Goodbye to Traditional Marketing? Can’t We All Just Get Along?

In the old, old days, cavepeople drew pictures on the sides of their caves to share information. Eventually the printing press was invented and the world of communication changed significantly–“Extra, extra read all about it” became the cry as stories broke and consumers on street corners learned the news. From there, of course, radio emerged, then TV and–ultimately–the World Wide Web. The rest, as they tend to say, is history.

But, with the exception perhaps of the cave drawings, as each new communication methodology emerged, the others didn’t go away as was often predicted. Instead, those wishing to communicate were simply provided with another option.

Still, it seems like daily we are bombarded with news about the “demise” of the newspaper, the “demise” of television, the “demise” of traditional advertising. Who knows? These doomsayers may, eventually, be accurate in their predictions. But, in the meantime, despite these dire prognostications we see evidence to the contrary.

As Pew recently reported, while most other categories of television viewing were on a decline, viewing of sports and news has seen a marked increase since 2005. And, despite many months of evidence supporting the notion that print is on a death-spiral decline, some publications continue to hold their ground, often by finding ways to leverage print along with online content–and ads.

In some markets, ads apparently still resonate. My most recent copy of Vogue, for instance, arrived in my snail-mailbox recently  looking like the old Sears Roebuck catalogs of yesteryear–it was massive! What caused it to be so massive were the ads–lots of them. And, while I was shocked by the obvious number of advertisers that find value in continuing to share their messages through Vogue, after some reflection I decided that other readers, like me, must actually review the ads to find ideas on fashion, makeup,  and other trends–and then, of course, after review they actually purchase these products.

There is no doubt that the landscape is changing, particularly for small businesses. Advertising is much less important to these businesses, while PR and social media is increasingly important.  Advertising is definitely becoming less important for businesses, I believe, although there are still areas in which it is relevant. Pew’s research, for instance, indicates that the vast majority of Americans still watch the evening news–that means that small businesses can, and should be, considering advertising during the local news if they’re targeting a local market. In addition, other forms of advertising– e.g. billboards, direct mail, etc., can still have relevance depending on the audience and the marketers’ goals.

Online marketing is clearly important and holds benefits for marketers because of its relatively low cost and ease of entry.  However, the fact that this environment is becoming increasingly “cluttered” means that, in some cases, traditional marketing may be assuming more importance for advertisers. I wrote a book recently on the topic – Direct Marketing in the Digital Age – exploring how traditional direct mail is seeing a resurgence because of some of the issues related to reaching audiences online.

Advertising through any of the available communication outlets–and they are growing exponentially!–can be effective, but only if advertisers have a very clear understanding of who their target audience is and how they seek and consume information about the type of product/service being advertised. This has always been true and it remains true today. The bottom line: there is room for everyone.

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