A lot can change in a decade.
We get older, we grow, we learn — and the same happens (or should happen) with our marketing strategies.
Over the last 10 years, digital marketing has exploded, with brands using every channel at their disposal to promote themselves to their target audience.
But how, exactly, has marketing changed over the past 10 years?
Today, we’re running through the biggest marketing trends from 2012, how those trends have evolved into the marketing best practices we use today, and where we expect to see the world of marketing go next.
Table of Contents
The History of Digital Marketing
Before we can understand the changes that have happened, we need to know where it all began. Let’s take a look at the first digital marketing strategies that were ever used on the Web.
What Is Marketing?
According to the American Marketing Association:
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
In simpler terms, a good marketing definition might sound like this:
Marketing = promoting your product or service so customers will buy it.
There are many different types of marketing, though.
If you’re looking to reach your target audience with a marketing mix of activities, you might pull from any of the following:
- Traditional marketing (think direct mailers, signage, and branded merchandise)
- Outbound marketing
- Inbound marketing
- Digital marketing
- Email marketing
- Video marketing
- Content marketing
- Product marketing
- Interactive marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Relationship marketing
- Native marketing
- Search engine marketing
- Social media marketing
- Affiliate marketing
And the list could likely go on…
Each of these strategies is a whole world in and of itself, with additional sub-genres and tactics.
Many of these types of marketing also overlap and are often used in tandem — for instance, it’s easy to combine video and social media, or content and SEO.
When you send out an email to subscribers, post an update on your Facebook page, or print a stack of flyers to hand out, these are all examples of marketing.
Where It All Began
People have been participating in marketing since almost the beginning of time. According to the Marketing Museum, archaeologists have found customer complaints written on cuneiform tablets from 3,000 BC, and advertisements written on walls of the buried city Pompeii.
But the history of digital marketing is a little more defined.
Email marketing was one of the first methods to happen as Yahoo and Gmail joined the internet in the 90s. Social media then started to join the picture throughout the early 2000s up to the present day.
Now, in addition to simply having a presence and strategy online in multiple forms, marketers have also started to use big data to track user behavior online to further optimize their campaigns and business.
Today, it’s virtually impossible to get online without bumping into at least one piece of digital marketing.
Digital Marketing Trends in 2012
Before we get too far in the weeds about where we’re at with digital marketing today, let’s rewind a bit and check in on what was popular among marketers 10 years ago to see how the digital marketing industry has changed over the past decade.
In 2012, experts were encouraging marketing teams to focus on ranking better in Google’s SERPs.
While search engine marketing has been used as far back as the mid-90s, at that time, it was still something relatively new to business growth strategies.
SEO became more common (and more organic), though, moving into the 2000s.
Unfortunately, there were still many black hat SEO practitioners, who used spammy methods in hopes their site would rank.
We were also seeing strategies like video marketing become more popular in 2012. More and more Americans were spending their time watching videos online (an average of 21 hours per viewer each month; now, people across the globe watch 84 minutes of video per day).
Additional popular marketing tactics included a greater focus on cross-channel optimization; more performance marketing; and marketers who were becoming increasingly concerned about privacy compliance.
How Digital Marketing Has Changed
Deeper marketing basics might not have changed. But on the surface, the “how” of things—like digital platforms, content marketing, and social media—may have drastically changed.
Here are some differences in the ways we now approach customer relationships from what marketers a decade ago were doing.
Ten years ago, we didn’t have:
- Facebook Live
- Instagram Stories
- YouTube Live
Today, we use features like Instagram Stories every day without thinking about it. But 10 years ago, we didn’t even have a concept of what these features were.
Instagram was only two years old and could only share photos in a feed, after all!
Over the last ten years, different social media platforms have either been created or seen a major rise in popularity for marketing.
Businesses are expanding their marketing strategies seeking to be on every— or most —social networks in hopes of reaching their ideal target audience.
But platforms aren’t the only things that are changing on social.
Tactics are changing, too, with corporate accounts favoring strategies like paid ads (thanks to easy data access) or influencer marketing.
Search engine optimization has moved forward by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. In 2012, Google made several changes relating to practices like link building and local searches.
It was clear that Google was prioritizing high-quality websites with natural links and fresh content.
And this hasn’t changed: One of the best things you can still do to help reach consumers through local SERPs and the Google algorithms is to publish original, well-written content that incorporates keywords in a natural way.
However, what search engines value has changed.
Gone are the days are keyword stuffing and publishing just to publish something.
Now, quality content matters when it comes to SEO, as well as making sure there’s a clean mobile version of whatever you’re creating.
Additionally, like most changes in marketing strategy, social media accounts now factor into SEO.
As a marketer, you likely draw on consumer data to help you create personalized, tailored campaigns and content. But the world of data is perhaps the largest change in marketing we’ve seen over the last decade.
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen here, in fact, is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Because of the GDPR—which was introduced in 2016 and went into effect in 2018—the way companies communicate with new customers or anyone in their target audiences has changed.
To comply with the GDPR and protect consumers’ personal data, brands have had to change the way they collect this data.
For example, you may have updated your privacy statement or cut down on the amount of information you request from customers. Data integrity for a user’s confidential information is key.
In 2012, 45% of Americans owned smartphones. Today, 85% of Americans have a smartphone!
One of the biggest influences on digital marketing changing so much in the last few years can be attributed to the world of technology and mobile devices.
Gearing your marketing to be more mobile-friendly is now essential.
While at one time, the term “mobile marketing” just meant text messages, today, marketers have learned to create content that’s tailored for mobile users and location-based mobile browsing. Responsive design, location-based ads, QR codes, and similar tactics are key for companies to achieve success with customers who are browsing on their mobile devices.
Simply put, if you don’t have a mobile-friendly way for your potential purchasers to interact with your brand, don’t expect to grow.
Current Marketing Trends
Now that we have an understanding of just how much marketing has changed in the last few years, what does the current landscape look like?
In today’s digital marketing world, it seems there are almost more tactics and strategies than you know what to do with.
Methods like rank-optimized websites, local search, and social advertising highlight how marketing has changed in the last 10 years. Here are a few of the current biggest marketing trends we’re seeing coming on the spot for the near future.
A digital marketing strategy that’s highly popular right now is influencer marketing. More and more brands are beginning to share their web and social presence with influencers, seeking to create long-term relationships and work with the same influencers over and over again. Influencer posts are popping up all over social media apps.
Today, we are seeing more brands work with micro or nano influencers, who have a following that’s smaller and more niched.
Videos and live shopping experiences are becoming popular instead of simply static posts.
Social media platforms are also continuing to come out with features that cater to influencers (like link stickers in Instagram Stories or Pinterest’s Watch tab).
Interactive content is a fun and effective way to get your marketing messages across. This type of marketing is more engaging for potential customers. It might come in the following forms:
Interactive content helps improve web traffic and brand loyalty.
Video and Live Streaming
Video marketing isn’t going away anytime soon.
Consumers want to see more video content from brands they support, and eight out of 10 people have purchased software or an app after watching the demo video.
This includes live streaming.
Companies stream live videos on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube to cover events, product launches or demos, Q&As or interviews, announcements, and more.
Streaming is an easy, cost-effective tactic that’s accessible to audiences and creates a direct connection.
“Everyone listens to podcasts,” might be an overstatement, but it’s not too far off.
Nearly one-third of Americans listen to podcasts regularly.
Brands and individuals who have podcasts are beginning to make their podcasts sound more “produced.”
They’re creative with niched-down topics, and they definitely have ads: The programmatic ad spending on podcasts is projected to reach almost $142 million by next year.
What’s Next? Our Predictions for Upcoming Marketing Trends
Now that we have a better understanding of how far we’ve come and how our marketing campaigns have changed in the last few years, what should you start planning for a successful future digital marketing strategy?
Let’s fast forward to 2030 and beyond.
While we can’t make a definitive prediction about what trends will be the most popular or surefire way to take your business to new heights, it is true that trends tend to come back around.
So in the next 5-10 years, we anticipate seeing fresh digital marketing strategies like SEO changes for voice search. While some marketers and consumers use voice searching today, we predict this will become even more common, with marketers altering their SEO strategies to compensate.
Podcasting and audio-only will likely continue to grow in popularity as well, in addition to evolving video content.
From live streaming videos to more personalized podcast topics, people aren’t slowing down their consumption of audio and video anytime soon.
Finally, expect to use automation and AI more and more to learn about your customers and carry out marketing tasks.
Currently, 79% of companies use automation for marketing.
As both artificial intelligence and automation capabilities become more sophisticated, tools powered by these concepts will be able to help your business in a myriad of ways.
Stay In-The-Know With All Things Digital Marketing
The field of marketing is always changing. With all of the shifts we’ve seen in the past 10 years, who knows what will happen next?
It’s important for you as a marketer to stay up to date on the latest trends so your marketing team can reach your audience more effectively.
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