23 Amazing Facts from the History of Marketing

Written by Irakli Beselidze - July 1, 2015

Marketing as we know it today has experienced a substantial metamorphosis over the past few centuries. In an attempt to get the audience’s attention and turn it into sales, people used different techniques and methods, developed new technologies and instruments, and had to change all the time. Let’s look at the most significant and interesting events that happened in the history of marketing.


Gutenberg invented a printing press which eventually led to mass production of flyers and brochures.


The French newspaper published the first paid advertising.

May 1864

After Western Union allowed telegraphic messages to be sent to multiple destinations, some British politicians got an unsolicited spam ad promoting some dentistry shop.


The period of radio advertising was started. Later on, in 1938, radio surpassed magazines in making profits from advertisements.


The invention of videotape recording made it possible to prerecord ads.


Ray Tomilinson sent the first electronic mail message with an “@” symbol which meant the message was sent to a person.


Gary Thuerk, an aggressive DEC marketer, sent out the first spam email to 393 recipients trying to promote the new DEC System.


Apple showed their “1984” commercial introducing the Mac during the Super Bowl XVIII. This 60-second ad is considered to be the greatest commercial of all time and an excellent example of early event marketing.


Print advertising was made easier after the appearance of desktop publishing and a personal computer that lead to the explosion in print advertising.


The first webcam was installed at the Cambridge University computer lab. It was created for helping people who worked in other parts of the laboratory to monitor the state of the coffee pot and avoid pointless trips to it.


Ted Leonsis who later became AOL’S Vice Chairman sent the first AOL instant message to his wife. After getting the message “Don’t be scared… it’s me. Love and miss you”, Ted’s wife sent him the following reply, “Wow… this is so cool!”

January 1994

Justine Hall, a student of the Swarthmore College, created Links.net, the first blog in the history.

April 1994

Canter and Seigel, the Phoenix law company, promoted their services by sending a message to several thousand newsgroups. It was the first automated, large-scale commercial case of using spam after which the term became highly popular.

October 1994

Joe McCambley ran the world’s first banner ad at HotWired.com. It promoted seven art museums which were sponsored by AT&T. The ad had a CTR of around 44% (!!!) – a figure today’s advertisers can just dream of since the current CTR is around 0.1%. Besides, the banner’s size (468x60 pixels) which has now become the most popular banner size was predetermined simply by the size of a free space that was available on the page for placing the ad.


The beginning of the six year period of the “dot com bubble” during which investors gave money to Internet-based startups without calculating whether the newly created organizations can make a profit or not.  Notwithstanding the collapse of many dot-coms, some of them (like Google, Amazon and eBay) not only survived but became current Internet giants.


Hotmail was one of the first companies to use viral marketing techniques. The company got around 12 million users in 18 months by just adding the phrase “Get your free e-mail at Hotmail” to the bottom of each email that was sent by their users.


The period of mass blogging started with the launch of LiveJournal and Blogger. In April 1999 Brad Fitzpatric, an American programmer, launched LiveJournal (a social networking service where Internet users could blog and keep a journal or a diary) for keeping his friends updated on what he was doing. And in August 1999 Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan, co-founders of Pyra Labs, launched Blogger.com which provided the blog-creation service absolutely free of charge.


Geogre W. Bush signed in the CAN-SPAM Act that set the US first national standards against sending spam messages.


The beginning of the social media era started with the launch of LinkedIn, MySpace  and Facebook.


Google started showing personalized search results based on users’ past search history.

November 2005

Google launched its Google Analytics service. Since the demand for such a useful tool was very high, a subscription of new users was suspended just in one week, and the service became fully available for general public only in August 2006.

October 6, 2006

Dove released its “Evolution” video which received a huge emotional response, got over 40,000 views on YouTube within the first day (91.7 million views within a month and 12 million views within a year) and became the first viral hit in the newest history of advertising.


90% of all messages sent by email appeared to be spam.

Do you know any other crucial events that influenced the development of marketing? Don’t keep them a secret – share with others! ;)

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