It would be easy to assert that there are few similarities between digital marketing and traditional marketing. On the surface, digital marketing could be characterized as being far more dynamic, pervasive, and multifaceted when compared to more traditional marketing approaches like print ads or TV commercials. One has but to log on to the Internet to appreciate the depth and breadth of the impact of digital marketing. Google can track a user’s searches and generate ads based on those searches which might appeal to the user’s preferences and needs. Social media like Facebook can likewise track a user’s interests and generate ads based on those searches. Tumblr offers interactive ads which are like games which are intended to engage the user’s interest while simultaneously presenting a good or service.
Many mobile apps for smartphones and other mobile devices often likewise contain such game-like ads (often within other games) that engage the user’s interest while generating advertising revenue for the parent company. The fun of such interactive ads tends to positively predispose the user (who through all this is a consumer, even if they don’t realize it) to the parent company. Of course, traditional marketing approaches – print ads, TV commercials, and billboards, just to name a few of the more high-profile approaches – do not offer such dynamic interaction, being rather static constructs. However creative these approaches might be, they do not lure the consumer in with the same subtlety of the interactive games. The consumer knows from the outset that they are a consumer, given how obvious the approaches are in terms of marketing. The consumer knows they are looking at advertising; it can’t be anything else.
However, the goal of digital marketing and traditional marketing are the same: to engage the user, make them aware of the good or service, and persuade them to purchase that good or service – that is, in a larger sense, generate good will for the parent company. Digital and traditional offer the marketing professional different ways of reaching out to different populations. The technologically-savvy – or, at least, those individuals who prefer the digital environment – must be approached using digital methods. The less technologically-savvy – or, at least, those individuals who tend to avoid the digital environment – must be approached using traditional methods. One might call this using the preferred “language” of the consumer; after all, a marketing professional must know their target group and appeal to them in a way which is meaningful and attractive to that group.
It is important to not lose sight of the purpose of marketing. Regardless of the method a professional uses, it must be attuned to the campaign it supports and the population it is reaching out to. It must use the right language and the right approach. Sometimes this may be traditional; sometimes it may be digital. Despite their differences, the shared goal of these two approaches unites them on the same front. Each has their appropriate applications, strengths, and weaknesses in that regard.