Value of traditional media in a digital world

Last Updated: January 18, 2020

Traditional vs New Media Marketing

Marketers, Speakers, Authors, Consultants… almost everyone… tend to pit the “old” media (newspapers, radio & TV) vs “new” media (digital, social media, mobile). While there are still many pockets of resistance when it comes to understanding the power of digital, it’s quite obvious things are not like they used to be. Recent survey by Forbes indicates that more brands are voting with their dollars and shifting spending to digital. Is this the right thing to do? Does digital represent the future of marketing?

Hype is over – Show me the results!

Many companies have taken a blind leap of faith into the digital and social space, listening to many a consultant or speaker spouting off about engaging the audience, building a community, social is here to stay and so on. I believe we’re all getting past the point of saturation of these kind of messages. It’s time to look at what works and what doesn’t. Having and maintaing a Facebook page, for example, requires consistent time and effort. Is that effort producing any results? Would that time better be invested elsewhere…. like a highly targeted magazine ad?

Marketers are now starting to feel the pressure of “show me the results” and although it’s sometimes tough to show an ROI of a tweet, that same tweet should perform a function that ties closely to business objectives. WestJet, for example, uses their Twitter presence to inform, support and service customers. It’s a great component of the marketing mix because they are able to connect with REAL customers and provide REAL customer service resulting in REAL experiences offline. Can you say the same for your online presence?


Marketing assets vs marketing expenses

Usually when I get into the argument of digital vs traditional, this is the wildcard that wins. If you compare a traditional marketing spend in form of an ad… that ad has a very short lifespan. It only lives for as long as you see, read or hear it – therefore a traditional ad has what I would call a single-use lifespan. That being said, the reach (how much of the population will experience the ad) and frequency (how often they will experience the ad)  you can achieve with a well-developed traditional channel often surpasses what a social media ad campaign could accomplish. Essentially, the advertiser can reach a large number of the population and hit them repeatedly over the head with the same ad. Not the most efficient approach (see this video) but still produces results.

Digital, on the other hand has an unlimited shelf-life. It’s there as long as you take the time to maintain it. It’s also something customers can keep coming back to, so it’s no longer a single-use medium. I consider digital marketing to be an asset that increases in value over time. The more well-targeted members, likes, fans, subscribers or followers  you have, the more valuable it is. Once you’ve built up a community or following, you essentially have access to your best customers, product evangelists, focus groups and at the end of the day… buyers. However, things don’t happen that quickly in the digital space. To be effective, a business MUST invest the time to carefully plan who to connect with, which channels to use and how to use them.

My argument is that strategic investing of effort on digital marketing assets will yield FAR better results over a longer period of time then traditional media. Are you creating digital marketing assets or are you treating social, digital and mobile as Traditional Junior?


A place for traditional media

So where does a de-crowned champion go?  There is still certainly a place for traditional media, but no longer at the helm.  It’s now much more suitable in a supporting role. Still valuable because of its reach, brands can use traditional media to direct listeners, readers and viewers to their digital marketing assets like a blog or a Facebook page for example. You then have the task of making this asset “sticky” so newcomers will want to stay around and connect with your brand and each other (which is what an online community should do).

We’re already starting to see this happen with brands using TV or radio ads to drive traffic to their Facebook page. I think it would be a great idea to create a bounce-back from digital to traditional as well. You could do this by allowing your best customers (chosen from the online community) to voice a radio ad or participate in a TV commercial for example. Doritos created such an experience by asking their community to submit 30 second ads, best of which were then played at the SuperBowl. Are you using each component of your marketing mix to its potential? Could you create a more cohesive mix that lets you stay in touch with customers once they see an ad?


Ideally, one should orchestrate a marketing mix that uses the best channels, regardless of media, to connect and converse with their ideal customers. Brands should start thinking of their marketing presence like a mini eco system. What are the best ways to introduce newcomers into this system? What will make them stick around? Are you asking the right people to join you there?


Ernest // @ebarbaric
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Ernest Barbaric is a professional keynote speaker and social media consultant. He helps clients engage customers, reach new markets, launch products and transition into digital marketing. Sounds interesting? Get in touch today.