Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing: 7 Things to Know

Weighing Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing

In the world of marketing, not all types are the same. We're weighing traditional marketing vs digital marketing in this post.

The traditional marketing vs digital marketing debate never ends.

Many marketers fall into whichever camp they have the most experience and skill. Business leaders often lean toward the kind of marketing they're most comfortable with. Sales teams want what will make it easier to find leads and convert them into paying customers.

Who's right?

The Truth About Traditional Marketing Vs Digital Marketing

The truth is that no one is right. Every business needs a marketing strategy that uses both traditional and digital marketing tactics.

In this article, we explore the traditional marketing vs digital marketing discussion by looking at key aspects of marketing. We highlight the benefits and drawbacks of each kind of marketing when it comes to cost, measurement, and more.

What Is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing doesn't directly rely on a computer to send, receive or share content.

Examples: flyers, TV and radio ads, magazine and newspaper ads, billboards, samples, posters, trade show booths, swag, storefront signs, jingles, and brochures.

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing includes websites, social media posts, blogs, Google AdWords, email, texts, mobile apps, and more.

Aspects of Marketing


With traditional marketing, it's easy to see the cost -- and it's usually significant. Invoices from the print shop, promo item company, or publisher make the dollars clear.

Digital marketing has none of those hard costs. So, it must be less expensive. Generally speaking, yes. But don't forget that there are hosting and other digital service fees. You also need ongoing technical security and performance support.

ROI Measurement

ROI (return on investment) might be more important the initial cost of a marketing tactic.

Measuring ROI in traditional marketing requires significant effort and passage of time. To know if a newspaper ad, billboard or T-shirt boost sales (online or in-store), you need to wait. There's no direct link between a marketing tactic and a person's ability to buy. So, it can be a while before a person buys your product. If you want to know what prompted the purchase, you have to ask them. If they mention the ad/billboard/T-shirt, then that sale can be connected to the marketing tactic.

With digital marketing, ROI can be seen in within minutes or hours. Plus, the customer doesn't need to answer surveys. With tools such as Google Analytics, you can see a customer's digital path from marketing to on-line sale.

Ability to Make Adjustments

Traditional marketing is unforgiving. If a magazine ad garners negative public opinion, you can't make it disappear. If you change the products or pricing listed in a brochure, you have to reprint and redistribute.

You can tweak digital marketing in minutes, often in real-time. Product and pricing changes on a website can be done at any time. You can pull an ill-advised Facebook ad minutes after the decision to take it down.


The flip side of being able to make quick changes is longevity. If a person with a branded T-shirt wears it all the time, your company can get months or years of promotion. A promotional email is gone the minute the user deletes it. And that can be seconds after receiving it.

Sensory Versatility

An aspect of the traditional marketing vs digital marketing debate with a clear winner is sensory versatility.

Digital marketing can only use sight and sound to connect with customers. Traditional marketing can reach people through all five senses. If you sell food, giving people a chance to taste your product boosts sales. If you sell clothing, letting people touch and try on items, leads to higher sales. If you sell perfume, allowing people to smell it will help them put money on the table.

Of course, many traditional marketing tactics have the same problem. You can't touch, smell or taste the pizza advertised on TV. Traditional and digital marketers do wonders to simulate the experience of eating pizza using only sights and sounds. But it generally doesn't close a sale as quickly as the aroma of hot pizza and a sample slice.

Reaching The Right Audience

Traditional marketing relies on best guesses. Research into your customers' locations can tell you the best area for a billboard. But after that, you have no idea who is looking at the billboard.

Digital marketing makes it easy to identify and target the right customers for your products or services. Data allows you to segment your audience. For example, you can identify people who show an online interest in cars. Sending emails only to those people to promote your car products, increases the lead to conversion ratio.


Personalizing digital marketing is easy. Adding a person's name and referencing their past purchases is simple programming. Web sites "remember" what people search for and can offer them special deals that their friends don't see.

Traditional marketing can be personalized too. When talking with a potential customer at a trade show or sample giveaway booth, you can talk about shared interests or say you like their shoes. In-person personalization can be quite effective because it's spontaneous and fluid.


Discoverability -- the ability for a potential customer to find your business -- is another aspect of the traditional marketing vs digital marketing debate with a clear winner. In this case, it's digital marketing.

When someone wants to find a plumber, new pair of shoes, remedy for itchy skin, or how to make cheesecake, they turn to the internet. SEO and other digital marketing tools help put a business' website at the top of the search results.

Traditional marketing relies on people remembering an ad, brochure or T-shirt. They then have to connect the message to their current need.

In Summary

Don't spend energy on the traditional marketing vs digital marketing debate. Instead, focus on the aspects of marketing. Create a marketing strategy that builds on your company's successes. Add in the best of traditional and digital marketing tactics to close any gaps.

That will give you a marketing strategy that uses both traditional and digital marketing tactics. A blended strategy can help give you the sales, revenue, and profit results you want.

What's the mix in your marketing strategy?

Let us know how you blend traditional and digital marketing by leaving a comment in the box below.