15 Greatest Marketing Innovations of All Time
By -- Geoffrey James,
Over the centuries, entrepreneurs both sung and unsung have creatively transformed the way that companies communicate with customers. Here are the 15 biggest breakthroughs that created our modern business world.
3,400 BC: Product Labeling
The world's first breakthrough in marketing was all about ensuring the customer received what was promised... with no surprises. The first known product labels were clay seals with cuneiform inscriptions sealing jars of foodstuffs in ancient Sumeria.
2,560 BC: Retail Signage
If you're selling something from a store, it helps to let passersby know what they'll find inside. It was probably in ancient Minos that store owners began painting illustrations of their goods and services on the wall outside their retail outlets.
1609: Space Ads
Once the newspaper was invented, it was only a matter of time until somebody figured out they were a great way to create product demand. The first space ads were simple notices, but as time went on they not only began to depict the goods but tried to be entertaining as well.
Freeware is all the range on smartphones, but the basic idea was pioneered in the Victorian period, when razor companies began giving away razors in order to sell blades. The innovation is credited to King Camp Gillette, but in fact Gillette was the one of the last firms to adopt this marketing model.
1872: Direct Marketing
The first and arguably most successful attempt to eliminate the proverbial middleman was the once-ubiquitous mail order catalog. Aaron Montgomery Ward (the Jeff Bezos of his day) sent the "big book" to millions who otherwise would never have been exposed to thousands of new products.
1890: Cold Calling
Nobody knows exactly when the first cold call was made, but it was probably 1) soon after the invention of the telephone in 1876 and 2) right after the first recipient of a cold call was sitting down to eat dinner with his family.
1918: Designer Labels
While high fashion existed before Coco Chanel opened her eponymous clothing store, it was an entirely new idea that an item might fashionable simply because of it was designed by a fashion icon.
1923: Broadcast Ads
The first radio advertisements were delivered live on the air by millionaire medical entrepreneur John Brinkley on station KFKB in Kansas. The first product advertised was--wait for it--a way to "cure" male impotence by transplanting goat glands into men's testicles.
1926: The Electric Billboard
For nine years, tourists and honeymooners contemplating the evening skyline of Paris were startled by the word CITROEN written huge in millions of electric lights down the Eiffel Tower. Times Square and Tokyo's Shinjuku district were destined to follow.
1927: Sports Endorsements
Wheaties was indeed "The Breakfast of Champions" and for decades featured a sports star on every box, starting with uber-sluggers like Lou Gerhig and Babe Ruth. Wheaties also launched the world's first product jingle
1945: Multilevel Marketing
While huckster Charles Ponzi may have perfected the modern pyramid scheme, it was vitamin maker Nutrilite (now part of Amway) that gave the "sell distributorships not products" idea a patina of respectability.
1969: Spiff Marketing
Top salespeople have received bonuses and spiffs for, well, centuries, but it wasn't until Mary Kay Ash started awarding her top performers pink Cadillac that spiffs became 3D advertisements for success.
1984 Guerilla Marketing
With his seminal book Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson singlehandedly transformed marketing from something big, expensive and corporate into something smaller, cheaper and subversive. Budgets haven't been the same since.
1994: Pay Per Click
In the early days of the Internet, the only way to make money was to sell something. Then the online pornography industry figured out that web traffic could be monetized by paying a portion of your revenue to whomever originally sent the clicks your way.
2000: Viral Videos
Homegrown online videos went from a curiosity in the 1990s to a growth industry in the 2000s. By the 2005 advent of YouTube, viral videos, like Evian's "Roller Babies" had become the gold standard of mass marketing.
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