Marketing is a critical component for any company's long-term success, and it's always changing and evolving. Effective marketers know how to use techniques to connect and convert prospects -- but the greatest marketers of all time laid the foundation for the strategies and successes of marketers today.
Some marketers, like Steve Jobs, have fundamentally changed the business world as we know it. Others, such as Frederick the Great, have influenced how we understand consumer behavior today. It's advantageous to stay on top of the tips and advice of the sharpest marketing minds of our time -- additionally, it's important to know where these tactics originated.
If you're looking for your next campaign inspiration or interested in a brief history of marketing, take a look at some tips from the greatest marketers of all time.
Tips From Current Marketing Influencers
1. Create delightful products and practice smart marketing.
Apple's advertising would not only help create one of history's most successful companies, but it would also change the traditional marketing strategy as we know it. Through its Super Bowl ad, series of "Think Different" ads, "Get a Mac" campaign, and unmissable product unveilings, its overall cool and minimalist marketing strategy embodies the sleek design of its products and helped turn a bankrupt Apple around.
Steve Jobs's gift was marketing -- he understood and leveraged the idea that delightful products and smart marketing campaigns are the keys to success. He created show-stopping experiences and tapped into the emotions of his audience to sell his products.
A few takeaways from Jobs's marketing genius would be these: make an excellent product, build an emotional brand experience through events and campaigns, and keep innovating for your customers.
2. Tap into your personal networks.
Network marketing involves tapping into the personal networks of independent agents within a company. These agents evangelize the products or services, since the incentive structure of network marketing is based on how quickly and broadly they can build and distribute to a network of customers.
For instance, Mary Kay Ash founded her global cosmetics firm in 1963 based on the premise of network marketing. While she may not have been the first to do this, she was the most successful -- she figured out how to incorporate network marketing into the very fabric of a middle-class lifestyle. By enlisting stay-at-home moms looking to earn an income but not interested in the traditional 9 to 5 job, Mary Kay built a makeup empire.
3. Turn your personal brand into a spectacle.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama has become a cultural icon over the past decade for her brilliant yet approachable public presence on the global stage. Recently, however, she has soared to even greater heights upon the release of her new book, Becoming. The book was undoubtedly going to be a success, but what made it a dazzling, best-selling, resounding triumph was Michelle Obama's gift for marketing.
A 12-city book tour was launched for Becoming's release -- however, the reaction and production of each book tour event resembled a rock concert more than a book reading. Tickets sold for up to $3,000 dollars and the sports stadiums the events were held in often sold out. Michelle Obama turned her book tour event into a spectacle, complete with vibrant music, a compelling video introduction, and even celebrity interviewers.
Michelle Obama has learned what compels audiences -- she's funny on the late show circuit, charms daytime viewers on Ellen, and produces unmissable events. In a time where audiences prefer TV to books, the marketing genius that is Michelle Obama has turned her best-selling book into a moment.
4. Make your product sell itself.
Peter Drucker was known for his 60-year-long career in management advice. Drucker was the founding father of management theory and the go-to counselor for some of business's most notable CEOs, includingAlfred Sloan and Andy Grove.
While he wrote many books on management, one of his quotes on customers is particularly poignant: "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself." If you truly know your audience and have created a product with excellent product-market fit, then it will sell itself.
5. Always think about how to get your audience's attention.
Gary Vaynerchuk -- also known as Gary Vee -- is best known for his influence on digital and social media marketing. He is the founder of VaynerX, a media and communications holding company, as well as advertising agency VaynerMedia.
Gary Vee famously identified the potential of the internet in the late 90s, moving his family's wine company online to capture more market attention. Because of his early-mover marketing acumen, he has become successful holding lectures for other companies hoping to find the next big opportunity.
Google first launched AdWords in the 90s and Gary Vee jumped on it -- now, he's teaching companies how he maps his audience's attention. He says he's obsessed with reaching consumers and that, regardless of technological advancements or market disruptions, it's all about capturing audience attention. In addition, he recommends jumping on opportunities that are the best bang for your buck
6. Consumers are smarter than you think.
David Ogilvy is famously quoted as saying: "the consumer isn't a moron; she is your wife."
Oglilvy built his advertising empire upon deeply understanding his target audiences. Although his comment may be dated, the core principle holds -- your customers are smarter than you think. It will only serve you to do extensive market research under the assumption that your customers are doing their research, too.
The rest of Ogilvy's advice follows from this central idea -- he recommends speaking the language of target consumers to be more persuasive, keep your advertising informative yet clear, and above all, respect your audience's time and intelligence.
7. Focus on results.
As Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Adobe, Ann Lewnes is passionate about creativity and media. During her tenure, she has focused on digital marketing solutions and bringing creativity back to the technological space and her marketing campaigns. Currently, she is pioneering a new category of marketing -- moving from digital marketing to customer experience management.
She values cooperation and communication, two recession-proof, cross-industry abilities that help individuals advocate for themselves.
Lewnes credits her success at Adobe to doubling down on data-driven results. In order to improve martech, or marketing technology, enablement, she says the primary struggle is getting the right people and processes in place. She says, "The tools themselves will not solve anyone’s problems. I believe, without changing the way you view your talent, the technology is not going to work for you." Ultimately, it's critical you leverage your talent and your technology to drive results, without assuming technology will do all the hard work for you.
Tips From Foundational Marketers
Now that we've explored some of the most important marketers of today, let's dive into some historical figures who made an impact on how marketing evolved over time -- even if they weren't technically marketers, themselves.
8. Harness virality.
Conrad Gessner was a Swiss physician and naturalist in the 1500s. In April of 1559, Gessner saw a tulip for the very first time and was captivated by it. He sketched the flower and cut its image into a woodblock to be printed and published -- the first European illustration of the tulip.
The introduction of the tulip created mass craze and demand across the European continent. By 1610, a single tulip bulb was acceptable as dowry, and many mortgaged their homes and businesses to buy bulbs and resell them for higher prices (millions of dollars in today's market).
What is now known as Tulip Mania is the result of Conrad Gessner, the originator of viral marketing. In order for something to become viral, the product must quickly carry through word-of-mouth and create lots of demand in a short period of time. By distributing images and beautiful descriptions of the tulip, Gessner created explosive market value and demand for it.
9. Produce an unforgettable experience.
At 8 PM on October 30th, 1938, millions of Americans tuned into the CBS radio station. The station was broadcasting some unknown singer when it was interrupted by breaking news -- a group of scientists had observed explosions on Mars' surface. A few minutes later, the music was interrupted by a report that a large object, which looked like a ship, had crashed into a field in New Jersey. A couple of minutes after that, reporters on-site reported giant Martians with tentacles and lasers emerging from the ship, annihilating the army that had gathered. Radio announcers (who were really actors) stammered with fear, describing the 'horror' before them.
Almost a million radio listeners were convinced that Earth had been invaded by Martians that were murdering everything in their path. Mass panic broke out nationwide -- people ran screaming into the streets and begged police for help.
Orson Welles had -- extremely successfully -- translated H.G. Wells' science fiction novel War of the Worlds into a play for the radio. He created extremely compelling content to promote his radio station, the Mercury Theater company, as well as Wells' work.
Welles might not be a marketer in a traditional sense, but if you consider the idea that Welles performed careful audience research, put out evocative communications, and distributed gripping content that called millions to action and increased awareness for his production, then he is truly one of the greatest marketers of all time.
10. Make magical memories.
This list would not be complete without the creativity, passion, and business acumen of Walt Disney. He transformed the world of entertainment and created magical experiences for people of all ages. The incredibly successful mogul-turned-empire's marketing strategy leaned on a compelling brand story to target various audience segments. It created or restored content that appealed to a wide array of demographics, made Disneyland and Disney World into magical destinations, and maintained customer loyalty through imaginative or nostalgic narratives.
There is a warm and positive association with the brand, which is upheld in all of its advertising, messaging, and content. Disney has shown that a strong brand perception combined with high-quality offerings can lead to long-lasting and profitable success.
11. Leverage the advertorial.
Julius Caesar is one of the most famous figures in history for his military victories, dictatorship of Rome, and the Shakespearian tragedy based on his assassination.
The populist general, in an effort to keep up goodwill among his subjects to justify consolidating ever more power, invented a technique used by many marketers today. When Caesar was off fighting in Gaul (modern-day France), he published a recurring article to send back to Rome to keep his citizens updated on his battles. Caesar's political enemies had been destroying his reputation in Rome, so these progress reports were ostensibly to keep the republic informed, but were really to bolster public opinion and illuminate his victories in battle.
Today, the advertorial is an article that appears to be news on its face, but is really promoting a product or service. Just as Caesar leveraged the advertorial to improve public perception, companies can use this same technique to drive positive brand impressions.
12. Anticipate your target market needs.
Henry Ford is remembered as an integral part of U.S. history for revolutionizing the automobile industry in the early 20th century with the Ford Model T. Ford and the Model T were remarkable in terms of the interchangeability of its parts that allowed for mass production --, however, according to Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt, history has celebrated Ford for the wrong reasons. "His real genius," says Levitt, "was marketing."
Ford recognized that products must meet the needs and wants of the target market. It may seem simple, but before Ford, companies would just sell what they wanted to sell. Ford famously said: "If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse." Ford was able to recognize the needs of his market -- needs that the customers themselves couldn't yet articulate. Ford designed a product with his customers' needs foremost in mind.
13. Make your product exclusive.
On March 24th, 1756, Prussian King Frederick the Great ordered that potatoes be cultivated and distributed throughout Prussia. This order was not met enthusiastically by his subjects. Despite his subjects' resistance, he planted a field of potatoes and informed his kingdom of the potato's nutritional and economic value.
Then, Frederick the Great enacted one of the greatest (and earliest) marketing strategies -- he dispatched soldiers to guard the potato patch against trespassing or theft. The villagers were curious about the crop that the King's guards were patrolling, so they snuck in at night to steal the potatoes. From there, the potato flourished and became a staple crop.
Frederick the Great made potatoes scarce and exclusive, which made his target market motivated to try potatoes for themselves. It might be difficult to determine just how influential Frederick the Great was on the importance of the potato today -- however, his was probably one of the first and most successful marketing strategies in history.
14. Control supply and demand.
We all know the saying, 'diamonds are forever'.. However, diamonds weren't always the precious and expensive rarity we know them as today -- it took crafty strategy and advertising on behalf of De Beers to keep the diamond's reputation as intrinsically valuable and desirable.
In the late 19th century, diamonds were discovered in South Africa and the market became flooded. To keep diamonds valuable, Cecil Rhodes bought and merged all of the South African mining fields and the companies working on them, including one owned by two brothers with the last name De Beer. The De Beers Mining Company was formed, monopolizing all production and distribution of diamonds coming from South Africa.
Since the company controlled the distribution and supply of the majority of the market's diamonds, they created the product's false scarcity and therefore drove up prices. Additionally,, in 1938 they pushed their famous marketing campaign, "a diamond is forever." Their campaign convinced consumers that diamonds equated love, and that the bigger the diamond, the greater the expression of love.
Today, nearly all engaged couples are proving their commitment to each other with diamond rings, a direct result of the De Beers marketing campaign. They proved that limiting supply stimulates demand, and that creating strong emotional associations with products is an extremely successful strategy.
16. Delight through entertainment.
The circus was the dominant form of entertainment in the 19th century. The "greatest show on earth" had it all: exotic animals, trapeze artists, flamethrowers, and endless wonders to marvel at. P.T. Barnum was the ultimate entertainer, businessman, and marketing innovator.
He knew how to align his offering with the interests of his audience -- he had a "thorough knowledge of human nature … to please and flatter the public." He used this knowledge to build intuition about which acts to bring on, opportunities to promote his show, and how to delight customers nationwide.