25 brands. 25 years ago.

August 8, 2023

written by
Stephanie Frier

Flashback. The year is 1998. Pokémon madness is all the rage. Apple introduces the all-in-one iMac G3 in cool colored hardware. The movie “Titanic” hits theatres and romantic hearts flutter worldwide. And 300FeetOut turns one — three-hundred feet out over the water — in our first ever location on Pier 9 in San Francisco Bay.

From entertainment and technology to politics and people, brands impact us more than we realize. Here are a few brands that made a lasting impression 25 years ago…

In 1998, Google launched its advertising program called Google AdWords, which revolutionized online advertising with the pay-per-click (PPC) model.

Microsoft released Windows 98, the successor to Windows 95, which brought substantial improvements in usability and compatibility — and inspired its competitor “who-shall-not-be-named” to take OS to the next level.

While not as dominant as it is today, Apple had a dedicated cult following in 1998. With the release of the iMac G3, Apple carved out its place in the market with a commitment to design and user-friendly computing. How many of you are reading this on your iPhone right now?

The first true consumer-grade digital camera capable of capturing images with over one million pixels was introduced by Fuji. While the DS-1P never actually sold, it was a testament to how images could be saved onto memory cards. This led to the creation of the first JPEG and MPEG standards and marked a milestone in digital photography — eventually leading to the widespread adoption of digital cameras.

Space was still an undeniable, albeit maybe not final, frontier. The first module of the International Space Station, Zarya, was launched into orbit, marking the beginning of construction on the space station.

In March 1998 Madonna released her seventh studio album, “Ray of Light,” with critically acclaimed hit singles like “Frozen” and the title track “Ray of Light.” The album incorporating European-influenced electronic and dance elements, marked a significant departure from her previous sound and would inspire many albums to come.

Pop sensation Britney Spears released her debut single “…Baby One More Time,” which catapulted her to stardom. Enough said.

And let’s not forget the boy band phenomenon sweeping not only the country, but the world, with groups like Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC gaining popularity. Oh, the fans! And while we are giving away the good brand tidbits, did you know *NSYNC is also a play on the last letter of each of the initial members’ names? Gold star if you can name them all.

The first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was published by J.K. Rowling. It marked the beginning of the Harry Potter book series and a marketing macrocosm, which would later include films, video games and so, so much more.

Who could forget Carrie Bradshaw and the popular television show “Sex and the City,” following the lives, drama, relationships, and fashion iconography of four women in NYC. It ran for six seasons making a significant impact on popular culture, then and now. You should see my shoes closet!

The Broadway musical “The Lion King” premiered at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City. It went on to become one of the most successful musicals of all time. And Disney, already a beloved entertainment megabrand, released “Mulan,” further solidifying its popularity.

Speaking of movies, the term “viral marketing” gained attention in 1998 as movie marketers explored unconventional and creative approaches with word-of-mouth and online sharing. Memorable movie campaigns like the “Blair Witch Projectwere the first to successfully leverage the Internet as a marketing platform to reach a wide audience.

Of course, the political arena drew just as much attention as it does today. President Bill Clinton faced impeachment proceedings stemming from allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice related to his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinski. While Clinton was impeached by the House, he was acquitted by the Senate and remained in office.

On the world stage, Nelson Mandela stepped down from his position after serving as the President of South Africa for five years. His presidency, marked by his efforts to dismantle apartheid and promote reconciliation, left a lasting impact on South African politics.

In business, globalization influenced strategy and companies sought to strengthen their market positions and diversify their offerings through acquisitions. Notable mergers including the merger of Exxon and Mobil to form ExxonMobil, and the merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group to create Citigroup set examples for expanded operations into international markets.

And yes, consumerism was alive and well. Remember when khakis were a must have wardrobe item? The Gap was well known for its casual and “trendy” apparel.

Known for its innovative designs and endorsement deals with top athletes, Nike continued to be a prominent brand in the athletic footwear and apparel industry.

Sony was a dominant brand in the consumer electronics market. It offered a wide range of products, including televisions, audio systems, gaming consoles, and the history-making Walkman.

And a final bit of history fun. In 1998, Volkswagen (VW), well-known for its quality and affordability, released the “New Beetle.” This model was inspired by the desert-racing Baja Bug popular in the late sixties and propelled VWs next-gen brand fame as an early adopter of modern “retro” design language.

Thanks for coming along on this historical ride with us. If this trip down memory lane has you wondering how your brand can have multi-generational influence, reach out. 25 years in, we’re not just looking back, we’re creating what’s next. 

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