Marketing in 1996 - was it so different?

500 marketing in 1996.jpg

That moment when you realise everything on your “to do” list for the day evolves around the internet and the BT “engineer” has taken over in his quest to find a fault on the line.

We’ve all been there I’m sure. But it got me thinking just how dependent on technology marketing has become and how that has changed so significantly in the 20 years that I have been actively involved. Let me take you back to the giddy days in 1996 for example…

Transparencies, not jpegs

Photographic shoots were serious business. I worked for a cheese company back then and days could be spent in dark and dingy photographer’s studios, all in the name of creativity. Photographs were eventually taken and we would have reviewed them ahead of the final “click” by looking through the camera. Job done, we waited, many days. A set of transparencies would arrive carefully packaged in the post. With much excitement, we’d hold them up to the light whilst we took them to the light box for full viewing.

Press releases were often accompanied by these precious transparencies, once more using the post – no email here! We’d demonstrate a suggested crop to the image with tape marking the proportions on the “tranny”. Colour separation charges had a real point in 1996.

Getting in front of the customer

Marketing in 1996 was a very different ball game, though the principles remained exactly the same. We wanted to talk to our target audience and continually looked for new ways to do this. But our options were limited somewhat by the tools available. No email marketing, no social media, no Google.

And so what did we do? Well, for B2B marketing, great use was used of the post and the telephone. Promotional campaigns were mailed with gusto and the franking machine had never been so busy. Literature, brochures and flyers were in greater demand – something creative and attention-grabbing to land on their desk when the post arrived.

Talking to consumers demanded much collaboration with magazine editorial teams and advertising departments. A TV advert was simply aspirational for many companies. Building up mailing (postal) lists of existing customers was always a good move and exhibitions could certainly help to find new prospects and spread the word.

So maybe not so different, aside from the immediacy and reach of digital marketing, which is so much more accessible to so many companies.

Webinars? Conference calling? Screen sharing? Not likely!

Communication. Well that was limited but somehow, we all kept in touch pretty well. You might wonder how, given the widely available methods today, over and above face to face meetings, the post and the phone. And when we wanted to identify new suppliers to talk to, the Yellow Pages often came in handy alongside many industry directories – hard copies of course that you would hold in your office.

So 20 years on, things have certainly changed for the marketing world. Some for the better, but not all. I enjoy having the “old school” experience under my belt in addition to plenty of new and technology-rich activity. Both have their place and the skill is in identifying what tools to use and when, for best effect. And every business is different. I have one client for example that very successfully sends out a hard copy newsletter to its key customers four times a year. The same company still actively engages in email marketing, social media and website activities. But that hard copy newsletter is well-received as it’s actually a little bit different these days! We don’t all have to follow the pack.

Given all of the above, I’ll still be very grateful when the BT man allows me to access my internet connection and phone line again. The brief for marketing becomes ever wider it seems, and Cantaloupe for one enjoys the challenge, whilst always having the strength of seasoned experience from the days before even dial-up was common-place in the office.