Marketing: Tradition vs. Innovation

We are living in a new age, full of breakthroughs and revolutionary technology. It’s easy to be dazzled by what the brilliant minds of today are developing and are introducing into our everyday lives. In the marketing industry, these advancements are often enough to make us feel a little giddy with excitement. New tactics can completely reshape a marketing strategy, and can make marketers feel like they are a part of something groundbreaking.

The question is, when we begin chasing new-age ideas, does that mean we should abandon old-fashioned techniques?

The short answer is no. Traditional marketing provides the structure and principles for effectively building a brand and generating sales. If traditional marketing is not a part of your current strategy, it should be. Perhaps it’s worthwhile to teach a new dog old tricks!

Here’s why.

What is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing includes promotions, advertising or campaigns that have been standard  practice within companies for years. Four of the most recognizable traditional marketing practices are print, broadcast, direct mail and telephone.

Most companies allocate a portion of their marketing budget to at least one traditional method of advertising. Bigger companies can afford more expensive traditional advertisements, like TV commercials and direct mail. Smaller businesses with limited budgets are more likely to utilize print marketing in newspapers or newsletters.

Why does this matter?

Though they may lack the edge of more contemporary marketing practices, think of traditional marketing techniques like a sturdy, vintage pair of Levi’s. They’re classic, dependable, and admirable for laying the groundwork in building a brand.

Staying up to date with the latest trends is critical in the digital marketing world, but it doesn’t mean you need to ditch the principles that older methods have taught us. In fact, traditional marketing methods can still be incredibly effective and should still be considered in your current marketing strategy.

How? you may be wondering.

Tangible pieces delivered via face-to-face marketing, like flyers, brochures and business cards, for example, are definitely on the thumbs-up list for old-fashioned campaigning. While the same information can be shared digitally, sometimes nothing is more personal or impactful than holding a quality piece of print in your hands. Think of these pieces as your sidekicks—helping you to engage with someone, establish an important relationship, and make you hard to overlook.

The principles of traditional marketing are effective when used to reach a target market that you have studied thoroughly. Innovation, on the other hand, goes a bit further than that.

And there’s more to this concept than meets the eye. Like anything powerful, innovation has a light and a dark side.

Innovation in Marketing

Innovation and marketing are an inseparable pair, complementing one another in successful businesses across the world.

Here is a profound example.

There was once a time when technology and geography limited what stores people could visit, and therefore what they could buy. E-Commerce recognized and addressed this obstacle, effectively transforming the landscape of consumerism into something totally unprecedented. Today, the majority of business owners don’t need a physical address if they have a strong marketing game and the means to ship and handle goods.

But now that marketing is transforming practically by the minute, there are new problems concerning ethics that should be given careful consideration.

Here are some threats that innovation has posed to ethics:

1. Instant gratification.

We live in a world where we can have just about anything delivered to our doorstep within a day or two. So it’s no surprise that marketing practices have found ways to capitalize on this “I want it, and I want it now!” consumer mentality. Whether it’s through chatbots, online sales or downloadable resources, companies are able to give us what we want almost instantaneously.

While this isn’t necessarily all bad, there are some moral implications that come with feeding into society’s lack of patience.

Maybe it’s a misleading ad for a “magic” diet pill that can shave 20 pounds in 2 weeks.

Or maybe a website’s shopping cart integrates pop-ups that say something like, “Add $25 more to your order and get it by tomorrow with free shipping!”

Either way, capitalizing on people’s desire for instant gratification without strong ethical guidelines in place leads to an ethical grey area.

2. Availability of information.

The availability of information and big data are undoubtedly transforming the world.

Assets like artificial intelligence and cloud computing have played huge roles in organizations’ ability to collect data on its consumers. But if we’re being honest, most people don’t know how much of their personal information companies gather and analyze. This raises big concerns about privacy, confidentiality and transparency.

Big data is a very powerful tool, and it can be incredibly efficient when bringing consumers to the products they’re looking for. However, we should remain wary of the risks and ethical implications involved.

3. Inauthentic Influencer Marketing.

Influencer Marketing was a major trend throughout 2018 and continues to be a powerful marketing tool in 2019. It essentially works because businesses know that people appeal to people more than ads do. Hiring influencers (like a celebrity that millions idolize) has been a way for companies to effectively promote their brand and their products, all while appearing authentic, even ethical, to consumers.

But are they?

If a business is offering an incentive for a social media influencer to talk about their product (especially if they otherwise wouldn’t be using this brand), that’s not exactly a genuine endorsement. And yet, people will blindly follow their lead because the content appears organic and truthful.

Need an example of how this ethical slip can go very wrong? Most people had heard of the Fyre Festival mishap, or have seen the documentary on Netflix. The Fyre Festival, a luxury music festival founded by Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, was intended to promote the music talent-booking mobile app developed by McFarland’s company, Fyre Media.

The company utilized elite socialites and models like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratatjkowski to generate buzz about a luxury festival set to take place on a private Bahama island. This proved extremely effective, selling over 5,000 tickets with prices ranging from $500-1,500 for a day pass and as much as $250,000 for tickets and bonus amenities.

Ultimately, there was a massive shortage of accommodations, security, food and medical services, and the festival could not deliver the experience the influencers had showcased. The logistical failures resulted in the festival being postponed indefinitely, leaving people deserted on a Bahamian island with no return flights scheduled. Fyre Festival became infamous as “the greatest party that never happened.”

This example, while extreme, demonstrates how influencer marketing can create false confidence in brands and mislead buyers.

Creating Balance

Continuing to adapt to a changing world is imperative to a business’s survival. However, this does not simply mean “out with the old, in with the new.”

As we’ve seen, there are dangers in throwing ourselves at new concepts or ideas without carefully considering the long-term strategy. This is where holding true to the core values of traditional marketing becomes valuable.

Finding a way to create balance between old and new can help distinguish a winning strategy. Traditional marketing gains people’s trust by placing an emphasis on values people can consistently count on. Building a brand is not simply developing a catchy slogan or an attractive aesthetic. It is about being reliable and reputable, and meeting consumer expectations over and over again. Digital marketing connects a business with its target audience using digital channels in a cost-effective and measurable way. Identifying your business/organization’s objectives helps guide the promotional activities that will best reach the target market.

There is much to be learned from every medium of marketing, and each method requires a different skillset. Learning and respecting both traditional and digital techniques strengthens the foundation for marketing strategies and builds a more powerful approach.

The goal of marketing practices, always, should be to align customer satisfaction with business objectives, and as a result, foster more positive relationships and cultivate brand loyalty.