Traditional marketing vs digital marketing

4 minute read
Traditional marketing vs digital marketing

How does traditional marketing compare to digital marketing? Both have a role and both have unique capabilities. We’ll explore those here.

What’s the difference?

At the core, traditional marketing takes place offline, while digital marketing happens through digital channels (i.e. online).

That being said, there is no absolute answer as to which type is best. It truly depends. While digital marketing is likely the best option for most businesses, there are businesses that will be more successful with traditional marketing based on the audience they’re trying to reach. Each type truly serves different purposes.

What is traditional marketing?

Essentially, traditional marketing involves methods that do not use the internet. These include:

  • Newspaper or magazine ads
  • Direct mail, including postcards, coupons, etc.
  • TV or radio commercials
  • Billboards
  • Fliers
  • Telephone calls

Who prefers traditional marketing?

For some businesses, their target audience may prefer traditional methods. For example, if you’re trying to reach an older population or a large local audience (especially in a city).


  • TV and radio advertisements can be played repeatedly without being skipped, while digital advertisements can be skipped fairly easily.


  • Cost of traditional marketing can be significant depending on the method being use. For example, printing postcards to send out even just locally can get expensive.
  • Traditional marketing methods also can take weeks or months to yield results and data. You can’t tell when someone has read your newspaper ad unless they decide to follow up. Even then, you won’t necessarily know if the ad had spurred that action (without some creative work in the ad itself).
  • The biggest challenge with traditional marketing? There’s no guarantee that the recipients will be interested in your business or what you have to offer. In fact, the average rate of return on direct mail campaigns is generally 0.5 percent to 2 percent. That would mean that in a campaign involving 100 pieces of mail, only two to four people can be expected to respond and half that number to make a purchase.

Let’s compare traditional marketing to digital marketing.

What is digital marketing?

On the flip side, digital marketing involves methods that rely on the use of the internet and smartphones. These include:

Why digital marketing is so popular

Digital marketing is popular because of how the internet and mobile devices are so widely and frequently used. There are nearly 5 billion active internet users globally, and about 4.7 billion active social media users. Therefore, the potential reach of your digital marketing is quite high.


Due to technological advancements, digital tactics and strategies are constantly evolving. But in general, the benefits of digital marketing include:

  • Easy-to-track analytics (with instant feedback and results)
  • Lower cost (considering an email campaign versus a direct mail or billboard campaign)
  • Greater potential reach of both global and scattered audiences (as well as the ability to target)
  • Ability to automatically capture lead information

Keep in mind, however, that some internet users do use ad blockers and others pay a premium price to avoid ads on such services as Spotify, Hulu and so on. You’ll also want to stay on top of emerging digital tactics with regular evaluations and re-evaluations so that your efforts don’t become irrelevant.


  • Security and privacy issues one of the number one concerns is around protecting consumer data. Unfortunately there continue to be situations where troves of consumer data is leaked.
  • Reliance on technology whether it’s slow page loading, Internet unavailability or other issues. Digital marketing is plagued by technology issues.
  • Fraud through phishing and SMiShing attacks is much easier to perpetuate with digital marketing.
  • It’s also very easy for competitors to copy your digital marketing strategy.

In conclusion

When deciding on the best method of marketing to pursue, consider your business goals and budget. And keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be all one or the other. Most successful strategies mix different methods from both types.

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