Lead Forensics

An Eras Tour of Our Own: The Eras of Marketing

Take a tour through the eras of marketing with SJC.

The frenzied buzz around Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is drawing comparisons to the kind of concert excitement not seen since the 1980s heyday of Michael Jackson and Madonna. Billy Joel, who’s been known to bring in a bit of a crowd himself, called it akin to Beatlemania.

The Eras Tour is just what it sounds like: a trip through the eras of Taylor Swift’s music, from her earliest hits with Tim McGraw and Teardrops from My Guitar to this year’s Speak Now album. She’s proven herself to be the queen of hits, surpassing Barbra Streisand in Number One albums on the Billboard 200 throughout her career.

From a marketing perspective, what is possibly most striking is Swift’s mastery of branding. She has an amazing connection with her fans, turning them into self-identified advocates called Swifties, And she rewards them well, embarking on a tour that dwarfs even that of Beyonce, who finished 56 dates, while Swift will finish 53 dates before she heads out to begin her international concert dates.

Taking a Tour

Taking a cue from Taylor, let’s journey through the eras of marketing, celebrating advances that made each decade exciting and how it’s still shaping how marketing works today.

The marketing of 2023 would be hard to imagine in the middle of the 20th century. But some elements were in the works, and as you take a look at each decade from 1950 on, you’ll see the framework that was taking shape for the digital, social media-focused marketing world where brands now dwell.

The 1950s

The marketing of the 1950s was heavily influenced by families owning televisions.

This decade introduced a combination of factors that fueled advances in marketing. It was the end of the thriftiness that had dominated the World War II years, and the economy was booming. Finally, homes were beginning to have televisions, a perfect avenue for brands to make connections with consumers.

Advertising was broad, and companies simply encouraged audiences to buy their products. The cost was prohibitive to some brands, with rates soaring high above that of a radio ad. For many brands, radio ads continued to be their main way of connecting with consumers.

Where It Is Now: You can see the clear connection between the television advertising of the 1950s and the burgeoning video marketing techniques of today. Brands are still building on what they learned in those early ads, but there is still much to be discovered, such as what length of an ad is ideal. The good news is that video marketing is far more affordable than early television ads, with companies able to create a video that fits within their marketing budget.

The 1960s

Marketing in the 1960s first learned to aim its messaging at a particular group of people.

You might say that the 1960s is when direct mail marketing hit its stride. The term “direct marketing” was coined in 1967, and because of the introduction of ZIP codes and two-letter state abbreviations, plus advances in computer technology, companies can begin targeting households based on demographics like income and other household information.

And Now: Direct mail remains a powerful way to reach audiences, but the techniques used have advanced significantly. For instance, companies use dedicated landing pages, QR codes and granular data analysis to understand their target market, track their responses and refine strategies.

The 1970s

Marketing first begins to ask why customers would want their product during the 1970s.

The changes that happened in the 1970s may seem subtle, and certainly less obviously earth-shattering than, say, a television appearing in homes, but they are arguably some of the most critical for shaping how marketing works today.

In the 1970s, more households had more than one channel on their television, and as more brands turned to television advertising, they also had to factor in a strategy for keeping viewers from changing the channel when their advertisement was airing. This is when brands begin thinking about their audiences and why they should buy their product.

In this era, you see campaigns like the one for Coca-Cola that told viewers, “It’s the Real Thing,” an obvious jab at that supposed impostor, Pepsi, but also a signal that the brand was introducing a focus on authenticity. Brands also begin to show signs that they are attempting to earn the trust of consumers.

Today: It is easy to see how the changes that occurred in the 1970s around brand messaging, authenticity, relationship-building and emotional connection continue to shape marketing strategies. Content marketing has its roots in these developments, and brands still see the value in not just putting their product information out there, but building trust and relationships with audiences.

The 1980s

Marketing in the 1980s pulled in big names like Michael Jackson for Pepsi.

While there were certainly celebrity endorsements before the 1980s, this may be considered the golden era of this marketing practice. Michael Jackson and his brothers appeared in a commercial that featured a young Alfonso Ribeiro to promote Pepsi (watch it here; it’s worth 90 seconds of your time to be reminded of how fantastic a dancer Ribeiro is).

In this decade, Michael Jordan sold Nikes, Bill Cosby told kids to buy Jell-O Pudding Pops and every time your mom brought home a box of Wheaties, you looked to see which athlete was featured on the front.

Same, But Better: Like a lot of the marketing ideas featured in this article, celebrity endorsements are still there, but in some ways, they are more within reach for small businesses and companies of all budget sizes. From influencer endorsements to inviting industry voices onto  your podcast or to do a guest blog, it still makes sense to build credibility and connection by featuring well-known people.

It’s fun to take a tour of marketing’s eras of the past, but you’ll probably agree that the marketing of today is far more affordable, flexible and personal than it has been in the past. Just like Taylor Swift’s music continues to build on her experiences and get better and better, marketing ideas continue to evolve and grow.

If you’re ready to talk marketing, let’s get together for coffee. We’ll turn on a little Taylor for inspiration as we craft a plan to make your brand shine with a fantastic strategy.




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