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The world of marketing has undergone a massive transformation over the past few years, with the evolution of digital technologies and social media. These changes have led to the rise of digital marketing, which is expected to grow by 17.6% between 2021 and 2026.[i] As technology continues to advance, digital marketing will undoubtedly continue to evolve and play an increasingly important role in the world of marketing. But when did digital marketing first begin?

Digital marketing can be traced back to the 80s, when the first database marketing software was created. Companies properly then began to explore the potential of online advertising in the 90s, with the first banner ad appearing in 1994.

In the 2000s, the rise of search engines made it possible for businesses to target specific audiences, as did social media. 2010 in particular saw the use of mobile explode, leading to the growth of mobile marketing and mobile-first website design. The rise of data and analytics also made it possible for businesses to analyse large amounts of data, allowing for more targeted marketing campaigns.

Fast forwarding to the 2020s, digital marketing has continued to evolve, with a greater emphasis on personalisation and artificial intelligence to optimise campaigns. The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards a more digital way of life, making digital marketing more important than ever.

From TV ads to social media campaigns, digital marketing can take many forms. Here are just four of our favourite examples from the past few decades.

1. The Gorilla

Launched in 2007, Cadbury’s “Gorilla” campaign was highly successful and pretty unforgettable. The campaign featured a 90-second TV ad, involving a gorilla playing the drums along to ‘In the Air Tonight.’

The ad was shared widely on social media and generated significant media coverage. Within a few weeks of its initial airing, the ad had been viewed millions of times online and had become one of the most talked-about advertising campaigns of the year. The success of the “Gorilla” campaign led to a significant increase in sales for Cadbury, with sales of the Dairy Milk brand increasing by 9.3% in the year following the campaign.


2. Real Beauty

The Real Beauty campaign was a campaign, originally launched by Dove in 2004. It was aimed to challenge the conventional beauty standards set by the beauty industry, and to promote a more inclusive and diverse definition of beauty. The campaign began with a series of ads featuring women of different ages, sizes, and ethnicities, showcasing their natural beauty without retouching.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign had a major impact on brand image, resulting in increased sales and revenue while outperforming its competitors. As a result, Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign became one of the most effective promotional messages in terms of influencing consumer emotions and creating favourable brand associations. This 2013 ad was part of the Real Beauty campaign.



3. Beanz on Bix

The cereal brand posted a picture of Weetabix covered in Heinz baked beans on Twitter, which instantly drew furore from passionate breakfast eaters and mocking replies from brands, including Specsavers, Ford UK and the NHS, which all gave their opinion on the tongue-in-cheek social post.

Beanz on Bix became one of the most talked about brand campaigns of the year. The post has been retweeted 37,000 times, quoted 68,800 times and received 131,000 likes. As a result, Weetabix said its spontaneous brand awareness increased by 40% compared to last year. Plus, the brand saw a 15% increase in sales on Valentine’s weekend as eager customers looked to recreate the breakfast idea.


4. Free Cuthbert

This campaign involved Aldi selling a product called “Cuthbert the Caterpillar Cake,” which was similar in appearance to a popular cake by M&S. The legal battle sparked a humorous social media campaign under the hashtag #FreeCuthbert, with people expressing support for Aldi and Cuthbert.

The Free Cuthbert campaign became a cultural phenomenon, with celebrities and social media influencers joining in and creating their own versions of the cake. The campaign also highlighted the power of social media and the potential for humour and goodwill to generate positive publicity for brands. The campaign raised over £50,000 for charity.

From these examples, it’s clear that a successful campaign is a result of understanding the target audience, being creative and engaging whilst setting clearly defined goals, using a data-driven approach, and having a consistent brand.

What’s your favourite digital marketing campaign? Let us know!

Want to know more about digital marketing? Read our recent blog ‘Will AI replace content creators?’





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