Traditional v Digital – It’s No Contest!

In the post-war era of the 1950s, after the economy had started to find its feet again, the then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan famously declared that the British people “had never had it so good.”

He might just as well have been speaking about the position we find ourselves in today, with respect to the way we market our businesses. We’ve really seen nothing like it!

Traditional marketing is out of the window, or hanging on by its fingertips.  Today, a new form of the species dominates the frame – digital marketing. For anyone involved in the promotion of goods and services in the year 2020, old MacMillan’s statement could not be more apt.  

What exactly do we mean by digital marketing?
Basically, it’s the process of using electronic communications to exploit goods and services in the relevant marketplace.  Unlike the “hit and miss” days of pre-internet marketing, which we’ll return to shortly, the digital age provides unprecedented opportunities not only to reach customers far and wide, but –   through the wonders of the available technology –  being able to interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few short years ago.

What’s the Difference?
Marketing used to be a one directional business. The company communicated about its products or services to its intended audience – without the audience having the opportunity to interact.

This was conducted by traditional advertising, e.g. through print media, mail shots, phone calls and sales letters. Everything was offline, although at the time nobody knew any different, as the concept of being offline never existed.

With digital marketing, everything is online, slicker and quicker, channelled through the media of websites, social media, online chat etc.

Sales letters rarely come through the snail mail any more (unless they are disguised as junk mail). They’ve been superseded by email.  The inbox has replaced the metal letter box. Everything revolves around online promotion – online advertising, email marketing, social media, text messaging, affiliate marketing, search engine optimisation, pay per click – the list goes on! 

The Role of the Consumer
Moreover, communication is bi-directional – in other words it’s a two way street. No longer does the product do all the talking. Audience participation never used to happen – whereas, nowadays, it’s all about consumer interaction. The customer gets the opportunity to provide feedback and even make suggestions about how the seller might like to tweak things to improve the product or service. Consequently, there’s no hiding place for the marketer who launches a duffer. 

Measuring Results
Today, one of the most intriguing advantages of digital marketing is measuring its effectiveness. You can test whether something is working, or not working, pretty much straightaway.     

It hasn’t always been like this.

Back in the 1980s, the boss of a major blue chip firm was asked to justify the exorbitant amounts of money he was spending on advertising. To paraphrase his response, he said that he was painfully aware of how much he was spending and that 50% of the outlay was being completed wasted. The problem was, he didn’t know which 50%.

If things weren’t selling, why weren’t they selling? Was the advertising ineffective or invisible? Was it the price, or the quality of the product? Everything was an exercise of trial and error. Nowadays, results are easy to measure. In fact, with digital marketing, we’ve got to a point where the measurement of a campaign’s effectiveness has become a science in itself. It’s all in the analytics!

It might well have prevented that disillusioned CEO shelling out the bunts left, right and centre.    

Speed of Launch
Unlike the slow–boat to China limitations of traditional marketing, in the digital arena it’s far quicker to create and develop an online campaign and much easier to adapt it or make hasty changes or improvements – within minutes or a few hours even.    

Traditionally, campaigns went on much longer – often because it was such a hassle creating one in the first place, so it had to be built to last. This was all very well if it was successful, but if the promotion wasn’t any good, it could often be left to run well past the sell-by date – until the necessary time and expense had gone into making a replacement.  

Talking of marketing budgets, the cost of running a traditional advertising campaign could be colossal – taking into account all the space buying and the small fortunes getting brochures designed and printed.  And what if there was a glaring mistake in the copy, or you suddenly wanted to make price changes or add products. What did you do?  Go for a reprint or just grit your teeth?

By comparison, digital marketing is relatively cheap and rapid. And so easy to amend or adapt. In fact, manipulating a campaign midstream, where prices or special offers might change on a daily basis, is a feature of the digital dimension.  Indeed, digital marketers are often looking for opportunities to change a promotion – not for reasons not to! A special offer, a price drop, a new addition to the range – quick, let’s get it out there and fast!

Round the Clock
And then there are the time constraints. Well, there used to be anyway. Traditional marketing, was very much a 9 to 5 operation – not anymore! Digital marketing enables companies to market their wares 24/7, on high days and holidays. There is no downtime.  Customer contact, or their feedback, doesn’t have to be slotted into a rigid, post-lunch 2pm-4pm timeslot – it can be just as likely to happen in the middle of the night.

Geography is no Barrier
The beauty of the digital age is that it makes it feasible to market your products and services to someone living in New Zealand, rather than being restricted to the next post code. That’s not to say that someone living five miles away won’t be your best ever customer – it’s just that digital technology removes geographical restrictions in an instant.

We talk about living in a global village and this is precisely why. As far as digital marketing is concerned, the consumer could be just down the road 10,000 miles away.  Today, we talk about campaigns going viral, visible to millions within minutes. If you talked to marketers 30 years ago about a campaign going viral, they would have been worried it had made people physically ill. How terminology has changed!   

And the Winner is…
What’s possible now with digital marketing is light years away from what was happening when we trudged around in our traditional marketing boots. If it was a boxing match between the two, the referee would have stopped the contest long ago.

Today’s digital marketers really have never had it so good…..