It is important to recognise that ‘marketing’ is not a fixed process, but changes with the times. As much as ancient Mesopotamian business people had no access to the desktop published print materials or television advertising that we may think of in relation to traditional marketing, it is also true that those who developed the industry had no knowledge of or access to the World Wide Web.
The Internet has provided an additional marketing ‘channel’ that gives modern businesses fantastic edge which is unique to today’s world and that of future generations. Online marketing is cost effective and expedient, with built in tracking mechanisms and the ability to target key marketing demographics while also extracting valuable psychographic data.
Online versus traditional marketing
Traditional marketing had access to a number of mass communication channels: point of sale; printed materials such as flyers and brochure-ware; newspapers and magazines, including trade press and specialty publications; television and radio being some of the primary modes utilised. Advertising and Communications agencies developed to service a growing need throughout the twentieth century for quality advice, strategy and media buying power.
Traditional marketing of the past used primarily these main channels to get the message out about the features and benefits as well as brand identity of a product, service or organisation. As the industry became increasingly complex, traditional marketing evolved to a more holistic outlook which touted integrated marketing communications as a means of keeping all elements on the same page, without the unfortunate drift that could so easily be allowed to happen. In instances which lacked this cohesion, marketers began to notice that they did not receive the full impact of campaign, with lost and wasted expenditure and crossed-purposes damaging their efforts.
As awareness of the power of consistency grew, other sophisticated marketing savvy began to develop within the industry. New ideas about the best use of funds and opportunities to more finely target a campaign to key customer groups became a focus in opposition to a broad scattergun attempt to reach the few via the many.
Television could be tracked by ratings, print publications by readership and circulation figures; but nothing compared to the detail which would become available through the use of the Internet.
The power of the Internet: a marketer’s dream
The Internet, and digital communications in general (including hand-held personal communications devices and mobile telephone technologies) opened up a whole new age of marketing; allowing demographic and psychographic analysis with far greater accuracy than before at a lower cost. More than this, however, new media technologies invited the marketing message into the consumer’s world in an active and dynamic way. No longer were consumers passive receivers of marketing messages: through the technology, marketers could engage the consumer in a direct interaction.
It is easier to understand the value of new media communications through a short example. Jennifer runs a floral boutique and wants to get the message out that she has recently rebranded her business and now offers a hamper service in addition to floral arrangement. In the past, when she needed to broadly communicate to the public, she would place an advertisement in a major metropolitan paper in her city. She would always want her ad to stand out, so she would pay extra for placement ‘above the fold’ and in a right hand side position, and if she couldn’t stretch the budget to full colour she fell back on spot colour as a better alternative to mono (black and white).
Jennifer had always read that consistency was key and felt that if an ad was to run at all, it needed to be given at least a few weeks to do its work. The best value in this case was to buy a package over a number of weeks. This is a broad approach, scattering marketing dollars across a wide cross-section in order to hopefully reach a handful of the right type of predisposed customer.
Having spent a major chunk of her slim marketing budget, Jennifer wanted to have a way of tracking the interest her advertisement generated and the success level regarding retention of message. To this end, she had incorporated a competition whereby the entrant completed a short answer incorporating the name of the business, which would then be posted in for ‘judging’. A huge administrative burden was one result, but the upside was that Jennifer could tell to a limited extent what proportion of readers had received her message and digested the brand name and value proposition.
Contrasting this experience with the online marketing opportunities presented by the advent of digital communications, Jennifer now has many more alternatives for her campaign which all told come in at a much lower cost threshold and allow her to pick and choose who she targets for the campaign.