The History & Evolution of Marketing (As started by the Neanderthals)

If you’re looking to read about the history Social Media, Facebook or Twitter then this is not the post for you.

This article revolves around the premise of marketing and communication and builds a historic story about how and why we use it because marketing, graphic design or social media may seem like a new age of communication but it’s actually nothing new in terms of promotion. The only thing new or different about marketing today is the technology behind it.

Marketing and communication have been around since 40,000 BC and the discipline back then was known as wall paintings used to entertain or inform others about experiences. Today, we call it Billboard advertising.

Cave painting print advertising
19th Century Altamira Cave Painting – Oldest know wall cave painting
billboard advertising
Billboard advertising today

With no paper or printer, the first oldest human race would draw or carve their pictures, usually of people, on a wall to communicate a social message. The message could be a story, a warning or a suggestion and the intention was always to influence others.

rock art
Wall painting containing people.

Exploration of techniques during BC led to an evolution of communication material where wood-block printing, stamps, papyrus, silk and stone were used to enhance the art of communication for the masses.

wood blocking
Wood block printing and papyrus
Silk printing and stamps.

The Chinese evolved design communication in 105BC by invention of what we know today as paper. They were also the first to use package design, paper adverts, sales lingo such as “Compared with other” and “Our product is unique.”

Followed with intuitive use of graphics, they created and used trademarks in the form of flower logos to avoid counterfeiting.

First paper smaples

Taking graphic design and marketing to the next evolution, adverts and personification were merged together hand in hand to re-invigorate social and marketing messages through print design but it wasn’t until the invention of the “print press” that personification and design in adverts became easier and common place.

Early use of personification in marketing material
print press
First print press

500 years later, adverts, slogans, beautiful graphics and personification are all used on a daily basis to sell a message and create the below standard of print adverts that had social impact.

early print adverts
Early Coca Cola advert & Pears print advert

Print flourished in the 1900’s and as we know, advertising went beyond print to audio and motion graphics but still capitalised on personification to connect with its customers. Corporate organisations made design communciation an art.

modern print ads
20th century print adverts using technology to create works of art.

The 21st century has gone totally digital and in effect made personification and social communication more successful than ever.   It’s present in print, radio and TV but today on the world wide web it’s found a way to become more personal, more targeted and more successful to smaller businesses and even the individual.

From the graphical rock art of 40, 000 BC to the print adverts of the 21st century, marketing communication has evolved with use of personification into what it is today; Social Media.

We associate the phrase “social media” with the likes of digital formats such as Twitter and Facebook, far cries from wall paintings or print adverts but if you break it down:

Social: relating to society

Media: The main means of mass communication- a means by which something is communicated

Is that phrase not representative of the oldest Rock Art or Egyptian community posters? Social media is just another evolution of communication, personification and design, and judging by history, it could be around for at least the next 100 years.

Social Media

Likewise, personification and social interaction have always been a core element in communicating a message.  The very idea of a person communicating with us in the form of text, audio, or graphic gives a 2Dimensional advert a big sense of reality, taking itself off the medium its produced on to raise an emotion, an idea, a memory and relationship and in turn make a sale.

As a business owner, don’t think “print is dead” and likewise don’t rule out social media as a “fad”.  History has shown that personification and the social element in sales is a proven method that brings success whether it be print, digital or Rock! (the medium is irrelevant). 

The skill and idea of using personification to sell have been used longer than anyone of us has been alive and likely to outlive us as well.  What’s more it’s in your business bloodline because……

The Neanderthals invented Social Media with cave paintings
The Chinese Printed it on paper
The Germans Mass produced it with printing presses
The Tech nerds took it to the internet

Now the world owns it

And its up to you to use it……Whatever the medium.

Your ancestors used personification, marketing, print, design and social media to make a sale.

Maybe you should do the same.

you can do it


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