Your Guide to Traditional vs. Digital Marketing
Your Guide to Traditional vs. Digital Marketing
Danny Shepherd, CO-CEO • Intero Digital • March 31, 2022
What’s the difference between traditional and digital marketing? Does one have any benefit over the other? Can digital marketing entirely replace traditional marketing? If they had too much Jägermeister at a bar, started saying bad stuff about each other’s moms, and ended up in a brawl, who would win?
Digital Marketing Wins, Right?
Well, the answer’s not so simple.
Did you know that people only recently started spending more time engaging with their mobile phones than their televisions?
This means that even though it seems like smartphones and social media dominate the marketplace, a traditional marketing method like TV commercials could still reach more people. That’s why many marketers are adjusting their strategies. In fact, in August 2021 and February 2022, marketers said they expect traditional advertising spend to grow by 1.4% and 2.9%, respectively. Plus, traditional marketing formats are considered more trustworthy, including print, television, direct mail, and radio advertising.
That’s nothing to balk at.
So while digital marketing budgets are going up (by 16% in 2023), traditional marketing budgets aren’t tanking by as much as you’d imagine.
Still yet, digital marketing reaches 50% more customers compared to traditional while being far less complicated to implement. This is a schism that’s only getting wider in favor of digital marketing at a time when the world is entering its post-COVID-19 phase.
It’s difficult to crown a winner right out of the gate because the benefits of traditional vs. digital marketing aren’t necessarily clear-cut. So let’s dive in.
What’s the Difference Between Traditional and Digital Marketing?
In the beginning, traditional marketing reigned supreme.
Traditional marketing is any advertisement we see or hear in the physical world. You know, that place where the green grass grows, there’s an abundance of fresh air, and pants are usually worn. Broadly speaking, there are four categories of traditional marketing:
- Print: This type of advertising involves the use of paper. The oldest kind of marketing (circa 3,000 BC) includes mediums such as billboards; brochures; and ads printed in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, etc.
- Broadcast: This includes advertising that’s propagated through the air and cable waves. This includes radio, television, and pre-movie advertising in theaters.
- Direct mail: This is a form of advertising that’s sent directly to people. It includes fliers, letters, postcards, catalogs, and other things you never asked to get but can’t stop having in your mailbox.
- Telemarketing: This involves calling random people over the phone, also more commonly known as telephone marketing. This controversial form of marketing isn’t as contentious as you might think.
Traditional marketing was once the prominent form of marketing mainly because it was the only type that existed.
But then the 1990s came. And with them, the advent of the internet. And with the internet, digital marketing.
The role of digital marketing is to promote goods and services online. Digital marketing can be loosely categorized into seven forms:
- SEO involves optimizing a company’s online branding and content to make it rank on specific search engine results pages.
- Pay-per-click is a paid advertising approach that shows promotions on search engines, websites, social media platforms, and other sites such as Amazon.
- Social media advertising is all about reaching customers on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, through the use of posts, ads, videos, and other organic content.
- Email advertising is sent digitally to prospective customers. This includes drip campaigns, newsletters, and promotional messages.
- Content marketing involves creating websites, writing blog posts, shooting videos, crafting infographics, and more. Its main goals are to build awareness, generate leads, enable sales, and improve SEO.
- Affiliate marketing involves enlisting other entities to promote your business in exchange for a commission or fee.
- Influencer marketing is a strategy that involves paying people who have a significant following on social media outright to promote your business.
The main difference between traditional and digital advertising is that the latter almost exclusively happens online, and the former doesn’t.
Can Digital and Traditional Marketing Coexist?
Now that the basics are covered, let’s get to why we’re here. Can digital marketing replace traditional marketing, or is there still a place for the more conventional method in your marketing mix?
To score this fight, we’ll see how well each performs in five essential areas:
Digital and traditional marketing require completely different infrastructures (the prerequisites needed to implement marketing strategies and engage customers).
Of the two, traditional marketing requires much more physical infrastructure to be effective, which is a drag. For example, if you want to deliver a newsletter, you need to have the machinery for printing those mailers and an efficient means of remittance at scale. To perform telemarketing, you need to have a network of phones and, more importantly, skilled employees to cover each of those phones. If you want to print a billboard, you need a big board. You’ll likely need to outsource if you can’t do all this in-house.
Online marketing, on the other hand, exists almost entirely in the digital space. This means you can get a full-fledged omnichannel marketing strategy underway with nothing but a laptop, a computer whiz, and a family-size box of Bagel Bites.
We recommend exerting a bit more effort than that into your digital marketing strategy, but it’s still viable. Many companies run very successful marketing campaigns with less effort than the traditional route. Plain and simple, digital marketing gives your business more seamless access to the necessary infrastructure in various marketing modes and, by extension, your prospective customers.
This round goes to digital marketing.
With traditional marketing, all that extra physical infrastructure mentioned above translates to additional costs. That’s not practical in times of economic downturns, especially when you contemplate that printing an ad in a magazine can cost more than $20,000, a billboard can net you around $2,500 per month, and a 30-second commercial on a local TV station will require you to shell out around $1,500 (excluding production costs). Worst of all, you have no idea about the quality of the stats you’re getting from that expense, if any.
Digital marketing wins this one without much debate. Traditional marketing simply can’t compete.
The fact that digital marketing can use a CPM or pay-per-click model makes a big difference. With traditional marketing, you usually pay upfront for the slight chance of reaching your prospective audience. It’s a sunk cost. But with digital marketing (through CPM or PPC), you only need to pay when your target audience has engaged with your promotion. It’s a future cost.
3. Data reporting
Data is the life force that determines your business’s growth. The more data you have, the more significant the impact of digital marketing is, like being able to optimize future ad campaigns or identify your ideal customer.
Without precise reporting, you’ll be left in the dark. And yet again, digital marketing is several miles ahead of the traditional route!
It’s challenging to measure traditional marketing campaigns accurately. And the limited data offline tracking provides is nowhere as in-depth or intuitive as the analytics tools that are readily available for digital media.
Modern digital marketing platforms and tools enable businesses to have a vast range of metrics and feedback that they can utilize to map out every aspect of their marketing campaigns. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Ads Manager, Google Search Console, Microsoft Advertising, Facebook for Business, and more offer an incredible range of data. Plus, these tools provide businesses with information about how they perform, how well their marketing strategy performed, and how their visitors behaved.
With a good digital marketing strategy, businesses can get in-depth knowledge of their revenue and sales numbers, landing page performance, search engine click-through rate, return user metrics, keyword rankings, time on site, overall traffic, conversion rate, return on ad spend, cohort data, and more. By using all this data, business owners and marketing professionals can pinpoint which aspects of their marketing campaigns they can improve even more.
You can’t do this with traditional strategies — unless you’ve got a person standing under your billboard counting everybody who looks his way.
The speed at which brands can directly reach their customers (aka immediacy) is a critical marketing component. The golden rule is to connect with consumers wherever and whenever they’re available. Digital has an obvious advantage because of its pixels and retargeting.
Not to mention, digital generates an almost instant touchpoint.
Technically, the difference between traditional and digital marketing lies in offline vs. online. But the real variability (read: advantage) is that digital gives immediate direct contact with prospective customers. On the other hand, traditional marketing does not. Paid online advertising (such as social media PPC and search engine PPC ads) can begin driving results immediately. A small ad campaign can be set up in a single day and start driving site traffic or conversions within a few days. These tactics can drive sales and conversions practically overnight, and as ad campaigns continue on, they can perform even better using the campaign’s performance history.
Once again, traditional marketing can’t engage specific touchpoints as quickly. That is unless that person standing under your billboard has a long stick and pokes every nearby car’s windshield.
Digital marketing campaigns are set up and activated instantly. They can start and stop on a whim, and you can change graphics, copy, and target. Also, it’s not complicated when it comes to redirecting budgets. Digital marketing can be adjusted, optimized, and micro-targeted, and it can undergo almost any changes you see fit whenever you desire. Search engine and social media ads can be set up, canceled, and modified within a few minutes, and changes start displaying to audiences immediately.
In other words, it’s customizable. This is why digital is so good at expanding market share even during downturns. On the other hand, traditional marketing is more challenging to pivot.
Traditional marketing is more set in stone — less flexible. A direct mail campaign takes weeks — sometimes several months — to work. And once it’s started, there is no stopping it. That is unless you’re cool with stealing people’s mail (though we wouldn’t recommend it).
Digital takes another round. So if you’re keeping track, it knocks out traditional with a roundhouse kick.
As we said earlier, the advantages of digital marketing over traditional marketing might need to be clarified. Well, it turns out they are very clear-cut.
Everything is in favor of digital.
Which begs the question…
Can Digital Marketing Replace Traditional Marketing?
Yes. And no.
Sure, traditional marketing just took a beating. In the internet age, it clearly cannot stand toe-to-toe with digital marketing. But the most influential (and best) marketers don’t discriminate between offline and online modes of marketing.
Traditional and digital marketing can live together in harmony. It shouldn’t be digital vs. traditional marketing — instead, it should be digital and traditional marketing. We’d even go so far as to declare that there’s not really a difference between “traditional” or “digital” marketing.
There’s just marketing. Multichannel, multimode marketing.
Does that mean you need to do everything all at once to succeed? No. Instead, you should implement strategies that are most effective for your business.
You need to:
- Define your business’s goals and key performance indicators.
- Choose the most cost-effective channels.
- Pick a medium with the best reach.
- Use the methods that convert the most.
You can accomplish all this with digital techniques. This is why, most of the time, we endorse digital strategies as the way to go. But based on your business and ideal shopper, you might need to take your campaign offline — for instance, if you need to reach an older demographic or local regions.
So don’t discard “traditional” altogether.
Digital marketing might be able to supplement traditional marketing entirely, but that doesn’t mean you should let it. Instead, you should ask yourself, “How can digital and traditional marketing methods work together seamlessly for my brand?”
If you need help uncovering the right answer, contact our team. We can help connect you to the perfect strategy for your business’s needs.