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The Evolution of Marketing Animation Through the Decades

Animation imparts a significant visual impact while simultaneously evoking enduring memories, which is perhaps why the popularity of marketing animation continues to rise and has become an integral part of businesses’ advertising campaigns. 

Marketing animation has a long history that starts, unsurprisingly, at the inception of animation itself. 

Animation has always been an extension of the fascination with creativity, bringing the imagination to life, from the earliest cave paintings to Victorian-era vision theory to Joseph Plateau’s 1832 Fantascope to the very first silent animated cartoon Humorous Phases of Funny Faces in 1902.

In the decades that followed, animation became synonymous with the cinema-going experience and animators began to experiment with the prospects it offered. Animators and business owners alike recognized the fantastic storytelling capabilities animation could offer, thereby establishing its place within the marketing and advertising industries. 

Ad executives began to see animation’s potential as a way to move beyond the soulless consumerist machine and toward creative solutions that afforded a more personal interaction with their prospects. Marketing animation meant forging human connections between the brand and those behind it and the consumers poised to engage with them.

Conjure, if you will, recollections of your favorite childhood cereal brands. Chances are the first things that come to mind are the mascots that represented them. From Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger to Rice Krispies’ Snap, Crackle, and Pop, animated characters were at the forefront of marketing for these brands.

Now, marketing animation is at the forefront of creative advertising campaigns across the globe, through bright impressions and powerful associations generated by engaging commercial animated videos.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deeper look into the evolution of marketing animation through the decades and why businesses should strongly consider marketing animation to take their advertising to the next level. Read more below as we map out the evolution of marketing animation from its inception, to how it became popular, to its future: 

Before the Rise of Marketing Animation

mickey mouse was one of the earliest commercialized marketing animation

GIF by Mickey Mouse via GIPHY

When we think about animation it is often Pixar or Disney that spring to mind. However, animation’s roots go back thousands of years, to Paleolithic cave drawings, where animals’ legs were painted in superimposed positions, distinctly illustrating the concept of motion.

Fast-forward to the early 1600s when technology began to play an important role in animation with the birth of the magic lantern, an instrument that projected images from glass sheets. 

Although we can connect technology and animation as early as the 15th century, it wasn’t until the discovery of the persistence of vision theory in the Victorian era that the art of moving pictures began to transform and propel us towards what we know as marketing animation to be today.

Five hundred years later, in the 20th century in the United States, the Golden Age of American Animation is underway. In 1928, Mickey Mouse made history in one of the first sound film animations, Steamboat Willie, an innovation that propelled Walt Disney to global success and forever changed the landscape of the animation industry.

This era of animation also saw the creation of other massively popular animated characters, like Bugs Bunny and Popeye, and it is these revolutions in animation that set off a snowball effect, which, ultimately led to advances in the industry, namely marketing animation.

A Move Towards Marketing Animation

the us army used animation for marketing

GIF by US National Archives via GIPHY

Walt Disney’s successes with the hand-drawn animations of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and others during the Golden Age of American Animation instigated the shift toward the beginnings of marketing animation. 

Following his triumphs on-screen, in 1941 Walt Disney began to lend his animations to the war effort by working with the US Army to create propaganda films for the public, and training and education films for the troops.

The propaganda animations created by Walt Disney during World War II are arguably some of the first examples of marketing animation, forever altering the potentiality of the industry and propelling animation to the forefront of advertising.

Seeing the favorable outcome of the propaganda advertising, Disney began to utilize its characters in an assortment of advertisements, from games and toys to kitchenware and even soap, and was able to expand brand recognition and yield further revenue for the company.

Once household televisions gained popularity, television networks copped onto the marketing animation trend by utilizing advertising to fund their programming. It was during this time that marketing animation began to enter advertising’s mainstream.

The Beginning of Marketing Animation

the flintstones was used for marketing animation and advertising

GIF by thewebhead via Tenor

With the end of the Golden Age of American Animation in the 1960s following the debut of The Flinstones, the first animated cartoon to regularly air on primetime television, marketing animation began to gain momentum.

Television sets were popping up in homes across America and networks scrambled to jump on the animated commercial trend to fund their stations.

Using cartoon animation, the early instances of marketing animation, proved to be a compelling advertising strategy and embraced a formidable role in the industry. 

For example, in the 1960s Rocky and Bullwinkle were featured in several adverts for breakfast cereal and continue to frequent marketing animation decades later.

At its inception, marketing animation succeeded as a result of its capacity to thrill and entertain in the least amount of time necessary. This remains the case, primarily because it also delivers creative independence unmatched by other mediums.

The Rise of Marketing Animation

modern marketing animation example of 3d m&ms

GIF by masoncarr2244 via Tenor

The computer revolution and the introduction of motion graphics changed the face of animation and, with it, marketing animation. 

Although the period between 1967 and 1984 altered the very essence of the animation industry, it was really the Golden Era of CGI that turned animation on its head and ushered in a wealth of shiny, new possibilities for marketing animation.

Modern computer animation, encompassing 2D and 3D animated graphics, fit in perfectly with the Fast-Food culture gaining popularity in the mid-1980s, by cutting the production process’ turnaround time substantially. 

This proved hugely advantageous for marketing animation in terms of brand storytelling and even web series. also ensuring that animation was not just used to produce cinema and TV series but also for brand storytelling and web series.

Marketing animation campaigns employing computer-generated characters began emerging all over, with each attempting to push the boundaries of what had come previously.

Moreover, the emergence of internet technologies towards the end of the last century was a game-changer in terms of manufacturing and marketing animation content quickly and easily.

Today, on televisions, internet browsers, and social media platforms worldwide, marketing animation is ubiquitous. From animated M&Ms to Cadbury’s Martians to Mcdonald's Happy Meal boxes brought to life, marketing animation has become the go-to strategy for some of the world’s biggest brands.

It is safe to say that marketing animation has truly entered mainstream brand storytelling, with brands like Coke, Apple, Hubspot, and Dropbox utilizing marketing animation videos and motion graphics to tell their brand story.

What we can learn from these brands is that producing a unique character that customers can relate to a product is fundamental. 

By nurturing an emotional association with their audiences, successful mascots have the capacity to drive a brand to the vanguard of their industry, occasionally demonstrating such popularity that corporations can even generate merchandise.

Marketing Animation Today

"oh yeah" was kool-aids marketing animation brought to the screen

GIF by agentcb via Tenor 

Amination has come a long way from the Saturday morning cartoons of our childhoods. Today, marketing animation is a forefront facet in terms of the success of a brand’s identity.

In the fast-paced epoch of social media and a frequently diverting commercial environment, being noticeable is crucial, and utilizing marketing animation in promotional campaigns can be the distinction between a customer engaging with an advert, website, or promotional material, or ignoring it.

Marketing animation today is a far cry from the birth of the Fantascope centuries ago. Innovative technologies are constantly being generated and it is essential to keep up to date with popular trends.

As marketing animation has become more refined and advanced during the course of its evolution, its accessibility has expanded too. Contemporarily, not only large corporations like Disney and Coca-Cola are able to utilize marketing animation.

common animation marketing tactics for modern sneakers

GIF by D_jayr via makeagif

Not only are animators more widely available, but the turnaround time is also shorter, and, with a plethora of easy-to-use applications available, easier for amateurs to accomplish on their own. 

Motion graphic animation is another marketing animation technique that has become commonplace among businesses. The benefit of using motion graphics is that you are not limited to purely character-driven animations and can use various graphic types.  

While fifty years ago animation was largely entertainment-based, today, animation has evolved as the language of consumer fidelity and engagement. 

Marketing animation products are able to convey a brand’s message in an easy-to-understand format. Moreover, marketing animation provides a multitude of ways in which a business can present itself in an authentic and memorable way. 

beverage companies like coke and pepsi utilize animation for their advertising and marketing

GIF by ZeuS Abdelhakim via Behance

For example, explainer videos for business are becoming an integral element of a powerful digital marketing strategy and effective product pitch.

The power of association is undeniable in terms of brand-building. Therefore companies develop ‘heroes’ promoted as brand ambassadors in marketing animation campaigns. In some instances, they can become iconic and synonymous with a brand, for example, the Kool-Aid Man

Memorable character design becomes the quintessence of the brand personality with all its distinctive traits and idiosyncrasies. Not unlike a logo, it become a component of brand identity and significantly contributes to a brand image and recognizability. 

Within marketing animation, these characters function as brand representatives in online ads, web banners, email marketing campaigns, product packaging, billboards, and even print advertising. These ‘heroes’ assist in manufacturing long-lasting impressions and create the necessary associations with a brand when they show up in content at a later stage.

The Future of Marketing Animation

vr animation could be the next big step for animation marketing

GIF by Rick and Morty via GIPHY

While marketing animation is solidly established in the modern advertising framework, technology is constantly developing and there are always innovative means of utilizing the trend. 

To this end, AR/VR and 360 degree animated videos are establishing themselves as the latest up-and-comers in marketing animation. 

Brands and content producers are now producing animated videos employing the latest technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360-degree video technology. The technologies are primarily experience-based and assist in designing immersive stories.

Gone are the days when we would tune in to catch the latest episode of our favorite show when it aired on TV. Nowadays, web series and streaming are kings. Watching shows online is now the most popular form of entertainment with animated series reigning supreme in the streaming world, for example, Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, and Love, Death + Robots.

Brands too are adopting the trend and producing entertaining animated series to satisfy their audience and build a connection with them. For example, Starbucks recently created an animated web series called 1st and Main.

Why Marketing Animation is Important for Businesses

marketing animation is integral in the world of advertising

GIF by Team Coco via GIPHY 

By this point, it might seem like a no-brainer when it comes to utilizing marketing animation and promoting these services to your animation clients. However, if you’re still unconvinced, let’s take a look at why marketing animation is so important for businesses and animators alike.

Marketing animation videos are indispensable in terms of constructing a timeless brand image. 

  • Characters used in these videos can develop with the brand and remain trendy for years or even decades. For example, the many iterations of Mr. Peanut or Colonel Sanders over the years. 
  • This timeless style of marketing animation allows the animated characters or brand mascots to evolve along with the brand.
  • Classic and ageless characters appearing in marketing animation videos allow for the brand to become evergreen, existing beyond passing fads and changing trends and securing the brand image within the minds of consumers.

Marketing animation promotes brand messages and slogans through different ages.

  • A memorable animated video promoting a brand’s slogan or catchphrase can span generations and live on in the mind of the consumer for decades. Think of McDonald’s’ perennial “I’m Lovin’ It,” or Burger King’s four-decade-spanning “Have It Your Way.”
  • A jingle, character, or slogan may follow us from childhood well into adulthood, indicating the power of an effective marketing animation campaign
  • The strategy is simple - create a memorable hero and periodically release new advertisements as parts of the same brand story, evolving and changing through the epochs.
mcdonalds and their iconic "im lovin it"

GIF by Masoncarr2244 via Tenor

Marketing animation helps to build strong associations in the customers’ memories.

  • Following on from the aforementioned point, marketing animation evokes an emotional response and allows us to conjure up the emotions we experienced observing the video. 
  • When that logo pops up again, our minds immediately return to the experience of watching the marketing animation video. This is because it made us feel something, formed a lasting impression, and established powerful associations with the organization.

Using marketing animation explainer videos is an entertaining method of getting a brand’s message across.

  • The popularity of animated explainer videos has increased in recent years and continues to be a popular way to educate customers about how to utilize a company’s products or services. 
  • Lengthy instructional manuals are a thing of the past. Now, tutorials conducted through explainer videos are a fun and informative way to educate customers. 
  • Marketing animation explainer videos can also be utilized for in-house training or staff workshops. Either way, animated explainer videos make learning more compelling and engaging by taking advantage of their ability to entertain.
an explainer video used for marketing animation

GIF by Explainly via GIPHY

Marketing animation attracts customers’ attention by operating as a potent attention grabber. 

  • Today’s market is undoubtedly oversaturated with content and a static image or text-heavy post is unlikely to stand out. Eye-catching visuals, like marketing animation videos, however, grab the customers’ attention, are easily sharable, and far more inviting than other varieties of content.
  • Moreover, animated videos allow for the communication of elaborate ideas within a short timeframe. It is unsurprising, then, that many progressive brands use animated videos to produce unique adverts that set them apart from the online competition.

Marketing animation is a platform on which businesses are able to demonstrate a notion creatively. 

  • In an animated explainer video, you are able to focus on close-ups, showcase details, reveal the imperceptible product features, and explain features more creatively than with other advertising content. 
  • A boring product presentation becomes a stimulating customer experience and assists in conveying, not only the products’ functionality but also mood and personality.

Marketing animation videos assist in telling a brand’s story and, in turn, are responsible for building client and customer loyalty. 

  • Animation is certainly a powerful method of storytelling and brands can use this to their advantage by sharing the company’s history, how products are manufactured, traditions, brand experience, and team through animated explainer videos. 
  • In this way, companies can use marketing animation as a way of building trust with their customers. Giving consumers a glimpse behind the curtain will in turn increase customer loyalty.

Why its Important to Understand the Evolution of Marketing Animation

the evolution of marketing animation is like a pokemon

GIF by palanganaintergalactica via GIPHY

The evolution of marketing animation is a long journey - from a succession of images carved in stone to innovative AV/VR technology-driven animation producing an overwhelmingly impressive immersion experience. 

Marketing animation is effective insofar as it transports the customer into another world - prompting a plethora of disparate emotions with each passing frame.

From blockbuster animated films of the Golden Age of Animation and animated television shows reminiscent of our childhoods to branded explainer videos and short format series, marketing animation has grown in leaps and bounds with no sign of slowing down. 

Perhaps, it is animation’s deep roots in art and its intrinsic beauty that attracts all types of audiences throughout history.

With marketing animation’s fun, inspirational, and engaging energy, it is no surprise that it has become one of the principal marketing and advertising approaches that enable brands to attract attention in the over-saturated online media arena. 

Marketing animation is an essential component when it comes to making customers smile, recognize, and interact with a brand. It’s the course to diversify brands, move in a direction opposite to step away from traditional consumerism and closer to more human-centered marketing.

For more on how to best use marketing animation to your advantage, we recommend watching our free masterclass, downloading a copy of our free marketing handbook, and checking out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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