Why Traditional Marketing Still Works in the Digital Age

As you know, marketing in one format or another, has been in existence for a long time. It evolved from the simple trade era where raw resources were exchanged, through the mass production and sales eras to the emergence of the marketing department and marketing company era where business realized that they exist to meet the needs of customers and that everyone in the company has a role in delivering value to these customers. This modern era of marketing likely began in the mid-20th century when competition for marketplace share increased and companies had to work harder to sell their products to consumers; and is still very much in play today.

According to Phil Kotler, one of the world’s leading marketing experts and author of over 55 books on the subject, “marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services”.

He goes on to say, “Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make. Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customers become better off. The marketer’s watchwords are quality, service, and value.”

He also makes a distinction between marketing and selling. “Selling starts only when you have a product. Marketing starts before there is a product. Marketing is the homework the company does to figure out what people need and what the company should make. Marketing determines how to launch, price, distribute and promote the product/service offering in the marketplace. Marketing then monitors the results and improves the offering over time”.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because the principles of marketing are still very relevant in today’s digitally oriented environment. While communication technologies such as social media have dramatically changed the landscape and how we do things, the core concepts of marketing remain in place; with the tools and communication channels we use constantly evolving.

To illustrate my point, Eric Rasmussen, Vice-President of Consumer Insights at GroupOn summarizes where his priorities lie: “I think it all goes back to really knowing your customer and understanding the intersection of what you can offer and what they want – then delivering that in the best possible way. I think segmentation is the key ingredient to personalization and targeting.” This approach is clearly using marketing to identify core customers and products that will appeal to them.

While I have been discussing the business side of marketing, these concepts hold true in the public and non-profit sectors as well. If you take the above definitions and replace the word profit with impact or generating sustainable revenue or even affecting social change, the principles of marketing very much apply to these sectors. Marketing is clearly taking a foothold in these sectors as organizations of all types adopt a more strategic approach towards their business.

The bottom line is no matter the new technologies and channels marketers have at their disposal, the goal is the same: Understand the customer, figure out who wants what, and give it to them. It`s that simple. An effective marketing strategy lays the groundwork for tactical execution such as social channels, face-to-face marketing or advertising.

This is why events like MARCOM (June 13-15, Ottawa) are so important for the public and non-profit sectors. The learning content at MARCOM combines the traditional principles of marketing with the latest enabling technologies such as social media to give a well-rounded view as to how these sectors can use marketing principles to better meet their objectives and serve their customers.

Marketing has been around for a long time and will continue to offer a powerful set of tools for understanding the markets you serve, segmenting audiences, establishing products or services that people want, delivering these products at the right time and place and at the right price and measuring progress. While tactics might change, the principles of marketing are as sound today as they were 50 years ago.

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