Traditional Marketing and Digital Marketing are the Same?

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Walk outside or in your own office and ask someone to tell you the difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing. The chances are that the general response will be that traditional marketing is not digital marketing and that digital marketing is online marketing. Huh? The reality is, there is no difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing. Yes, you read that correctly. There is no difference between the two types of marketing. Before you start leaving negative comments, please read on.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. Before we can create, communicate, and exchange offerings that bring value to customers, we need to “create” a customer. Thus, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, profoundly stated, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Therefore, marketing (and innovation) aims to “create” a customer by creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for the customer. The only difference between the two marketing terms is the medium. That is, digital is a medium. But what is digital?

Digital Defined and Advantages

hand drawn image of postBud Caddell, a digital strategist, defines digital as “a participatory layer of all media that allows users to self-select their own experiences, and affords marketers the ability to bridge media, gain feedback, iterate their message and collect relationships.” In other words, digital offers marketers a way to understand their customers’ behavior while giving customers a path to exploring and discovering content they engage with and like.

Differentiating traditional marketing and digital marketing is no different from print marketing, radio marketing, or television marketing, all of which are mediums that fall under the marketing umbrella. Rob Stokes, an author of eMarketing, identifies two fundamental ways of digital marketing: audience segmentation and measurability.

Audience Segmentation

With digital marketing, audiences can be precisely segmented and sometimes in real-time. Segmentation includes a customer’s geolocation, browsing behavior, age, gender, likes (affinity group, found in google’s analytics platform), and the type of device they use. These are just a few ways audiences can be segmented using digital platforms.  


With digital, a customer is easily measured. That is, their digital journey includes what they watch, which web pages they visit, their interaction, and often, their sentiments toward products and brands. Brands can measure the success of a campaign and determine which ones performed better than others. Try gathering this data from a customer browsing a print magazine.

The Takeaway

The same principles for offline (traditional) marketing apply to digital marketing. That is, businesses need to create customers by offering a value exchange of offerings. The four P’s of marketing, products, price, placement (distribution), and promotion apply to digital as it does to traditional. The difference is that digital is faster and easier to gather and analyze customer data and implement new strategies and campaigns. The result is the development of new content, products, or processes that helps create value for your customer and, in turn, value for your business through customer retention and profits.


To improve your customer engagement strategies, “Ask not how you can sell, but how you can help.”
-Kellogg School of Management


Mass Marketing: Marketing from the Past

If you do not have a customer engagement marketing strategy, you miss out on opportunities to build your brand and grow your business. Businesses engaging their customers are also involved in customer relationship management. In other words, they are improving their brands effectively and quicker by managing their relationships with customers. Companies that operate under the old way of marketing are not effective at managing customer relationships and thus miss the mark in gaining valuable custom insights through customer engagement.

The way companies marketed in the past was a one size fits all strategy. The old way included mass marketing brands to broad segments of consumers. It’s sort of like casting a wide net into the vast ocean, hoping to catch a few fish, and as we have all heard by now, “hope is not a strategy.” At least I “hope” you have heard that quote.

A mass marketing approach created challenges for brands. Marketers had limited channels for customer involvement, if any, at all. Brands had little interest in customer involvement. Direct customer communication was practically non-existent, and marketers missed opportunities to profoundly and intimately engage with their customers’ needs and wants. Also, non-existent with the old marketing method was collecting any customer data or sentiment they had toward a brand and its products. Firms could not capture those insights that could lead to improved customer service or new product ideas, like Cake pops and Pumpkin Spice latte products that consumers created on Starbucks customer engagement platforms

Customer Engagement Marketing

The internet and mobile devices gave rise to a new marketing paradigm known as customer engagement marketing. Customer engagement marketing nurtures direct and continuous customer involvement in shaping brand conversations, experiences, and community. Customer engagement marketing leads to brands creating meaningful brand stories to make the brand a significant part of consumers’ conversation and life. A great example of customer-engagement marketing is the Dove brand

Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign targets women of all ethnicities and allows them to directly engage via Dove’s social media pages. Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign, a video depicting how women view themselves and how others see them, launched in 2013 and has received almost 69-million views on their YouTube channel. The campaign video has generated conversations from thousands of consumers that range from positive to negative responses. By allowing consumers a platform to voice their opinions through their social media channels, Dove can gain valuable insights about their consumers and provide a medium for consumers to engage with the brand. Dove’s customer engaged marketing makes the brand a meaningful part of the consumers’ conversation and lives.

What Drives Customer Engagement Marketing?

Ever since Tim Burns Lee created the first graphical web browser in 1991, businesses began populating the internet with their webpages. As consumers started to shop online, and social media took root, consumers became better informed about brands. They were more connected and empowered as consumers because they had a platform to voice their likes, dislikes, and opinions about brand products. Social media took away the power of marketing from brands and handed it to consumers. In turn, brands are engaging customers in ways that help forge and share their brand experiences.

Because consumers are more empowered than before, brands need to create market offerings and messages that engage consumers and not interrupt them as they once did with the mass marketing approach. Brands need to listen to customer sentiment and provide feedback as needed. Companies can do so through various customer engagement platforms, such as:

  • Social media sites: LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Microblogs: Twitter and Instagram
  • Video: Youtube
  • Blogs: Your company blog
  • Mobile apps: Most social brands have apps that allow customer-engagement
  • Consumer-generated review systems: Yelp

All of these platforms help brands entice customer engagement on a personal, interactive level.

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The Key to Customer Engagement Marketing

There is no magic formula for customer-engagement marketing. The key is to find ways to enter target consumers’ conversations with engaging and relevant brand messages. Merely posting a random, funny video, creating a social media page, and not staying consistent with posts, or hosting a blog isn’t enough. Marketing managers need to understand their customers and the high target value social sites where their customers congregate.

Offer Real Value

An excellent place to start is to offer customers real value. Rather than providing only product information, create meaningful content that adds value to your customer’s life. For content to be valuable, the brand needs to connect to that content legitimately. Looking back at the Dove Real Life Sketches example, the brand can legitimately connect with the content. Dove produces beauty products, and women buy those products, and the campaign speaks to women about their perception of beauty.

Inspire People

Customers want real information and education about brands, but they also wish to be inspired. Airbnb’s Cheers to Ten Years of Hosting video inspires its customers while providing informational content. 

Provide Entertainment Value

A brand can inform and inspire, but it also needs to entertain. The “stickiness” of a brand’s engagement message comes from its entertainment value. The stronger the entertainment value, the more your customer will remember and get engaged. Take a look at Always’ inspiring, yet entertainment video for their #likeagirl campaign. They deliver a powerful message that informs, educates, inspires, and entertains.

Be Consistent

You can have the best intentions as a brand, but if you are not consistent in delivering your message, your customers will not engage with your brand. Develop a brand engagement calendar that includes content posting days and times, and your company’s communication channels to engage customers.


Remember, not everyone wants to engage deeply or regularly with every brand. Successful customer engagement marketing means making relevant and genuine contributions to target consumers’ lives and interactions. For customers that want to engage, you will gain valuable insights. For customers who do not wish to engage with your brand, your content will reinforce your brand story and message.