It’s important to study the past if you want to define the future, at least according to Confucius and the growth team at Percolate, a New York City-based start-up marketing technology firm.

“Marketers have to be both historians and forecasters, and we can often look to the past for an understanding of what the future might hold,” explained Percolate’s Victor Gamez, a marketing associate, and Chris Bolman, director of Integrated Marketing.

That’s why they went to the trouble to put together The History of Marketing Technology — a data visualization based on information from 1,400 companies over the past 20 years.

It explains everything you want to know about how businesses and brands communicate with audiences on the Internet — from text ads and pop-ups on Yahoo to branded hashtag campaigns, personalized ads on Google, Facebook and Instagram that match your browsing history, and on to mobile push notifications running the gamut from recommended news to restaurants.

Beyond Scott Brinker

In an email interview with CMSWire, Gamez and Bolman noted that they wanted to assess the future of marketing within the context of technology's larger impact on how we live.

To do that, they said they needed to understand the historical context behind how brands communicate with customers and how entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have built and re-built the supply chain between a brand and its followers.

“The data and visualizations tell the story about the marketing tech industry, an industry that almost didn’t happen, but has sparked thousands of companies and generated billions of dollars,” they wrote.

Early in their research, they found Scott Brinker's Marketing Technology Landscape, which organizes close to 2,000 companies into a present-day context.

“But we knew there was a story behind that. Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple created new ecosystems and technologies over the past two decades that allowed today's marketing landscape to arise. So we set out to understand how the largest macro-trends shaped business communications today,” Gamez and Bolman explained.

‘No Business Untouched by Digital’

They think the project will be especially relevant to executives specializing in marketing, advertising and IT, as well as venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and others who are rethinking the creative enterprise.

“We're tracing patterns in the funding and founding of different types of marketing technologies, so it shows the multiplicity of choice for marketers and the burgeoning opportunity for venture capitalists. But we think the story is relevant to everyone,” they continued.

“There's no business that's been left untouched by digital; organizations have never had the audience reach they have today. More of the global population is online than ever and software is revolutionizing every industry. Innovation in communications isn't going to stop anytime soon. That means understanding how we got here today means business success tomorrow.”

One Innovation Begat Another

One of the things they want to demonstrate is the interdependence of disruptive technologies, companies that created them and the products and services that followed.

“Groupon and Spotify needed social platforms like Facebook to supply wide audiences with new content and thus provide brands new places to reach out. Instagram and Snapchat needed smartphones and their cameras to become one of the fastest growing communication channels today — and thus give people — and companies — new mediums for outreach,” they stated.

The project, largely a coordinated group effort at Percolate, generated some interesting observations.

“We spotted a recurring pattern: the installation of an initial technological milestone followed by the deployment of software and venture capital to help brands learn how to communicate within that ecosystem.

And it's a pattern that happens more frequently over time, and those two phases follow each other more and more closely. That means the field is becoming better at understanding how people adjust to new advancements in connectivity and communications,” Gamez and Bolman noted.

The Next Two Decades

Given the rate of new technological advancements, the team at Percolate was reluctant to predict what the next 20 years will hold.

But team members are confident that as the oncoming wave of connected devices become adopted, there will be yet another phase of innovation, entrepreneurship and funding in the marketing technology space.

“Advances in connectivity like search, social and mobile opened the door to new applications of software, both in connected devices and in emerging economies. Those advances are bringing people better ways to access health and education resources, shop, navigate cities and explore unfamiliar places,” Gamez and Bolman continued.

“As we move to a world run on software, the growth of new industries and jobs will transform the global economy and have trillions of dollars in economic impact, paving the road to a richer and more connected world.”

Title image by Chantel Lucas.