From the time your woke up this morning to the moment you sat in your cushy desk chair at work, think of all the advertising messages that filled your AM – morning radio commercials, charity outreach on your cereal box, sale ads in the morning newspaper, banner ads on CNN.com, electronic billboards featuring luxury automobiles, a new restaurant opening plastered on the back of a public transit bus, a presidential campaign bumper sticker on a hybrid, museum exhibit signage in the train station and probably about 100 more examples that you consciously or subconsciously encountered. A thought to ponder over your morning cup o’ Joe: how did our society become a place that constantly surrounds us with proverbial noise?
Throughout the years, advertising has been the hero and bane of many companies’ existence. But how and why did it all begin? In the early 1700’s the first newspaper advertisement was published in the Boston News-Letter and advertising has been evolving ever since. In the 1880’s, rural department stores such as Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck introduced the mail-order catalogue to reach those consumers who were, well, hard to reach. This strategy planted the seed for what all savvy marketers now know: instead of targeting the masses, target your unique client.
But how does one effectively target their audience when expenses have risen since the time of the Pony Express? As we all know, advertising takes money, but believe it or not, as early as the 1900’s, companies were spending upwards of $1 million on advertising ventures. In fact, the American Tobacco Company spent $12.3 million on a Lucky Strikes campaign in 1929. And during World War II, $350 billion was spent on wartime effort advertisements. Since advertising budgets have grown throughout history, one must admit that something must be working because companies continue to spend.
Aside from the birth of advertising and expenditures on marketing, what provocative advertising revolution came next? An impactful three-letter word: S-E-X. And it was in 1911 that an ad for soap appearing in the Ladies Home Journal leveraged sex appeal for the first time in history. Another ruggedly sexy campaign came in the 1950’s with the emergence of the Marlboro Man. Since then, sex in advertising has been prominently on display – Brooke Shields in Calvin Klein jeans, Anna Nicole Smith for Guess and all those Abercrombie & Fitch boys. Besides selling sex, these ads sold something even more recognizable and lasting: the brand.
So, how has ‘the brand’ affected sales? By resonating with the consumer, of course. In the 1980’s Pepsi launched ‘The Pepsi Generation’ and started the cola wars that are still continuing today, making Pepsi and Coca-Cola internationally recognizable brands. Around the same time, Nike re-invented its brand with the ‘Just Do It’ campaign, which featured celebrity sports figures such as Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan. More recently, Dove launched its ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ which features real women, not models, advertising Dove’s product line. What these three companies have achieved is global awareness of their ‘brand:’ the Pepsi red, white and blue circle, the Nike “Swoosh” and Dove’s silhouetted dove.
Not surprisingly, the face of advertising drastically changed again in the 1990’s with the rise of the Internet. Both marketing and everyday communication was significantly altered with the birth of the World Wide Web. With email, podcasts, YouTube and Facebook – just to name a few – advertising strategies have had to evolve to keep up with the cyber revolution. Brand recognition continues to be vastly important though; for example, since the 1980’s Apple has created a strong and sought after brand via it’s many free-thinking advertising campaigns. With the launch of Apple’s iPod and iPhone in the 2000s as well as its constant (and often amusing) rivalry with the PC, Apple has become a phenomenon within the interactive realm. Using the marketing successes of the corporate giants as a gauge, it’s time to ask yourself: is your brand working for you?
Consider that today’s consumer is savvy and the choice of advertising mediums are vast. Therefore, advertising – and having a distinct presence – is that much more important. Consumers are flooded with messages from the time they wake up in the morning until they finally close their eyes at night. One has to ponder how much information actually gets through. For instance, a year or so prior to the 2008 summer movie opening of The Dark Night, Warner Bros. released a successful, heavily web based, viral marketing campaign that created a lot of buzz around the film. This viral endeavor generated a highly anticipated opening weekend that produced $155.34 million and topped Spider-Man 3 to capture the best opening weekend at the box office. This marketing strategy penetrated the noise; will yours do the same?
Your business’s branded and strategic messages needs to co-exist amidst the branding of thousands of industries. So, in light of this chaos, how does your brand become the loudest? That’s where you can be the ruler of your own marketing destiny and ensure that your brand makes an impact on the consumer. Defined messages break through the noise when the time, place or medium, and audience are defined – it’s like thrusting your brand into the perfect ‘advertising’ storm. Here are a few tips to get you started: consider your audience, unique characteristics, competition, image, growth strategy and brand – become a leader in your industry.
Now that you know a little bit about advertising’s past, start to consider your own advertising future and how it’s affecting your bottom line. Perhaps your budget does not compare to the $100 million spent on the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies, but nevertheless, advertising works and you need to be on the bandwagon. You never know, maybe you and your business will become part of advertising history!
American Advertising: A Brief History. 31 March 2006.
American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning (Graduate Center, CUNY) and the Center for History and New Media (George Mason University). 12 August 2008 http://historymatters.gmu.edu/mse/ads/amadv.html
The Advertising Age Timeline. 2005. Advertising Age / Crain Communications Inc. 13 August 2008 <http://adage.com/century/timeline/index.html.
“Apple In. advertising.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 19 August 2008. 20 August 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Inc._advertising
“Nike’s “Just Do It” Advertising Campaign.” CFAR – Center For Applied Research. 2008. 12 August 2008 http://www.cfar.com/Documents/nikecmp.pdf
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