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How has marketing changed over time? From traditional to digital, the big shift!

How has marketing changed over time? From traditional to digital, the big shift

The shift from traditional media marketing in the form of newspapers, television, flyers, billboards and pole posters, to digital billboards, social media, google ads and other major forms of digital media has been both quick and big.

With the advent of services like MySpace and Bebo back in the early 2000s already, celebrities and brands found themselves using these age-old social media platforms to post fun personal photos, snippets of their thoughts and little albums or movie spoilers.

But marketing on MySpace and Bebo was never as big as it is on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok today, especially with the birth of the influencer (read more about influencer marketing here).

To really understand what marketing looked like before and how it has evolved with new media, we take a look at what marketing is, what it functions as and how the evolution of social media and digital platforms has forever changed the industry.

Social Media Image

What is marketing?

Dictionary.com defines marketing as, ‘the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.’

For those that work in a marketing, it is often not that easy to fully define its function and roll in an organisation. At the IMM we believe that marketing is business and business is marketing. Therefore, marketing in its full sense is present in all stages of the business, beginning to end, not just advertising and not just sales.

In this way, we can begin to understand that marketing itself is a very general word that can encompass many different roles. In noting this, we can begin to understand how marketing has changed over time in just two simple ways:

What is marketing Image

1. Roles and titles

With the advent of social media, marketing has seen a major shift within the industry. What was once a role that was easily defined has now led to greater sub-roles that make up teams to put together or manage specific types of content or channels. Unlike before, digital creatives have become a major new title especially amongst Millennials and Gen-Z’s entering the workforce. Roles of strategists and marketers have expanded to Social Media Strategist – a role completely dedicated to social media strategy, and Digital Marketers that oversee all elements of digital strategy for an organisation (read more about the importance of digital marketing here).

Both these roles have been created to establish a greater understanding of how to push communication through social and digital platforms ranging from social media to digital

billboards, google and more.

Before social media, the role of a Community Manager or a 3-D Animator were not common specifically for the marketing industry, especially as animators were previously known to work particularly in the film industry. Today, we have seen the migration of these types of roles and titles into the marketing space, testimony to just how much the world of marketing has changed in the past 20 years.

Before social media

2. Traditional media and Digital Media shifts

In the world that we are living in, traditional marketing has not died out, but it has shifted to becoming dominated by digital marketing simply because more people spend more time on their devices now than ever before (read more about it here).

When looking at what was available 20 years ago to what is available now, traditional marketing itself has progressed over time to accommodate all forms of media available. From radio, to television, to theatre, to cinemas, to flyers and newspapers and even at some point in time, mobile apps.

Fast-forward to now and we have so many more types of media available to us. Its not to say that we should be using all of them to communicate with our customers though. In many instances, marketing has stayed the same. Best practice still dictates that before any communication channels or tactics are selected, the business first needs to identify who the desired audience or customer is. Then and only then can the right media be selected based on where this customer spends their time. This is space in this strategy for both traditional and digital channels since not everyone is online.


Marketing has changed over time because the access to greater audiences and larger target markets has increased and changed with new forms of media tools. The change in marketing has also gone from consumer-based specific to buying, to consumer-based-loyalty and brand desire. Marketing will continue to evolve and change as new trends pick up and new ways of accessing the mass audiences arise. However, the traditional modes of marketing are not to be misunderstood as dead. Marketing is an incredible industry with the potential of growth in every sector for every type or market. We can’t wait to see where the industry will be in the next ten years!