Content, Digital, Traditional: What’s The Big Freakin’ Difference?

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Kirsten MetcalfGuest Post by Kirsten Metcalf. Kirsten is Content Strategist at Stryde. You can connect with Mike on LinkedIn.

Since the beginning, in order for businesses to succeed, it’s been vital to market yourself — your products and services — to consumers. Marketing gets your brand out there and helps you garner sales. In the past, the only usable method was traditional marketing, but today you have the option of using traditional or digital marketing tactics, options allowing you to choose the best way to interact with your target audience.

But which do you use?

How do you even begin to make that decision?

And where exactly does content marketing fall into the spectrum?

In order to decide, you need to be knowledgeable about both. So sit back, get comfy and rid yourself of any distractions. I’m about to drop some much-needed marketing knowledge, giving you the need-to-know details that differentiate traditional and digital marketing and showing you where content marketing fits into the mix.

What's The Big Freakin Difference

Traditional’s Technicalities

Traditional marketing is the most known marketing method since it’s been around the longest. It encompasses the ads we see and hear daily. The most recognizable types are print ads, TV and radio commercials, billboards, brochures and posters.

While it’s the most known method, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect method. There’s good and bad to using traditional marketing. Let’s delve in and find out if you think the good outweighs the bad.


  • It’s the best way to reach those who don’t regularly go online or who are without Internet access, a shockingly estimated 4 billion people scattered worldwide.
  • People are accustomed to it. The traditional types are familiar activities that many people still do, i.e. watching TV and driving on highways lined with billboards.
  • It’s the ideal way to reach local audiences.


  • Results aren’t easily measured or can’t be measured at all.
  • It’s typically more costly than digital marketing.
  • It’s a static form of marketing, a one-way communication if you will. You put information in front of people, and fingers crossed, hope they take the action you want because of it.
  • Your coverage is limited in terms of audience size and timeframe. If your customers aren’t local, they aren’t seeing your marketing initiatives, and that ad in the newspaper is getting thrown away the next day when tomorrow’s paper comes out.
  • It’s a fairly long process going from concept to end product, and your end product doesn’t get into your audience’s hands instantaneously.
  • Much of our world is dependent on technology. Most of the things we do every day we can and choose to do online, i.e. bank, shop and read. Even traditional methods, like magazines and newspapers, have digital formats or are completely switching over to digital formats.

Traditional marketing versus digital marketing

Digital’s Details

Traditional marketing may be the longest-running marketing method, but that doesn’t make it the most used or preferred method. In our technologically driven world, digital marketing is making headway in the marketing world, withmarketers forecasted to spend 35% of their total budgets on digital marketing by 2016.

Just like its name says, digital marketing is marketing your products and services via digital technologies to reach consumers. This marketing method uses all the Internet-based channels it can, including social media, emails, websites, banner ads, podcasts and blogs to name a few. And utilizing Internet-based channels is smart considering the number of worldwide Internet users is approximately 3,079,339,857 and 310.3 million of those users reside in North America.

Like traditional marketing, digital marketing is made up of good and bad features, but you’ll quickly see the good completely overshadows the bad.


  • Results are measurable and easier to measure.
  • You have the possibility to reach a limitless audience. You can tailor your message to target a specific audience or place it on the web for the entire world to find.
  • It’s an interactive, engaging and non-intrusive form of marketing. Companies and customers each have the chance to talk and listen because it’s a form of multi-directional communication.
  • Because this method relies on the Internet, the interactions are public so any other consumer who wants to join a conversation is able to, and can do so immediately.
  • Direct contact with consumers and businesses is provided, resulting in some valuable consumer feedback.
  • Campaigns are planned out but can be edited based on consumer feedback received along the way.
  • The information and coverage you put online is available to consumers 24/7 and forever remains online to find.
  • Gets into consumers’ hands instantaneously.
  • Digital marketing efforts have the chance to go viral.
  • Digital marketing scales, so you can do as little or as much as you want to do and stay within your budget.


  • Takes time to realize and see the measurable success of your efforts.
  • Takes time to develop your concepts and overall strategy.
  • Information you put online can quickly become outdated. Time and manpower is needed to ensure your information is regularly monitored and updated when necessary.

 Content’s Components

After seeing the clear differences between traditional and digital marketing, can you pinpoint where content marketing lands in the marketing mix?

When you really think about it, high-quality content plays a part in all marketing initiatives, but in my opinion, content marketing’s main role is being at the heart of your digital marketing efforts. And I’m not the only one thinking this way as91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers use content marketing. Those numbers aren’t diminishing anytime soon as 86% of marketers plan to spend more on content and a Teradata survey shows that companies plan to spend 15% of their marketing budget on content creation in 2015.

The Content Marketing Institute’s definition of content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” The most commonly used types of content marketing include blog posts, articles, websites, eBooks, white papers, case studies, emails, videos and webinars. The purpose of content marketing isn’t to sell; it’s to communicate with your customers and potential customers by delivering informative and relevant content to educate them.

Traditional marketing had more disadvantages than advantages, while digital marketing was the opposite. With content marketing falling under digital marketing, it makes sense that its advantages also outnumber its disadvantages.


  • Builds brand awareness.
  • Drives more inbound traffic to your website.
  • Boosts your natural link popularity.
  • Increases your leads. Content marketing generates roughly three times the leads traditional marketing does.
  • It’s the best way to nurture your leads.
  • Increases consumer engagement.
  • Cultivates trust between your brand and your audience.
  • Establishes your brand as a thought leader and voice of authority.
  • Creates brand advocates.
  • It’s cheaper to implement, costing 62% less than traditional marketing.


  • It’s meant to provide long-term impact not short-term results.
  • It’s not designed to persuade consumers to take immediate action.


While traditional and digital marketing share the same goal — attracting qualified leads and building better brand awareness — it’s clear the two are very different marketing methods, and that content marketing plays a role in each marketing initiative, although mostly with digital marketing.

I know which method I’d choose, but have you determined which is best for your business?