How does digital/online marketing fit within marketing in the traditional sense?


“Digital marketing is different [to traditional marketing]…it should be measured against different metrics, thus have different goals”

I have been working in digital/online/internet marketing for a couple of years now, heading all online acquisitions and analytics teams at a growing e-commerce company.

However, I am interested to learn the theoretical aspects (definitions, models, etc.) of how this fits within the broader academic discipline of “Marketing”. I had taken a Marketing course during my undergraduate degree and none of what I learned there seems to relate to “internet marketing”.

Frankly, I almost feel that “internet marketing” is more related to sales or advertising than “Marketing” in the traditional sense. Or am I wrong?

So where is the connection between the two and why is digital/online/internet marketing called “Marketing” so often?

Any courses, articles or other resources (including direct answer) that illustrate a theoretical framework or background of this would be appreciated!

See the original post on Quora:

How does digital/online marketing fit within marketing in the traditional sense?

Hi, Isaac; thanks for inviting me to answer. It’s totally understandable that you should think internet marketing is closely related to traditional advertising.

Hang on, rewind. It’s easy to see why anyone may think that Internet Marketing DONE WRONG is like advertising. Let’s explain.

Even today, blinkered brands see social media channels as opportunities to broadcast their service or product. At the dawn of social, that type of activity may have worked. Heck, it may have even driven direct sales.

But, as the world’s populace has become more social, channelling a one-way strategy like that has long since become defunct.

Just like traditional ads, brands that deploy a message that’s all about ‘what they do’ as opposed to ‘what their customers need’ get little to no value from social media marketing.

Listen first, speak second

Professional marketers have long since understood the need to engage in social listening, i.e., track respective social platforms, learning how prospects relate either directly to their brand or to the products/services their brand offers, before they enter the fray.

Social Listening Strategy defined

Only when we understand how each persona/demographic relates to what we do – and specifically on each platform – can we begin to form a marketing plan that they’ll engage with.

For example, you may have a productivity app that suits students and office workers. The campaign on Facebook to entice students would be far different from the one you’d post to LinkedIn to achieve a similar result with professionals.

Digital Marketing: flexible, cost-effective and immediate

And therein lies the difference. With digital marketing, you can refocus your strategy with (relative) ease. You can also measure your prospects’ reaction in real time, rather than wait for the quarterly report to see how effective it was.

Prior to the vast analytical data we have access to with digital marketing today, the only real measure of ‘real-world’ advertising campaign success was income. Did sales go up or down?

Click to tweet »
Digital Marketing and traditional advertising are measured against different metrics, so must have different goals!

The added advantage is repurposability. Once the hardware (infographics, banners, e-mail series) has been paid for, it’s so very easy to run again. You can recycle periodically, cross-post and tailor for your different persona.

It’s a long game

What social marketing doesn’t relate directly to is immediate income.

Yes, you may drive sales through affiliate advertising, PPC or even Pinterest. But that’s not its sole – or biggest – purpose.

Branding Hierarchy of Needs

Brand recognition is a huge positive. Building a loyal fan base even greater. Seeing your brand reach across social with organic shares – well, that’s Mecca.

For sure, there were elements of branding, fan bases and word-of-mouth recommendation before the internet in traditional advertising. But they very hard to measure, thus discounted from the success (or failure) of a campaign. At least at shareholder or board level.

Could you imagine a sales director at Marlboro in the 70’s trying to pass off a damp squib of a quarter by saying, “Yes, chief, sales are down, but a lot of people are wearing our F1 caps”?

And that leads to…multiple ownership/responsibility

What we also know is that social media marketing as a stand-alone practise will not flood our bottom line. In order to succeed, it must also:

  • relate to our brick and mortar business;
  • incorporate conversion techniques:
  • different forms of content, including sales and informational media;
  • fit into the sales funnel where it has a defined goal to make it worthwhile undertaking;
  • be actionable by those who are first line contact from the campaign.
  • In other words, marketing now incorporates an entire corporation. And there are a couple of real life examples.

    At one end, you have Virgin, where Richard Branson is very much the face of the brand. At the other, you have Zappos (@zappos) | Twitter, where almost every employee has a twitter account and uses it as part of their customer service role for the job.

    If you’re in the digital marketing space, assigning responsibility to everyone for its success not only ensures an all-encompassing campaign, but also empowers employees to be a face of the brand, too.

    Moz icon | QuoraThere’s a great article about Google Authorship by Mark Traphagen on Moz that touches on the subject: Why Your Brand Shouldn’t Fear Assigning Authorship.

    Okay, authorship in a public sense has all but disappeared. But the reasons behind why you shouldn’t be afraid to let employees take on responsibility for your brand are sound and hold firm.

    The more places you can touch your prospect in the sales funnel, the greater the chance of:

    1. engagement;
    2. conversion;
    3. evangelism!

    And that’s the big benefit of social media marketing.

    I hope that’s helped define the differences and similarities between digital and traditional media and that you can action your own strategies accordingly.


    Image credits, CC2.0 (some rights reserved: Creative Commons – Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic – CC BY-SA 2.0):

    1. Dion Hinchcliffe, Flickr: Listen, Analyze, Respond: The Virtuous Cycle of Social Business;
    2. Bruce Clay, Flickr: Branding Hierarchy of Needs;
    3. Quora“Moz” topic icon
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