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Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing - Finding your audience, wherever they are- cartoons of both traditional and digital marketing tactics

Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing: Why to Consider Both

Tube TVs, Laserdiscs, pay phones - certain pieces of tech that were swept away in the digital revolution probably aren't coming back. That doesn't mean that everything that's worked in the past is obsolete, though. And that's especially true when it comes to marketing, where digital and traditional media can do a lot more than coexist. They can complement each other well!

What's the difference between traditional and digital marketing, and how can they work together in the 21st century? Let's take a look!

Images of graphs, data, and figures on wood table during meeting

Traditional vs. Digital: What's the Difference?

First, let's understand our categories: traditional and digital marketing. Generally, the internet is what separates the two. All online media generally fall under digital marketing, even if they use technologies like TVs. The reverse is also true. Digital technologies like custom flash drives given out at a trade show are considered traditional marketing since they're physical objects.

Here's a general (and non-exhaustive) list of which media fall into which categories:

  • Traditional Marketing Channels
    • Broadcast and cable TV
    • AM and FM radio
    • Print newspapers and magazines
    • Promotional gifts
    • Direct mail
    • Events
    • Billboards and signs
  • Digital Marketing Channels
    • Email marketing
    • Paid search
    • Social media
    • Streaming video
    • Websites
    • Search engine optimization (SEO)

With so many options, it pays to know the pros and cons of both!

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Digital billboard that reads "Advertising" as cars pass by

Pros and Cons of Traditional Channels

Traditional channels, far from being outdated, can be a great addition to your marketing strategy. Here's why:

  • Traditional channels can be powerful tools for building a local following. Memorable radio ads or billboards - or even cool promotional swag like branded USB sticks - can help build your brand with local audiences in a way that digital marketing sometimes doesn't.
  • Some traditional marketing offers a splashy stage for those who like to go big with their marketing. Media like billboards and cable TV are still capable of reaching huge audiences and generating public reactions.
  • Most people see literally thousands of digital ads per day. Reaching out with well-thought-out marketing in traditional channels can create a change of pace that allows you to cut through the noise.
  • Channels such as event marketing allow businesses to leverage the power of face-to-face interaction with brand representatives, which can help personalize and humanize your brand for customers.

Of course, traditional marketing isn't without its potential pitfalls, such as:

  • It's hard to measure metrics like reach and engagement effectively through many traditional channels. Instead, you'll usually be (digitally) measuring proxy metrics like search volume, and the cause and effect can be harder to pin down.
  • With many traditional marketing channels, reach will be more limited to demographics with high engagement in those channels. Print advertising, for example, is mostly visible to people over 35.
  • Many traditional marketing formats, such as TV advertising, are costly and labor-intensive to execute. Ads delivered through these media are also much harder to revise once they've been released.

Pros and Cons of Digital Channels

Digital marketing channels have exploded in popularity in recent years. Here's a brief overview of the major reasons behind their popularity:

  • Audience targeting is much easier through digital channels, most of which allow marketers to choose which consumer demographics to serve with their ads.
  • Digital marketing provides a wealth of performance data, such as click-through rates on paid ads and open rates on emails. Just as importantly, it provides tools for tailoring your marketing strategy around these data points.
  • Digital channels allow marketers to target younger consumers, who tend to engage with brands through channels such as social media, search engines and streaming.
  • Most digital channels make it relatively easy to tweak and optimize campaigns and marketing materials on the fly.

As for some of digital marketing's potential downsides:

  • So many brands are competing for consumers' attention in the digital sphere that it can be challenging to stand out, especially on widely-used platforms like Google and Facebook.
  • Advertisers are at the mercy of tech companies and can have their operations upended by changes, as demonstrated by the panic set off when Apple announced privacy changes that affected ad targeting.
  • Businesses that don't completely understand digital platforms and their unique cultures can end up doing damage to their brands with poorly thought-out campaigns, especially on social media.

Team of professional men and women meeting around wood table with green succulents on it, smiling

Joining Forces: Combining Traditional and Digital Marketing

Traditional and digital marketing can be a better combo than you might imagine! These are some of the ways that businesses are exploring the intersection of digital and traditional:

  • Using traditional delivery methods for digital materials, such as USB business cards for distributing marketing materials at a conference. 
  • Promoting digital services such as BOPIS shopping that bring customers into brick and mortar locations. 
  • Leveraging the wide reach of traditional media to direct consumers to more data-rich digital channels by (for example) adding QR codes to print ads.
  • Using digital channels, such as social media accounts, to promote in person events like a trade show appearance or product launch party.

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About the author:

Ubie

The Face of UMD

Hey, I'm Ubie (You-Bee) the mascot of USB Memory Direct and by far the biggest fan of USB drives out of all of us all here. If you want to know more about USB drives, some of the cool marketing stuff we do, or technology advancements we are working on keep an eye out for posts under this account!