Digital vs. Traditional Media: Understanding Its Importance and Impact on Marketing

Managing a successful business entails implementing various marketing and advertising strategies and methodologies to generate leads and reach current and potential customers.  As today’s competitive market continues to grow and advance, marketers utilize marketing methods such as digital and traditional media to help businesses convey the right communication message to their targeted audience to achieve optimal results.

Emerging technological advances and consumer demands for quick, easy, and convenient access to resources, brands, products, or services online have shifted from traditional marketing methods such as outbound marketing by businesses to an inbound marketing approach to connect with consumers. 

Digital vs. Traditional Media

Digital Media:

According to Dave Chaffey and Fiona Ellis-Chadwick’s book, Digital Marketing Strategy, Implementation, and Practice (7th ed., 2019), digital media creates a dialogue and trialogue with a targeted audience through user-generated content with an emphasis on pull methods such as content, search engine, and social media marketing as a communication approach to convey a communication message to consumers.  Digital media involves targeting an audience online using visual and digital audio content such as illustrations, photos, videos, paid online or pay-per-click advertising, social media, search results, blogs, content and email marketing, and search engine optimization.

Personalization and micro-targeting are used through media placements to reach niche markets.  Marketers can modify and tailor communication messages to different segments with mass-customization and personalization when using digital media in their marketing campaign strategy to improve customer engagement.

Additionally, digital media campaigns are dynamic.  Dynamic campaigns enable marketers to experiment with alternative targeting and ad creatives and make revisions during the campaign or ad run based on its performance.  Paid media-buying opportunities with earned and owned media and pay-per-performance options are limitless with digital media.   

Traditional Media:

According to Dave Chaffey and Fiona Ellis-Chadwick’s book, Digital Marketing Strategy, Implementation, and Practice (7th ed., 2019), traditional media offers one-way communication with an emphasis on push methods of communications such as direct mail, print and television ads to convey a communication message to consumers.  Marketers reach audiences using posters, billboards, catalogs, magazines, window displays, door-to-door sales, and signs.

Push communications with traditional media are one-to-many; marketers share the same communication message through different segments.  The communication exchange occurs from a business to several customers. 

Customer interactions and media-buying opportunities are limited, and the costs of targeting are compelled or constrained by media placements. Moreover, unlike digital media, the marketing campaigns utilizing traditional media are static.  In other words, static campaigns are difficult to change.  Additionally, burst campaigns are effective in maximizing the impact of an ad over a short period.  Unlike digital media, where ad testing can be performed and improved during the campaign, traditional media requires testing before campaign launch.  

Key Takeaway

Digital media creates a two-way communication or dialogue to promote customer engagement and build stronger, meaningful relationships between brands and its customers or target audience.

Traditional media allows businesses to reach and communicate their message to a broader audience that helps build brand awareness.

Together, digital and traditional media can effectively reach, connect, and engage customers with brands to increase conversions, sales and optimize results. 

For instance, PepsiCo, a multinational food and beverage company and manufacturer of the popular soft drink Pepsi, decided to completely abandon their traditional marketing and advertising efforts to digital media or social media with their Pepsi Refresh Project in 2010 to tap into the digital space and integrate the brand digitally to engage its customers with the Pepsi brand, it backfired. 

PepsiCo was able to generate approximately 60,000 followers on Twitter and 3.5 million likes on Pepsi’s Facebook page, acquire more than 80 million registered voters by consumers who voted for the Pepsi Refresh Project; however, their marketing efforts failed to generate sales.  PepsiCo lost more than $350 million, dropped from second to third in soft drinks in America, and lost a significant market share from the previous year – a 6% decrease in sales.  Marketers must work both digital and traditional media hand-in-hand to attain a successful marketing campaign and strategy.

Digital and traditional media used as methods in marketing campaigns can create a compelling, engaging, and effective marketing strategy to enhance marketing efforts, maximize profits, improve the bottom line, and achieve optimal results.  It enhances the businesses marketing efforts and ensures they are reaching their customers or target audience efficiently.

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