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Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in January of 2007.
It turned out to be an important moment in technology, society more generally and, ergo, for marketers, too. But what about in the intervening years (10 at time of writing), what were the biggest moments in marketing?
Here's my attempt at a list of 15. In what you may think of as a cop out, I haven't ranked each event (my head is safely below the parapet).
I wanted to include Uber in this list because of its widely heralded impact on consumer expectations of mobile products. Uber showed how it should be done. One click, and all the information you need at your fingertips.
uberX launched in 2012 and introduced cheaper rides to customers, as well as allowing drivers to use their own cars. The numbers of these drivers exploded after launch, with Uber's active driver base growing from a minimal base in mid-2012 to more than 160,000 at the end of 2014.
The chart below from a Forbes article shows just how dramatic the growth was. By 2015, Uber had rapidly become a mobile benchmark.
In Econsultancy's 2016 roundup of mobile trends, Stefan Aquarone remarked that "Successful [mobile] products are entering the market and winning faster than ever before."
"It's partly down to the usual key ingredients – freedom from corporate restriction, incumbency and vested interests," he added, "But it's also because talented designers just seem to care more about the user experience, and are prepared to test their assumptions by talking to people rather than using PowerPoint presentations."
Big incumbents in many industries are finally coming to terms with the prioritisation of UX by many of their customers.
The 'Share a Coke' campaign
The 2013 and 2014 Share a Coke campaign was the perfect antidote to over-hyped digital technology, crappy display advertising, and knowing creative. Share a Coke was such an incredibly simple idea for a campaign – the world's most popular names printed on Coca-Cola labels (or available online).
Consumers embraced the chance to buy a personalised bottle of Coke for themselves or a friend. Coke UK gives the following numbers for the 2014 campaign:
- Over 1,000 names on Coke bottles
- 998m impressions on Twitter
- 235,000 tweets from 111,000 fans using the #ShareaCoke hashtag
- More than 150m personalised bottles sold
- Over 730,000 glass bottles personalised via the ecommerce store
- 17,000 virtual name bottles shared online across Europe
- 65 experiential stops on the Share a Coke tour
In 2015, Coca-Cola added nicknames (such as 'bro') to the campaign, and this year has announced a series of holiday destinations (e.g. 'Ibiza') to be included. To me, this campaign marked a point where a big brand showed that 'social' or 'digital' isn't some separate part of marketing. Create a great FMCG campaign that involves the customer, and the social media impact will follow. Indeed, the #shareacoke campaign achieved meme status (see below).
I think Lou Bega might be working in my local supermarket. pic.twitter.com/grgUe9tiuz— So-called "Barry" (@QuantumPirate) August 16, 2013
Amazon launches Prime next-day delivery
"I'll get it on Amazon" is a phrase born of the company's large product selection and competitive pricing, but also by the convenience and reliability of delivery.
Amazon was, of course, already changing customer expectations of delivery before it launched Prime. Free shipping (Super Saver Shipping) had been in place since the early noughties for orders of over $25.
However, it was Prime's launch in 2007, allowing customers to pay for an annual membership that offered unlimited one-day delivery on about a million products, that really began to connect the ideas of shopping online and receiving your goods with reliable immediacy.
There is much talk in the marketing industry about just what 'customer experience' really means. In online retail, Amazon showed that what customers really want is reliable, cheap and quick delivery. And now that Amazon offers one-hour delivery in selected cities, retail marketers understand that however good their 4Ps, they'll be missing out on sales if their fulfillment falls short of expectations raised by Amazon.
Image via Amazon
That Dollar Shave Club video
I'm not going to say that subscription services have changed the world of consumer goods, but Dollar Shave Club certainly shook up the men's grooming market enough to persuade Unilever to part with $1bn in an acquistion that shocked many.
Dollar Shave Club's success in the US market is clear:
- Took a 1% market share in first three years
- By summer 2016 had a 16% unit market share (reminder that Gillette was acquired for $59bn by P&G)
- 5% market share by summer 2016 (lower than unit share because of Dollar Shave Club's competitively priced razors, part of its USP)
- Disrupted the 'more blades, more ads, more store space' strategy of P&G
- In summer of 2016, Fortune reported that Gillette’s market share had dropped from 71% to 59%
This success was the product of a marketing campaign that made use of paid media online (search, retargeting) but most importantly gained some astonishing organic views and word-of-mouth with that launch video in March 2012. Here are a few stats:
- 5m views in its first three months
- 12,000 subscription signups in the videos first 48 hours (330,000 by summer 2013)
- c.25m total views at time of writing
Other videos followed and while none hit the same heights, Dollar Shave Club used a distinctive mix of social content. Check out Christopher Ratcliff's article for a neat summary of Dollar Shave Club's content marketing strategy.
All sorts of brands now go straight to consumer, either through ecommerce or subscriptions, and Dollar Shave Club showed how entertaining online content can build a brand by speaking to a generation fed up of formulaic TV commercials and failing commercial models (too much spend on R&D, not enough saving for the consumer).
Is this kind of video and strategy hard to replicate? Sure, but it doesn't mean Dollar Shave Club's rise isn't worth noting on this list.
Online ads overtake TV
According to eMarketer, this happened in the US at the end of 2016, when it predicted US digital ad spending hit $72.09bn, while TV spending grew to $71.29bn.
That puts digital at 36.8% of US total media ad spending, with TV on 36.4%. Does that mean TV is dead? Nope, and many gnarled creatives mock those that say it is. However, it does mean that TV alone will not get the cut through it used to do.
The ALS #icebucketchallenge took place in 2014 and represented a watershed moment (no pun intended) for social media and marketing campaigns. The campaign showed just how popular user-generated content (UGC) can be, and how far the reach of Facebook in particular had grown.
The short user-generated videos were fuelled partly by narcissism, partly by generosity and partly by shaming friends into taking part. Whilst campaigns of this scale are extremely difficult to engineer (even for good causes), UGC is recognised as one of the most powerful weapons in the marketer's arsenal.
Bill Gates takes the challenge
Obama's 2008 election campaign
Obama’s 2008 election campaign relied not just on the image of a young, hopeful and eloquent candidate, but on the powerful use of digital media.
Social platforms included a YouTube channel that saw more than 20m views, a Facebook page with 2.5m fans (McCain’s had 625,000 fans) and MyBO, Obama’s own social network created by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughers.
Other activity that was novel for a presidential campaign included policies listed and updated online, supporters updated via email and SMS, and an online call tool that enabled more than 1m calls to be made by volunteers from their home computers. Furthermore, the VoteBuilder database compiled by the DNC alongside online data collection using website surveys allowed for targeted messaging to many different segments of voter.
Less than a decade since Obama became the first president on social media, Trump is now sitting in the White House and using Twitter as a direct line to his voter base (bypassing the media), showing just how quickly online tools have become integral to grassroots politics.
It all started in 2007/2008, with Obama even named Marketer of the Year by AdAge.
Accenture buys Fjord
Accenture's purchase of Fjord, the global service design consultancy, in May 2013 signalled a shift in the strategy of the big management consultancies. Over the following four years, Accenture, Deloitte and IBM (and beyond) have developed the ability to deliver brand experiences on top of strategy, operations and infrastructure expertise.
Accenture is aiming for both scale and specialism, and continues to purchase companies that enable it to compete in the agency space, most recently buying independent agency Karmarama to add to Accenture Interactive’s capabilities.
What the acquisition of Fjord stands for is consolidation in a martech and digital design sector that is approaching maturation, and the increasing importance of marketing and customer experience within the business. Marketers are becoming part of the C-suite and getting their voices heard at board level.
The demise of Kodak
Digital photography did for Kodak, despite the company inventing the technology in 1975 and being completely aware of its potential to supplant film. It is the number one case study for a company that failed to make the right decision on numerous occasions.
Kodak did invest in producing digital cameras, but initially focused on quality, rather than simplicity/convenience, which was the real trend in the market. Kodak also new that sharing photos online would become important, and bought Ofoto, an online photo platform, in 2001. However, it tried to promote this platform as a way to print photos, rather than realizing that sharing online was to become the be-all and end-all of photography.
By the time cameras were integrated into mobile phones, Kodak had missed the boat, with Facebook and later Instagram dominating image-sharing, and smartphone companies taking all the device sales.
In January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection and then in 2013 re-emerged as a smaller company. As Harvard Business Review points out, the failure was not in Kodak’s blindness to the potential of new technology, but in its lack of commitment to moving away from film.
The company did successfully transform to a digital printing business, mastering the digital print booths, establishing itself in the printer market and making hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing revenue from its image capture patents. However, without diversifying further still, it failed.
Though this is primarily a tale of business strategy, it is pertinent to marketers who are encountering the same need to diversify, prompted by digital technology, in many other industries.
(If your business is currently undergoing a digital transformation, then Econsultancy can help.)
Kodak Picture Maker (via WillMcC)
That photo of Sully's plane in the Hudson
In January 2009, one moment heralded an era of citizen reporting. It was this photograph and its subsequent spread across the internet from Twipic, picked up by news outlets and viewed by the public.
The penetration of social media and the smartphone has dramatically changed the dissemination of information, which has of course changed marketing and customer service. This image of Sully's plane floating on the Hudson, taken by Janis Krums on his iPhone, serves as a marker for the smartphone's transition from a device for early adopters to one for the early majority.
The US Airways jet had hit a flock of Canada Geese after taking off from LaGuardia airport, and was landed in the Hudson where ferries and water taxis came to pick up the unharmed passengers.
United Airlines share price drops after 'volunteering' David Dao
The noughties and beyond are littered with social media storms, often created by the online conduct of brands (see Kenneth Cole as an early example), but also by incidents such as David Dao's very forcible removal from an oversold United Airlines flight in 2017.
Why I'm including it in this list is because whereas many incidents come and go with little damage to the brand in question, in this case United Airlines' stock fell by 6.3% in the wake of the incident, shedding $1.4bn of its value.
What this showed is just how quickly brands can cost themselves a lot of money (including the undisclosed settlement with Dao), as the ability of customers to both document and share poor customer service (or abuse) means brands have to truly mean it when they say they are 'customer focused'.
United Airlines went on to say that “Our goal is to reduce incidents of involuntary denial of boarding to as close to zero as possible and become a more customer-focused airline”. It also announced that passengers would be paid up to $10,000 in compensation for involuntary denial of boarding and $1,500 no-questions-asked for lost luggage.
The customer experience revolution is truly afoot.
The first John Lewis Christmas advert
The characteristic John Lewis Christmas adverts are a mainstay of the UK holiday season and began in 2007, after a three-year break from advertising for the retailer.
By 2010/2011, a fairly reliable format was established by agency Adam & Eve, with a strong narrative, a softly-sung cover of a famous song by an up-and-coming artist, and an emotional denouement.
What these ads remind us of is the power of storytelling, with less of a focus on gifts (though they are certainly not devoid of consumerism) and more on the act of giving or the joy of family. 2013 (Bear and the Hare) and 2015 (Man on the Moon) arguably saw the most memorable ads, with the latter including a tie-up with the charity Age UK.
The anticipation of an annual event is still one of the most powerful ideas in marketing, and social media and Spotify have helped John Lewis take maximum advantage of this anticipation, boosting the impact of its Christmas ads. By the week before Christmas 2013, the Bear and the Hare ad had been viewed more than 10m times on social media.
Since 2007, you'd struggle to think of a UK retailer so reliant on great TV creative. I was considering including a comparison site commercial here instead, such as the famously annoying GoCompare spots but, however effective, they don't demonstrate the magic of great ad creative on linear TV like John Lewis does.
The John Lewis Christmas ads became big budget, which this video showing the making of the 2013 effort demonstrates.
Nike launches Fuelband
In all honesty, it was a persuasive article in Ad Age that convinced me of the merits of Nike Fuelband. It would be easy to look at the relative failure of wearables (outside of the Fitbit) and the disbanding (pun intended) of Nike's wearable team in 2014 and say that Nike Fuelband is nothing more than a footnote for Nike and amongst marketers.
However, Nike's efforts marked an ability for sports brands and beyond to move into services, to create experiences, and to introduce software/platforms to change our relationship with products. Nick Law, R/GA global COO (the agency responsible for Fuelband) tells Ad Age it came at an inflection point: "The agency stood, he recalls, with 'one foot in Silicon Valley, and one foot in Madison Avenue' – and then pushed the two together."
Veteran creative Jimmy Smith adds “R/GA created a product. No, R/GA created a campaign. Naw, R/GA created the sports social-media-platform genre. Damn. Which is it? Don’t know; just wish I had done whatever they did.”
From the debut of Nike+ in 2006 to track fitness data from Nike trainers (via Apple devices) to the Nike+iPod in 2008 and the launch of Fuelband in 2013, Nike was pioneering a consumer category and changing the brand's image.
Rumours abound that the Fuelband team were fired to give more room for Apple Watch in the market. Whatever the reason, the impact of the product should not be underestimated. Even if it ultimately failed, it still did wonders for Nike.
Facebook overtakes Google
In July 2010, Facebook overtook Google to clinch the biggest share of consumer attention online. Despite Google's intent-driven advertising model, Facebook's ability to grow its active user base (1.94bn monthly active users by 2017) has resulted in it becoming a twin force of online advertising alongside Google.
In 2016, Google and Facebook took three quarters of the $18bn spent on display advertising in the US.
The decline of print
As Econsultancy was founded in 1999 as a digital-only publisher, and subsequently saw many print titles such as New Media Age cease to exist and others such as Marketing Week move to monthly magazines, it felt right to include the death of print as a seminal marketing moment from the last decade.
Of course, print hasn’t died, nor will it. But there are several events that mark the diminishment of its reach for advertisers as the internet changes how we consume media.
Between 2012 and 2013, for instance, overall UK dailies and Sunday newspaper circulations fell by 15%. The advertising spend on print newspapers has dropped significantly since 2008 (see the chart below) and is now below $50bn globally. In the UK The Independent stopped printing completely in 2016.
However, online's ability to make up for this print ad revenue drop has not been proven, with the display advertising model in doubt and leading to newspapers such as The Times establishing paywalls online.
Okay, as I said at the top, I haven't ordered my 15 moments. Blame that on fear of a backlash from dissenting readers. I should also point out that I joined Econsultancy in 2010, and so I haven't even been involved in marketing for the last decade.
Old school marketers amongst you may take umbrage at the fact that few of my marketing moments occurred offline. Arguably, Woolworths' demise in the UK in 2008 and the resurgence of super-discounted supermarkets in the same year merited inclusion.
What else? Ad blocking, Redbull's Stratos, Nike's #Breaking2, Meerkat and live streaming, Airbnb, Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, Oreo's Dunk in the Dark Super Bowl commercial, the decline of Nokia and Blackberry, that pulled Pepsi ad. There's plenty more worth considering.
Let me have it in the comments...