StrategyAcquisitionThen and now: the evolution of branding

Then and now: the evolution of branding

Budweiser branding has gone from regal to relatable, while Coke has become much more subtle over the years. How else have brands evolved from the TV-only days?

Budweiser branding has gone from regal to relatable, while Coke has become much more subtle over the years. How else have brands evolved from the TV-only days?

In the early 1960s, McDonald’s commercials were all about how fun the food is. A few years later, color TV had become mainstream, Budweiser introduced its signature Clydesdales, and Apple was still just a fruit.

A few decades later, McDonald’s promotes its food as no-frills perfection more than fun, while modern-day Budweiser markets itself similarly, as the beer of everyday Americana. And Apple, of course, is now a worldwide phenomenon with its advertising as much a brand signature as white headphones.

ClickZ often covers the way advertising has changed since the dawn of digital. In one of our first stories of the new year, we decided to take it a step further and compare brands’ advertising from then to now.


One of Coca-Cola’s most famous ads is “Hilltop,” which originally aired in 1971 and more recently, closed out Mad Men. Its message was loud and clear: the world would be a much better place if everyone had a Coke. Today’s branding is much more subtle, focusing on the consumer, rather than the product itself. In one recent ad, Coca-Cola Denmark hung a mistletoe above a vending machine in a Copenhagen train station that spit out a soda every time two people stopped for a kiss. Unlike the iconic 1971 spot, “A Coca-Cola for a Kiss,” wasn’t about Coke. It was more about the kiss and those feelings of love, which Coke made itself a part of.


This 1967 TV spot was the first to feature the Clydesdale horses which have long been associated with Budweiser marketing. One key way the ads have changed is relatability. The original Clydesdale commercial evokes thoughts of royalty as you see horses pull men around over a song about the “king of beers.” The most recent Clydesdale video, which the brand uploaded to YouTube on November 28, shows the horse hanging out with a dog in someone’s living room as the fireplace crackles. The dog and the setting are supposed to make you think of home, which has become Budweiser’s overall marketing vibe over the years.


“Everything old is new again” is a popular adage in the fashion world, but it also applies to toys. Hasbro sees that, as Star Wars figures and My Little Pony have had recent resurgences in popularity. The latter was all the rage in the ’80s, when the toy franchise aired its first commercial, which featured cute little girls brushing their ponies’ hair on a lawn. The girls in a 2015 ad for My Little Pony’s Canterlot Castle playset are dressed much nicer, playing in a bright pink room that’s so big it may actually be inside a castle. But despite the more fantastical settings, the marketing is relatively unchanged. However, My Little Pony ads have evolved from an omnichannel perspective; today’s commercials plug apps and link from YouTube videos to Hasbro’s product pages.


Apple advertising is so distinctive that even its parodies, like IKEA’s “Experience the power of a bookbook,” are instantly identifiable. Though its once-rainbow logo has become more minimalistic over the years, simplicity has always been a staple of Apple’s ads. In 1985’s “Lemmings” a bunch of blindfolded corporate types whistle the “Heigh-Ho” song from Snow White as they plummet off a cliff. One guy stops and according to the announcer, he’s you, if you buy Macintosh Office. Apple’s ads have evolved to become more slick and opt to show rather than tell. There’s no announcer in “Someday at Christmas,” a November ad for Apple Music. There’s barely a spoken word; instead, the ad shows families happily celebrating holidays with great music from Stevie Wonder and Andra Day playing in the background.


McDonald’s marketing has come a long way since the 1960s, when this TV commercial aired. The ad is all about the ingredients – not how good they are or even how fun they are to eat, but how fun they are in general. Fifty years later, McDonald’s still does ingredient-based marketing. McDonald’s struggles with perceptions of its food but rather than pretend it’s healthy or organic, the fast food chain markets its burgers as everyday food, simple and without pretense. The food in the 2015 ad also looks a lot more appetizing: the burger is juicy; the onions, crisp; the ketchup, red. In fairness, black and white didn’t do McDonald’s any favors.

Star Wars

The 1977 Star Wars trailer looks downright quaint by 2015 standards. In addition to the quality of cinematography, the franchise’s trailers have also evolved from a narrative perspective. The original trailer doesn’t say much about the plot, while that of The Force Awakens has much stronger storytelling. In the same two-and-a-half minutes, it gives the viewer a much better sense of what the movie’s about beyond explosions and shootings and action. It’s also interesting to see that Star Wars was initially marketed, at least in part, as a romance.  Luke and Leia don’t even kiss until the next one!

Calvin Klein

Not much has changed in Calvin Klein’s marketing since 1990. The retailer’s ads still feature people so hot and heavy, they make Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia look like brother and sister.

Oh. Right.


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