Traditional vs. Digital Marketing

Traditional vs. Digital Marketing: Which Is Most Effective?

A business has two options to achieve its marketing goals: traditional marketing, or digital marketing. Which method should your business use? Which one is more effective?

Let’s dive right in and find out.

What is Traditional Marketing?


Traditional marketing, often referred to as offline marketing, includes all marketing tactics that do not use the internet to reach prospective customers. They are rarely used today.

Before the development of the internet in the 1990s, the world relied almost exclusively on traditional marketing.

Strategies Used in Traditional Marketing

Strategies or tactics used in offline marketing include:

  • Print media (newspapers, magazines)
  • Outdoor signage/off-site signage (posters, flyers, billboards)
  • Broadcast (radio, television)
  • Telephone (SMS marketing, telemarketing)
  • Direct mail
  • Signs and window displays
  • Face-to-face meetings
  • Networking
  • Door-to-door sales
  • Referral marketing
  • Cold calling

Channels Used in Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing channels include:

  • Magazine and newspaper ads (print ads)
  • Radio and TV commercials
  • Texts and calls
  • Fliers, posters, billboards, taxi/bus wraps
  • Informational packets, coupons, and postcards

Pros and Cons of Traditional Marketing

The proliferation of digital marketing techniques almost makes traditional marketing seem irrelevant because of its limitations. However, it does have its advantages.


Reaching Older Demographics

Studies indicate that people aged 50 and above watch TV and read newspapers twice as much as people aged 21 to 34. As a business, you’ll want to use a traditional marketing technique to best reach this demographic.

Since older people are more into TV and print media, a TV commercial or newspaper ad targeting that generation would get you more leads than one targeting younger people across the same channels.

Conservative people also prefer using the same old and time-tested methods of communication to find information about the world or products and services they are interested in buying.

Builds a Local Audience Faster

Traditional marketing comes in handy when you must quickly build a massive local audience, especially where competition from larger businesses is high.

For example, using a TV ad or billboard to advertise a local brick-and-mortar business can be more fruitful than competing with a digital ad fronted by a large business in the same industry.

Repetitive and Not Easily Dismissed

Traditional advertising features repetitive ads that the audience cannot dismiss easily, even if they want to. For instance, the same ad can be placed on several billboards within the same locality. Similarly, one print ad can be published in various forms of print media.

The main advantage here is that your advert will get in front of the people who can access that traditional marketing channel. However, this is an intrusive way of running ads, and it doesn’t always sit well with the target audience.

Permanence of Marketing Material

Since most traditional marketing material is physical, such as print ads, catalogues, billboards, and posters, it can stay with the target audience longer.

A potential customer may hold onto marketing material they like for a long time, even after buying the product or service.

The use of physical copy in traditional marketing is also called hardcopy marketing. Unlike digital marketing material that is bogged down by its ephemeral nature, physical copy can be retained much longer, sometimes without the prospective customer knowing it.



Executing a traditional marketing strategy can quickly turn into a costly undertaking because you have to create a new ad for each new campaign.

Marketing material like postcards and catalogues can also be expensive to produce since you must print one for each target customer. While the price of producing one piece can be low, the total cost can quickly add up when you have to produce in bulk.


Traditional marketing campaigns can be very intrusive. The audience may not like that they can’t dismiss an advertisement, especially when it airs on radio and television.

Furthermore, not all the audience interacting with the ad may be interested in the product or service you are offering.

Traditional marketing is also a one-way communication system that favours businesses only, much to the frustration of the consumer.

Time to See Results

It takes a long time to realize results with traditional marketing methods, and it’s even harder to measure the outcomes of this type of marketing campaign.

Since the communication is one-way, customers can’t easily reach out to you, unlike in digital marketing campaigns where one-on-one communication is possible in real-time.

The main danger of one-way communication is that it’s hard to measure aspects and performance indices such as how many people saw the ad, the number that responded, and how many ended up buying the product or service.

Since there’s little-to-no interaction, the audience may feel unappreciated. That leads to lower conversion rates, revenue, and, consequently, reduced returns on investment.

Difficulty in Updating a Campaign

Once released into the market, updating marketing material is not easy in offline marketing. It’s hard to recall the released physical copy for editing.

If a new update arises in a product or service, you’ll have to develop completely new material for adverts to notify your target audience.

What is Digital Marketing?

Also called online marketing or internet marketing, digital marketing refers to all marketing that takes place online through the use of the internet on smartphones/smart devices and web-based platforms. 

Digital marketing is a newer form of marketing, having sprung up after the development of the internet in the 1990s. Despite its late entry into the marketing world, it is highly used by both small and large businesses to reach out to customers less intrusively. 

Strategies Used in Digital Marketing

Digital marketing strategies include:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Search engine marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Pay-per-click marketing
  • Online reputation management

Channels Used in Digital Marketing

Common digital marketing channels include:

  • Social media posts and ads
  • Clickable ads
  • Affiliate links
  • Website content
  • Email campaigns
  • Organic traffic from search engine optimization
  • Paid traffic from search engines
  • Inbound links

Pros and Cons of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is all-inclusive and involves launching simultaneous marketing efforts across different platforms. This makes it a powerful marketing method with many advantages, but it does have its flaws.


Lower Cost

In digital marketing, businesses do not have to necessarily set up and run retail shops in every location where their customers are found. The result here is they can avoid property maintenance and rent expenses.

There are also low inventory costs due to the lack of display stock. When a customer finds your online shop and orders a product, you can ship it to them directly from the factory or the warehouse.

The lower costs of online marketing are also attributable to reduced advertising expenses. When businesses rely on a cheap digital marketing channel like a blog using organic traffic, the savings can add up fast.

The lower cost of digital marketing comes in handy if you are on a tight marketing budget. However, you might have to wait longer to see the results.

Easy Data Tracking and Measurement of Results

Collecting, tracking, analyzing, and measuring results is easy in digital marketing. There’s no shortage of automation tools for collecting and analyzing data such as social media follows, email open rates, link clicks, and the cost of acquiring customers.

With analyzed results, you can see what works and what doesn’t work in your digital marketing campaigns. This makes it easy to know whether to invest more in a campaign or shift to a new one. 

Higher Conversions and ROI

Digital marketing allows for two-way conversations between customers and businesses in real-time, leading to more trust and credibility.

Real-time interactions lead to higher conversion rates as it takes less effort to convince a customer to buy your product.

Coupled with the lower digital marketing costs and higher conversion rates, the return on investment (ROI) is higher than with traditional marketing.

Suitability to Scattered or Global Audiences

It’s possible to reach more prospective customers through digital marketing than traditional marketing. Digital marketing campaigns can effectively reach both local and global audiences with the right geo-targeting.

Even when your target audience is scattered across various geographical locations, you can still reach them, provided you have done your research well and created the right buyer personas.


Ads Can be Blocked

Although digital ads aren’t as intrusive as their traditional counterparts, people can still block your ads if they don’t want to see them or if the ads slow down their use of web-based or mobile-based platforms.

A good example of blocked digital ads is when a desktop user installs an ad blocker.When an ad blocker is not available, users can choose to skip ads or hide them. Ads placed on a social media platform like Facebook are easy to avoid by selecting the “Hide this Ad” option.

Another digital platform where users can avoid viewing your ads is YouTube, where they can always skip an ad if they aren’t interested.

Making the best of ads in a digital marketing campaign calls for ensuring the ad appears in the right channels at the right time and in front of the right audience. But this isn’t always easy, even with all the ways of narrowing down to a specific audience.

Constant Evolution Might Phase Out Some Techniques

The digital market is constantly changing to embrace new techniques. A marketing technique that works today may become obsolete tomorrow when new tactics come up and take over the internet.

Marketers must always stay up to date and take advantage of every digital marketing trend before everyone else starts using it.

Less Permanence of Marketing Material

Unless a marketing piece like a video, meme, or blog post goes viral, most digital marketing media is temporary and can easily fade into memory. For instance, it’s pretty hard for something like a Facebook ad to go viral, especially if it is text-based.

Even the few items that do go viral only hold this position for a short time. They’re quickly forgotten when a new sensation sweeps the internet and diverts people’s attention.

Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing: Which is Most Effective?

The traditional vs. digital marketing debate doesn’t necessarily have to be about choosing one method over the other. The type of marketing your business chooses will depend on your goals, budget, and target audience.

You can use digital marketing when you want quicker results with higher ROI and a greater market reach. A business that wants to reach out to a more local audience or older demographic can use traditional marketing instead.

Both digital and traditional marketing can be complementary. Traditional marketing is still very relevant and fruitful, which is why it can’t entirely be replaced by digital marketing.

However, digital marketing is more effective than traditional marketing on a larger scale. Your business can run digital marketing campaigns at lower costs and realize quicker results and higher returns on investment.