(Original column appeared September 2017, updated September 2022)
Traditional marketing is dead — why can’t people get this?
This thought was shared recently at a gathering of local business people. It wasn’t the first time.
Because the person in question was so confident in her assertion, most people just nodded. I asked why.
Suddenly I felt like the dinosaur in the room.
“Why? Because no one uses it! If you haven’t completely moved to digital marketing,” she claimed,
“then you are totally missing the boat.”
Really? I wonder who is actually missing the boat. This notion isn’t new. With the advent of digital
marketing and social media, many people believe that the future is all digital and that attempts to
market in more traditional ways won’t work.
Let’s take a look at that.
Marketing, by definition, is a means of selling products and services. To do this one must reach out to
others. Marketing is about reach — how many people can you reach that may be interested in what you
It’s more than just reach, however. It’s reaching the right targets within a given budget. Reaching a
million people won’t matter if they aren’t the right million people.
For the last decade, marketers have consistently predicted that their traditional advertising spending
would decline, including print. According to data from the 28th Edition of The CMO Survey, on average,
marketers reported an annual decrease in traditional advertising spending of -1.4% between February
2012 and 2022, compared to an annual increase of 7.8% for overall marketing budgets during this same
However, recent evidence suggests that a shift is in progress. In contrast to the historical trend, in August
2021 and February 2022, marketers predicted that traditional advertising spending would increase by
1.4% and 2.9%, respectively.
Five years ago, the Pew Research Center found that 68% of all US adults used Facebook. In comparison,
28% of US adults used Instagram, 26% of all US adults use Pinterest, 25% of all US adults use
LinkedIn and 21% of all US adults use Twitter.
According to Pew Research done in 2021, YouTube is the most commonly used online platform and
there’s evidence that its reach is growing. Fully 81% of Americans say they use the video-sharing site, up
from 73% in 2019. Reddit was the only other platform polled that experienced statistically significant
growth during this time period — increasing from 11% in 2019 to 18% today. These findings come from a
nationally representative survey of 1,502 US adults conducted via telephone January 25-February 8,
What does this all mean? Traditional marketing isn’t dead.
Those engaged in marketing need to develop plans that include a mixture of tools to achieve their goals
within their budgets. Clearly defining your audience will enable you to choose the right mix of mediums.
Things to consider include age, income, gender, interests, geographic location, etc.
I’m reminded of my mother who used to say, “If everyone wanted to jump off of a bridge would you do
it?” This was usually when I wanted to do something fun. And, I usually thought, yes! However, I find
myself thinking this when I hear business people assert that the only way to go is digital. digital is great,
especially utilized in concert with other tools. But instead of jumping off the bridge with everyone else,
consider charting your own course.
Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. She may be
reached at 303-638-7127; [email protected]; www.comm-concepts.com;
Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.