BusinessDigital Marketing

Understanding Digital Marketing

You want to go digital?

In the beginning…

Etched on a dusty curbstone amidst the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, you’ll find an engraved penis, strategically carved to point the way to what, at the time, was one of the most popular brothels in the area. Guides will tell you it’s the ‘oldest advertisement in the world, for the oldest business in the world. While the truth of that claim is debatable, the phallic ad is certainly very old.

The changing face of advertising

Advertising can be intoxicating. The spin, the story, the message, the call to action, the image, the placement, the measurement, the refinement. It all adds up to a powerful cocktail that can ultimately change the world. At its core, advertising is all about influencing people – persuading them to take the actions we want, whether that is choosing a particular brand of toothpaste, picking up the phone, filling in a mailing coupon or visiting a website. Done well, the power of advertising can achieve amazing things, and if you’re in business you’re already doing it, and will continue to do so.

Advertising through the ages

Advertising, an essential component in the marketing of any business, has been around for a long time. The Pompeii penis is positively modern compared to some of the advertising relics that archaeologists have unearthed in ancient Arabia, China, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The Egyptians used papyrus to create posters and flyers, while lost-and-found advertising (also on papyrus, and often relating to ‘missing’ slaves) was common in both ancient Greece and Rome. Posters, signs and flyers were widely employed in the ancient cities of Rome, Pompeii and Carthage to publicize events such as circuses, games and gladiatorial contests.

The technology behind digital marketing

As we have already mentioned, developments in technology and the evolution of marketing are inextricably intertwined. Technology has underpinned major milestones in the history of marketing since its inception. The process tends to go something like this:

1 New technology emerges and is initially the preserve of technologists and early adopters.

2 The technology gains a firmer foothold in the market and starts to become more popular, putting it on the marketing radar.

3 Innovative marketers jump in to explore ways that they can harness the power of this emerging technology to connect with their target audience.

4 The technology migrates to the mainstream and is adopted into standard marketing practice.

Early networks

The internet story really starts in 1957, with the USSR’s launch of the sputnik satellite. It signaled that the United States was falling behind the Russians in the technology stakes, prompting the US government to invest heavily in science and technology. In 1958, the US Department of Defense set up the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) – a specialist agency established with a specific remit: making sure the United States stayed ahead of its cold war nemesis in the accelerating technology race.

You’ve got mail

E-mail, which is still often described as the internet’s ‘killer application’, began life in the early 1960s as a facility that allowed users of mainframe computers to send simple text-based messages to another user’s mailbox on the same computer. But it wasn’t until the advent of ARPANET that anyone considered sending electronic mail from one user to another across a network.

Making connections – birth of the web

It was in 1989 that Tim Berners-Lee, a British developer working at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, proposed a system of information cross-referencing, access and retrieval across the rapidly growing internet, based on ‘hypertext’ links. The concept of a hypertext information architecture was nothing new, and was already being used in individual programs running on individual computers around the world. The idea of linking documents stored on different computers across the rapidly growing internet, though, was nothing short of revolutionary.

A huge and growing market

Although internet companies suffered bruised finances and a tarnished public image in the wake of the dot.com crash, the internet itself never stopped growing, both in terms of the number of websites online, and, crucially from a marketing perspective, the number of people with internet access. In March 2000, when the dot.com bubble burst, there were an estimated 304 million people in the world with internet access.

Lastly Comment

Although internet companies suffered bruised finances and a tarnished public image in the wake of the dot.com crash, the internet itself never stopped growing, both in terms of the number of websites online, and, crucially from a marketing perspective, the number of people with internet access. In March 2000, when the dot.com bubble burst, there were an estimated 304 million people in the world with internet access.

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