2000 to 2020: Learning the lessons of the past to prepare for the future of marketing

Brendan Straw, Chief Sales Officer, Ovato


This is the first blog of the 2020 Visions series from Ovato. 

It feels like only yesterday that we were approaching the year 2000. We worried about what Y2K would bring. We used the internet for work, emails and not much else. Mobile phones had buttons and 2-tone displays. Meanwhile, we were all getting ready to welcome the new year and the start of a new Millennium by partying like it was 1999 in maxi-skirts, handkerchief tops and baggy jeans.

But change is constant, and as philosopher George Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

For marketers, the end of another decade gives you the opportunity to look back on how things have changed and what we can learn for the future.

We'll make it up to you in the year 2000

Technology, and it’s influence on us, has undergone a transformation that’s difficult to comprehend even for those of us who lived through it. In 1999, the Nokia 3210 was the phone of the moment. Beloved by all its users, you would be hard-pressed to see the links between this indestructible warhorse and an iPhone or Android smartphone.

Yet the evolution to the slick smartphones we use today neatly encapsulates the advances that separate us so clearly from the 2000s.

The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 changed our world fundamentally. As Steve Jobs said at the time, the iPhone is “not just a communication tool, but a way of life.” How right he was. For the first time, the average consumer had access to the internet while they were on the move, and the ability to get any information, entertainment, document or communication within seconds, at their fingertips.

In 1999, 55 per cent of households in the United States didn’t have the internet, according to this Washington Post interactive graph. 20 years later, 3.3 billion people globally (or 42.63 per cent of the total world population) use a smartphone, carrying the internet in their pockets.

We simply can’t get enough of being online.

Always connected

The internet is everywhere, and as we near a new decade, we now spend an average of five hours using the internet on a device daily. That works out to about 27 per cent of an entire year. Every day we spend around three hours viewing broadcasts, streaming services and video-on-demand, listen to music for 47 minutes and spend an hour and a half using social media.

The internet, and everything that it represents, is now ubiquitous. And it’s given rise to a more complete understanding of your customers, allowing you to access them in ways we couldn’t have believed at the turn of the century.

Reach and results

The Ad Men of days past have given way to SEO, customer service and agile marketing.

Traditional forms of marketing such as newspaper and television advertising, direct mail and cold calling used to be the main way you could get to potential customers, and although they still have a role to play, they’re now better used as part of integrated campaigns.

But the principles of marketing communication haven’t changed. Swiftly adapting to new technologies and social changes will forever be the role of the marketer. Seeking new ways to connect and communicate with your customers in a real and emotional way should be the norm. The growing maturity of innovations like Shoppable Posts, Virtual and Augmented reality (VR and AR) and Interactive Content is an excellent example of the boundaries being pushed by marketers seeking to reach and communicate with customers on new levels.

AR is already being used to show 3D maps of stadiums so you can see where you can sit when purchasing tickets, or how clothes and makeup look without having to enter a store. Consider the idea of using an AR app on your phone to help with decorating the inside of your house, showing you how paint appears on your walls under different light, or how a new piece of furniture might look in your living room.

The possibilities are endless.

Where to from here?

As we prepare for the next big change in marketing, the goal is not to abandon traditional marketing methods, as the continued value of print marketing demonstrates the importance of offline communication.

It’s about being prepared for the next stage of transformative tech and aligning all your channels towards an integrated goal and audience need. Because if there is anything that the last 20 years proves it’s that agility and an openness to accept and welcome change is the way forward.