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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read the full article on Econsultancy.