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Traditional Marketing V Digital Marketing. What's the difference?

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Traditional Marketing V Digital Marketing. What’s the difference?

One question we get asked a lot is what’s the difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing? Here Emily Horan, Marketing Assistant with Thrive Marketing, takes a closer look at traditional marketing, digital marketing, what defines each and the differences between the two.

In the modern world we live in, marketing styles are everchanging. A solid marketing strategy is key to a company’s success in promoting their services and products to their specific target audience. Whether you work in the marketing field, or have simply been drawn into purchasing an item because of an entertaining or engaging ad online or in store, you have more than likely witnessed marketing in action and at its best.

The two most popular marketing techniques used by marketers in recent years are known simply as ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’. But have you ever asked yourself, ‘what’s the difference between traditional and digital marketing?’ and not been able to answer your question? If so, keep reading…

Traditional Marketing

Let’s start with traditional marketing. We see this style of marketing all around us in the form of newspaper or magazine advertisements, television or radio ads, billboards, posters, and outdoor ads in many different spaces including buses, trains, lamp posts, seats and post boxes!

Due to the accessibility of this form of marketing, we see the four main categories – print, broadcast, direct mail and telephone - daily. A companies available marketing budget will usually have a huge part to play in the success of their traditional marketing strategy. However, the bright colours on a billboard, the enthusiastic voice of a radio advert, or a perfectly planned brochure posted through your letter box, can almost always speak for themselves without the company having to try too hard.

Digital Marketing

Now let’s talk about digital marketing. Younger generations may stereotypically be more familiar with this form of marketing, simply due to the fact they are growing up with these new ideas and styles of promotion, particularly ‘influencer marketing’.

Other major types of digital marketing include social media marketing, pay per click advertising, search engine optimization, content marketing, email marketing…this list goes on. In terms of the companies marketing budget, the digital marketing approach will usually work out cheaper than traditional printed adverts or commercials. The possibility to be able to see how your campaign is doing in real time, with the help of external sites like Google Analytics and integrated analytical tools on most social media platforms,, as well as being able to see comments and feedback online, is an advantage that traditional marketing simply does not have.

The Pros & Cons

Both types of marketing have their pros and cons. Deciding which works best for you and your business really comes down to who you are trying to target. The best advice is to get to know your target audience inside out and then choose the marketing mix of traditional and digital activities that suit your audience best.

In general, traditional marketing can work better if targeting the older generations, people who do not opt to use the internet, or if you are trying to raise general awareness about your product, service, brand or company. However it’s main downfalls will always be that there it’s difficult to analyse the success of your marketing efforts, and the campaign cannot and materials can’t be easily updated or changed.

On the other hand generally speaking if your goal is to target the younger Gen Z or millennial crowd, then digital marketing is probably the best way forward. However with it estimated that adults are exposed to somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 digital ads a day there is a possibility of being aimlessly scrolled past on social media platforms.

In Conclusion…

Both forms are an essential and an important part of the marketing mix.

There is no right or wrong approach to marketing, or a one size fits all approach, instead it all comes down to what works best for you, your business and your target audience.

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