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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.

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