20 years in the making: Marketing shifts from 2003-2023

Maria Leuzinger By Maria Leuzinger, Copywriter and Swing Dance Enthusiast, Extra Mile Marketing

On March 22, we celebrated EMM’s 20th anniversary, and our office is filled to the brim with memorabilia from the past two decades. An air of nostalgia hangs in our sunbaked conference room as we reminisce over early projects and (kindly) laugh over photos of our staff from 20 years ago. 

It’s a time to appreciate how far we’ve come. In the spirit of reflection, we’re looking back at how the marketing landscape has changed, along with us, over the past twenty years. 

Targeting vs broad strategies 

In the not-so-distant past, traditional marketing channels such as print advertisements, television and radio commercials, and direct mail reigned supreme. These methods aimed to reach as many people as possible. While effective in their day, these channels lacked the precision of personalization available today. (Think broad strokes of a paint brush versus fine detail).  

There’s no denying that targeted ads have become very targeted. As algorithms analyze customer interactions on social media, digital ads, search engines, and even email, marketers can leverage advanced analytics and gain deeper insights into their customers’ buying patterns and preferences. When I scroll through my social feeds, I sometimes wonder if the algorithms even know my favorite color!  

Personalization is great news for marketers since it increases a brand’s visibility to those most likely to purchase their products. Targeted ads make it easier to reach your intended audience and raise conversion rates. By understanding the unique needs and interests of their target audiences, companies can establish deeper connections and deliver highly relevant content and offers.  

According to HubSpot’s 2023 State of Marketing Report, 83% of customers are willing to share their data to create a more personalized experience. 


Physical vs digital 

According to the Pew Research Center, weekly and Sunday newspaper circulation has decreased by about 44% between 2003 and 2020.  

The last 20 years sure haven’t been kind to newspapers and magazines. As digital marketing channels and social media became more prominent, businesses began to explore new avenues and implement new tools for reaching their target audiences. The new platforms eliminated the “one-way street” mentality in marketing. Now the focus has become engagement and interaction. 

While there’s something nice about holding a magazine in your hands, if you’re a scatterbrain like me, those printed pieces often get lost between the mailbox and front door. (Bad news for the marketers who paid for the magazine ads!) Thankfully, digital marketing materials are more difficult to misplace. Social media, emails, and webinars are accessible from anywhere on earth with strong Wi-Fi, and are easily searchable if you lose the link!  

It’s easier than ever for companies to interact with prospects on social platforms, and vice versa! With the ability to reply to comments and direct messages, brands can foster trust, show authenticity, and build emotional connections with audiences. 


Online personalities  

Part of maintaining this two-way street includes developing and maintaining a strong online personality and going beyond traditional advertising to actively engage with potential customers. 

Social media engagement offers a unique opportunity for brands to showcase their personality, respond to inquiries, and run interactive campaigns. B2C companies, like the language learning app Duolingo and the European airline Ryanair, have established a strong TikTok and Instagram presence with sarcastic yet playful humor that drives engagement (proving that even big green owls and airplanes can be relatable when they actively engage with prospects).  


Data analytics  

Twenty years ago, analyzing data was a cumbersome, time-consuming, and manual endeavor that was restricted to data scientists and analysts—and there was no such thing as real-time insights. 

Today, user-friendly analytics tools have made relevant, useful data accessible to those without a technical background. Sophisticated algorithms enable businesses to derive deeper insights from data and make informed decisions that improve the customer experience (remember that personalization thing?) and optimize business operations.  

Advanced data analytics capabilities also allow businesses to identify trends, mitigate risks, and handle massive volumes of data quickly and cost-effectively. In the blink of an eye, marketers can see which message is performing best on LinkedIn and retarget the best prospects with ads that follow them around the internet.  


The next twenty years 

These large marketing innovations we’ve seen over the last 20 years — pinpoint personalization, increased customer interaction, utilization of social platforms, and advanced data analytics — have helped us grow to where we are today. From 2003 when EMM first created a messaging framework for the Buzz Inn Steakhouse chain to today’s ABM campaigns for Microsoft’s App of the Future, it’s been quite an evolution. 

Our 20th year is flying by and we’re enjoying the chance to reflect on what we’ve learned and speculate on where the next 20 years will take us. What changes will AI and machine learning bring? “Hey, ChatGPT. What’s the next chapter for marketing?” 

To learn more about today’s best marketing practices, email us at! 


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