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How Online and Social Media is Helping Traditional Channels to Evolve

Pete Davis
By Pete Davis  //  Fri 14th September 2012
‘Traditional marketing channels are dead’. This is the cry that we hear repeatedly from digital evangelists, who tell us that our more established channels of communication are being swallowed by online media platforms, sidelined into becoming one small, insignificant part of an overall mix that has digital at its heart.
A recent article published by the Harvard Business review made such a bold statement, suggesting that in today’s ‘social media-infused environment’, traditional marketing just doesn’t work as well as it used to.

Yes, social media may seem to dominate the marketing agenda now, but this doesn’t mean that more traditional forms of marketing have lost their place, merely their place has shifted to adapt to their technological surroundings. Far from being dead, now we are simply using traditional marketing techniques to send out our brand messages via online media, which allows the same messages to be distributed to bigger audiences, only quicker.

Human recommendation has always been a powerful weapon in a marketer’s armoury and this hasn’t changed in the face of the digital revolution. Social media is today’s equivalent of the water cooler moment of ten years ago, or of women gossiping while hanging out their washing forty years ago.  Traditional media models still exist, technology just enables their execution to be faster and cast to a wider net.

Any argument that suggests we should drop activity across traditional channels, such as TV or outdoor seems a little naive. There are still plenty of living and breathing examples of campaigns that are successfully lead by TV and outdoor activity.

It’s the things that we see on TV spark the biggest debates on Facebook or Twitter. Old Spice has been noted for award winning viral work and Twitter campaigns, but would any of that happened without the extensive TV activity that made Isaiah Mustafa and his series of spoofs so famous in the first place? Would Susan Boyle have become such a national treasure on the basis of a well-seeded viral ad or Facebook campaign to get her talent noticed?

Outdoor media is proving a powerful driver of consumers to online media channels. Brands are embedding QR codes into outdoor ads to drive people to Facebook pages and microsites. Brands advertising on digital outdoor sites (can even these be considered ‘traditional’ now, given the rate of technological change?) are making great use of opportunities with social media to enhance the audience experience. Earlier this year, Volkswagen used real time content created by its Facebook fans on giant billboards across theUK. By becoming a fan of its Facebook page, visitors could choose to compliment the Volkswagen up! model via a special tab, and were then rewarded by having their name and picture displayed on one of the digital boards – a great example of how far from killing off traditional media, technology is enabling it to become ever more exciting and interactive.

On top of all of this, social media, online and viral marketing aren’t always a good brand fit. There is a lot of talk currently of the ways in which social marketing can give consumers access to new knowledge. But if I’m a functional brand – say for example I manufacture a brand of lighter – then its harder and perhaps not right for me to try and start a conversation around my brand proposition. What do my customers need to know other than that my product will light my fire? What other insights can I offer? For these types of brand, traditional media and word of mouth are still so important.

A brand conversation rarely starts with social media. Instead social and more traditional channels have become intertwined. What the internet can do for us now is to speed up the process of message delivery, awareness spreading and public reaction to a concept. If anything, the digital revolution is actually breathing new life into traditional forms of marketing.
Old Spice, Pete Davis
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