A timeline of marketing

Oliver Smith

A timeline of marketing: what we can learn

In this blog we explore the history of marketing through a timeline. It's not only interesting to see how marketing has changed dramatically over the years but also we can learn a lot from how marketing started and helped grow businesses and its relationship with consumers.



Starting in 1450


Mass printing of brochures and flyers first became possible in 1450 with the invention of Gutenberg's metal movable type, leading to the materialisation of print advertising, not too dissimilar to the flyers and print advertising we see today.


1730 - 1867 - magazine advertising


In 1730 magazines emerged as a medium with the first being printed in 1741 in Philadelphia, allowing businesses to promote their services with adverts. In 1839 posters became a popular platform to promote businesses, so much so that they had to be banned on properties in London! The earliest record of a billboard was as far back as 1867.



1922 - 1941 - radio advertising


Radio advertising began in 1922 and in 1941 saw the first recorded use of television advertising . The first commercial for Bulova clocks reached 4,000 TV sets - imagine trying to sell advertising space with those figures today!



1950 - TV advertising


In 1950 marketing grew from posters, billboards and occasional radio and TV adverts. With the growth of television, TV ad revenue began to surpass sales from magazine and radio ads.



1970 - telemarketing


1970 saw the popular introduction of telemarketing as it emerged as a common tactic to attract new business.



1973 - the beginning of the digital age


The digital age began in 1973 when new emerging technologies continued to change the marketing landscape. In this year Motorola researcher Dr Martin Cooper made the first ever hand-held mobile phone!



1981 - 1984 - computers


In 1981 IBM introduced the IBM personal computer, and three years later in 1984, Apple launched its hugely successful Macintosh with an impressive Super Bowl commercial directed by Ridley Scott. The advertisement cost nearly one million pounds to produce and reached a whopping 46.4% of American households!



1985 - newspaper advertising


In 1985 print advertising really exploded with newspaper ad revenue reaching an impressive £25 billion! This explosion was a result of the emergence of desktop publishing and the personal computer.



1990 - 1994 - advance of the mobile and the start of text advertising!


1990 – 1994 saw the the advance of mobile as it became more commonplace to own a mobile device. This then saw the introduction of text advertising, a truly new way of marketing. During this time TV displaced newspapers as the nations ad medium, growing from £2.4 billion to an estimated £8.3 billion.


1995 - 2002 - introduction of the internet and emails!


1995 – 2002 saw the introduction of the internet and emails! In 1994, Phoenix law firm Canter and Seigal advertised their services by posting a message on several thousand newsgroups. Mobile phones gained even more popularity and the internet became a viable tool for commerce, opening doors for an explosion in marketing.



1995 - 1997 - search engines!


1995 – 1997 saw what is now second nature to most of us, the search engine, the first being launched in 1995. In December 1995, 16 million people used the web for searching growing to 70 million by December 1997 - so from 0.4% of the population to 1.7% of it, pretty impressive!



1995 - start of SEO


Although recognised as a more recent development, SEO was actually born in 1995, with the first recorded use of the term search engine optimisation in this year. Just like today, search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information like meta data, keyword density and other on page factors, but with an ultimate goal to provide the best experience for the searcher.



1998 - birth of blogs


In 1998 search evolved with Google and MSN and in 1999 blogging emerged with the launch of blogger.com. By 2006 there were 50 million blogs in existence! In 1998 Google also introduced PageRank, which is the metric Google uses to determine how websites should rank.



Millenium - Adwords!


By 2000 there was a 500% increase in technology! This year saw the launch of Google PPC/Adwords. The start to the new millennium brought about the introduction of inbound marketing that quickly became recognised as an effective marketing strategy, characterised by a greater emphasis on information sharing, user-centred design and collaboration. This new trend led to consumers engaging with brands in new ways. Instead of simply pushing advertising on customers, the benefits of creating value and earning their business began to take hold.


2003 - social media


In 2003 social media took hold and began to rapidly grow in popularity, with LinkedIn, Myspace, and Facebook launching in 2004.



2005 - Google Analytics


In 2005 Google began personalising search results, informed by past history search. Google analytics was also formed and the demand was so high that new signups were suspended after just one week! It was then made fully available in August 2006.



2006 - HubSpot


In 2006 HubSpot is launched and social media continued to grow with the introduction of Twitter. E-Commerce also began and quickly grew with Amazon sales topping $10 billion, rising to $25 billion in 2009 – remember the print advertising revenue for ALL of the newspapers!



2008 - online videos!


By 2008, 53.5% of the UK’s population watched online videos.



2010 - smartphones


By 2010 half of all adults in the UK owned a smartphone. This lead to an increase in time spent online compared to spent in front of the TV, with 13.6 hours watching TV and 13.7 hours spent online.



2012 - social media marketing!


In 2012 social media became one of the best lead generators:

% of channel users who acquired a customer through that channel:

  • Twitter – 41%

  • LinkedIn – 41%

  • Facebook – 44%

  • Company blog – 46%

Pretty impressive returns!



2012 - growth of the internet and e-commerce


In 2012 the audience of internet users grew by 3.1% to 239 million, representing 75.6% of the total population. About two thirds of web users used social networks and more than 90% of social network users were on Facebook.



2015 - mobile shoppers


In 2015 mobile shoppers reached 72.8 million in the UK, showing the shift in consumer habits.



2019 - 2020 - AI & automations


In 2019 – 2020 today artificial intelligence is transforming digital marketing through automated adverts and emails. This is accomplished by using big data analytics, machine learning, and other processes to gain insight into your audience and then targeting them with relevant ads or emails i.e. when you click on something and it then pops up again!



What we can learn from this timeline:


From posters to now sophisticated automated campaigns built using data and algorithms, marketing has changed and continues to rapidly evolve! Marketing is no longer a blanket operation; instead the personalised approach dominates, empowering businesses to engage and build relationships to drive return on investment.


The history of marketing also highlights the rapid changes in approach to business and how it is crucial to keep up and be agile to an ever-changing world.

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A timeline of marketing

A timeline of marketing