Of course, the transformation of the Internet into a global marketing tool changed everything. Suddenly, entrepreneurs had a cost-effective way to compete directly and track consumers individually. At the same time, marketing campaigns were becoming even more sophisticated, with tie-ins, cross promotions, branding and product placements. For example, look at Survivor, where contestants can win a Mountain Dew or items from Target. The show sells merchandise online, and contestants appear on talk shows as well as in ads and magazines. "The business of promotions has gone past high art," says Ralph A. Oliva, executive director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets and professor of marketing at Smeal College of Business Administration at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.
So what will the future hold? Technology, particularly wireless, will have a great impact on promotional marketing. Cell phones and PDAs are morphing into one device, wireless laptops are becoming a reality, and the majority of U.S. consumers are expected to have digital TV sets by 2007, letting them use their TVs as computers, and vice versa.
At the same time, marketing will turn into a game of one-on-one marketing, in which companies will perfect the art of data mining to gear coupons and special offers to each consumer's particular buying habits. Amazon.com's ability to track visitors and instantaneously pull up a host of related products that might also interest them as they surf the site is a sign of more things to come. "Intertainment"-the combination of entertainment and interactivity-is taking hold, and it will only get more sophisticated in the future. "Successful sales promotions on the Web need to be 'intertaining,'" says Jake Schroepfer, president and CEO of advertising agency DDB Worldwide in Dallas, which helped Pepsi move its Pepsistuff redeemable bottle-cap promotion out of stores and onto the Web, where relationships can be built with consumers on their terms.
"The most effective promotions are the one-on-one targeted promotions that deliver value to customers when they need [it] and in a way that actually enhances the brand," says Perry Lowe, a marketing lecturer at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, and president of the Lowe Group of Companies, a marketing consulting firm specializing in strategic new product development. Direct mail, telemarketing or spam that isn't personalized is already looking antiquated. "Those days are going to be quickly ending," Lowe predicts, "as people see the advantages of the one-on-one relationship."
A look at marketing milestones coming in the next 25 years:
2005: One-on-one marketing becomes the norm. General direct mail and spam looks old-fashioned. Wireless devices and broadband connections open new ways to target consumers.
2010: HDTV in the majority of U.S. homes makes TV an increasingly interactive marketing experience. Broadband and wireless devices allow marketers to sell to consumers in real time.
2015: Marketers have perfected the art of data mining to reach consumers quickly with value-added promotions based on each person's unique buying patterns. Branding and advertising are fully interactive and targeted one-on-one.
2025: 100 percent interactivity, all the time. Entrepreneurs are gathering cheap, super-sophisticated customer data for quick, personalized up-selling and loyalty-building opportunities in a wireless world.