Zigging When They Zag: The Potential of Traditional Marketing Communication

The digital environment is quite cluttered these days and becoming more so. Consumers benefit from access to a massive amount of information literally available at their fingertips—and often being pushed to them by marketers yelling “pick me, me, me.” But with so much activity in the digital environment, sometimes it takes a different approach to stand out:

recognizing the value in capturing attention through traditional, non-digital, communication channels.

Kathy Bennett is CEO and founder of Bennett Packaging, a company with a focus on the physical. “Non-digital approaches to marketing are becoming more and more popular, especially after the pandemic,” Bennett says. “I think this is because people started to become more concerned with having a personal feel and interaction with the people they do business with.” In addition, she notes, “there is still a large number of people who aren’t as tech-savvy and still want an in-person touch rather than a simple email or text.”

Not taking the right approach, depending on your audience, “can make or break your business dealings with them,” Bennett says. As they continue to look for cost effective ways to connect with consumers and stand out, many marketers are turning back to the traditional.

Others have never turned their backs on the traditional.

Traditional Advertising Still Top of Mind

A recent article in Harvard Business Review highlights this trend, pointing to data from August 2021 and February 2022 indicating that “marketers predicted that traditional advertising spending would increase by 1.4% and 2.9%, respectively.”

Consumer-facing, or business-to-consumer (B2C) companies are leading the trend they say—“predicting the largest increase in traditional advertising spending (+10.2%), followed by B2C product companies (+4.9%).” Interestingly, they report, even “companies that earn 100% of their sales through the internet are leading this inflection.” They’re predicting an 11.7% increase in spending on traditional advertising.

One of the primary drivers is a desire to break free from what has become a very cluttered digital environment. In addition, though, marketers also remain focused on the unique needs and preferences of their target audiences.

Audience Matters

Audience should obviously be a top consideration when selecting marketing channels. And, as Bennett suggests, understanding how and where your audience is likely to engage with marketing messages is important.

Joe Karasin, head of growth at CircleIt, a company that offers its customers the opportunity to interact digitally—or traditionally—with loved ones, agrees and has plans to try some traditional communication strategies during the fourth quarter of 2022 and first quarter of 2023. He’s planning to take out billboards and explore other out-of-home (OOH) advertising and is also looing into placing advertisements in non-digital publications such as newsletters at healthcare centers.

“Our technology appeals to seniors and Baby Boomers who place a lot of trust in non-digital mediums, so it is important to us to be present where they are,” he says.

Staying With the Tried and True

While the digital age has resulted in a plethora of diversified media platforms giving marketers ample options to be very precise in targeting messages to specific audiences, sometimes a broader brush makes sense.

Brian Adcock is the CEO of Nugenix, a men’s health and wellness brand that sells dietary supplements direct to consumers and through major retail chains. “Our brand still uses classic cable and radio because, after a decade of streaming platform innovation, cable has become the simpler choice for viewers that don’t want to manage a bunch of different accounts,” Adcock says. “Offline advertisements like billboards, radio, and cable may not be as precise in targeting, but they carry a real-world authenticity that online ads can’t match.”

“People are also still highly invested in their local communities, which means that they still read newspapers and like seeing businesspeople being active and out in the community,” Bennett says. While it may not be as convenient as digital marketing, it is still definitely effective, she says.

Back to the Mailbox

Tony Gilbert is communications officer with Masonic Medical Research Institute (MMRI), a non-profit medical research institute. “Many people respond positively to good old-fashioned paper letters,” says Gilbert. “It’s nice to receive something you can feel and touch in your hand.” This, he says, “stands out compared to the sea of emails and electronic advertisements we all see every day.” MMRI, says Gilbert, sends “appeal” letter to donors and the philanthropy community, with updates about lab news and science features.

While MMRI hasn’t given up on internet and email marketing which is part of their marketing mix, they find that “analog” communications gets noticed and generates results.

Connecting With People in Person

With its impact on “social distancing” and the resulting isolation that impacted many, the pandemic has perhaps, counter-intuitively, driven a desire for more in-person, human-to-human interactions. For MMRI these interactions are an important way to connect with constituents and community members.

Gilbert points to a recent event—Giving Day—which was held on September 20, sponsored by Mohawk Valley Gives.

The Personal Touch

Clicksuasion Labs is a marketing agency that, as the name suggests, is adept in digital marketing. But the firm doesn’t bury its head in the sand when it comes to staying continually attuned to what works and what may be waning in terms of effectiveness.

“One of the first steps we take when meeting a new or potential client is to send a handwritten note,” says Alexis Taylor, associate marketing consultant with Clicksuasion. “We send personalized cards to our clients and potential clients for everything from ‘get well soon’ to ‘congratulations on your new office location’,” she says. The firm also frequently sends personalized gifts to clients—one of their favorite go-to choices is a personalized Yeti tumbler.


Just because a new option emerges, doesn’t mean that an old one necessarily goes away. Today’s communication options for marketers could be likened to the evolution of entertainment from live plays to radio, television, movies, and now digital streaming. Live plays haven’t gone away. Neither have print ads, traditional direct mail, billboards and other “historical” advertising channels.

The truth is that these traditional channels will likely never entirely fade away. Instead they will continue to remain a viable consideration for marketers of all kinds.

Note: This article first appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Information Today.


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