History of Digital Marketing

Throughout the centuries there are key events that have shaped our definition of marketing and this unique form of communication between company and consumer.

Although not a new concept, marketing has evolved significantly since the start of the digital age. With the internet boom and the creation of different online mediums, digital marketing has either accompanies or has entirely replaced traditional, offline marketing.

Take a read through our interactive MintTwist Digital Timeline and discover more about these pivotal moments.

Email marketing turned 40 this year    

Earlier this year marked the 40th anniversary of the first mass marketing email. Conceptualised on 3 May 1978, marketing emails initially were essentially spam. Email marketing is now the most effective digital marketing channel for businesses across all industries. In fact, the channel was responsible for 20 percent of the average business’s revenue in 2017, according to a Relevancy Group study conducted with OneSpot. Meanwhile, more than a third of consumers have opened separate email accounts solely for brand communications.

More Users Check Emails On Their Smartphones    

A significant 40% of consumers check and read their emails through their smartphone. This requires brands and companies to up their mobile marketing and mobile optimisation, to guarantee that traffic to site converts accordingly.  



Marketing Automation Begins To Expand    

Marketing automation, particularly in email marketing, began to take off.

The First Multimedia Email Is Sent    

In addition to colloquial acronyms such as ‘LOL’ and ‘OMG’ being added to the dictionary, in 2004 the first multimedia email was sent. Thus, the basis of email marketing and how we receive subscription emails from brands and companies today, was set. Email is dead, long live email! 



April Fools! Google Launches Gmail    

Gmail, an email service, was launched on April Fool’s Day, 2004. Known by the code name Caribou, the project was the brainchild of Paul Buchheit. Initially, the use of the email platform was limited to Google employees, but was made publicly available in February 2007.

Launch Of MailChimp    

MailChimp, an email marketing service, was founded in 2001. Beginning as a paid service, it is now the world’s leading email marketing platform. By 2014, the platform was sending out over 10 billion emails per month.  


The Data Protection Act, the priority piece of legislation that governs the protection of personal data in the UK, is amended to provide a way for individuals to control searchable information about themselves. 

Who Can Forget Hotmail?    

In 1995 Hotmail co-founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith pitched their idea of a free email service to the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurveston. The first praised the idea, but couldn’t fathom how this service would attract users and be profitable. However, HoTMaiL (with HTML in upper case letters) was launched to much fanfare. The unlimited storage was one of the main USPs.


The First Mass Marketing Email Is Sent    

In 1978, Gary Thuerk sent an email promoting DEC machines to 400 users via ARPANET. It resulted in $13 million worth of sales for DEC machines (and a few complaints!). From the start, email launched itself as an effective channel for direct marketing.

The First Email    

While working on ARPANET, the precursor to the internet, Raymond Tomlinson invented email. Initially messages could only be sent and read on the same computer. It is believed the first email message Tomlinson sent was the top row of keys on the keyboard – QWERTYUIOP.