reach potential customers. This laid the framework for a consumer-focused culture, and opened the door for businesses to engage in modern marketing activities.
A Brief History of Marketing
Most marketers are aware of major industry shifts caused by the digital revolution — but 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?
Even thousands of years ago, people naturally ended up branding things - such as mosaic advertisements preserved from a successful businessman's house in Pompeii. Commerce continued to grow slowly over the years as merchants traveled to heavily trafficked "market towns" and realized they needed to stand out among merchants with similar offerings. As international trade became commonplace, the need for marketing became more pressing.
Then, in the 1400s, the introduction of the printing press 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. After this, the 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 Shifts to the Consumer
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 the media mix could be optimized. In fact, the 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 what they saw as a 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 highest marketing 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 and performance measurement was born.
The Introduction of Marketing Performance 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. Thus, 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, and 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.
The Digital Revolution and a New Era of Marketing
When the first wireless phone was invented in 1972, it kicked off a wave of emerging technologies. In its wake, the first personal computer entered the new digital scene in 1975.
From there, digital technology — and the subsequent advertising used to capitalize on those technologies — exploded. Soon, everyone had their own personal computer, interconnected to each other via a new communications technology: the modern internet. By the early 90’s, the first search engines emerged to help users navigate the web, bringing with them early variations of search engine optimization and advertising.
Smartphones and tablets have also allowed for highly sophisticated browsing and engagement on-the-go, and marketers have been quick to leverage the new opportunities for better marketing and revenue growth. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, marketers have found themselves trying to reach consumers with a variety of touchpoints across a number of different digital channels. This complex digital marketing mix meant marketers needed to rethink how they measured the impact of their brand messages. As a result, digital attribution was born.
The Emergence and Evolution of Digital Attribution Models
Digital technology brought new opportunities for rapid, granular marketing measurements. Prior to this, media mix modeling (MMM) was the preferred measurement technique for print and broadcast media. However, it relied on long-term measurements and provided broad insights into the overall effectiveness of marketing efforts. With digital, marketers could see engagements faster, and needed marketing analytics that could keep up.
As technology evolved, consumers were gaining access to a wider variety of digital platforms — both in-home and on-the-go. Subsequently, marketers found themselves engaging with consumers across these channels, which in turn meant marketing measurement efforts were growing equally complex. However, with digital channels, marketers could see when and where consumers were engaging with their marketing. This level of visibility was a result of leveraging attribution models to better understand the impact these channels had on driving conversions.
Initially, digital attribution was rudimentary. Marketers looked at the digital channels immediately preceding a conversion, known as “last click” or “last touch” measurements, and assigned those channels with the most value for optimizing a campaign. However, as consumers began engaging with media across a number of devices, the marketing mix used to engage consumers grew more complex. In order to understand which ads were driving revenue across the digital mix, marketers adopted multi-touch attribution, which scored multiple touchpoints across the consumer’s path to purchase.
As flaws in attribution models were identified, marketers began adopting lift studies, which as the name implies, “lifts” the consumer touchpoints across a specific digital channel (like mobile for example), and scores the value of each touchpoint in increments — the greater the role of the touchpoint, the greater value that would be placed on that touchpoint.
The Shift Toward Unified Marketing Measurement
While digital attribution models are effective at measuring the digital marketing landscape, consumers still engage with the print and broadcast media that’s been around for decades. Today, the digital revolution has made it possible to leverage effective marketing performance tools that expand marketing measurement capabilities well past digital attribution.
Now, marketers can accurately measure their efforts across the marketing mix as part of a comprehensive, unified marketing attribution strategy — which provides marketers with a 360º view of their marketing efforts — online and offline. Thanks to the digital revolution, marketing measurements can now help marketers provide fluid, personalized experiences that are tailored to individual shoppers.
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, the marketing mix model was developed, and remained a staple measurement marketers could rely on up until the digital takeover.
Once digital technology entered the stage, it revolutionized the way consumers and brands interact. What’s more, the role of marketing measurements grew as the number of channels exploded. With the right marketing insights and optimization platform, marketers are now able to gain previously unimaginable insights into the behaviors of the consumers they engaged with. As technology evolves, so do the measurements and capabilities of today’s marketers—culminating in the modern marketing we know today.