Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing: What’s The Difference?

Digital Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing: What’s The Difference?

Which Type Of Marketing Should You Use Choose?

As smartphones have become ubiquitous and technology continues to integrate itself into every facet of our day to day lives, there’s been an undeniable and steady shift away from traditional forms of marketing (such as billboards, television adverts and newspapers) in favour of digital marketing (such as Google ads, social media ads and influencer marketing). And this is understandable – after all, technology has revolutionised the way we all communicate with each other, how we make purchases, and even how we conduct research on products and services.

It makes sense then that we as marketers have adapted to this digital age, investing heavily in search engine optimisation (SEO), PPC advertising, programmatic advertising and designing and developing websites; all to shorten the distance between someone having never heard of our services through to becoming a loyal, repeat customer.

However, digital marketing is not a panacea.

Digital marketing is, at it’s core, the means and tools through which marketers and businesses can get in front of customers to deliver meaningful messages and persuade them to buy things. So we can say that the underlying principles of effective marketing – understanding your audience’s perspective, for instance – remain largely unchanged. Digital marketing has just provided us with increasingly scalable ways of applying these principles and delivering messages to people.

With this in mind, it’s important not to look to digital marketing as the only valid form of marketing for your business. Ultimately, we are trying to stimulate demand by effectively communicating our product or service’s value to customers in a way that resonates. And while for many businesses (ours included), digital marketing offers the most effective way of doing this, for some industries and business types, traditional methods of marketing remain unchallenged as the best way to attract customers. It all depends on your particular business.

But how do you know what type of marketing is best for your business? It’s an important question, and one that you should consider when finding a marketing agency. But first, let’s clarify what we mean by traditional marketing.

Traditional Marketing: What exactly do we mean..?

In a nutshell, traditional marketing typically refers to any type of marketing that can be engaged with offline and away from any digital products. It’s essentially what marketing was before the internet boom and accompanying smartphone revolution years later.

It’s everything from TV and radio adverts, to trade shows and events, direct mail, flyers, and print advertising in newspapers/magazines. Given how new social media and search engines are, we can say with certainty that traditional marketing isn’t dead yet. In fact, some of the best examples we have of memorable and commercially successful marketing campaigns come from the marriage of traditional marketing and digital marketing, in which the latter often acts to amplify the reach of the former.

Take Richard Branson’s many PR stunts for instance (many of which predate the internet), or guerilla marketing campaigns in which invisible messages are revealed to passers-by when it rains.

You only have to look as far as the London Underground (which remains prized real estate for marketers) to see that traditional marketing is still seen as essential for reaching large swathes of the population. Equally important is the credibility and gravitas that often comes with traditional mediums of advertising, which often have greater barriers of entry for those looking to market their services. This brings us to our next point…

So what’s in it for me? The benefits of traditional marketing

1. Credibility

One of the most obvious advantages of traditional means of marketing is exactly that it is ‘traditional’ and therefore perceived as more trustworthy by consumers.

While the accessibility of digital marketing makes it available to almost anyone with internet connection, it also facilitates the promotion of less credible products and services, despite increasingly stringent measures being put in place to limit poor quality ads, political propaganda and generally poor online user experiences.

Conversely, the cost associated with marketing through more traditional channels acts as a natural filter that only allows more established companies of a sufficient size or with sufficient funding to promote themselves. And even then, they have to contend with regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority.

It should come as no surprise then that a study carried out by MarketingSherpa in 2016 showed that 82% of people trusted printed ads, compared to only 25% who said they trusted pop-up ads.

2. More Positive Engagement

No doubt we’ve all come across an online ad which we’ve felt somewhat irritated by; either because it takes up space on our already relatively small screens when we’re trying to scroll through a website, or because it’s stopped the video we were watching just as we were getting into it.

But do we ever feel irritated by billboards? Or by a clever ad on public transport which provides us with a little bit of entertainment in our dreary morning commute? Probably not. Even the ad breaks on TV provide us with a welcome chance to pop to the loo or get the kettle going.

Contrast this with the intrusive nature of many online ads and it’s no wonder that studies have shown that traditional marketing methods tend to be more liked by consumers. A study carried out to test the likeability of different marketing channels showed that people overwhelmingly preferred more traditional marketing methods to digital marketing. Magazine ads soared high above digital, with 25% of people saying they liked them compared with a sorry 6% in the web and 7% in social.

However, there is a large difference between what consumers claim to prefer, and what their purchasing habits say. As most marketers are acutely aware digital marketing – though intrusive – is being harnessed in increasingly interesting ways that are delivering clear and measurable returns of investment.

For traditional marketing, ROI is often more difficult to track, which brings us to the downfalls of traditional marketing.

The downfalls of traditional marketing

1. Cost!

The most obvious issue with traditional marketing is that it can be costly. In a prime location like London’s Piccadilly Circus, billboards can cost in excess of £727/week, while a full page advert on the Daily Mail will cost you £30,000 and a primetime TV advert costing anywhere between £10,000 and £30,000. And while all of these are guaranteed to be seen by a vast number of people, doing any level of analysis on the success of your campaign can be difficult. So really, for traditional marketing, both the cost and the risk factors are high, and it’s important to consider whether it’s really a worthwhile investment for your business.

In contrast, if you spend £30,000 on Google or Facebook ads, you’ll be able to attribute every penny of spend back to your customer’s actions (be it a direct sale, download of a brochure, or of simply viewing an article).

2. Less targeted, less relevant

Precision is another area in which digital has the edge. Traditional marketing can often target large market segments, and this is a really important aspect to be considered when planning a campaign. However, it doesn’t have the capability to present itself exclusively to individual consumers that have displayed behaviour that suggests an interest in your specific product or service. In other words, digital tools enable you to save money by only showing your ads to those likely to be interested in what you’re offering.

With traditional ads, the chances are a vast majority of the people that come across your magazine or TV ad won’t be interested in the specific product that’s being advertised, making it a less precise and less efficient marketing tactic.

So, is it worth it?

Given how long it has been used by successful companies of all sizes, there are many reasons to consider investing in traditional forms of marketing. And what it lacks in precision and the accuracy in attribution, it can more than make up for in credibility and scale.

Ultimately, whether you choose to launch a billboard campaign throughout the country or a remarketing campaign aimed at engaging past website users, marketing is an iterative process and it’s success is defined by how well it enables you to meet your business’s goals.

So, before you begin writing content for your SEO strategy or signing up for that trade show, we recommend that you are clear on what success looks like, that you have robust methods in place for tracking this success, and that you hire experienced marketing professionals in order to achieve these goals.

At Columba, we work with businesses like yours to understand the marketing support you really need, and organise pitches from a handpicked shortlist of agencies who are uniquely qualified to deliver on your brief, whether it’s a new website or digital marketing retainer.

Get In Touch

Brands, fill in this form to start your journey with your perfect agency.


Agencies, fill in this form to start building your pipeline on autopilot!

Get In Touch

Brands, fill in this form to start your journey with your perfect agency.


Agencies, fill in this form to start building your pipeline on autopilot!

©2020, Columba Network Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


Call Now Button