Marketing genius is rare. It is so rare that many marketers have never even heard of some of the best marketing geniuses that ever existed. They just know the things they figured out and put them to use. Marketing geniuses are the people who come up with the ideas that move a product, raise a brand’s awareness, or develop a marketing strategy that outlives them. How many of these marketing geniuses do you recognize?

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John R. Brinkley – The Man who invented Broadcast Advertising

In the days when radio was considered a public resource that was ad-free, John R. Brinkley saw the opportunity to make it into a way to spread the message of his (understandably unscientific) cure for male impotence. Although he was a charlatan, the thing we can take away from his foray into radio advertising is to mix your entertainment with your content and you’ll have a lot of people singing your praises.

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Mary Kay Ash – Mother of Network Marketing

The Mary Kay brand of cosmetics has a very prosperous and thriving customer base that is built on the hard work of housewives that want to earn money, but aren’t terribly keen on working a nine-to-five job. What we learn from Mary Kay is that sometimes the most unassuming things or people can make for a great business opportunity; all they need is a chance to prove their mettle.

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George Wilkes – The Man Responsible for Eye Candy

In the puritanical days of print media around 1845 or so, George Wilkes started printing the National Police Gazette. Intended as a resource for policemen, it quickly grew in notoriety because of its use of scantily clad women facing its advertising pages (something far more risqué than advertising was permitted back in those innocent days). From him we drew the lesson that sex sells and the whole world is buying.

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Andre Citroen – Making an Impact Affordably

There are two lessons we learned from the founder of the Citroen automobile firm. As the man who invented the idea of digital billboards, he rented the entire Eiffel Tower to paste an image of his company’s logo where every Frenchman could see it. This sign remained on until he had to sell the company (partially due to the massive electricity bills). The lessons we learn from Mr. Citroen are that sometimes we must take risks and think outside the box to be noticeable, but no idea is worth going bankrupt over, not even being noticed.

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Conrad Gessner – Viral Marketing Inventor

What we understand about viral marketing now is that it creates a demand for something that was previously unknown. In 1559, Conrad Gessner did just that with the tulip, a plant that was relatively unknown in Europe at the time. By his descriptions, he managed to create a stir for the plant’s beauty, seeing prices as high as several million dollars equivalent changing hands for tulip bulbs. What we learn from Gessner is that the demand is there once you are able to create it and to create it you appeal to your audience in the most effective way possible.

Take Lessons from the Past

These geniuses span centuries, but their genius at marketing and developing strategies outlive them and are still applicable to this very day. Learning from the past is something humans have done for thousands of years to make them the most dominant species on the planet. Continuing this tradition will only make your marketing be that much more effective.