Marketing in the 80’s Compared to Today

As you’ve probably heard, we’re celebrating our 40th birthday here at Systemax this year! Since I was born in 1998, I’ll own up to the fact that I don’t know much about the ’80s. (Sorry mom and dad!) To get in the birthday celebration spirit, it’s only fitting that I crack open a Google search and do some research about this defining decade.
Obviously, things have changed quite a bit in the world since the ’80s. I’m not just talking about the big hair and quirky fashion trends – marketing has done a complete transformation as well!
Here’s how marketing has changed from the 1980s to today:
1980s: Cold Calling
Now: Targeting
Even though cold calling is still a thing, it’s much less common now than in the 80s. (And aren’t we all thankful for that?!) With caller ID phone screening and no-call lists emerging, people have become pros at dodging unwanted calls.
Thanks to today’s technology, we can now fine-tune our audiences instead of hoping for the best. With social media ads, Google ads, and marketing automation email lists, your message is seen by the customer at the right place and at the right time in the buyer’s journey.
1980s: Direct Mail
Now: Email Marketing
Direct mail was the top dog of marketing strategy in the ’80s. It was the perfect tool to reach out to customers. From catalogs to glossy flyers, direct mail worked!
Flash-forward to today… do you even look at junk mail? Maybe if you spot a coupon for a place you’re already familiar with. Other than that, junk mail usually goes straight to the shredder. Direct mail still can work, but it’s a costly route (and a lot more work). You have to develop a targeted list, come up with just the right message, and pay for printing, postage, and more.
Today, the alternative is email marketing. It’s incredibly cost-effective when done right. For every $1 spent on email marketing, there is an ROI of $36. Email marketing is an easy way to gain new sales and refresh old leads and maintain relationships with existing customers.
1980s: TV Commercials
Now: YouTube & Facebook Ads
Of course commercials on TV are still around, but the game has changed a bit since the ’80s. With streaming services turning into the main form of TV consumption, commercials aren’t seen in the same way as they once were.
TV commercials come with a hefty cost, but video ads on YouTube and Facebook have become a game-changer. A video ad doesn’t even have to be a high-budget production. With this method, you can be extra specific with your messaging and cut costs by targeting the right audiences at the right time.
1980s: Yellow Pages
Now: SEO
Does your business still advertise in the Yellow Pages? If your answer is yes, perhaps give us a call.
Back in the day, the Yellow Pages were key to everything. From pizza delivery to video stores, the Yellow Pages had it all! (Including businesses that would name themselves strategically with the letter ‘A’ so they would be on the first page.)
As you know, Yellow Pages are now quality dust collectors with good ‘ol search engines in the game.
When someone is looking for an answer or solution, they turn to search engines to guide them directly to what they need. Instead of having to turn the pages through a category, search engines allow us to simply type what we want.
As a business, you want to be the most relevant result to someone searching for the product or service you offer. That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical factor for your website and its content. SEO is a long journey, but it’s important to be optimized so you are reaching potential customers on page one.
1980s: Print Ads
Now: Digital Ads
While TV ads were thriving in the decade of Madonna, print ads were still the standard for advertising in magazines and newspapers. As seen in the ad below, long-form copy was the trend. Advertisers also liked to focus on the technical features of products.
With our attention spans at an all-time low, this form of advertising has taken a turn. (We can’t forget about the technological aspect as well!)
Have no fear: print ads are still relevant and practical! They have just evolved with the times by adapting to the technological era with the use of interactive elements, 3D technology, augmented reality (AR), and more.
As I mentioned before, we all do not have an attention span. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t even read the example above all the way through because it’s too many words. As marketers, we keep things short and sweet. We don’t focus on the specs, we focus on offering a solution to a problem the audience is facing.
The only bummer with print ads? They are not trackable or targetable. With print, you don’t have a guarantee of your ad reaching who you want. Your ad spend could very well be going to waste!
Digital ads have come on the scene through social media and Google. This method is a way to directly advertise based on customer behaviors, keywords, and search history. Having a direct target guarantees the best ROI – more bang for your buck if you will.
There you have it! Things sure have changed in the marketing world since the 1980s. One thing that hasn’t changed is Systemax taking your brand to new heights. 😉
Need a hand with your marketing strategy? We’re here to help!

Author Info

Hello hello! My name is Renee Rude and I am the Content Specialist here at Systemax. 
I work closely with the team to facilitate content creation for clients that align with their overall marketing plan and business objectives. From social media to copywriting to graphic design, I’m here to help clients reach their goals! Outside of the office, you can find me working out or trying to plot when I’m going to the Jonas Brothers next on tour. (I’ve been a fan since I was 8 years old and am proud of it😉)