Not that long ago, "marketing" meant things like direct mail sent to all addresses in your zip code, or calling people, or putting flyers in a local store.
Then the internet arrived and marketing became more and more digital. Over the last ten years, though, there has been an explosion of consumer technology. The iPhone showed up on the scene in 2007, but in 2009 it was still rare for the average person to have a smartphone. Now it's common for the average thirteen-year-old to have one.
The modern consumer starts looking for product on the internet, reads the local paper on their phone or tablet, and talks to people not just in their local neighborhood but all over the world.
So, what are the biggest changes in how marketing is done that come from this technology:
Marketing has Become More Multi-Dimensional
Marketing used to be one or two skills. You would have the door-to-door salesman, the telemarketer, and the person who designed newspaper ads. A lot of the time, newspaper ads were put together by the business owner.
Now? You might hire a content marketer who writes blog posts for your visit, a graphic designer to make banner ads to post on websites, an SEO specialist to make sure people can find your website...and you might still have a door-to-door salesman. Marketing has balkanized into a bunch of specialties. The person who writes your blog might not know color theory worth anything and be exactly the wrong person to design an ad banner. For smaller companies, trying to follow every single marketing channel, including multiple social media outlets that require different approaches, video ads, radio (whether old-fashioned or through streaming sites) may be impossible. Outsourcing to a marketing agency is becoming more and more common, or at least hiring the specialists you need. Even marketing agencies may outsource some things to freelancers while handling others in house.
Companies also need to do a lot more research so they understand what the best channels are for their industry and target demographic.
There is more and more "Noise" to get through
When your customers had only a few television channels, a few radio channels and a couple of review sites from which to get their information about a brand, it was easy to stand out.
Now, the internet provides people with a wealth of information, often enough to lead to choice paralysis. Your brand can easily become lost in a sea of similar (or even not-that-similar) companies as people are bombarded with advertising to the point where they tune much of it out. For local service providers this is not as much of a problem if you can get your site to rank well in local search. But for some businesses, discoverability is becoming harder and harder. The internet also lets more people hang out their shingle, especially in areas which involve selling digital goods.
You have to be unique and interesting, and tell a good story to be noticed through the crowd. More and more, it is important to engage with and talk to prospects and customers rather than sell to them.
Many People Now Run Ad Blockers
Traditional internet advertising worked well a few years ago. However, a recent study showed that 40 percent of Americans use an ad blocker on their laptop and 15 percent on mobile. Most of these people want to avoid annoying ads, with other motivations including ads slowing down page load speed and concerns about privacy. Additionally, cybersecurity specialists now recommend people run an ad blocker to avoid "malvertising," or malicious software hidden inside ads.
Ad blockers prevent users from even seeing your ads, even if you try not to make them intrusive or annoying. And most people feel that online ads are creepy, overly aggressive, or just plain annoying. Autoplay video is often listed as one of the worst offenders, especially if it messes with a device's sound settings.
Companies therefore have to turn to ads that are harder to block, such as sponsored posts on social media, video ads on YouTube and other services that are on your own channel rather than showing before other videos, etc. Ultimately, the perfect online ad is one your customers not only don't want to blog but will share themselves.
Marketing Has Become More Personalized
Gone are the days of mailing your flyer to every single address in a specified zip code. Although some companies still find success with such blanket techniques, modern marketing is about targeting the top of the funnel, not just the bottom. Facebook is popular with advertisers for the high level of targeting of ads.
As mentioned above, ads people want to share have become a thing...which is why the expensive Superbowl ads are now also posted to YouTube where people can comment on and share them. User generated content on company websites is also increasing, albeit with its own issues about moderation and privacy.
While many people are annoyed by "creepy" personalized ads, more tend to be annoyed by irrelevant ads (and may even openly mock your company for trying to advertise to them).
Also, the internet has become the new vehicle for the oldest marketing device of all: Word of mouth. Businesses have to be particularly careful to deal with a dissatisfied customer quickly. Whilst in the past a gossiping customer could talk to a dozen people, now they can talk to thousands, influencing them away from your company. On the other hand, a satisfied customer can have just as much reach and a so-called "superfan," somebody who sings your praises every time they can can be worth a marketing department on their own.
Data and Automation are Becoming More Important
Many marketing professionals feel that large swathes of their job will, in the future, be performed by robots. The large amount of information and engagement found on the internet means even relatively small companies are dealing with a "big data" situation which requires algorithms and software to properly analyze.
Marketing software now takes over the role once played by a marketer with a pen or even a spreadsheet. This allows marketers to make better and more informed decisions, but puts a lot in the hands of the computer. Improved AI techniques may lead to even more targeted and personalized advertising and to companies knowing more quickly whether a campaign is working. In the past you might have to wait three or six months for "payoff" on a campaign. Now campaigns can be adjusted on the fly.
Marketing has, in other words, become more multi-dimensional, more agile, and more focused on what individual customers want. Blanket advertising is no longer particularly effective. Standing out from the crowd and continuing to do so involves getting the right expert help for your company, industry, and budget.