(Note: this post was updated on 12/20/22; six more years have passed since we wrote this post, and we still believe that there are still many times and reasons when advertisers and marketers should consider advertising tactics that aren’t digital, and therefore, are pre-internet, or traditional. Read our recent blog post on the aforementioned topic.
As with all national days and unique holidays celebrated via social media, I’m going to take the news that “today marks the 25th anniversary of general public access to the internet” with a grain of salt; however, it’s fitting that I learned of it via Twitter.
I didn’t grow up as a “digital” marketeer. I’m proud and glad to date myself. I broke my marketing teeth in the world of traditional advertising and public relations. Think “Mad Men” vs. Mark Zuckerberg. While my very first marketing-related position was at a national market research supplier, Market Facts, where I oversaw or was involved in conducting primary research for large consumer brands like Stop & Shop and Gillette, all subsequent positions have been more marcom (marketing and communications) focused.
My earliest marcom roles were at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MA and Bay State Federal Bank — back in the early 1990’s through early 2000’s — when companies were just dipping their toes in the promised power of the internet. Companies felt compelled to launch and maintain Web sites and set up e-mail addresses at which they could be contacted, but I don’t believe marketing professionals, or any professionals for that matter, appreciated then the extensive impact the internet would have on traditional marketing, the role of a marketeer, or life, in general, as we knew it.
I have to digress and take my fellow marketeers down memory lane for just one minute. Remember the days when advertising options consisted only of print, radio, network T.V., and vehicles like billboard and transit? And the days of needing to mail camera-ready ads aka slicks to media for publication? Yes, those days when e-mail blasts, social media influencers, pay-per-click and banner ads, and vlogging and blogging didn’t exist?
I’m guessing the majority of my readers will agree that there are pro’s and con’s to a world ruled by the internet. Below are what I believe to be the most critical impacts of the introduction of the “World-wide Web” (for those who don’t remember or know that’s the origin of “www.”). Given my profession, I focused on those that affect marketeers, but obviously, there’s been immeasurable impact on the day-to-day lives of all human beings.
- It’s easy to find like-minded people or individuals facing similar challenges or opportunities, and to hold a conversation with them.
- The opportunities to target individuals who enjoy certain hobbies and interests, belong to certain demographic groups, and/or who serve in particular business roles seem endless and are abundant.
- Smaller organizations without deep marketing pockets can play the advertising game as well as, and sometimes even better, than larger advertisers via integrated online campaigns that are much less costly to execute and run (partly because of low or no production costs associated with online ads vs. the higher production costs often associated with print or broadcast advertising).
- You can use the internet to research or locate just about anything or anybody.
- Advertising $ have become quite diluted. The size of average marketing budgets has held steady and marketing monies now need to be spread across numerous media since target audiences are no longer listening to a limited number of radio or TV stations or reading a limited number of print publications. Per my Getting More Bang For Your Marketing Buck post, this means an advertiser’s marketing spend may not be as impactful, making it harder to achieve wished-for awareness or sales objectives associated with an ad campaign.
- Marketeers may be pressured by external and internal clients to put the bulk of their time, energy, or budgets into online advertising and communications, such as social media or pay-per-click ads, when that may not be the most-effective vehicle for reaching a client’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer targets.
- Maintaining an online presence on social media, blogs, vlogs, etc. is time-consuming, and marketing staffs may not be large enough to support the appropriate time expenditure on both traditional and digital marcom activities.
- It’s become almost impossible for public relations (PR) professionals to know who and how to outreach to regarding covering certain topics and stories. Some publications employ different staff to handle their online vs. print communications and won’t share e-mail contact information. Instead, they encourage you to communicate with staff online. This evokes another “con”– it’s hard to have a private conversation these days as some social media users and bloggers don’t offer the capability for you to e-mail or message them, thereby forcing you to share your message with both them and the rest of the world.
Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing
What’s the key takeaway? As you set budgets, develop marketing plans, and hire staff for your next fiscal year, give a lot of hard thought to the target audiences for your products and services — not only where do your target audiences hang out, physically and virtually, but when and how do they best like to be communicated with? For example, they may be hanging out on LinkedIn because they’re conducting a job search or trying to do business development there, so that may not be the best time and place to bombard them with an ad about your business services. You and they might be better served by a more traditional marketing activity — a direct mail piece delivered to your targets’ physical office mailbox.
I’m always available to discuss any and all of the above and look forward to your thoughts. Depending on your feelings regarding the internet, take this 25-year celebration as motive to post and tweet away, or to take a walk outside and say “hello” to your neighbor in-person.