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Then vs. Now: Changes in Marketing in the Digital Revolution


A David Olgivy book lies open on the coffee table: Ogilvy on Advertising. In it, there are featured examples of what were considered the cream of advertising for many years. Look at the Volkswagen lemon campaign, for example. Could you imagine flipping through a magazine or newspaper filled with ads like these? All that copy to have to read? 


You can actually relive the experience. Many used bookstores and antique malls have a few old newspapers or magazines for sale. Flip through one sometime. Marketing has certainly changed.


Aside from print ads, what are some other Then vs. Now examples?


Direct Response Marketing

There’s direct response marketing THEN and direct response marketing NOW. 


Then was Bob Bly, who wrote all those how-to books on the subject: The Direct Mail Revolution, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing, The Elements of Business Writing, and so on. You can picture him in the 1980s typing out all those direct response letters on a word processor. 


It is even said that David Olgivy preferred to hire copywriters who had spent time writing direct response advertising. Think of all that junk mail you used to get - somebody wrote those!


Today, direct response marketing uses less paper. It’s more targeted, more scientific. It’s tested. You can see real-time analytics in some cases, because it’s all done via email or even text message. What a difference!


Sphere of Influence Marketing

Real estate agents are some of the most well-known for this type of marketing. How it works is: They develop what’s called a sphere of influence. This is all of the people that they know personally, plus all of the people they have met and networked with. It can be aunts and uncles, friends of friends, the guy who fixed their air conditioner, or anything remotely like that. 


They keep a database of all those people in it, along with their birthdays and addresses. And they send out birthday cards, holiday cards, and other mailings on a semi-regular basis. The idea is to stay in the forefront of the minds of all of those people, so whenever someone asks the plumber, “Hey, do you know a real estate agent?” they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I do!”


Agents will also send “just listed” and “just sold” postcards to their sphere of influence. This is another way of showing those people that they’re out there doing deals and conducting business. There’s another type of postcard that comes right out and says: “I’m never too busy for your referrals.”


Agents won’t just send those postcards to their sphere of influence. A real estate agent will contact the title company that they use for transactions and ask for a list of names and addresses of people who live in a radius surrounding the property they just listed or sold. They’ll send postcards to those people, too.


The idea is that someone in that area might have been thinking about contacting a real estate agent, and now they have a postcard in their mailbox from an agent who is actively doing business right there in the neighborhood. Next thing you know, they’re picking up the phone.


Real estate agents still send out these mailers today, although much of real estate marketing has moved to email. However, an email is easily buried, while a physical postcard has more of a chance of being seen.



There’s a lot less skywriting these days, but you still occasionally see it. Not just for marriage proposals, either. (“Will you marry me, Wendy?”) This is one of those nostalgic throw-back types of advertising that will probably always maintain a niche market. 


Another method using an airplane is popular on the beaches in America. A plane will tow a giant banner behind it; the banner might advertise insurance or light beer. Since there are crowds of people flat on their backs in the sand looking up at the sky, they’re sure to see the airplane and its banner.

And the Goodyear Blimp still flies. Sometimes the classic methods still work.


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