In fact, they MUST co-exist. The plain truth is this: You’d have a very difficult time pulling them apart.
The line between digital and conventional is already very blurry. To wit:
- Is a TV commercial delivered over a cable or satellite conventional marketing? Is the same commercial delivered over an Internet stream digital marketing?
- Is a piece of marketing collateral that is printed conventional marketing? Is the same piece of content posted on a web site digital marketing?
- Is a chat with someone in an online forum digital marketing? Does continuing that conversation face-to-face mean that chat is actually conventional marketing?
- Is an e-mail invitation to a trade show booth digital marketing? Is staffing that booth conventional marketing?
- Is speaking live conventional marketing? Is the video recording of that presentation on a web site digital marketing?
The first lesson in Marketing 101 is this: You go to where prospects and customers live; and you reach them via channels and media they use. Yes, there are examples of digital and non-digital extremists. Some products are sold in certain market segments inhabited by people who are technologically illiterate or disinterested. At the other extreme are digital technorati who never touch paper and are literally online 24×7.
But such groups are outliers. The vast majority of businesses have stakes in both worlds because they must do so to stay competitive.
Moreover, marketing has become a hybrid born of convergence. It serves no useful purpose to delineate digital from conventional, if only because of the lack of standard definitions. Consider these examples of changes we’re witnessing that defy easy categorization:
- Digital delivery of content. Content has evolved somewhat, but it’s not vastly different than it was a decade ago. But the half-life value of each piece is decreasing steadily. Businesses want to reduce delivery costs and target audiences want to receive stuff faster.
- Social media. The fundamentals of chatting, gossiping, sharing and promoting haven’t changed dramatically, but today people hang out with each other in different spaces. Similar exchanges in the 19th century took place in front parlors or around kitchen table. As well, asynchronous communications has also removed structural impediments: You can publicize your thoughts on a whim, 24x7x365.
- Real-time news and updates. It’s the same basic stuff that we’ve always needed, but more people want to receive it faster.
- Crowd-sourced data. The desire to consolidate personal facts and opinions from large numbers of people to generate useful information is as old as mankind itself. Computers and networks have simply greased the skids. But the concept isn’t new.
- Reviews and feedback. A few decades ago, we asked family, friends and neighbors for opinions and recommendations about products and services. We’re still doing that, but the scale is entirely different. Again, technology has greased the skids for old human behaviors.
- Hard sell versus engagement. Here’s something that HAS changed significantly: Companies are coming to the conclusion that long-term relationships with prospects and customers generate more sales and better retention. Engendering trust is a very traditional marketing process (even before they called it marketing), but fundamentally it’s about emotions and as far away from technology as you can get. At the same time, modern trust-building is an industry that is almost entirely dependent on digital technology.
We understand why people often ask questions about choosing and mixing digital and conventional marketing tactics. But we also believe that doing so is pointless and obsolete. Focus on ROI and use plain common sense. Don’t waste time parsing your tactics for useless characteristics.