How long is 75 years? One might think “75 years is 75 years” until you consider the pace of change. In 1938, the
average cost of a new home was $4,100 and average wages per year were $1,780. A gallon of gas cost 10 cents. Where were we innovating? In 1938, the Golden Gate Bridge had just opened, and so did the first blood bank in Chicago. The BBC used its outdoor broadcast unit for the first time to share the coronation of King George VI—the subject of the recent movie “The King’s Speech”—and a radio-captivated U.S. audience welcomed the CBS World Roundup.
Bottom line, we’ve probably seen more innovation and fundamental change in the past 75 years than in the past 500 years combined!
And for 75 years the history of the Norcal BMA has been intertwined with the technology companies in what has come to be known as the Silicon Valley. What better way to tell our story than to highlight the marketing and technology innovations that have had such a profound impact on marketing, communications, and our daily lives today for the past 75 years?
The History of Marketing (short version)
The pace of change has clearly accelerated, but one thing remains true—marketing is and has always been a blend of art and science. For example, the science news of 1450 was the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, which would ultimately lead to mass-produced written communications. A not-so-trivial historical sidelight: in 1836 the first paid advertisement ran in a French newspaper, signaling the advent of advertising’s ability to influence the masses for good or ill. Read More
The Dawn of Computing — The 1950’s
The 1950s saw the systematization of telemarketing, and while this marketing tool still persists, it is much despised. On the other hand, a lot of great things happened in the 50’s.
Science took a big leap forward with the invention of the semiconductor—which would lead to the development of the integrated circuit and make computing possible. Fairchild Camera and Instrument led the field. Today, we know the company as Fairchild Semiconductor, a global leader headquartered in San Jose.
During this period, marketing leaped ahead as marketers began using demographics and socioeconomic data to segment consumers into smaller groups of prospects who, based on behavior and economic status, might buy their products. The distinction between B2B and B2C emerged as well. In fact, one of the first B2B ads ran in 1958—an iconic McGraw Hill piece that became known as “The Man in the Chair.”
(Photo Credit: BMA National 90th Anniversary Book)
The 1960’s: Women flex their marketing muscles
Where the 1950’s explored demographics, the 1960s saw marketers turn to “psychographics”—the study of how personality, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles come together to influence buying behavior. In doing so, agencies unleashed their creativity to produce more engaging, memorable, and influential ads. The Silicon Valley’s very own Stanford Research Institute led the way with its Values and Lifestyles program.
And in this environment of expansion and experimentation, women began to be considered for other than secretarial jobs. In the hit TV series “Mad Men,” copywriter Peggy Olson symbolizes the rise of feminism in marketing. Her character’s dedication to excellence in writing is still relevant to marketing almost 60 years later, given today’s emphasis on content marketing.
1980-2000: Marketing’s Big Bang
The 1980’s were jam packed with marketing advances and excitement. Let’s take a look at the remarkable acceleration of innovation during that decade:
- Bar code scanners were introduced, and retailers began to collect consumers’ behavioral data on the spot
- Database marketing emerged as the precursor to CRM—and so did relationship marketing
- Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign kicked off
- Spam—ugh—was born
In 1982, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) became the first tech company to run a TV ad. At the time it was a really big deal. Today, nobody even remembers it.
In 1984, only two years later, Apple computer aired its legendary “Sledge Hammer” Ad. With its play on George Orwell’s “1984,” it’s an important part of our marketing and cultural history and really fun to watch. And guess what? Regis McKenna, the creator of that ad is one of the headliners at our gala 75th anniversary celebration. I’m sure you’ll find his insights fascinating! Read More
The New Millennium
The new millennium was marked by the emergence of a group of Internet-based companies collectively known as the “dot.coms.” Companies saw their stock prices shoot up if they simply added an “e-” prefix to their names or a “.com” to the end. A bubble emerged, fueled by rapidly increasing stock prices, market belief in future profitability, individual speculation in stocks, and widely available venture capital.
During the bubble, many investors proved themselves willing to overlook traditional performance metrics such as P/E ratio in favor of confidence in technological advances. Unfortunately, the dot.com boom was about as stable as a house of cards. The bubble began to pop in 2000, and the party was over pretty much by the end of 2001. Some companies, like Pets.com, failed. Others gave up much of their market capitalization. Cisco stock, for example, declined 86 percent, though the company remained stable and profitable. Read More