It may seem as though digital marketing has been around forever, but relatively speaking, it’s still the new kid on the block. In a short space of time, it has made a very big impression, however. As a result, traditional marketing methods have taken a hit and the trend looks set to continue. Much as print news has largely been kicked to the kerb in favour of its online cousin, we ask: is there room for both traditional and digital marketing in this brave new world?

man sitting on stool holding newspaper on fire

What’s the difference between digital and traditional marketing?

Traditional marketing is pretty much anything that takes places offline and includes the following:

  • Television and radio advertising including telemarketing
  • Advertisements in newspapers and magazines
  • Posters on billboards, buses, train stations, and the sides of buildings
  • Promotional material including direct mail, leaflets, displays, and free branded items such as mugs and pens

Digital marketing, on the other hand, takes place exclusively online and includes:

  • Social media posts
  • Blogs, vlogs, and podcasts
  • Video advertising
  • Banner ads
  • Pay Per Click (PPC)
  • Email marketing
  • Influencer promotion and affiliate marketing

Traditional marketing has been around for decades – centuries if we’re being pedantic. Digital marketing, on the other hand, has only really taken off in the past 20 years.

The advantages of using digital marketing

There are many reasons why digital marketing is taking over from the more traditional forms of reaching people. Some of them are briefly explained below:

You have the whole world at your fingertips

With 4.3 billion people using the internet in 2019 – more than half of the world’s population – if you’re not marketing online, then you’re losing out. For comparison, consider the potential audience for any given billboard. Or leaflet. Or television advertisement. Whichever traditional marketing method you think of, it won’t have a fraction of the potential reach of digital marketing.

black and gold globe representing digital marketing being global

You can reach your target market

Traditional marketing is hit and miss when it comes to finding its mark. With the various analytics tools available today, however, reaching your target audience digitally has never been easier. Vast amounts of data are gathered on an hourly basis. This information is refined and in-depth, telling you more than the basic demographic data such as age, sex, and location of prospective customers, but psychographic information as well. This ranges from their interests to their dislikes, who they follow and what they talk about. Comprehensive statistics are out there for you to hone in on.

You can reach niche markets you didn’t even know you had

Not only can digital marketing put your brand in front of the people you know you want to target. It can also reveal new markets you weren’t previously aware of. By analysing the data available to you, you can identify niche markets and then tailor future marketing content to meet their wants and needs. This is something that is very difficult to unearth through traditional marketing.

Digital marketing is a moveable feast

When a poster is displayed on a billboard, it’s going nowhere. Neither is a full-page ad in a magazine. If you were to discover that you’re not reaching the right people through one form of digital marketing however, it’s simple to switch to another. You can change the platform, the content, and even the strategy itself overnight.

It’s a moveable feast for your audience too

Sharing content online is one of the biggest advantages of digital marketing. Whereas with traditional marketing your content is more stagnant and all the work is done by you, a digital marketing campaign is boosted by the fact that your audience does some of the heavy lifting “on your behalf”. With millions of people using social media as their main source of news and digital communication, having your content shared is a huge plus. Chatting around the water cooler about a television ad from last night just doesn’t compete in terms of impact anymore.

You’re talking with people not at them

Traditional marketing, in the main, puts itself in front of the viewer and refuses to budge. A leaflet can be thrown away, radio turned off, but the control the audience has over the marketing is minimal. The internet has changed all of that. Digital marketing is interactive. The most successful brands know the power of a two-way online conversation with their customers. In short, digital marketing allows people to feel that they are a part of it rather than just a passive recipient.

Digital marketing gives you a performance review every day

The sophistication of the tools available means that you can keep tabs on how your campaign is going day by day. Whether you’re tracking links, measuring audience growth, or keeping an eye on social media mentions, you’ll always have an idea of how you’re doing. In contrast, traditional marketing results are notoriously difficult to monitor.

The rewards may be rich, but the cost is low

Traditional marketing methods almost always involve significant outlay, and often for widely varying returns. Digital marketing, however, can be done effectively for very little cost – if any cost at all. This not only gives your ROI a huge boost, but it also means that you don’t need a big marketing budget to get your brand out there. For many small businesses, digital marketing levels the playing field with their larger counterparts to a certain extent.

Are there any advantages to using traditional marketing methods?

Singing digital marketing’s praises as above, begs the question: Is there any point, then, in carrying on with traditional marketing? The short answer is yes. There are still benefits to including traditional marketing as part of your overall strategy. Some of those advantages are laid out below:

You can reach local audiences effectively

If you want to target a very specific market geographically, then traditional marketing can be highly effective. Leaflets through doors, advertising a sale in a local shop and billboard advertising in certain cases are successful ways of reaching a local target audience.

person looking at traditional advertising in a magazine

Stay in people’s hands longer

Digital marketing can reach far and wide. However, with a constant influx of new content, unless you go viral, you can quickly slide down people’s newsfeeds. Hard copies – such as brochures or advertisements in magazines – can at times have a long shelf life in comparison. They can end up pinned to clipboards and rediscovered in other public locations months after they were first published.

Reach the (significant) minority

While it may sometimes seem as though everyone is constantly online, there are still many people who are a lot more active offline than they are on the internet. For this audience, traditional marketing is still the way forward. Depending on the demographic you’re trying to reach – for example, certain age groups – choosing more traditional methods may see a better response and improved conversion.

So, does traditional marketing have a future?

While digital marketing is steaming ahead in the advertising and brand awareness stakes, traditional marketing does still have a role to play. As digital marketing continues to gain momentum with no signs of ever slowing down, it would be easy to overlook traditional marketing. There is no doubt that magazines, television, radio, billboards or leaflets can still be extremely effective methods for defined markets, however. Whether you’re trying to reach a specific localised audience, a certain demographic, or achieve longevity, traditional marketing may fit the bill. For everything else, there’s digital marketing.