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Digital vs Traditional Marketing

Updated on December 4, 2013
Marketing is no longer a single street with one promotional lane.
Marketing is no longer a single street with one promotional lane.

The Emergence of Digital

Over the past few decades, digital marketing has begun to overtake traditional marketing as the primary way for companies to promote their products and services. There are some very important differences between these two marketing methods. Traditional marketing presents a highly effective way to reach a broad consumer audience. Sometimes a billboard or television advertisement can be the best way to help a marketing message reach the biggest segment of the desired target market. On the other hand, digital marketing can be used to create a relationship with the consumer that has depth and relevancy. Marketers should use the wider reach traditional marketing channels present to generate broad awareness and drive consumers to the digital experience.

Traditional marketing is also a very effective way to target customer audiences based on demographic information like location or age, as well as interests and lifestyle. Digital can take that one step further as it enables marketers to instantly customize the experience and communication in real time. Personalized messages on social channels like Facebook give marketers the ability to target consumers based on the information they share. Some believe that within the next 10 years, people won’t even use the term “marketing”, it will solely be “digital” or “interactive” marketing.


Both Traditional & Digital Marketing have their benefits and pitfalls.
Both Traditional & Digital Marketing have their benefits and pitfalls.

Pros & Cons

With traditional marketing, a business can reach a specific target audience that may not have Internet access and this may be the only way to reach a certain audience. Certain customers may also prefer a physical printed piece to view.

One disadvantage to traditional marketing can be the difficulty of measuring success. It can be tough to know how many people neglected to view a billboard while driving by, or how many people left the room when a television advertisement came on the air.

In contrast to this, with digital marketing a large target audience can be reached and results can be more easily measured. Small businesses can compete with bigger ones as any size can gain access to a range of digital tools. This form of advertising can be highly personlised via SMS, email and ads on specific websites. Responses can be monitored unlike traditional marketing methods, for example a business can check how many people opened an e-letter and what further action was taken. Positive feedback from customers may be shown on the website as a way of promoting the business.

A good way to think about traditional marketing is that it presents a highly effective way to reach a broad consumer audience. Digital marketing can be used to create a relationship with the consumer that has depth and relevancy. Marketers should use the wider reach traditional marketing channels present to generate broad awareness and drive consumers to the digital experience.

Digital Remarketing in Action

Marketing Convergence

In some instances, traditional marketing is not being phased out by digital marketing, but it is instead being enhanced by it. Numerous commercials contain a call to action prompting viewers to visit a Facebook page or interact with the advertiser on a different digitally-based medium. This helps advertisers to stretch their marketing dollars further by directing customers from a paid advertisement to what may be a free source of promotion for the company. In Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” campaign, a television advertisement was initially used to present the marketing message of shipping items to your home after buying them in store (albeit in a very non-traditional way), then customers took to Twitter to tweet about #shipmypants and millions of people reviewed the ad on Youtube. This is a great example of traditional advertising bridging the gap to digital marketing in creative ways.

Traditional & Digital Marketing Agencies

If you have seen Mad Men you are familiar with how a traditional marketing agency functions. Even though modern techniques are much more advanced, the outcomes are similar. A traditional marketing agency will work to promote a client through television, radio, print, sponsorships, and digital efforts. Space150, a digital marketing agency, took on Buffalo Wild Wings in 2011 and revamped their digital presence. They came up with a new media plan that included traditional television advertising, mobile advertising, and digital advertising. The process of this renovation was to start with the mobile platform, and build the rest from there. You’ll see many companies working in this direction because mobile is so limited and often times the most difficult to design. Buffalo Wild Wings was looking to create a new user experience for all types of audiences. Obviously the audience can change a lot depending on the sports season so they knew they had to keep up with the changing environment.

Another agency that is primarily digitally based, DigitalParc, has worked with National Salon Resources, a wholesale provider of salon and beauty products, to redesign their website and enhance their online presence through updated website content, while improving the technical aspects of the site to drive e-commerce traffic.

Carmichael Lynch, partnered with Tool of North America and SaFProductions. They created print ads raising awareness for the National Geographic touring exhibition with King Tut. Although Carmichael Lynch is a full service agency, this particular campaign was strictly print advertising. The campaign focused on King Tut bringing over 3,000 personal items into his tomb with him when he was buried. The campaign showcases current day people and what they would bring and asks the question “What would you bring to the afterlife?”

Agencies tend to specialize in different services, whether it is their contacts within media buying, or expertise in search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising. The saying goes that the more something changes, the more it stays the same. Marketing has gone through a huge metamorphosis in the last few decades, and more advertising methods will continue to emerge. Some may enhance traditional promotion, while others may completely replace what consumers have been used to seeing. Good luck and thanks for reading!

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