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A Brief History of Digital Marketing

In the 1990s, the term Digital Marketing was first used followed by the launching of Archie – the first search engine. In 1993, there was the invention of the first clickable web-ad banner – HTTP. By October 8, 1994, the American company, Yahoo, launched Yahoo – the first email service provider. Yahoo created the first e-commerce transaction. By 1996, smaller search engines like HotBot, Looksmart, and Alexa were invented. By 1997, the first social media site “” was invented. 1998 gave birth to Google, Microsoft launches MSN (Microsoft Network), and Yahoo launches Yahoo web search. By the 2000s, experienced a shutdown and the smaller search engines got wiped out.
2001 birthed the first mobile marketing campaign – Universal Music was launched. By 2002, LinkedIn was born.

By 2003, Word-press and myspace were released. By 2004, Google launched Gmail followed by the huge public awareness of Google. 2004 also gave birth to Facebook, the largest social media platform to date. By 2005, YouTube was released and by 2006, Microsoft launches MS Live Search, Twitter was launched, and Amazon too – the largest e-commerce platform that has sold over $10 billion worth of goods. By 2007, Timbre was launched, Web Streaming service Hulu was released, and iPhone too was released that same year.

By 2008, China exceeds the US in the number of internet users. Spotify was launched. Groupon goes live. Google launches Instant for real-time search engine results and in the same year, Google’s Affiliate Network was shutdown. As of 2009, Google Buzz and WhatsApp came to be. By 2010, Google Buzz got shutdown, Google + and Google Panda were launched. There was also an increase in the use of the web among the youths, overtaking the number of TV viewers. The social media budget went up to 64% by 2011 with the launching of the Google Knowledge Graph. In 2013, Yahoo bought Timbre. By 2012, mobile phone exceeds the number of internet users compared to users who used the PC to access the internet, Facebook also acquired WhatsApp. By 2015, there was the rise of predictive analytics, wearable tech, and content marketing, Facebook launches Instant Article, Snapchat also added the Discover feature.

IBM brought the word, the first “PC” in 1981. Back in the day, for as little as $1500, you could have 60 kilobytes of memory that came with the pc. The pc could also be connected to the tv, play games, and process texts. You could suspect that with these features of the then pc, digital marketing came to be. Businesses began to tap into this computing power. A company called Arc=== was the first to employ the software digitizing customer and prospect’s information this software gave rise to the sales force automation platform that has transformed into what we now know as Customer Relationship Management System.

On the consumer side, the internet made its way into the public space and building on networks like Minitel, Prodigy, and the later invention of America Online. The first graphical web browser was created in 1993 by the University of Illinois and CSA Labs. It was called Mosaic with its core components that were later taken to the markets Netscape Navigator. Microsoft soon got into the game of internet explorer and with a wink of the eye, everyone was online.
A few years later, people became aware of the sea of opportunities available on the internet. Suddenly, there was a web page for every product and service and sellers become aware that consumers now had access to all information they need to make buying decisions in a new kind of purchasing circle. Search engines became the agent to find things online. By the year 2000, Google had realized that the internet could be monetized which led to the introduction of Google Ads, letting advertisers bid to show their ads to people typing keywords that indicated that they are interested in a particular product and services. Publishers were plastering their contents while they were available for free with banner ads and ads solving technology was connecting demand and supplier at scale.

Throughout the 1990s, we had all learned to depend on email, and by 2003, we already had the CAN-SPAM legislation to deal with the advertisers that had figured out how cheap and easy it was to blast their messages in the electronic version of traditional direct marketing and Spam was put under control.
A new breed of technologies was created and modern integrated email marketing platforms and marketing automation platforms evolved. This was just a little over a decade ago and there was no such thing as Youtube.

Social networking meant physical encounters with other humans. Mobile phones were used to call people and if you say the word “tablet” people would assume you are talking about writing on stone. As infrastructures raised the head, providing more storage and computing power, the web changed from a place to prevent static information to a platform for interaction. During this time, people’s original skepticism of entering credit card information on a website has turned into an e-commerce revolution.
By 2011, eBay sold nearly 40 Ferraris on its mobile app. Today, we regularly tap our phones to today’s cash register to make payments. Most Importantly, the stream of data left behind by every one of these interactions has never been richer. From the log file parsers to today’s enterprise analytic solutions and big data tools, marketers have never before had access to such data. Coupled with unprecedented computing power, and today, we are realizing the dreams of data-driven decision making and even real-time prediction and automation to achieve massive customized one-to-one consumer interactions at scale.

Despite the years of predictions about the demise of traditional media, all of these have happened and have remained a part of the marketing myths. On-demand and streaming media have indeed burst under the scene, there is yet to be a mass throwing out of our television set. Billboard and outdoor advertising still surround us as we walk through the streets and there was no shortage of radio to listen to or print media to hold in our hands. So, these mediums adapted. Television embraced the online channel, and magazines moved into digital formats and there is even a technology out there that would switch ads depending on who might be standing.

A lot has happened in just 20 years and we as consumers have made massive shifts in our behaviors based on these digital revolutions, we are all living through. Marketers have kept on leveraging on these new mediums, platforms, and processes to address the new purchasing patterns we now all exhibit. These are exciting times and it is worth looking into what today’s landscape looks like and how we can leverage it to reach and interact with the consumers of the 21st century.

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