The Past, Present, and Future of Digital Marketing

A Digital Marketing Executive Started As A PhreaK

I love online marketing so much that I started my own Digital Marketing Agency. However, when I began my marketing journey back in 1998, I was focused primarily on the design side of things. I loved the wonders of Adobe Photoshop with its image manipulation sorcery. With this simple software, I can create anything I can image. The possibilities were endless.

Early 1998, I found my curiosity shifting into the realm of the internet. The popularity of the AOL disks and the sounds of a modem connecting to the cloud was exciting and frustratingly slow at the same time.

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Subsequently, I find myself in MM Chat Rooms (Mass Mail) and other hacker type chats where software and internet knowledge were free as long as you typed a specific phrase exactly as it appeared. There were elite groups of people and to join their clan all you needed was to pass an internet literacy test.

Questions like what does HTTP stand for (HyperText Transfer Protocol) and other uncommon words were necessary to distinguish yourself as worthy.

Soon I found myself completely addicted to the portal. Mountain Dew was my energy source, my days I was a zombie working tirelessly on “pretty” website designs. My nights, however, I was alive. The internet was vast and information was free if you knew where to look and how to get it.

Passwords were simple, things like ‘password’ or ‘1234’ were prevalent. Allegedly, simple brute force attacks would have you in within the hour.

Website Design To Promote An Action

I remembered the moment that triggered my journey down the marketing rabbit hole. Here we had a ‘pretty’ website, way better looking than before. Yet, the conversion dropped significantly.

The website is simple design and a reduction in button clicks promoted a meeting to figure out how to increase button clicks to the form. Once the people saw the form the conversion was really high.

My idea was to make the link buzz. I said it would be great if the button would buzz or something to remind people it was there.

This was the magic sauce and we were back in business. Conversion jumped back up to 68%. My reward was more projects that focused on conversions.

The Beginning Of PPC Was All Out War

This is when I was introduced to Overture, who was later acquired by Yahoo! This was around the year 2000 when Overture decided to place paid listings on other peoples search engines. They were advertising on every major search engine, except Google.

At the time Google was an up and comer and wasn’t a major player. What I liked most about the platform is you could see your competitors bids and marketing strategy.

My next idea was devious but simple. There were no rules in place yet so I suggested we run constant search queries and click on all our competitor’s ads until their budget was gone.

The idea worked and our profits soured, however, we were using company resources to search and click all day. A programmer, who was also in one of my online groups, developed a bot to automatically search and click. Ignoring specific domains.

At the time Overture wasn’t too concerned by this activity. Either they didn’t know what was going on or they were just making too much money to care.

My reward for the additional bump in profit? More hours and a bonus. To me, it was a dream job. I can sit and play on the internet as much as I wanted as long as we were making money.

I would stay at work for days on end. It was so bad at one point the company I at moved me to an office with a bed in the closet so I could work more and sleep. They even paid for all my food as long as I was working.

Conversion Method Swings: Design, Device, Environment, Content & Reviews

Eventually, I left the dark arts and started walking towards more ethical methods. As the economy changed, so did conversions. No longer would a moving button attract attention. Too many scams exist and people started to catch on.

Conversion developed into customer experiences and I transitioned into Google Adwords. Now we are Premier Partners with Google.

In SEO content and backlinks were king and PBN’s, copy scraping and content spinning was an easy way to develop rank. It was easy to automate your way to the top of the search engines.

As more and more people started to pay for consumer’s attention, the price started to increase. Subsequently, conversions then profits started to decrease. A lot of marketers started to fall out of the market.

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Email Marketing was a big hit and still is. However, the systems are more complicated. Neuromarketing, demographics, and trigger data started to play a role. Then, big data was thriving.

With the rise of the social web, so did the rise of social proof. It wasn’t enough to say you are the best. Others had to agree with you too. Celebrity and influencer marketing still was working well. However, the mobile device use increase spawned from better technology.

The State of Marketing As We Know It

When I think of the state of marketing, I can’t help but think about what most marketers are missing.

Currently, you must consider is the purchase out of emotional context or utility? The behaviors are different and so should your strategy.

It all starts with congruence and making sure the consumer feels there is value in the offer. Be specific what the consumer will get and how they will receive it.

Reduce the cognitive load, or the mental effort, to receive your product/service/content etc.
Give them something of value first before asking for email or payment. Value first then transaction

Currently, the video is killing it. E-commerce with email automation is killing it with 12:1 ROA.  Social Media has the lowest cost to acquire, and everyone is about an experience that is tailored to meet their emotional needs.

Social MediaConvenience is king and consumers do not like to go looking for things. The price for a consumers attention is continuing to climb. Each consumer requires that all customer-facing communication is optimized for their personal experience.

The digital media must load quickly, on the device of their choosing, and with invigorating content.

The company must be well reviewed, even better by people they trust. The design should fit how the user feels they fit into the world. The images should fall within their peer groups or who they want to become.

The marketing must be personalized, each experience is unique and each communication should further walk the consumer down the path.

  1. The first goal is to grab their attention.
  2. Secondly, the value should promote a response.
  3. Third, the reviews must feel accurate and by real people.
  4. The price must be in line with their expectations.
  5. The checkout/sale process must be quick and painless.
  6. The follow-up must be with the frequency and consistency they desire.
  7. Questions should be answered before they have to ask.
  8. Communication portals should match their lifestyle (Chat, Call, App, Email).
  9. The value must be tremendous. There is no brand loyalty.
  10. If they love the brand they will tell others.
  11. Now you must grab the referrals attention.

The Future of Digital Marketing: Machine Learning And Automation Systems

Imagine, if you will, a digital world that changes every time new consumers visit your website/app. The data compiled on demographics, user experience, color preference, messaging triggers changes to match your customer’s needs.

Chat or click to call functions are moved to make it easier to find for consumers who appreciate that form of communication. The message and imagery change to match a customers lifestyle. The colors change to match historical trends. The entire experience adapts to meet every customer need.
Building Relationships, The Future of Digital Marketing

I believe there will be more automation systems. Your alarm clock communicates with the TV and coffee maker to find your favorite show and start your morning brew.

The coffee maker knows you didn’t pour a cup so it sends you a coupon to your phone for a coffee shop that’s on the way to work.

Additionally, your car reads your morning emails, catches you up on your schedule for the day. At work your meeting runs late, so a text to your spouse notifies her.

Furthermore, your spouse responds the kids will be eating out so you need to find something along the way. You receive two offers with reviews of local places on the way home from work. You put in an order verbally as you drive.

As you arrive at the restaurant, your food and drink order is ready. The mobile device asks if you would like to check in online. Your phone realizes an old high school buddy is there in the restaurant and asks if you would say hello.

Furthermore, your phone is charged for the tab and you leave a tip on your phone as you exit the building. A review request is sent to discuss your experience, which is automatically shared on Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business and others.

How Do You Feel About The Future of Marketing?

With data collection comes network security. The more things we connect to the world around us, the greater the chance for a hack. This is one of the complications associated with data collection. Is the risk of leak worth the perks of an easier lifestyle?

Our behavior says yes. What do you think? Comment below with your analysis. We would love to hear from you.

Jason George
Jason George
Jason George is an athlete, outdoorsman & marketing expert. He is the CMO at Sunbay Marketing with 19+ years of marketing experience. Additionally, he has a black belt in brazilian jiu-jitsu and teaches MMA in his spare time.


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