2 Decades of Marketing – How We Grew Customer Relationships Then and Now

It’s hard to believe that the year 2000 was 20 years ago. It’s even more difficult to comprehend that marketing as we know it was completely different then. Facebook didn’t exist. Google was only 2 years old. How did we manage to establish relationships with our customers when we still had to press the number 9 four times on our flip phone to get a letter Z in a text message?

The answer is simple. We improvised, adapted, and overcame. As these new technologies emerged, we have had to not only navigate new concepts, but also had to figure out what works and what doesn’t without the vast how-to guides and experts that we have today.

With that being said, looking back, just how different DID everything look, and how much has changed?


If you took a time machine back to 2000, the marketing landscape would be full of cold calls, cold emails, and even door-to-door sales pitches. Traditional advertising, such as radio, newspaper, and direct mail was very much the largest medium of marketing. The average customer had a much higher attention span and used to make decisions based on very little research. Therefore, business itself focused on promoting the actual product and how it was better than their competitors, rather than establishing a relationship long-term with their customer. In other words, it was problem/solution.

The turning point in the first half of this decade was when Google launched AdWords and SEO started becoming important for business. The use of the internet by the masses created endless opportunities to better target specific audiences. This also gave rise to some of the free content that we see today (E-Books and Blogs) because not all businesses were ready to put money towards online advertising. Instead, they churned out free content to be able to rank higher on search results pages. The free content became a lead magnet even if there was no real strategy for targeting and content at the time. This was all about to change.


Fast forward to the second half of the decade, and the marketing landscape has already changed dramatically. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are slowly amassing users to become a force in digital marketing. SEO and AdWords are both gaining more traction as marketers start to plan out their content instead of creating at random.

2007 began the rise of video content marketing that we still see today – and some of the first viral videos. Do you remember the Cadbury Gorilla advert?

As we approached 2010, we began to see an evolution of how businesses interacted with both existing and potential customers. With the bombardment of online advertising, consumers started to prefer transparency and value-added content over problem/solution marketing. Customer relationships became an ongoing effort instead of one-time interactions. Consumers still wanted to know about your product, but they also wanted to know what benefit it’s going to bring them. Thus, selling the “sizzle” and not just the steak came about.


2011 seems like a long time ago, and in terms of the continued growth in marketing strategy and customer relations – it was. Here, we are now seeing the adoption of using multiple touchpoints and exceptional content strategies to reach the ideal consumer. We focused on refining and automating much of our communication with consumers based on their preferences – which were becoming much more readily available due to the massive amounts of data stored online.

At this point if you weren’t on all available social media platforms you were missing out. There was an exponential increase in social media usage during this time period. 50% of adults used social media in 2011. That number grew to 70% by the end of 2015.

However, with the masses now online (both business and consumer), how did one differentiate? Coca-Cola actually reverted back to more traditional marketing tactics with their “Share a Coke” campaign, BUT they relied on social sharing to spread their simple message and garner brand awareness.

This was among the first uses of both digital and traditional marketing to create a powerhouse campaign that created 998 million impressions on Twitter and sold 730,000 custom glass bottles ordered on their eCommerce store.

2016-Present Day

If this half of the decade had a slogan, it would be “marketing is the sum of all customer interactions.” In 2016 we are approaching a decrease in the use of in-your-face marketing and delving further into creating a conversation with consumers across all channels. More businesses are adapting the customer experience model: using integrated tools to engage with customers online, tracking the buying journey, measuring customer loyalty, and matching behavior to meet needs and interests.

In 16 years, marketers have harnessed the internet to work for them and take the guessing out of advertising across all medias. They have successfully integrated it with TV, Radio, Direct Mail, and Print advertising to create the ultimate tool for establishing customer relationships.

Where do you think we will go from here?