Marketing Era’s.

A while ago I read a great thought which seemed to encapsulate everything that was happening around me in the world of communications/ marketing/ branding.

“There was a time when the most celebrated brands had a position where they could tell us to ‘think different’, and to ‘just do it’. Today brands have a somewhat different position” Tom Beckman, ECD Prime PR, Stockholm.

This thought explains beautifuly where we are today by comparing us to where we were, and how things have changed. So it got me thinking: how can we summarise how advertising/communications has changed over time? If we could do this, then we can draw some conclusions as to what was driving each movement, how consumers have changed over time, and what might be the factors influencing the future of communications.

This is my pre-liminary takeout.

80's product benefit advertising.

The 80s. This was the era of the product benefit. Slice-of-life advertising, product demonstrations and voice-over announcers. Mnemonic devices, jingles or any device that hammered home a specific product benefit. Of course, this product benefit made you more sexy, appealing and cool.

90's Image driven/aspirational advertising.

The 90’s. This was the era of the brand. Selling an image. Telling consumers how they will ‘look’ using this brand. Promises, promises. Pushing people to aspire to a specific lifestyle. If you use this product it will say ‘xyz’ about you. If you use this product, you will be…

The 00’s. After years of being sold promises and consumerism, the turn of the century signalled the start of a a search for authenticity. Consumers didn’t want to be sold a dream, they wanted “No Logo’s” (Anne Klein) and authentic products. Consumers wanted to help other communities around the world and make sure they were consuming ethically. They wanted to know the story behind the brand, it’s heritage and history. They wanted brands to start acting honestly. Brands shifted from selling ‘hyped, unreal aspirations’ in their ads to a having a ‘lifestyle’ positioning, being a source of ‘optimism’.

Viral and Interactivity explode.

The 10’s. Thanks to the I.T revolution people started to react to communications and brands that involved interactivity + involvement. The viral explosion (thanks to youtube, email and the internet) encouraged people to interact (online and offline) with brands via websites, competitions, games, forums. Nevertheless it was still a one-way conversation, with brands doing much of the talking.


The future. Welcome to the era of the conversation. Brands no longer own the conversation, consumers are taking charge. And if consumers don’t like what your brand has done,they will not be afraid to say it. This ‘conversation; is not just about communications, but brand/ corporate values have changed as well – to become more transparent, honest, open, community minded.

There is much that can be written about each era – and the cultural, geopolitical, social, economic and technological factors that influenced that era. Maybe that will be the topic of another post.

For now, it’s good to chart the evolution of communications to see how brands and marketing (does this word even exist anymore??) must adapt.

More on this topic later. Enjoy!


4 Comments on “Marketing Era’s.”

  1. Roger says:

    not only Brands and Marketing…..Agencies too! maybe they should not be called agencies anymore :)…..

  2. […] I’ve written about the progress of Marketing and Communications over time (; […]

  3. […] written about the evolution and development of Marketing and Communications over time (“Marketing Era’s“, “From-functional-to-aspirational-to-meaningful-economy“). One might argue that […]

  4. […] written about the evolution and development of Marketing and Communications over time (“Marketing Era’s“, “From-functional-to-aspirational-to-meaningful-economy“). One might argue […]

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