Do Traditional Marketing Values Still Matter in a Digital World?

When it comes to marketers, there are two basic groups of professionals. The first, considered the “old guard,” takes a traditional approach to marketing values, tapping into the subconscious of their target audiences, digging deep into buying motives and psyche. The newer generation of marketers was raised with the internet and has been trained in a digital-first era. But what would happen if we could combine both skill sets?

There’s no question that we live in a digital age. But in our struggle to keep up with fast-changing digital channels and practices, are we forgetting the fundamentals of traditional marketing? Are digital efforts wasted when companies lack a true understanding of traditional marketing values and principles? Can we bridge the gap between digital marketing and a lack of understanding of fundamental marketing principles and values?

What Digital Marketers Can Learn From Their Predecessors

Digital marketing experts are highly sought after, and rightly so. But they need to understand that digital marketing is just the latest in a long evolution of marketing mediums. While today’s professionals have a different mindset from ancient sellers who painted boulders to sell their wares, the new kids on the block can benefit by turning to their predecessors for education about what works — and what doesn’t.

Traditional marketing textbooks always teach the four Ps of marketing: product, place, price and promotion. Although this timeless approach helps marketers understand their product offering and plan an effective marketing strategy, it is more appropriate for B2C companies.

The 1970s and ’80s brought us an understanding of why buyers make the decisions they do. Sales expert Roy Chitwood introduced five specific steps every buyer makes regardless of the type or size of the purchase. During this era, marketers also were encouraged to consider the subconscious motives, desires and needs that drive people to purchase goods or services.

In the 1990s the four Cs — consumer, cost, communication and convenience — were introduced. This customer-focused concept moves us from a mass marketing perspective to one of niche marketing, which is more relevant in today’s digital and personalized marketing landscape.

Today’s newer models are focused on real-time customer interaction, creating a concern about whether the old theories are still relevant. But smart marketers know that the human element — taking time to find out everything you can about your audience — will never be out of vogue.

Sticking to the Brand

One of the essential values of traditional marketing is its strict adherence to brand standards. When companies are “on-brand” (a term added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2019), every experience a customer has with a company is carefully aligned with its brand strategy. This goes far beyond a name and logo. A brand strategy includes the images you convey; the messages you deliver on your website, marketing materials and proposals; the way your employees interact with customers; and ultimately, the way your target audiences feel about your company compared to the competition. With on-brand companies, every activity is a step toward an overarching goal of achieving a sustainable, recognizable and positive brand.

Closing Traditional-Digital Gap

As marketing gains more and more traction, there’s pressure to stay ahead of the competition. Hiring from a younger digital generation is often seen as the solution, but that isn’t enough. Digital marketing is a relatively young industry. It sometimes lacks the structure needed to ensure consistency in training and execution. For example, when someone decides to become a lawyer, they follow a strict education and training program. They enter the marketplace with formal qualifications and are subject to a standardized approach to continuing education. Marketers, especially digital marketers, have a less-defined training and career path. This sometimes means that vital skills, especially soft ones, slip through the cracks.

As time goes on, the divide between traditional and digital marketing mindsets is expanding. Those new (or old) to the industry can take online courses to learn the practical elements of their jobs. Interacting directly with more experienced, traditional marketers is essential to developing the right mindset.

Ensuring that fundamental marketing skills remain front-and-center is the responsibility of every leadership team. For new hires, look beyond a resume full of certifications and seek creative thinkers who are far more beneficial in the long run. If you’re already in a digital role, listen to more experienced marketers and learn not only what they do but also why they do it.

Back to Basics of Marketing Values

The most effective way to instill the core basics of marketing values is to encourage people to ask questions. Help team members to seek out as much information as possible, and question everything. An in-depth knowledge of the right digital tools and techniques is great. Powering that expertise with an understanding of what you need to say to your audience, and when, where and why to say it, is essential. When high-performance digital marketing methods are paired with traditional marketing values, companies have a powerful strategy (or combination) driving their growth and long-term success.



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Gerri Knilans

Marketing communications strategist. The right message. The right medium. Guaranteed.