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The Evolution of Marketing Part 2: How Modern Ads Compare to Historical Ads

“Annndd we’re back!”

In Part 1 of The Evolution of Marketing, we went over the differences between digital marketing and historical marketing.

But what about the ads themselves? How have those changed?

At first glance, vintage/antique advertising was massively
different from modern ads, even modern print ads. But what you’ll come to see
is that the core elements haven’t changed all that much… but there’s been a big
shift in the core messaging of modern ads.

I mean, let’s ignore the actual product in the ad below for
a second (because CLEARLY the times have changed with what we can sell, FDA regulations and all that…) and just look and
the marketing elements.

Historical Ad to exemplify the evolution of marketing

It’s hand drawn, contains a lot of information that wouldn’t
matter as much to modern buyers, and just feels

But when you break it down, you can see that there are core
ad elements that are present in a modern ad equivalent as well.

The Historical Ad vs the Modern Ad

Old medicine ad with marketing breakdown, showing the evolution of marketing

You’ve got your graphic or image, your product name, your
catchy hook, and then the company info. And when you compare it to a modern ad
along the same lines…

Pharmaceutical ad with the same marketing elements as the old medicine ad

Same elements, though a significantly different breakdown.

And I know that pharmaceutical ads may be a bad example.
After all, it’s those same regulations preventing the sale of cocaine as a
toothache cure that require the triple-column, tiny-font, full page of

So let’s look at a car ad instead.

Here is an old ad:

Old chevy ad with consistent marketing elements

Compared to one from this year:

Chevy ad with all the same marketing elements

See? Same elements, different breakdown.

In this case, there is way LESS copy, and way MORE of a hook (really, 2 hooks). But there are still those same base elements.

(Related: What is Copywriting?)

Modern ads are, in many ways, the same as historical ads.

But wait, I know what you’re (probably) thinking.

You’re thinking that I spent the whole of Part 1 of this series telling you how different marketing is now, and how much better it is now; so how could I spend the entirety of THIS post telling you how the ads themselves are basically the same?

Here’s the thing. The core tenants of an ad may not have
changed. But the messaging sure has. And the marketing tactics behind them sure

We no longer live in an era where you can buy a single ad
placement in a magazine to make all your sales for the month.

Marketing has become a world of campaigns, massive
audiences, and tiny differences in copy across 5 ads for the same thing.

Three slightly different versions for an ad for Chevy showing the evolution of marketing within ad structure.

But WHY?

It’s simple. You remember that one downfall of modern
marketing from Part 1?

There is just way more competition.

Companies have to work harder
for fewer sales.

You may still need to have all those same marketing elements
in your ads, but you also have to find a way to set yourself apart from the
half-a-dozen (or more) companies selling the same thing as you.

So what is the best way to set yourself apart, without just
slashing prices until your bank account hemorrhages or your business becomes

Well, one of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in the evolution of marketing world has been the idea of “selling the why, not the what.”

(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)

Selling the Why, NOT the What

The idea behind selling the “why” is that there has to be
something more than just your product
on the line, and your company has to stand for something bigger.

Across almost every industry, businesses big and small are creating movements or
standing for causes outside the scope of their own product/service.

Not only does this set them apart within their respective industries, but it keeps up with an increasingly engaged customer base.

(Related: How to Create Audience-Engaging Content That Drives Results)

To show you what I mean, I’ve picked out a couple examples of historical ads with some modern counterpoints that really exemplify this new “cause-based marketing” evolution.

The Evolution of Marketing Razors:

The razor industry has seen a significant amount of
disruption over the last several years, primarily with the introduction of more
affordable options like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s onto the market.

A big part of that comes down to the messaging of their
campaigns. Take a look at the ad below, an old Gillette ad, and see if you can
pick out the core messaging of the ad.

Gillette ad emphasizing the safety of the product

If you guessed safety, here’s your gold star ⭐!

This Gillette ad prioritizes the elements of the product
itself, mostly its safety. “No stropping no honing” is seen at the bottom in
the product information, and even if I did have to look up what stropping is
(it’s polishing the edge of the blade, like you would a straight razor), it’s
clear that they are trying to sell you on the razor itself. And that’s it.

This strategy clearly worked for a long time, because it was only this recent disruption that has bumped Gillette from the majority hold on the shaving market.

But when you counter this ad with a recent video ad from
Billie, a women-focused razor subscription, it becomes clear that focusing on
the product is simply not enough any more.

Billie’s utmost priority in this ad is to
showcase inclusion and acceptance. It’s capitalizing on the body positivity
movement to make their brand relevant to their target audience: young women.

They are creating a movement around their
product, rather than advertising the product itself.

Project Body Hair by Billie video description

But what strikes me about this ad, and
why I picked it to look at over a Harry’s or a Dollar Shave Club ad, is that
the ad’s core message is that you don’t have
to shave.

That’s like if a butcher shop put out an
ad in support of vegetarianism. It just doesn’t make sense on the surface. But
take a look at the comments on this video.

Comments for the Billie ad praising the ad and talking about remembering the company name because of it

Billie has extended their marketing
outside the scope of their product and addressed a problem that is central to
their audience. And they are being rewarded with audience engagement and brand

They are selling the why—that some women
WANT to shave—instead of the what—the razor.

Gillette on the other hand, is just now catching up to the cause-based marketing game. In fact, they released their own video ad attempting to start a movement (though it received a LOT of criticism).

But if I’m honest, after seeing the Project Body Hair ad, I may just be switching my own razor subscription to Billie.

(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)

The Evolution of Marketing Gasoline:

Gasoline, and energy in general, is not going through as
much of a disruption. But Shell Energy has still taken it upon itself to change
its advertising strategy in order to set itself apart.

When you look at an old Shell ad, you have an ad that
details the benefits of their product.
In this case, motor oil.

Old Shell ad that just sells the product

They go into why Shell oil is different and will “stretch
time” for your engine. Which clearly did enough back then to make sales.

But counter it with a recent ad for Shell energy that barely
mentions a product for sale, and you can see how their marketing has changed.

Recent Shell ad that embodies the marketing evolution of selling the why.

Even though the elements and visual breakdown of this ad are
nearly identical to the old ad, the messaging is vastly different.

Shell is trying to evolve their marketing beyond the energy
they sell and join the environmental movement for energy conservation. Their
“why” for choosing Shell over another energy company is that Shell is “more
environmentally conscious.”

Again, they have taken their ad beyond the scope of their
product and are marketing a cause.

Now, whether their messaging was received well is a completely different issue. But there is a distinct effort to sell the why.

But not every company is going to have a cause as “big” as
body positivity or environmental conservation. And our last example shows an ad
that found a smaller-scale “cause” to fit with their company’s audience.

The Evolution of Marketing Cameras:

The focus of this last historical ad is again, the product
(I’m sensing a trend…); specifically the price and ease of use.

Old Kodak Brownie ad

For context, the Brownie Camera in the ad was one of the first cameras marketed to the masses and paved the way for more widespread photography. So it makes sense that price and ease of use would be the focus.

But now everyone has a camera in their pocket, and actual
cameras, particularly nice ones, are getting more and more expensive. So camera
companies are having to get more creative with their marketing to convince
their audience.

That is part of what makes the Nikon ad below so interesting.
They are focusing on documenting your passion rather than using their

Nikon ad for Find your Passion Contest to show evolution of marketing messaging

By broadening the scope of their ad, not only do they give
their audience a reason to buy/use their camera, but they build loyalty within
their customer base.

You may have just dropped $3,000 on the camera, but you get
to showcase your passion and possibly win some great prizes. There is nothing
about the specs of the camera in the ad, or even on the landing page, despite
it being the central product at stake.

And “Follow Your Passion” is a why that is way more scaled
down from the other two examples, but it has just as much impact.

The Messaging IS the Marketing

Even if most of our ads today are digital instead of hand
drawn, and even if digital marketing has usurped print marketing, your average
ad still looks a lot like those historic ads selling morally questionable

So much is different, but ultimately, a lot is the same.

But even if the ads still carry the same general elements,
it’s the messaging that we now connect with. And it’s the messaging that
matters in the end.

So if you want to keep up with the evolution of marketing, you should probably take a page out of the cause-based marketing book and think about your “why” before you try to sell your “what.”

(NOTE: Need a helping hand with your digital marketing efforts? Or maybe you just want proven, actionable marketing tools, tactics, and templates to implement in your business? Check out the latest deal from DigitalMarketer, and you will be on your way to helping your business grow.)

The post The Evolution of Marketing Part 2: How Modern Ads Compare to Historical Ads appeared first on DigitalMarketer.

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