What’s the difference between digital and traditional marketing?

With almost 80% of South Africans going online on a regular basis, the country has an extremely fast-growing digital population. When travelling in taxis, eyes are on phones rather than looking out the window. When waiting in queues, we prefer to scroll our social media feeds than read printed ads and promotional posters on walls. 

Digital technologies have had a profound impact on marketing, transforming the way businesses reach and engage with their customers. Companies that are not marketing themselves online are missing out on valuable opportunities to grow and expand. 

Digital marketing vs traditional marketing

Digital marketing is a general term for all the methods that a company uses to market their products or services online. Digital marketing channels include websites, search engines, social media platforms, email, mobile apps and electronic display advertising. 

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, takes place offline with channels comprising print media (newspapers and magazines), broadcast media (television and radio), billboards and direct mail.

While traditional marketing produces ads that are seen by everyone in a particular geographical area, digital marketing allows companies to target specific people within a specific location. For example, advertising campaigns can be directed at people who live near car mechanics. Even certain types of people within a larger group, such as those who own dogs or play amateur rugby, can be targeted in a digital marketing campaign. 

Why is digital marketing more successful than traditional marketing?

In traditional marketing, businesses can’t track their audience in real-time. Marketing teams have no way of knowing who saw their ad or what people thought of it afterwards – there is no analytics involved at all. 

In contrast, digital marketers have access to information about their audience on an ongoing basis. This allows them to make adjustments based on what they see is working or not. To do this, digital marketing strategies incorporate search engine optimisation (SEO) and performance tracking. Using data analytics, marketing teams can ensure that websites show up higher in the search results on Google, meaning they have the potential to grow the audience even further. 

Traditional advertising tends to be broad-based. This makes it harder for companies to reach their ideal customers because they’re not able to target specific groups or individuals. Although still a powerful tool, most companies are moving away from traditional marketing methods in favour of digital strategies.

Gamification as a digital marketing strategy

Gamification is often used in digital marketing campaigns to create interactive experiences that increase brand awareness, promote user engagement and drive sales. Gamification is a concept that uses game mechanics and design elements in non-game contexts. The aim is to increase engagement and motivation. 

A common application of gamification in digital marketing is through interactive content – quizzes, games, competitions and the like. Interactive content is more engaging than its passive counterparts (namely articles or videos) because it requires active participation from the user. 

To illustrate, think of a cosmetics company that creates a quiz to help customers determine their skin type and recommends products based on their results. By incorporating gamification elements, such as a progress bar and a reward for completing the quiz, the cosmetics company can make the experience more engaging. This can encourage customers to make a purchase based on their recommended products. 

We can also look to the “Share a Coke” campaign as an example of gamification used in a digital marketing strategy. In this campaign, Coca-Cola replaced their iconic logo with 250 popular names, encouraging consumers to find a bottle with their name, or the name of someone they know, and share it on social media. 

The campaign also included a personalised website where consumers could create custom Coke bottles with their names on them. This campaign was successful in creating a buzz on social media and increasing sales. Since consumers felt a personal connection to the brand, they were more likely to purchase a Coke with their name on it.

Should businesses still use traditional forms of advertising?

Traditional forms are still useful for marketing campaigns that operate on a local or national level. For global campaigns, an online strategy is more appropriate as it is generally cheaper and easier to reach an international audience via digital platforms. 

Whether a business chooses to use a traditional or digital approach will depend on the budget and intended market. While traditional marketing methods are usually more expensive than digital advertising, they offer some advantages:

  • Businesses have more control over the message sent out through traditional channels, such as magazines. When engaging with social media users, the brand has less control over what is being said about its products and services. 
  • Traditional ads remain relevant for longer periods of time than digital ones. Often a television ad will run for several months, while a digital campaign may only go on for a few weeks.  

Digital marketing for your business

For most businesses, digital marketing has become a necessity. Since it is more narrowly focused, it is easier to target specific customers and build a relationship with them. However, it can also require more time, effort and expertise. 

Marketing teams need to be able to harness the use of data and analytics. On Facebook, for example, advertisers can select their audience based on age, gender and interests. They can also narrow down their targeting further by adding more information about where the person lives and what they do for work. By partnering with a third-party professional, such as Mobimeme, businesses can save time and money with their digital marketing strategy. 


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