Digital vs. Traditional Marketing: What, Why, and How Effective?

Digital vs. Traditional Marketing
Art by Nichole Anderson

What is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional Marketing is a broad category, incorporating many different forms of advertising and marketing.  Traditionally, pun intended, it can be categorized as print, broadcast, direct mail, billboards, or telephone.  

Traditional marketing was marketing until the development of the Internet in the 90’s.  Now, it’s a type of marketing. It has evolved over the past several decades but the fundamental aspects remain the same, it’s conventional and helps marketers reach a semi-targeted audience with various offline advertising and promotional tactics.

The first 80-years or so of our company’s existence, we were in the business of traditional magazine marketing.  We still are.  It is effective and our audience and advertisers, alike, find great value in it.  However, like everything else, we are continuing to evolve beyond ‘traditional’.

So, what is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is marketing…. Digitally.  Pretty self-explanatory, right?  Well, not really.  Digital marketing strategies and tactics change frequently because the digital landscape continues to change, evolve and broaden.  If you can dream it, someone is probably building it.

Is One More Expensive than the Other?

Not necessarily. Traditional advertising usually involves ad placements for a fee which corresponds to the size of the ad, the medium in which it’s published and the timing.  Digital marketing is basically any advertising done thru the Internet or an electronic device (mobile phone); anything from search engine marketing, podcasts, webinars,  social media marketing, email campaigns, PPC advertising, online sponsorships, etc.

Tried and True or New and Cool?

So, which is better? It’s tough to say.  Traditional marketing has been around longer, it’s been proven time and again. It’s very commonplace and we all encounter it as we go about our daily lives. Digital marketing is becoming increasingly popular because of the cultural and technological shifts around us.  As the world becomes more digital, so do marketing tactics.

Traditional marketing tactics, however, can really make a statement.  For example, a Superbowl Ad is a big deal!

Traditional advertisements are typically impactful and easier to understand.  They generally having some staying power.

However, most traditional marketing campaigns don’t allow for iterations or optimization. They can be tough to measure and direct interaction with the audience is often sparse. 

Digital marketing, on the other hand, is much easier to target, track and optimize.  However, it’s not without some downfalls as well.  Digital marketing depends on reliable technology and Internet connections – which isn’t always a given.  There are also privacy laws and ever-changing platform updates to account for.  Digital marketing takes some subject matter expertise to ensure that your getting the most of out of your investment.

What about a Combo-Platter?

A combo platter of both – is often the most effective campaign to build.  Use some traditional tactics to reach the market at large and build in some digital tactics to laser focus on specific initiatives or audiences.  The question isn’t traditional or digital… it’s how to ensure that all tactics in your plan work harmoniously to drive results.


Brandi Gangel is the VP of Audience Data & Marketing

Brandi leads the audience data, operations and insight efforts and teams for the company. She is the primary manager of the company’s audience intelligence assets and is responsible for audience data acquisition, organization, integration and activation. She also oversees the company’s digital strategies and execution. Read the rest of her bio here.

Contact Brandi at [email protected]

Babcox Media