15 March 2020

Before the Noise: Marketing lessons from the Ancient World

In your industry, you are the expert. You have spent years honing your craft and building your expertise, and you are now at the top of your game. But there are certain aspects that you might know little to nothing about, and this includes digital marketing.

In this piece, we’d like to explore these age-old lessons, lessons that are timeless, universal and just as applicable today as they were a thousand years ago. These practices have basically remained the same, it’s merely their context that has changed.

Business owners still wish to make customers aware of their products or services, and customers still seek to be convinced that these products or services are worth their hard-earned cash.

So let’s get right into it. Here are a few crucial marketing lessons from the ancient world.

Take up space. Get noticed.

Whether it’s 2020 or 1020, the main purpose of marketing is still to get people’s attention.

According to depictions found on ancient Chinese artifacts, many candy makers in China played bamboo flutes to attract customers to their store, a practice not too dissimilar from the distorted jingles blaring from ice cream trucks, or the young 19th-century newspaper boys screaming “Extra! Extra!” to draw people’s attention to their products.

People need to know that your business exists. You would be shocked to learn how many potential clients you’ve lost, who were looking for your exact skill set, product or service because they never knew you were an option. Many might not even know that your offering holds value to them, and they never will unless you enlighten them. Don’t be shy. Don’t be timid. Be loud. Be confident. Believe in yourself and believe in your value.

And another valuable lesson here is, keep at it. There is a psychological trick known as the “mere-exposure effect”, a phenomenon where people tend to develop a liking for things simply because they are exposed to them more.

Marketing is a constant process. If you want to retain your audience’s attention, you need to remind them of your current value. Which brings me to my next point - to keep that value current...

Stay informed

We cannot stress this enough. DO. YOUR. RESEARCH. Never stop learning. Identifying and staying on top of market trends and technological evolutions will allow you to keep transforming your business to meet the markets shifting demands.

Steel buckets were once the main method of transporting water. Then came the advent of plastic, a much lighter and considerably cheaper material that could do the same job for a fraction of the cost. This meant steel no longer held the value it once did. The concept of value had transformed and only those who accepted this shift in value took their success into the future.

History is littered with these evolutions. Copper was once the king of communications as copper cables, at the time, were the best way to carry voice and information signals across vast distances. Then came optic fibre, which can not only carry a thousand times more information but can also deliver it faster and over greater distances.

Similarly, the world of print was once the leader of information distribution until the internet came along and stole the show. People can now instantly access a global bank of information without barely lifting a finger, significantly decreasing the value of newspapers and magazines.

We’re sure you can see what we’re getting at here. Your business needs to be adaptable in order to ride the ebb and flow of consumers’ rapidly changing concept of value. In today’s world, where new advancements in tech and business manifest daily, this lesson is more pertinent than ever.

Understand your brand and understand your audience.

In Ancient China’s Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), a needle maker produced one of the first printed advertisements in history. The advertisement read “we purchase only the highest quality steel rods and transform them into the finest quality needles, ready for home use in no time”.

The needle maker understood that his customers wanted high-quality products at a swift rate and adapted his value offering accordingly. The advertisement also featured a logo – a rabbit holding a needle. This was an ingenious and insightful design since, in Chinese culture, rabbits are associated with longevity. In time, his brand became a symbol of quality and trust, two values held in extremely high regard in Eastern cultures.

The lesson here is that the needle maker understood his audience and the value of his product. By incorporating this simple but effective communication marketing strategy, he gained their trust and built a bridge between their demands and his fulfilment of that demand.

In today’s saturated market, this is a crucial lesson. Understanding your audience and communicating on their level is the key to success. And this process will never end. As we mentioned earlier, your audience’s needs, values and desires are constantly changing and you will have to constantly investigate, identify and adapt your value offering to make sure you keep them coming back.

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