African American business man and woman looking at digital tablet
Audio Version — 5:21

Traditional and Digital Marketing are the Same

Here’s an activity to try. The next time you are in the office or socializing with friends, ask them to explain the difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing. Chances are, you will be at the receiving end of either a confused or blank stare. Then, follows either the utterance, “I do not know,” or, more likely, your co-workers or friends try to fumble through an explanation. Side note: this activity will not work effectively on an actual digital marketer or marketing professional in general.

The reality is, there is no difference between the two types of marketing. Yes, you read that correctly. There is no difference between the two types of marketing. Before you start murmuring ill-will toward me under your breath, 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 — traditional and digital — is the channels used to communicate, deliver, and exchange a firm’s offerings and value to the customer.

What are digital marketing channels? More specifically, what is the definition of digital, and what are the advantages of digital marketing channels over traditional marketing channels?

Digital Marketing Channels Defined and Its Advantages

marketing metrics - illustration of business man looking at analytics dashboardBud Caddell, a digital strategist, defines digital and its advantages for marketers 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.

Traditional marketing and digital marketing are no different from print, radio, or television marketing, all of which are communication channels under the marketing umbrella. Rob Stokes, an author of eMarketing, identifies two fundamental ways that differentiate digital marketing from traditional marketing. 

The two fundamental differences are audience segmentation and measurability, giving digital marketing channels an attractive advantage over traditional marketing channels.

Audience Segmentation

Digital marketing channels allow marketers to precisely and frequently segment audiences in real-time. What this means for marketers using digital media is that they can make changes to their marketing campaigns and strategies almost instantaneously.

Traditional marketing channels would take much longer, if it all, to rival the speed or precise accuracy of digital marketing. Additionally, the cost of targeting and measuring traditional media channels’ effectiveness is expensive compared to its digital counterpart.

Several ways that marketers segment with digital channels include customers:

Measurability

Digital channels also allow marketers to measure a customer’s digital journey, which includes:

  • What they watch. 
  • Which web pages they visit.
  • Their interaction. 
  • Their sentiments toward products and brands. 

Brands can measure the success of a campaign and determine which ones performed better than others much quicker and at a fraction of the cost than traditional marketing channels. 

Summary

Marketing is “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.” Firms can achieve communicating their value and offerings through either traditional or digital marketing channels. Thus the two types of marketing are the same in terms of a marketings definition.

However, marketing through digital channels gives the marketer an advantage of accuracy, speed, and reduced costs over its relative, traditional media. The faster pace and accuracy allow marketers to quickly make changes in their strategy, further serving customers more accurately and at an affordable cost. Hence, the difference between the two  types of marketing.

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