Since the dawn of the first business - one main focus took place. That focus? It would be the selling of goods to a customer of some sort, while making some kind of profit. Whatever it took for a business owner to acquire a product, it would take a little more for the customer to acquire the same product for the business owner. This focus is still key for all businesses. A business needs to make a profit on most of its sold goods (there are plenty of other sales techniques) to ensure that it not only breaks even and ensures that financial ends meet.

However, since ancient times another concept has dominated the business landscape. How do businesses find customers? How do they bring them in? Through advertising of course! The idea of advertising has been around almost as long as humanity has. In fact, some actual ideas within advertising itself stems from developments made back in ancient times. The Egyptian civilization on the banks of the River Nile used the papyrus reed to construct posters and sales messages. In the lost city of Pompeii, political campaigning materials and commercials have been found! Nowadays we use pop-up advertising, viral messaging and other forms of advertising - but back in the day, painting was the norm. Wall or rock painting is an ancient advertising practice that started around four thousand years before Christ. Those same concepts still apply to this day.  If there is one specific purpose to history, it is to learn from the past. While there is a lot to learn about the history of advertising, what can that history of advertising actually teach us about the present world of marketing, but what else can it tell us about the future of advertising in general? Is there anything we can take from the history of advertising to understand a little bit more about marketing in this day and age?


Advertising was yet another area boosted by the invention of the printing press, but it didn't really suffer before the printing press came about. Minimalist advertising can be seen from as far back as the Middle Ages - across Europe, the majority of the population was unable to read - so signs that were scribed had no use. One would not be able to tell the difference between the butcher, the baker - nor the candlestick maker until they walked into the shop! Signs would instead use some sort of imagery associated with their trade - a boot for cobblers, bread for bakers. A single image that told everyone what the store was all about. Branding? Indeed. The image did more work for the business than anyone at that time might have been able to understand, but in the modern day, we can really get to grips with the importance of good branding. These minimalist designs - even though they were needed back in those days, are still something we use today. Just flip over your MacBook for an example. Where's the name? Where's the detail? It is all contained in that one single image. The use of images and logos in the Middle Ages is a forebear that shows us just how important branding is - and less really is more.


It was a Londoner by the name of Thomas Barratt who took advertising forward. The world evolved after the Industrial Revolution, and people were richer (although status didn't change) - but people could, for the most part, read - write and invest. The earliest developments of serious psychological power in commercialism, and you can see some of those modern-day concepts in Barratt's work for the Pears Soap company. Barratt was the first person to use targeted slogans, and combine those with imagery to create an effective commercial. The slogan he created for Pears - "Good morning. Have you used Pears' soap?" was an incredibly famous slogan - and probably kept Pears in business! Barratt didn't stop with catchy slogans - he used popular culture in his adverts. At the time, popular culture was more linked to high culture - music, paintings, arts, and books were in the domain of the wealthy. Barratt used this to his advantage and used the Bubbles painting created by Millais as a commercial by working in a bar of Pears into the original image. These images of clean children along with the high-society influence of paintings made Pears seem like the brand of the rich. Barratt found his niche and his target market and went for it - hard. Barratt founded crucial ideas (brand imagine, slogans, targeted marketing) and these ideas resonate strongly today - and show how important a dedicated advertising professional is in a business. If Barratt could help Pears, certainly dedicated advertising services like Fechtor Advertising Services and the other advertising agencies worldwide could help you learn from Barratt and refocus your message? The most effective thing we can learn from Barratt is the evolution of branding - he nailed down the idea and firmly believed in change - simply to reflect changing tastes and times, if a business is stuck in the past, it might miss out on the future. Barratt also noted that the real power in sales came through advertising - and not the production of a product.


There is so much more to the history of advertising than the work of Barratt at Pears and the use of branding within the Middle Ages, but these are the two most important lessons we can learn. There is plenty more to learn about both the history of advertising itself, and what we can glean from that history. What about the future though? Well - we will always find new ideas, new markets, new products and new techniques - but we will still have to abide by the lessons learned well in the past. For instance, Barratt focused on change - businesses do change their branding, but do they forget the past? Not at all - in most cases, a business will cherish it's past and not make a rebrand a whitewash - but use the past as a foundation. We will certainly see businesses focus on minimalist branding more - but not without forgetting what the business is. In any case, if errors are made with advertising, there will always be dedicated advertising specialists on hand to help out and make something of a faltering business.

 Also founder of  Jerry Mooney Books

Also founder of Jerry Mooney Books