4 Reasons Traditional Marketing and Advertising Doesn't Work Anymore

4 Reasons Traditional Marketing and Advertising Doesn't Work Anymore

March 25, 2016 by Brad Larabell

Before you traditional media types email me with your tirades of “How traditional marketing isn’t dead”, and that “You have no idea what you’re talking about”, I should note that most of my background is in traditional marketing and media on the agency side. I’ve spent hours on end writing TV and radio scripts, mulling through Nielsen reports, calculating gross rating points, frequency, and an endless list of data points that attempted to provide the most value possible for my clients. Many of these clients invested quite a bit of their own money for me to provide these services for them, with little guarantee of return on investment. I sold these media with the promise that they would reach the most amount of people and eyeballs for each dollar spent. Looking back (hindsight is always 20/20 right?), my thought process was very flawed.

Sure, you could tag (insert traditional ad medium) with a promo code as a feeble attempt to track return, but at the end of it all with the media market as fragmented as it is, it becomes very difficult to firmly close the loop and determine what actually worked. The key performance indicator (KPI) generally becomes “Did I sell more?” or “Did I see a jump in phone calls?” With how complex market forces are, it’s almost impossible to track a jump in sales to traditional media spend without making some very broad assumptions, and who likes to make business decisions based on assumptions? Exactly.

It should be understood at this point that I’m a huge proponent of digital marketing, more specifically, inbound marketing. The 4 Reasons Traditional Advertising Doesn’t Work Anymore that are below will help explain why.

1. The consumer buying process has changed (A LOT!)

Traditionally speaking, cold calls, direct mail, and elevator pitches ruled the day in sales. Salespeople were regarded as “keepers of knowledge” where the buyer relied almost entirely on their rep to educate them on a particular product or service. This solution based selling model calls for a salesperson to ask questions to try to identify a problem that their product or service can align with and ultimately solve. Therein lies the problem. This model that has been pushed since the 1980s assumes that buyers typically aren’t educated on how to solve their problem, and hence the salesperson is forced to “push” the buyer down the sales funnel and into a solution.

Enter the modern age of the internet. As hopefully all of you know, the internet has drastically changed the way buyers (both B2B and B2C) interact with businesses while moving through their journey of making a purchase. According to a 2014 study by Acquity a whopping 94% of all B2B buyers now do some form of research online, and B2C buyers utilize search an even greater 97% of the time prior to making a decision according to a study by Conductor. Each group tends to access an average of 10 resources when making a large purchase decision. That is a massive shift in behavior in a relatively short amount of time.

The internet has not only allowed buyers to access an unlimited number of resources to utilize in their research, but it has completely flipped the traditional method of sales upside down. Because consumers are much more educated at the time they are ready to make a decision, salespeople are doing far less “selling” and doing much more “consulting and coaching” to help validate (or not) what the buyer has already discovered for themselves.

2. Traditional Media Is Interruptive in Nature

Most traditional marketing (TV, Radio, Print) works like this: Company A places an ad with the intention of completely interrupting what the potential customer is doing. The hope is to get the customer to stop in their tracks, pay attention to what has interrupted them, and make a conscious decision to interact with Company A on another platform (phone, internet, social media). Here’s the problem - people hate being interrupted. Even during the Super Bowl, when consumers tend to enjoy the commercials, a study by Communicus showed that 60% of all ads ran during the event don’t lead to an increase in purchase or buying intent. Even online, where engagement is supposed to be higher, a recent Google study showed that 69% of web users bounced from a site when presented with an interruptive display ad.

According to HubSpot’s Global Interruptive Ads Survey conducted in 2016:

  • 94% of all consumers actually skip television ads completely
  • 94% unsubscribe from email
  • 27% throw away direct mail before reading it, and an amazing
  • 50% are on the national do not call registry

So what does this mean? Well to put it plainly, people get annoyed with interruptive ads, and it sometimes turns them off to brands. People want to consume media in a way that is comfortable and non-intrusive, which is why an inbound strategy is much better suited to drive new business in today’s world.

3. It Doesn’t Work on Millennial Buyers

Millennials are quickly becoming the largest demographic in the United States, and are thus the largest consumer base in the country as well.

As a millennial, I can say that growing up in the age of spam email, caller ID, and cheezy infomercials has made me a little more than lightly skeptical of ads and sales people. I don’t trust advertisements, mainly because I see them as sales pitches. Rather than being sold to, I’d prefer to do research and make a decision on my own accord. Businesses that help me do my research, provide relevant information and coach me along the way are the ones that typically receive my business.

Millennials want to be included in a conversation, not be sold to. A study by the American Press Institute showed that 88% of millennials use Facebook to not only get news, but to find information.

Needless to say, if you’re not speaking to millennials where and how they want to be communicated with, you’re simply being ignored.

4. Lack of Trackability of ROI

I touched on this earlier, but it’s definitely worth expanding on. For many small-medium sized businesses, this is a huge sticking point. Clients that I have worked with in the past simply haven’t had the resources to be able to implement the types of tracking mechanisms that a Fortune 500 brand might with traditional media to measure engagement and return. They want every dollar tracked and want a clear understanding of what their marketing dollars are bringing back into their business. Traditional media doesn’t easily allow for this kind of tracking. Can it provide a certain level of brand awareness in the market? Sure it can. But digital, and particularly inbound, does a much better job at accurately tracking return on investment using cookies, analytics, and tracking pixels on websites.

Most everyone’s behavior is being tracked online, and the power of that big data can be used to help better reach your customer base. There’s even an app that allows you to get alerts when your emails have been opened. Pretty powerful right? A solid digital marketing strategy with tracking mechanisms such as this will allow your organization to better reach your audience and refine your sales process with pinpoint precision.

Remember how I said the consumer buying process has changed? With inbound marketing, the marketing and sales process has finally followed suit.

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