10 Marketers Who Transformed American Culture

Liodice Continues His Series by Looking at the People and Ideas That Changed Our Lives

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Bob Liodice
Bob Liodice
Looking at American culture throughout history, iconic images come to mind. Some are turning points in history, forming our nation. Others are people who shaped our freedoms and laws. And some are brands that affected how we eat, shop and pass our time. Each was once an idea that has grown into a national -- and in many cases, global -- force to be reckoned with. Below are 10 examples of these people and their ideas that have grown far beyond expectations.

The showman created some of the most sensational promotional stunts of the 19th century. Barnum stole a place in the marketing hall of fame by staging outrageous hoaxes, through which he drove audiences to his American Museum and captured the imagination of the country. Barnum took a country still suspicious of spectacles and had it shed its conservatism; scholars credit him with spurring America to embrace spectacle.

In 1858, R.H. Macy launched a small, "fancy" dry-goods store. Its emblem was a memorable red star, sourced from the tattoo Macy got as a young sailor. With this store, Macy attempted new tactics. Instead of haggling, he presented customers with clearly marked prices and actively advertised them. These practices led to $36 million in sales by 1918. Six years later, Macy's Herald Square expanded to become the "World's Largest Store."

Walt Disney created his first shorts in the 1920s. In 1928, he won over the public with Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie. When he introduced color and produced features in the 1930s, his studio skyrocketed into popularity. By World War II the federal government noticed the positive effect Disney's films had on American morale and contracted them to create cartoons for the war effort. In 1954, he was one of the first to introduce full-color programming to TV.

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak set up operations in the Jobs family garage for Apple, which soon began to sell some of the first personal computers. In 1985, Jobs left the company for a decade, creating his own computer company, NeXT, and forming Pixar. He returned in 1996 and soon became head of Apple once again. The company produced a successful line of sleek products that has changed the media, music and computer industries.

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart
Within a decade, the catering business that Martha Stewart began in her farmhouse's basement in 1976 was billing celebrity clients and making more than $1 million, and she had published a series of bestselling lifestyle guides. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Stewart's personal fame continued to flourish with TV appearances, Kmart consulting and the Martha Stewart Living brand. Today it's an iconic image of female entrepreneurship.

Ray Kroc
Ray Kroc
In 1954, Ray Kroc had the vision of creating the McDonald's we know today. He came across a restaurant run by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, and inspired by the speed and efficiency with which they served burgers, fries and beverages, he sold his idea of taking the restaurant nationwide to them. McDonald's went on to become the largest fast-food chain in the world because of Kroc's solid supplier partnerships and franchise model.

The "MTV Generation" resulted from the programming efforts of Robert Pittman, who began shaping content for the Music Television cable network in 1981. With his unique blend of creative, business and research savvy, Pittman molded a brand that clicked with the youth of the day. MTV stood out from the traditional networks and became the most profitable cable network of the time. It has since expanded to MTV Networks, which operates in more than 160 countries.

In 1945, with a $10,000 loan from his father, Sam Walton bought a franchised variety store. He experimented with practices like longer hours, buying inventory in large quantities and offering a broad assortment of goods at budget prices. With the five-and-dime store Walton later opened, he put check-out counters near the exit, having consumers pay for everything at once. It was the foundation for his first Walmart in 1962.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey had her first glimpse of fame as a talk-show host in Baltimore in 1976. She won national recognition over the next decade with her morning show, "A.M. Chicago," and her supporting role in "The Color Purple." The syndicated "Oprah Winfrey Show" launched in 1986 and became a near-instant hit. Oprah co-founded the Oxygen channel and will launch the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. Oprah also has had success in publishing and philanthropy.

After several years spent working with industrial jobs, Henry Ford built his first self-propelled carriage in 1896. Seven years later, he formed the Ford Motor Co. with just $28,000, and in 1908, the company produced the Model T. The car sold 15,500,000 in the U.S. alone over the next 19 years because of Ford's assembly-line approach to mass production and the low cost. He revolutionized America with the Model T.

Bob Liodice is the president-CEO of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers). This is the eighth in a series of 10 columns being published in celebration of the ANA's 100th anniversary.
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