Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing: Which One is Better

Between the tried and true strategies of traditional marketing and the new and innovative strategies of digital marketing, there are many ways for businesses to capture the attention of their audiences. 

But which strategy works best? Which one should businesses focus on? 

When discussing traditional marketing vs. digital marketing, there is a lot to consider. In this article, we’ll discuss the purpose of each and their benefits and setbacks, to help you decide which is best for your business.

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What is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing encompasses the marketing methods that can be used without the internet. These are the methods that have been around for decades and are typically used less often now. However, they’re not without their strengths.

Common traditional market methods include:

  • Directly mailed postcards, coupons, and informational packets
  • Television or radio commercials
  • Newspaper or magazine ads
  • Billboards and fliers
  • Telephone calls and text notifications

We see and hear many of these ads every day just by listening to the radio on the way to work or even looking out the window at the billboards as we go by. They’ve become a part of daily life.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing strategies evolve quickly because of trends and new technology. These strategies include those that require the use of the internet or smartphones. They haven’t been around as long as traditional methods, but they certainly pack a punch.

Common digital marketing methods include:

  • Website content
  • Email campaigns
  • Content marketing
  • Social media posts
  • Clickable ads
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

These strategies are very popular today because of consumers’ frequent usage of the internet and mobile devices. According to Statista, there are 4.54 billion active internet users in the world and 3.8 billion active social media users. With numbers that high, marketing online and through social media makes a lot of sense.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Marketing

When comparing traditional marketing vs. digital marketing, traditional methods are often viewed as outdated or irrelevant. However, many of these tactics are still useful and effective today. 

Depending on the business and target audience, traditional marketing methods may be the better choice. To help discern if traditional marketing is right for your business, here are some pros and cons.

Pros

  • If you want to reach an older demographic, traditional marketing can be very effective. According to GlobeNewswire, audiences ages 50+ spend almost twice as much time reading the newspaper and watching TV as compared to those ages 21-34. 
  • This type of marketing strategy usually works best for businesses looking to build a larger local audience. A small business would be better off competing for attention through billboards, flyers, and events rather than trying to compete for digital space against larger businesses.
  • TV or radio commercials will play multiple times and remind the audience of the business, whereas digital marketing items may be skipped through or blocked (e.g., clicking “I don’t want to see this” on social media ads, or skipping through ads before YouTube videos).

Cons

  • Printing postcards to send out even to just a local audience can be expensive, and there is no guarantee that the recipient is interested in your business or the product/service you offer.
  • Traditional marketing methods can take weeks or months to yield results and data. You can’t tell when someone has read your newspaper ad unless they decide to follow-up. Even then, without a survey, you won’t know if the ad was the reason for the follow-up.

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Pros and Cons of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing strategies are always evolving with new technology and trends like voice search and social media usage. These strategies include the most modern and latest tactics. But, as with traditional marketing, there are some areas where digital marketing thrives and others where it doesn’t.

Pros

  • Data and audience involvement can be tracked instantly. When someone clicks on a link to your site, reads an email, or follows you on social media, you have that information immediately. You can draw numerous insights from this data, including which type of content works best for a specific audience, which mediums are the most effective, and even what time of day receives the best engagement.
  • Digital marketing strategies incur a much lower cost. Sending out an email campaign can save a lot of money compared to printing individual postcards and paying for postage on each.
  • It works well for more global or scattered audiences because of the broad scope of digital marketing.

Cons

  • Some internet users have ad blockers, so they’ll never see pop-ups or banner ads. Other times, ads can be skipped or removed if a user pays for premium services (e.g., Spotify, Hulu, Twitch).
  • Because new technology and trends emerge so frequently, digital marketing tactics need to be evaluated and reevaluated for effectiveness continually what works well one day may be irrelevant the next. However, this can be combatted with regular training in digital marketing strategies.

Which One is Better?

So, which strategy wins when comparing traditional marketing vs. digital marketing?

The short answer: it depends.

The long answer:

Digital marketing is probably the best option for most. If you want to reach a particular group of people, wherever they may be, while keeping costs low, go with digital marketing. Doing so will also allow you to collect valuable information on your audience immediately so that you can create even more effective marketing campaigns.

However, there is still a place for traditional marketing. If you want to reach an older audience or a local audience, traditional marketing methods may be more productive and stand out better than digital marketing methods. Though these methods may seem “old,” the reality is that they’ve stuck around for a reason. They work!

When considering which marketing strategy is best for your business, consider your audience, where they get their information from, and use that to make your decision. When deciding between traditional marketing vs. digital marketing, it’s not necessarily true that one is simply better than the other as they serve different purposes. The bottom line is that you need to fully understand your business and your audience to pick the strategy that’s better for you.

Want to Get into the Exciting Field of Digital Marketing?

While traditional marketing still has a place, let’s be clear, digital marketing is the future. Younger generations like Gen Z have not known a time without smartphones, and they are starting to enter the workforce—backed another generation that will be even more digital. The fact is that every company and brand needs a digital marketing strategy to survive in today’s world, so there are plenty of career opportunities. If you are interested in joining this exciting field, check out Simplilearn’s Digital Marketing Specialist Master’s Program, which provides comprehensive training on everything you need to know to thrive.

About the Author

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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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