Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing: Is Traditional Marketing Really Dead?

The debate about traditional and digital marketing is one that has been raging for quite some time, especially when it became apparent that internet is here to stay and when it became even more apparent that it will become a digital part of our everyday reality.

On the two ends of the spectrum, you have young, thin people in black turtlenecks who claim that everything non-digital is a waste of time and money, belonging in the past; and you have sweaty, overweight 50-something guys who believe that all business should be done over whisky and exotic dancers with other sweaty, overweight 50-something guys. (Of course, these are absolute exaggerations, made for comic effect.)

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In reality, like always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

While digital marketing is becoming more and more prominent with each day, we must still accept the fact that traditional marketing techniques can be extremely effective. We will be looking at different aspects of potential marketing efforts and we will try and find out how the two options stack up. By doing so, we will try and find out if traditional marketing is really dead.

Traditional vs Digital – Price

Yes, it is vulgar to open with money, but we need to be realistic; these days, most business owners first look at the prices when it comes to marketing.

Many business owners are not able to spend too much on their marketing and they need to know that they are getting everything they can for their money.

When we are talking about money, digital marketing is the definitive winner.

Traditional marketing will in most cases require significant investment, whether it entails advertising in traditional media, putting up billboards, exhibiting at trade shows or something else. These are all efforts that will put a strain on a business’ budget, no matter how you cut it.

On the other hand, a lot of digital marketing can be done in-house, by the business owner or by an employee or two who have a bit of web marketing savvy.

Setting up a website might cost a bit (even though with WordPress and other similar software this does not have to be the case) but most other things can be done for free, or almost for free. Blogging, using social media, guest posting, posting videos; all of this can be done by people who are not professionals.

That being said, there is a difference in what digital marketing professionals can do and what laypeople can do. This article from Marketing Angels blog explains this very well. So, if you really want the best possible results with digital marketing, you might still need to spend some money.

Still, we’ll give this one to digital marketing.

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Traditional vs Digital – Involvement

When we are talking about involvement here, we are talking about the level of involvement and willingness to participate on behalf of the customer. In short, how will the two marketing options fare among people who are not necessarily interested in what the business has to offer.

This is where digital marketing perhaps shows its greatest weakness.

Namely, unless the potential customer/client of a business is not actively looking for what the business offers, it is highly unlikely that they will be exposed to the business and its brand. There are some chances that they will come across business’ content (mostly on social media), but it is more likely than not that the word of the business will not reach them unless they make a specific action.

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, reaches a larger percentage of the population, including those who are not necessarily looking for what the business has to offer. When you run an ad on local TV, most people who watch it will see it, regardless of whether they might be looking for a hardware store at that point in their lives, for example.

Here, we definitely need to give it to traditional marketing.

Traditional vs Digital – Trust

Nirmayla Kumar, who taught marketing at Harvard, International Institute for Management Development, Northwestern University and recently at London Business School said the following about branding,

Branding is not merely about differentiating products; it is about striking emotional chords with consumers. It is about cultivating identity, attachment, and trust to inspire customer loyalty.

Source: Brainy Quotes

We can all agree that trust is a huge part of marketing and positioning a brand and it is definitely something we have to address in this Battle Royale of marketing options of ours.

The situation at the moment is that traditional marketing is still trusted more readily and by more people than digital marketing.

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Digital marketing still has an aura of something that is “not that serious” and that many people believe is no place to do serious business. Of course, the long history of online scams and spam websites have also contributed to the mistrust that some people have for everything that goes on online, including digital marketing.

While traditional marketing is by no means faultless and while a very large percentage of people do not trust every word they read, hear or see; there is still a more solid reputation to it. Somehow, traditional marketing carries more weight.

Here, we are once again giving it to traditional marketing but we reserve the right to change this in future.


Traditional vs Digital – Analysis

It goes without saying that a business owner will want to be able to analyse the results of the marketing efforts that they are paying for or undertaking themselves and this is where digital marketing is looking like a winner once again.

Namely, the results of online marketing campaigns can be seen very easily and very precisely.

The amount of people who come to the business’ website and who make actions in regards to the business’ online presence can be monitored in real time. Figuring out how to translate into actual business and sales will require more time and more effort, but it is still much easier to track than the results of more traditional marketing.

This article from Marketing Land is an excellent read on analysing digital marketing efforts.

This also means that it will be easier to make timely changes to the marketing techniques and adapt them according to the results of the analysis. With traditional marketing, it often takes weeks or even months before results can be observed precisely, meaning that the changes come late.

Here, we have to go with digital marketing.

Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing – Closing word

This is where you might expect us to give you a clear recommendation of what to do and we will have to disappoint you.

The whole digital vs traditional marketing debate is an exceptionally complex one and we would have to be insanely arrogant to try and give a definitive recommendation.

We can provide you with some pertinent and very interesting stats, like these assembled by Inbound Marketing Agents, though.

In essence, there is definitely a trend towards digital marketing, there can be no doubt about that. However, we need to understand that traditional marketing still has a strong foothold and that it is definitely not as dead as those turtle-neck-wearing, fancy-expensive-glasses-sporting digital people want you to believe.

About The Author

James Burbank

James D. Burbank has spent most of his professional life travelling around the world, helping people with their trade show experiences in countries of Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Australasia. He is currently mostly blogging and trying to get his blog – BizzMarkBlog off the ground.