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5 Historical Marketing Techniques (And Their Modern Equivalents)

We tend to think of marketing as a modern innovation, designed to ferry along the huge volume of products created by industrialisation, and made possible by the 20th Century’s diverse media. However, the human desire to buy and sell things has been around for millenia, so it’s only natural that we can look back into history and see some ingenious early attempts at showcasing products and services that foreshadow the techniques we use in our age of digital marketing. Here are 5 of our favourites.

1. Victorian content marketing

Until the early 2000s, nobody had ever used the term ‘content marketing’, yet we can find examples of businesses publishing material as part of a creative strategy as far back as the Victorian era.

The first time you see a company producing content as a continuous, core element of its marketing is in 1895, when US agricultural manufacturers John Deere launched their own magazine called The Furrow.

A farming journal for their customers, it reached a peak circulation of over 4 million in 1912, and is still published today in 12 different languages.

123 years later, content marketing is something that any business can take advantage of via quality online platforms that thousands rely on to keep them informed. If you want to feature in a professionally written article on a prestigious news website, check out our sponsored content offer.

2. Early newspaper marketing

Advertising in news outlets is a tried-and-tested way of increasing brand awareness, and has been a huge hit for businesses throughout history.

The first illustrated print newspaper ad in Britain appeared in 1652 in The Faithfull Scout, advertising 2 lost pearls. In the coming centuries, as printing technologies made a mass media possible, advertising and publishing became ever more intertwined. By 1914, the same amount was spent on advertising as on defence in Britain – £10,000,000!

We’re glad to report that customers still respond to print ads, and their online equivalents, so many years later. News titles’ enthusiastic adoption of the internet offers whole new opportunities for businesses to benefit from the exposure that publishers can provide.

3. The first digital display ad

1994 probably doesn’t seem like ancient history to most of us, but things move so quickly in digital marketing that it might as well be. The year that Friends first graced our screens also gave us the world’s first ever online banner ad.

The ad in question was purchased by AT&T, though didn’t feature their branding. It appeared on and looked like this:

First Banner Ad

The total novelty of the ad (plus it’s rather unsubtle call-to-action) produced a click-through rate of 44% – a number absolutely unheard of anywhere in 2018, but one indicative of just how enthusiastically people will respond to the unexpected.

The sheer volume of online advertising out there today means your ads need an extra special something to cut through the noise, and placing them on trusted news sites gets them spotted quicker and viewed for longer.

4. The multi-channel marvels of Josiah Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood was an English potter born in 1730. As well as a leading light of the Industrial Revolution, he was also arguably the first marketer, in the modern sense at least.

Wedgwood understood the value of utilising new communications technologies, and his mass direct mail campaigns predicted the outbound marketing of today. We’re pretty confident that Wedgwood would write the best email subject lines in the game if he were still around!

He even understood what we now call influencer marketing – promoting your product by partnering with an influential figure among your target market. He snagged a royal endorsement for his products, becoming the official “potter to her majesty” Queen Charlotte, and the royal insignia on his tea sets allowed him to sell them at far higher prices than any of his competitors.

If you want to be the modern-day Wedgwood of your local area, check out our article on mastering multi-channel marketing.

5. Medieval flyers

Nobody looks at a flyer on their windshield and sees an innovation in marketing media, but you’d be surprised to find out just how old flyer advertising actually is.

The first known printed advert in English was for a book called Sarum Pie by William Caxton. It dates from 1477, and is only slightly bigger than your average smartphone.

The flyer performs the core functions of most ads throughout history, telling people where the book can be bought, and that it’s a “good chepe” bargain.

We admire this distillation of the marketing pitch down to the bare minimum, though we probably wouldn’t advise mimicking Caxton’s spelling when drafting copy for your own ads!

People say that there’s nothing new under the sun. When it comes to marketing, that’s not quite true, but there are definite parallels between many of our common practices today and the innovations of our ancestors.

There’s always something to learn in marketing, and occasionally, looking deep into the past to see how people made the best of limited technology can be almost as useful as keeping up with current marketing trends.

Enjoyed digging up these old gems with us? Why not check out some of our other articles?

> 5 Ridiculous Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

> 3 Important Stats Showing Why Print Advertising Is Still Relevant

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