Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing

December 3, 2021


The practice of marketing has taken several trips around the sun by this point in time.

Some even argue that as long as buying and trading goods or services has existed, marketing has too. The differentiation comes in the way humanity has evolved in using their tools and resources to bring about desired results. Those tools can lean in a few directions. One way they take shape is with traditional marketing and the other is in the digital space.


What is Marketing?

To fully understand the difference between traditional and digital marketing, it’s important to have a baseline knowledge of the overarching concept of marketing itself.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as:

“The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

In other words, marketing is the exchange of value between two parties.


Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing

Traditional marketing is the widespread distribution of marketing materials and advertisements. We interact with these efforts daily out in the world. Direct mail campaigns, radio and television commercials, and billboards are only a few of the tactics traditional marketing uses.

Similarly, digital marketing is the exchange of value between two parties, but through online media channels. It uses a different means to an end.

We also interact with digital marketing efforts daily, but in very different ways. Often, we interact in much more personalized ways than the common commercial or billboard. The marketing we interact with online is targeted and designed to meet our interests.

4 major differences between traditional marketing and digital marketing:

1. Traditional marketing is commonly characterized as one-way communication which differs from the two-way engagement of digital marketing.

2. Digital marketing campaigns are ongoing and constantly evolving while traditional marketing has distinct beginnings and ends to its campaigns.

3. The static, broad, and untimely messaging of traditional marketing is countered by the dynamic, personalized, and timely messaging digital marketing offers.

4. While digital marketing efforts are able to be measured for effectiveness, traditional marketing is not, due to the difficulty in targeting the right audience.

Traditional marketing efforts are not only difficult to measure and hard to target, but more expensive than most budgets allow for. The flashy billboard that gets a few seconds of exposure time, can cost an organization upwards of $15,000 a month.

For many, traditional marketing is a worthwhile investment, but smaller organizations need less risky options that closely align with their primary goals and objectives.

Digital marketing offers organizations better, measurable results without exasperating already stretched budgets.

Ideally, a combination of both traditional and digital marketing tactics would offer the most robust approach, but an organization’s goals and available resources should be the determining factors for what to prioritize.

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