From Physical to Digital—How Marketing Has Changed in the Last 20 Years

This just in! Bloviated blogs belay bounties! Talkative texts tell tremendous tales!

We’re not in news caps anymore or plastering brick walls with manufacturers’ slogans—if we are, it’s ironic, self-aware, or more often than not, as digitized as a Blade Runner set. The name of the game is eyes on screens. While the adage “location is everything” still stands, the field has shifted away from spectacles and into our pockets and living rooms.

It makes sense—to rent out the entirety of Times Square with your digital marketing would be an affordable $1.7 million a day. However, if you’re willing to settle for less, maybe your next project can be a cheap Instagram campaign or a free Facebook listing.

Regarding how marketing has shifted in the aughts, we have to consider how easy it has become for businesses to promote themselves online and transport products freely through digital commerce and delivery. Without the barriers that lock their market down within their own geo-located jurisdictions, companies entered the digital space excited to market themselves while new customers flooded in.

Any new solution, however, comes with new problems. We’re not pairing customers up with businesses like Noah’s animals on the boats one by one. Digital marketing has emerged as a force capable of segmenting user interests, capitalizing on the search functions of tools that make the internet navigable, and transforming brands into liveable entities.

Not bad for an industry not even thirty years old!


Early Projects in Digital Marketing

The most effective solution digital marketing offers that physical marketing could is instantaneous “clicks” that connect users with a new online destination instantly. When is the last time you’ve poked a broiler chicken on an ad and seen it pop up in your cart a half-second later?

Since we have become acclimatized to the internet, we often take the connective power of the internet for granted. Without links or search tools, we would have no way to navigate the wealth of information offered online. These links were initially between a few academic resources. Over time, these network connections grew to include more pedestrian content. In 1994, companies like HotWired began designing and purchasing digital banners that served as ads that instantly linked clicks and destination pages. Yahoo launched shortly after, and the value of having an information hub on the internet was quickly realized. 


Search Engines and Optimization

In Yahoo’s first year, over one million visits were logged. The web search functions of Yahoo and Google in 1998 meant that users could find multiple resources from searches. Search engines work by “crawling” the web and downloading fractions of pages along with active links contained within them. The result is a comprehensive network that can be quickly traversed with a bit of purposeful engineering.

People quickly realized that these crawlers behaved in predictable ways that may produce favorable results more often. The race was on for companies both affiliated and unaffiliated with Yahoo to document these best practices and help users implement them within their own sites for tremendous success among search engine results.

Today, search engine optimization is its own art form—one we are adept in as we help our clients to connect with a broader network of search engine users.


The Mobile Shift

We’ve touched on how leveraging the connective power of sites created opportunities for returns in the digital space and how search engines could power the new content revolution. What came next was a windfall for businesses everywhere—near-constant access to informational resources through internet-enabled handheld devices.

It’s one thing to have the biggest net, but another thing altogether to have waters overflowing with potential consumers. By keeping in mind good SEO practices and a well-built site that encourages meaningful linking, web developers could offer a compelling reason for users to find their site first. Want to know opening hours or download a guide to the product you just bought? A phone is the best way to get it without booting up your desktop device.

Social media accelerated the growing trends of digital life by putting advertising into people’s hands. That’s right—you’re not sitting through commercials; you’re inviting them in, following them, and giving them behavioral clues as to their effectiveness.

Like modern art, the audience and spectacle can no longer be separated neatly. You are part of your own algorithmic marketing team—inseparable from the demographic you tell machines you are.


Digital marketing is still much of the old—creative, colorful, and bold. Yet it is also entirely new and self-aware, geared towards providing value in exchange for time.

Speaking of which, we hope this was valuable for your time. We’re passionate about the new face of marketing and are eager to help your content shine in whatever avenue comes next. 

Contact our team to start a digital marketing strategy that will bring you out of the ’90s and onto the trending tab. Or at least an Ask Jeeves result page. We’re not wizards, but we’re close.

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