It might sound like a provocative question, but it's a real question I was asked once at a speaking appearance. The hard part about answering such a question is that it's a matter of perspective. Digital marketing is certainly on the rise, but it depends on your company whether that means that traditional marketing is dead, merely sick, or A-OK. Like any good consultant, I know it is annoying to answer a question like this as "It depends" but you're a lot better off knowing how to think about this for your own business than hearing some apocalyptic pronouncement about marketing in general. None of us does marketing in general.

So, ask yourself what kind of marketer you are.

If you have never been able to to do a good job with traditional marketing, then of course it is dead, but that had nothing to do with the Internet. It was always dead to you. If you are a B2B company whose marketing consisted of what brochure to bring to the trade show, it's safe to declare traditional marketing dead, because the effective and affordable choices online dwarf whatever you could do elsewhere.

Likewise, if you are a local small business whose big decision in marketing was once "half-page or full page" when approached by your Yellow Pages rep, traditional marketing was already dead to you, even if you might not have known it. I mean, it's not like you sat around pondering your marketing--you probably didn't give it much thought, which is exactly how much attention it deserved. Now, you are probably thinking about marketing a lot more because digital marketing offers affordable choices that might prove effective.

For these kinds of companies, it's not so much that traditional marketing is dead as it is that marketing itself is now alive. Marketing was dead to them because it offered few choices that allowed success, while digital marketing, if anything, offers too many choices.

But what if you are a company for whom traditional marketing worked very well? Is it dead now?

Hardly. Toyota and Geico would be idiots to eliminate traditional marketing. It clearly works, even today. That's not to say that they shouldn't devote part of their huge marketing budgets to digital efforts, possibly even substantial amounts. But TV and radio, outdoor, coupons, and plenty of other traditional techniques continue to work (almost) as well as ever. It's hyperbole to say that these things have stopped working and that traditional marketing is dead.

However, it's not an exaggeration to say that some marketers have found these older techniques to be less effective than they once were, as people block and pay less attention to intrusive messages. It's not an overstatement to say that digital techniques can sometimes improve campaign results at a fraction of the traditional price. And it's also smart to realize that younger consumers spend far less time with the mainstream media that underpins traditional marketing than their older counterparts do.

So, for some companies, traditional marketing was always dead (or at least very sick). For others, it might not remain the be-all and end-all that it once was, but it's still important. It's important to remember who you are when thinking through your marketing mix.

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Originally posted on Biznology

January 24, 2015

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Great read Mike :)

I would of though online marketing would of made a big difference to offline, however with other businesses I have recently I've supplemented online with offline (a little print and local radio) and whilst I miss the normal tracking data etc I enjoy with online, they have proven profitable so I think a mix of everything, tracked as much as you can, is still a good strategy :)

I definitely think so. Most of the seo strategies from 2 or 3 years ago doesnt work. Worst, they could affect your site negatively. Its the quality not the quantity of backlinks that matters.

“But TV and radio, outdoor, coupons, and plenty of other traditional techniques continue to work (almost) as well as ever.”

I have a theory that traditional advertising is working just as well as before the digital revolution, is because we are consistently bombarded by digital marketing messages. From the time we wake up we stare at phones and computer screens and are hit with so many messages that we tend to fade things out of focus. A radio campaign or outdoor billboard is a different type of medium that can help to break through the digital clutter we deal with on a daily basis.

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