The Role of Offline Marketing in 2021: Why it has Stood the Test of Time
In a world in which it seems that everybody is absorbed in their various smart devices, most marketers have naturally adopted a laser focus for reaching the public via digital channels.
From pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to social media influencers, video advertisements and podcast sponsorships, the digital realm has understandably become the go-to arena for outreach and awareness for many marketing professionals.
However, our hyper-connected ‘smart’ world nevertheless still responds to offline marketing – it doesn’t only have to be about Google Ads and promoted Tweets. There is a range of advantages for implementing offline marketing strategies, and they still have a place in the modern marketer’s toolbox.
An old marketing maxim has it that a person may need to see at least seven mentions of your brand or product before it really starts to sink in (known as the ‘rule of seven’). By spreading your message across not only digital channels but also real-world avenues such as magazines, signage, leaflets, and events, you can increase the likelihood of your brand coming repeatedly across somebody’s radar.
You can’t reach everybody via digital means alone
Many of us who are very well acquainted with our digital devices often assume that everybody else in the world uses technology to the same extent, but of course, that isn’t the case. Research shows that up to 11% of people in the UK don’t use the web at all, decreasing slightly to 10% in the U.S. This percentage is far higher in under-developed countries in Africa and parts of Asia.
According to the research, non-users of the Internet tend to be largely elderly or living in rural areas. Depending on your target audience this could be quite significant – if your core demographic includes retirees or farm workers, a Google Ads campaign might not be the way to go.
Naturally, it could be argued by some marketing professionals that reaching 90% of the public is generally satisfactory and that the majority of their campaigns aren’t concerned with tractors – but for certain audiences, offline marketing can be an effective approach.
While it may be easy to somewhat carelessly imagine that ‘everyone is online these days’, this will likely never be strictly true – there are always going to be people who can only be reached by non-digital means.
Real-world physicality brings authority
Many forms of real-world marketing are, in a way, something of a status symbol for the company for which the advertising has been produced.
After all, many modern smartphone users are wise to the fact that just about anybody can create a Facebook or Twitter ad campaign with a $20 budget – and so a marketer may well be able to create awareness with a digital advertisement, but they may struggle to create prestige.
In addition, the medium itself – that of viewing the marketing messages on a small, handheld screen (the same one that shows us Facebook updates from people we barely know and badly-made Reddit memes) perhaps psychologically puts digital advertising in the same mental bracket of ‘the general noise of the Internet’. However, an advert in a newspaper or on a television screen can bring with it a certain level of validation and importance just on the strength of the medium of delivery.
In today’s world of personalized digital advertisements based on our browsing habits, social media interests and retargeting, brands may not always achieve the cultural ubiquity they might prefer via digital channels alone.
Especially for prestige goods that are partly desirable due to their perception as status symbols – such as expensive watches and designer perfumes – the perception can only really be assumed when it has been the subject of widespread, mass advertisement. Expensive designer shoes may not fully represent symbols of high status if their owner is the only person in his or her social circle to have seen the (highly personalized) Instagram ad campaign.
While social media campaigns can have great reach and cost-effectiveness, they are not necessarily always equal in trustworthiness and stature to traditional, offline marketing strategies – or appropriate in all contexts.
Types of offline marketing
There is, of course, a wide array of options for reaching people via traditional methods. Entertainment media have long been standard avenues for offline marketing campaigns – such as television, radio, magazines, and newspapers – but there are many other possibilities.
Commercial signage in its various forms – be it street signage, billboards, window signs or vehicle advertising – can be a great opportunity to get marketing campaigns into the ‘real world’ and in front of consumers; similarly, attendance at events such as trade shows, conventions and exhibitions can have a powerful effect on both general brand awareness and direct customer acquisition.
Guerrilla marketing stunts, too, can have significant real-world impact. They can generate press and word-of-mouth buzz in a way that’s hard to replicate through digital channels alone, making your brand seem daring and dynamic in the process.
In summary, the message is not that digital marketing is ineffective or inferior to offline tactics in any way – rather, it is that digital approaches are often best used in combination with one or more forms of offline advertising for a holistic and well-rounded approach.
Digital marketing is a great and powerful tool, but (as the old saying goes) when you only have a hammer you may see everything as a nail. Traditional forms of marketing have stood the test of time because they work when applied appropriately, and for that reason will long continue to play a valuable role in our repertoire of techniques and help us to reach the right people with the right messages.