The Evolution of Digital Marketing

I recently completed a number of fantastic corporate training sessions focused on digital marketing.   While the participants, environments, and training goals for each of the sessions differed, I began each class the same way: with a brief discussion on the history and evolution of digital marketing.  It is a great way to help a group contextualize how all of the changes in technology, media, culture, and economics have driven (and have been driven by) changes in digital marketing over the last 20 years.


One of the slides that I use to help tell this story is below.  While absolutely generalized and inexact, it (I think) does an effective job of illustrating a few important points for those trying to better understand how the space has grown and continues to evolve:

  • Tactics & Channels are Additive.  While the focus areas for marketers may change across 'eras', the majority of the tactics and channels that become available remain available over time.   Sure, they all change and some may become less relevant but choice continues to grow.
  • Tactics, Channels, & Technology Recombine.  Some of the most interesting opportunities for marketers today are in some ways re-combinations of earlier tactics.  For example, proximity marketing leans heavily on apps, personalization, and mobile messaging (and some good old direct-marketing principles).


I know that many of you who are (hopefully) reading this have worked in this space for a while.  For me, it was fun to put together and trace back points in time where marketing conversations shifted and where professional and life events occurred (married with 3 kids in the mobile era!)  I hope you find it useful, if for nothing else than to bring back a few fond memories.