Like it or not, we live and work in an incredibly competitive environment. Once upon a time businesses were capable of thriving with little more than a good physical location and word of mouth advertising, but these days marketing is essential for success. Marketing as a concept started to gain increasingly widespread popularity and implementation from the start of the 20th century as a natural extension of consumerism, which was a growing societal motivator due to the decline of colonialism. The need for versatility across sectors and industries lead marketing to become an inherently multi-faceted aspect of business, but the advent and proliferation of the internet demanded the need for clear distinctions between traditional and digital marketing.
Both titles are rather self-descriptive, but for clarity’s sake the Financial Times Lexicon defines digital marketing as “The marketing of products or services using digital channels to reach consumers. The key objective is to promote brands through various forms of digital media”. Basically, digital marketing is the umbrella term for any marketing activity carried out over computers, mobile phones, and other digital devices, whilst traditional marketing encompasses everything else. It is important to note that, despite being a major driving force behind its prominence in recent years, that internet marketing and digital marketing are not synonymous; as digital marketing also includes offline activities such as SMS advertising.
Looking at it from a broad perspective, neither digital nor traditional channels are intrinsically better than the other, but it goes without saying that both have their pros and cons. The two cannot help but complement one another and utilising a combination of both disciplines is always ideal. Having said that, the number of marketing channels capable of simultaneous implementation is generally limited by the resources available to a company; whether it is a matter of access to finance, experienced personnel, or otherwise. There are numerous factors for businesses to consider when deciding between a marketing strategy that is primarily focused toward digital channels or one that is more traditionally orientated; however, we would argue that the following ought to be approached as primary concerns.
The Difference Between Traditional & Digital Marketing
Cost – It is an inescapable reality that marketing is a costly pursuit no matter how you approach it. Traditional marketing practices and tool such as promotional pens, corporate gift hampers, branded vehicles, business cards, networking events, etc. cost businesses money. Whereas digital marketing – through SEO, copywriting, and social media channels – demand an investment in time; both whilst they’re undergoing implementation and then as their effect begins to accumulate.
Of course, there are exceptions on both sides. For instance; word of mouth advertising is a traditional marketing practice that is completely free, but it takes time to cultivate a good reputation and an instant to damage it. On the other hand, Google Shopping and Adwords offer digital marketers a means of creating advertisements that are almost immediately visible after launch; though these must be paid for.
Specificity – The ability to specify whom an advertisement is targeted toward and also to ensure that only those people see it is the enviable trait of many digital marketing channels. Whether it is through the implementation of long-tail keywords, retargeting software, or an opt-in emailing list, digital marketing allows businesses to focus their attention toward consumers who are more likely to be interested in the services or wares that they provide. It is important to note however, that this focus comes at the cost of appealing to a potentially broader customer-base.
If digital marketing is a laser then traditional marketing is a shotgun. Rather than being seen or utilised solely by those who have expressed an interest, traditional marketing techniques are experienced by anyone who comes across or witnesses them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it may make potential consumers aware of a business, product, or service before they are aware that they need it. For example; you may not need to compare cheap car insurance right now, but if you ever do chances are you’ll already have a comparison site in mind.
Measurability – Marketing is generally seen as an expense by those who are unfamiliar with or disenfranchised by it, but anyone with a touch of savvy will view it as a business investment. Digital channels are generally linked to analytical programs that clearly display data such as cost, revenue, and conversion rate, making it easy to determine whether or not marketing activities carried out online are a producing a viable return on investment.
Unfortunately, traditional marketing activities such as advertising on billboards, TV, radio, or in print media are incapable of providing such definitive evidence of their success and can only be measured by a marked increase in footfall, revenue, or direct and organic website traffic. This inability to provide hard data with regards to return on investment is a frequent source of tension between marketing departments and other areas of a business.
There is no clear winner when traditional marketing is pit against digital marketing. However, by weighing up the pros and cons of both a business shall be able to combine aspects of the two in accordance with their capabilities and limitations. Though others may argue differently, in our opinion the two are natural bedfellows. This belief is reflected in the work produced by us at Optimus Performance Marketing, as we are often tasked by our clients to create digital marketing campaigns that complement and are in harmony with their existing traditional marketing efforts.
Author: Alem Al-Khamiri
The head of SEO, PPC and digital content at Optimus-PM, Alem is Google AdWords certified and has years of digital marketing & website management experience.