This is not a heavily researched timeline of how content has been used professionally, but rather my own perspective. Having been in marketing, in one capacity or another, for over 15 years, I’ve seen so many things change as technology has enabled messaging to reach an audience in more unique and immediate ways. I feel as if my time in marketing has fallen during a huge turning point, enabling me to see how we used to do it, how we tried to keep up, and what it has become today. In sharing this perspective with you, I want to drive home the one thing that has never changed — good marketing is about getting the right message to the right audience in a way that creates a memorable impression, hopefully leading to some kind of follow-through. In summation, Message is key.
How we used to do it
As recently as the earlier 2000’s, print was king when it came to marketing. I joined the workforce full-time in 2001 with a degree in journalism. I went straight for an entry-level marketing job in order to utilize my writing skills in conjunction with developing my business skills. We spent hours developing print catalogs, poured over the design for full-color flyers and leave-behind one-sheets. There was space to deliver your message in print. You could say a lot, you could say a little, but the attention span felt longer than it does today.
Having a background in both writing and design (beginner level design,) I really loved working in print. I flexed all my creative muscles. Perhaps the best example of marketing in the heyday of print, for me, was the newsletter. Email newsletters were quickly evolving, but print pieces were still being made, and little booklets combining articles, letters from executive, notes on achievement, and more were crafted and designed. They became tangible proof of your creativity at work. I held on to these for years as a symbol of all of my talents. They may still even be in a file folder somewhere in my desk.
There wasn’t as much of a rush to drive a marketing campaign and it wasn’t about achieving impact by flooding the market. Strategies felt more targeted and less flurried, although there were some late nights rushing to meet deadlines just as in any age of marketing collateral production.
How we tried to keep up
Before social media integrated itself into marketing plans, the digital shift affected marketing in more subtle ways. Messaging got shorter, and fewer things got printed. The transition was slow, but the first sign was a turn toward making websites more robust. Marketing content more often appeared online with printed pieces teasing you to a site. Websites had more speciality pages to highlight events or point people to information on a product announcement.
I noticed a change in my responsibilities in marketing as it become more important for me to write good online copy than every before. I was called upon to help design and build new websites, and had more meetings to strategize how to innovate online. I remember one particular project where we created a video montage to demonstrate how happy our audience was with our products with the sole intent of putting it online as part of a highly-interactive website. It was a totally new assignment for me.
Even though the Internet had been around for quite a while, this point in my marketing timeline became the website heyday. Conceptualizing and framing out websites, for me, took my writing and design skills into a new era, but still allowed me to use both in order to build a finished marketing piece. It wasn’t something I could hold in my hand, and it didn’t last forever, but the rewarding feeling of accomplishment was the same as before.
What marketing has become today
Content is still king, but it’s vastly different than it was before. Delivering marketing messages in short, social-media-friendly bites that adhere to all the design rules of Facebook or Instagram is so important. Frequency is also a necessary component in this social media age of communication. You don’t just put your message out there once. If you’ve got something important to say, you say it weekly, you promote it with paid advertising, you strive to extend your reach as wide as possible.
Marketing has grown into a conversation rather than just a message. Customer service and transparency is just as big of a promotion for your brand as talking about yourself once was. I knew I’d entered this new stage when, as part of a marketing team, I managed the emergence of online communities. Messaging was directed at a very specific audience segment, where I not shared content with participants, but talked to them regularly. Again, I was learning something new that was quickly becoming a marketing norm, but it relied on the same basic skillset — creative thinking implemented with responsive content and good design.
The best part of today’s marketing environment is being able to see the results of your work. You can track email opens, URL clicks, page views, social hits…the list goes on and on, but measurable results in marketing are more tangible than they’ve ever been before. This level of effectiveness allows marketing strategies to really cater to what works for their audience. This creates better marketing campaigns, a more effective brand identity, and better performance as a company. For so long marketing was a large bit of guesswork when it came to what was effective and what wasn’t but now you actually know. Now you can show the value of your work as a marketer with highly-specific analytics.
Where I fit now
As a freelance content creator, marketing today has created a creative niche for me where I write blog content to help drive traffic to websites, craft online catalog copy that’s easily digested online, and review/analyze websites in order to optimize them. It’s still an exciting time to be in marketing even with how far it has evolved. I can’t wait to see what comes next.