The Earliest Seeds Planted
Marketing Communication in America can be traced back to colonial times when Samuel Adams founded a newspaper in Boston. Adams’ newspaper was started in 1748, but in 1775, he shut it down, in order to focus on operating his family’s brewery business.
As a revolutionary, Adams was active in opposition to British rule over the American colonies. He was involved in such prominent events as the Boston Tea Party, but one of his later contributions to the cause was the establishment of “Committees of Correspondence”. These served as networks for efficiently communicating behind different groups throughout the colonies.
Adams’ persuasive use of communication was instrumental in achieving independence for the United States.
The Industrial Revolution
Marketing as we know it today did really exist until the Industrial Revolution. There were only simple ads in newspapers, or signage in front of businesses.
The Second Industrial Revolution ushered in railroads, steam power, electricity and the development of telegraph and telephone. These new technologies expanded the speed and reach of communication. Newspaper, taking advantage of the telegraphic services were able to receive and send relatively quickly even from distant locations.
It was during this era that the first true advertising agency was established by Volney Palmer. He set up business in Philadelphia in 1841, compiling a client list and selling ad space in newspapers in several states. By 1849, Palmer claimed to represent more than a thousand newspapers.
In 1869, N. W. Ayer set up what could be considered the first full-service advertising agency. This agency employed writers and artists who collaborated to provide clients with a more robust advertising service, ranging from design to composition. Ayer was also responsible for introducing the concept of advertising publications when his agency launched a Manual for Advertisers.
The concept of branding, still in popular usage, was introduced by J. Walter Thompson in 1878. His agency is still in existence today, under the name JWT. The first known commercial explanation of branding, as a concept, appeared in 1900, in reference to trademark advertising. When Thompson sold his business in 1916, it was purchased for $500,000.
The period from 1920 to 1949 is known as the sale era of marketing. With the aim of getting products out of their factories, companies used a variety of promotional methods to persuade the public to buy their products. Many companies developed their own sales forces and utilized billboards and used new techniques such as radio ads with jingles.
Business as usual was largely interrupted during World War II when many manufacturing facilities repurposed their plants to produce military materials.
The first publicity company was established in 1900 by George Michaelis in Boston. He called it the Publicity Bureau and it was, essentially, the first press agency in the United States. One of the Publicity Bureau’s prominent early campaigns was in 1906 when the railroads hired the agency to oppose efforts by the Roosevelt Administration to enact new regulations on their industry.
P. T. Barnum, a colorful character who lived in the 19th
Century, laid the foundations of the American Public Relations industry. Barnum served as a state legislator in Connecticut, but is probably best known as the found of the popular Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. The type of publicity employed by Barnum is know as press agentry and focused less on truth and accuracy than on drawing people’s attention through hype and sensationalism.
However, it was Ivy Ledbetter Lee who is credited with being the founder of modern public relations. Among his prominent clients were Standard Oil the Pennsylvania Railroad and Charles Lindbergh.
Edward Bernays would later develop PR further. He believed that target audiences must first be understood and then persuaded to view things from the client’s perspective. In 1923, Bernay also authored the first public relations textbook, Crystallizing Public Opinion. That same year, he taught the first college course on public relations at New York University. It was Bernays view that public relations is an applied social science and drew upon psychology and sociology to manipulate the behavior and thinking of the public.
Modern Business Communication in Practice
Paul Garrett and Arthur Page are known as the father of corporate communication, being Vice President of Public Relations at General Motors and AT&T, respectively. They were the first to apply the principles of public relations, marketing and communication directly departments and organizations within American corporate industries. It was this practice that became known as corporate communication.
Arthur Page advocated the practice of six corporate communication principles:
- Always tell the truth.
- Prove it with your actions.
- Listen to the customer
- Manage for tomorrow, the future.
- Conduct public relations as if the whole company depended on it.
- Remain calm, patient and good humored.
To Infinity and Beyond
With the digital age, marketing communication has advanced into new, wide open territories. Although things evolve rapidly in the high-tech environment, many of the old principles have already been adapting to the needs of the 21st Century. Traditional business expand their presence to the online realm and entirely new industries have sprung up that operate solely in the virtual space.
With widespread, economical access available, budding entrepreneurs are better poised than ever to pursue self-employment by operating their own online businesses. Few opportunities offer as much flexibility and growth potential as online marketing. For the motivated few who are not only inspired to carve out their own niche, but have the drive and determination to see it through to success, the opportunity has never been better.
With more than 4 billion of the world’s 7+ billion people on the internet (and more joining them every day), those who say the market is already saturated, appear to be way off-base. The opportunities are still there for anyone ready and willing to rise to the challenge.
Make Your Mark on History
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