The Fundamental Difference Between Digital And Traditional Marketing

Digital marketing is a catch all term that only describes the most general aspects of entire process. Something to do with digital media? Social media? The internet? While most advertisers are not digital natives, they do spend billions of their client’s budgets on digital marketing. And when you look at their results, you see some very low numbers. Is this because they don’t know what they’re doing? Well, kind of.

The average advertiser cut their teeth on analog media: print, television, and radio. All the ads they placed were based on a simple premise; the captive audience had to consume the advertising just as the advertiser intended. Love it or hate it. There was no way to reach out thru the TV set and give the advertiser your 2 cents. In fact, in many cases, the ad itself was seen as a form of entertainment; with jingles and models and all sorts of story lines.

Traditional advertising knew it had your attention for a given window of 15 to 90 seconds, and so used that time to create a story that would instill a strong emotional response in you, the viewer. And it worked. Until the internet came along, that is, and suddenly consumers could block ads, open another window, or now switch apps. This is a main reason that the benchmarks in the digital marketing industry are so low, there’s a fundamental disconnect between message and medium.

Take a mainstream car commercial. It might cost $250,000 to make the car commercial. And then another $250,000 (easily) for a 30 second primetime TV spot. Given these numbers, it’s easy to see how a large automaker can easily spend $2 billion a year on advertising. Yet only a small percentage of that total advertising budget is spent on digital ads. And here in lies the issue: because the % of the total ad budget relegated to digital advertising is small (10% or less), they’ll just repurpose their TV ad on digital channels. Often you’ll see the TV commercial played in front of your favorite video on any popular video sharing site. And you’ll skip it.

Everyone will skip it. Not because it’s a bad commercial, but because it doesn’t match the reason you’re on the video sharing site in the first place. While the average advertiser will replay their TV spots on popular video sites, the users on that video sharing site are not a captive audience. They can skip the ad, open another tab, use ad blocking software, check their email, or open any app on their smartphone. They have a plethora of choices and don’t need to sit there silently consuming whatever the advertiser is showing.

And here in lies the difference between traditional and digital marketing; digital marketing is a one way form of communication, and digital marketing is a conversation. Every time a person clicks on your ad, they are choosing to communicate with you. Every time they comment, they are communicating with you. And every time they share your ad, they are communicating with you. And obviously, when then actually comment on your ad, they are clearly communicating with you.

This feedback loop is the core tenant behind good digital marketing and is either a scourge or saving grace for digital marketers. If the organization being advertised doesn’t listen to the response from their digital ads, then they’ll just lose money and social capital when no one likes their ads or products and no corrective measures are taken. Hearing a message that doesn’t connect, or worse is abrasive, makes everyone agitated and creates resentment.

But for brands that listen to this feedback, that welcome it, it’s a boon. They get validation from their audience, new product features, and indications on new products/services that might be profitable for the company. With enough repetition, any brand can find their market and the products and services which that market actually would spend their hard money on. And when an organization really hits the nail on the head, people respond by sharing the ad!

Imagine any other advertisement that is commented on and shared with friends. Yet, it happens all the time on Facebook ads. You’ll often see people tag their friends in the ad’s comments. Could you imagine anyone stopping their car, getting out, taking a picture of a billboard, and sending the image a friend whom they believe would benefit from the products/services advertised? Yet it happens all the time online.

This iterative feedback loop is the key tenant to modern marketing and the new economy. Businesses must have honest conversations with their customer base. And that means listening, not doing everything the customer suggests, but actually listening. It leads to powerful tools and insights every Modern Marketer should leverage in the New Economy; for instance, using pay-per-click ads as a market research tool, or even developing a product that fits the true use cases of your customer base, or perhaps most powerfully, finding product-market-fit so as to truly understand your market and why they actually buy.

As we’ll keep exploring, Modern Marketing is a process. And if you commit, listen, and pivot, it is guaranteed to work eventually. Something traditional marketing cannot promise.


Arash Amini

Founder of JetEngine Marketing

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