Traditional vs. Digital Marketing: The Line Blurs

December 5, 2015

The distinction between digital and traditional marketing is blurring. What’s relevant for marketers is how they blend both approaches in ways that reach their target audience.

To illustrate that point, let’s use an example from Canada Post, which recently took out a half-page ad in the Globe and Mail promoting its “Smartmail Marketing” approach to making direct mail more targeted and engaging. That ad appeared directly under an article highlighting the threat of ad-blockers — digital deterrents to online advertising that can make old-fashioned print seem pretty appealing.

Was the ad placement a happy coincidence or strategic marketing? Hard to say, but when a Twitter user pointed it out, Canada Post retweeted the fact — which was strategic marketing. Though Smartmail and much of the campaign around it are non-digital, the hashtag #smartmailmarketing is prevalent on Canada Post’s Twitter account. In the case of Smartmail, the analog and digital have blended seamlessly into one.

Canada Post isn’t the only company strategically using analog and digital marketing. The same is true for the publishers of the industry magazine Canadian Grocer. It started as a traditional print magazine in 1887, and, like many other trade publications, has since expanded into a multi-platform vehicle that uses blog, web and social media content to drive industry readers back to the magazine and promote brand awareness. The people behind Canadian Grocer have kept doing what they’ve always done well, but found a way to expand viewership using a digital platform.

Three Mixed-Media Marketing Tips 

With video delivered online, print collateral downloadable in PDF format and tweets driving customers through to gated Big Rock content in print format, the distinction between digital and traditional media and marketing is blurred. Most marketers are deploying both digital and analog tactics, and here’s what we can learn from successful mixed-media campaigns like those of Canada Post and Canadian Grocer:

  • Forming a plan around one marketing medium is limiting — create a platform that can be distributed through various channels.
  • Use wider-reaching conventional methods to generate awareness and drive consumers to the digital experience (or vice versa).
  • Capitalize on what works. Digital is an evolving medium and it may seem prudent to jump on the bandwagon, but traditional methods may make more sense for specific purposes. Decide strategically, not reflexively.

Many marketers continue to stress about whether they have their mix right. Traditional avenues have a proven success rate. They hit a mass audience of broad age ranges, forge a human cnnection and allow for brand creation or reinforcement. That said, they’re costlier, more time consuming and less flexible than digital. Digital is agile. It can roll out across platforms and support multi-directional communication with very little monetary investment.

While it can make things more complex and introduce whole new sets of strategic considerations, the digital and traditional media worlds merging is good news for marketers because it takes the flexibility of B2B promotion to an entirely new level.

For more insight on how to measure your marketing performance, both traditional and digital, download the new ebook, The Sophisticated Marketer's Crash Course in Metrics & Analtyics.