Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

  BlueTone Media

Marketing as we know it has been around since the early 20th century. It started in major metropolises first, where residents of cities like New York first encountered advertising in the form of flyers and billboards. And then the television was invented.

Not only did television change the way companies advertised, it also changed their target audience. As more Americans bought TVs, advertisers could reach a much larger audience. And so, the marketing industry boomed.

Television and print ads remained the backbone of the advertising industry until the internet was invented and the advertising world changed forever. Internet ads first started appearing in the mid-90s, but the super-targeted ads that we’re used to seeing now wouldn’t become prominent until the mid-2000s.

Why are we telling you all this? Because for years marketers have been struggling with the ultimate question: Which is better - traditional advertising or digital advertising? And we’re here to tell you… we can’t answer that. In fact, nobody can, since the value that each provides depends on a lot of things, like the target audience, where they’re located, and the products/services being sold.

What we can do is explain the advantages and disadvantages of each and help you discover the right answer for your business.

Traditional Marketing

What is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional advertising is something you’ve almost certainly encountered before. Generally speaking, any kind of advertising that doesn’t use a digital medium is considered traditional marketing

Examples of traditional marketing include:

  • Print ads (newspapers, magazines, flyers, etc.)
  • Direct mail marketing (brochures, postcards, etc.)
  • TV and radio commercials
  • Billboards
  • Outdoor ads (benches, ads on buses/taxis, etc.)

What is Digital Marketing?

By contrast, digital marketing is when advertisers use electronic devices to show ads to a target audience. Most of the time digital advertising requires the use of the internet and a computer or cell phone. Digital marketing is a little more discreet than traditional advertising, so it’s possible that you’ve encountered a digital ad before without even realizing it.

Examples of digital marketing include:

Pros of Traditional Marketing

Since traditional advertising has been around for quite a while, it’s a tried and true method of drumming up business. It’s also something that people are familiar with and comforted by, where this may not be the case with other forms of advertising. Additional advantages of traditional marketing include:

  • It’s a great way to reach small, local audiences.
  • In many cases, traditional ads in things like magazines or newspapers are often kept by readers, meaning they may see the ad more than once.
  • It’s more tangible. Something you hold in your hand or an add you see on a bus stop feels a lot more real than something you see online.
  • A physical ad requires more processing by the brain, often leading to a strong connection with the ad and the brand itself.
  • Companies with large budgets can outdo smaller competitors with traditional advertising.
  • Traditional marketing is more eye-catching then digital marketing. It’s much harder to ignore a billboard than it is to scroll by an ad on your phone.

Cons of Traditional Marketing

Perhaps one of the biggest downsides of traditional advertising is its permanence. Once you run a print ad or put up a billboard, that’s it. There’s no changing the look or tweaking the content to get better results until you’re ready to start a new campaign. Disadvantages of traditional advertising also include:

  • It’s only partially targetable. Yes, you can place ads where your target market is likely to see them, but you can’t be as specific in your targeting as you can with digital ads
  • It can be expensive. Running an ad in your local newspaper may not cost much, but putting up a billboard along a busy interstate can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for just a few weeks
  • Traditional advertising is not easy to measure. While traditional marketing as a whole definitely works, it’s hard to know exactly which ads are responsible for which sales.
  • Results take time to get. Often it takes a large budget spread out over a long period of time before a company sees sales as a result of traditional marketing.

Pros of Digital Marketing

By far, the biggest advantage of digital advertising is its affordability. Compared to traditional advertising, running digital ads is much more cost-efficient. This also makes it accessible to virtually any company, no matter how big or small their budget may be. Digital marketing has a few more pretty substantial advantages, including:

  • Digital advertising is well-suited for any business, from mom-and-pop shops to major corporations.
  • You can get great results for less money and less time than you could with traditional ads.
  • It results in high customer engagement. Digital ads can encourage user interaction by simultaneously providing them with something valuable or useful.
  • It’s easy to track and measure digital ads, so you can tell what works and what doesn’t.
  • Advertisers can target a hyper-specific market segment.
  • Since digital ads are online, it’s easy to reach an international audience in addition to a local one.
  • Digital ads can usually be changed or adjusted at any time.
Digital Marketing

Cons of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing may be affordable, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. People build entire careers on doing digital advertising, which should demonstrate that it’s really not something you can pick up overnight. Some additional disadvantages of digital marketing are that:

  • It takes some tweaking and time before you’ll see measurable results. Fortunately, the results are easy tot rack, giving you insight quickly.
  • It can be time-consuming. A lot of research goes into learning how to create and manage the perfect digital advertising campaign.
  • Lots of other people are doing digital ads too, so there’s a greater chance of yours getting lost in the mix
  • Some people, especially those in rural areas, don’t have internet, smartphones, or computers. If this is where your target audience lives, digital ads may not be your best bet.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Marketing is an art that has to be customized to the needs of the company and their audience, and both traditional and digital marketing can help accomplish this goal. For many companies, the decision doesn’t come down to whether to choose either traditional or digital advertising, but rather how to use them effectively together. Even though digital marketing is becoming more popular by the day, traditional marketing certainly isn’t going away any time soon.

The truth is, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how big your marketing budget is if your website isn’t up to par. One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is pouring money into an advertising campaign that directs potential customers to a poorly built, slow, or ugly website.

So before you start your new marketing campaign, get in touch with us. BlueTone Media’s portfolio includes websites created for a variety of businesses across North Carolina. We’ll build you a stunning website and then help create an advertising campaign to drive traffic, generate leads, and boost your bottom line. Get in touch with us for more info on Wilmington, NC web design and digital marketing for your business.

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