Successful Online Marketing: Why Online Marketing is Different from Traditional Marketing

This post will discuss the important differences between traditional marketing and online marketing, and how marketers can implement these differences to their advantage.

Key Differences Between Traditional Marketing and Online Marketing

Traditional marketing is often considered to be “old school” compared to online marketing. However, the methodologies behind traditional marketing and online marketing are very different, and this influences how marketers can effectively utilize each method. Below are some of the key differences between traditional marketing and online marketing.

Product Awareness

Product awareness is one of the most important differences between traditional marketing and online marketing. With traditional marketing, marketers attempt to get the widest audience possible to recognize their brand name, product, or service. This can be achieved with advertising and promotions, or through word-of-mouth marketing. The idea is to create brand awareness so that when someone hears of your product or service, they will automatically think of your brand and products whenever they consider purchasing or using them. Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to create brand awareness, as customers will usually tell others about their experience with your products or services.

In contrast, when someone performs an online act of purchase (e.g., clicks on a product, makes a purchase after reading an online review, etc.), this is known as “marketing to behavior.” Essentially, marketers seek to engage consumers through their own behavior (i.e., clicks, searches, etc.), rather than through awareness (i.e., seeing, hearing, or reading about a brand or product). Instead of raising brand awareness, marketers can directly engage consumers, pulling them into a brand or product experience, and ultimately increasing product sales.


The key advantage of marketing to behavior is that it is highly cost-effective. Marketers can target the right audience based on demographics and psychographics, and directly engage this audience through content, like social media posts and e-mails. Since you are not reaching out to the general public to get them to remember or recognize your product or service, you can be more selective with your target audience, and thus can achieve better results for your marketing campaign. Another important point to make is that since you are engaging with your target audience based on characteristics, rather than broad demographic data, your campaigns are more prone to success.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, traditional marketing is very cost-intensive. To achieve the widest possible exposure, marketers will often use aggressive advertising campaigns that include billboards, radio ads, bus shelters, etc. In more sophisticated markets, they might even resort to TV ads during sports events, or popular documentaries to gain viewership.

The bottom line is that marketers will often need to choose between brand awareness and cost-effectiveness. If you want to raise brand awareness in the most cost-effective manner possible, then market to behavior. Alternatively, if you want to achieve the widest possible brand awareness, then market to the general public.


Traditional marketing is often considered to be “broadcast” marketing, as the strategy is to target as many people as possible with a single message. In contrast, online marketing is “targeted,” as the strategy is to reach a specific group of people, with, ideally, someone from that group deciding to purchase your product or service after discovering it through an organic search.

Organic searches are searches performed without the use of paid search ads (e.g., sponsored links, paid ads, etc.). Since organic searches are based on keywords or phrases, and not advertising, they are often considered to be “user-generated” content. This means that when someone performs an organic search for your products or services, the results for that search will be natural and varied, and will include both paid and organic results.

For example, if you sell garden hoses, and someone searches for “garden hoses,” you will see both your website and that of a competing brand mentioned in the organic results. But if someone were to type in “garden hose cost,” only your website would come up in the results, as there are no “garden hoses” branded products in that category.


Another important difference between traditional marketing and online marketing is the ability to capture attention. With traditional marketing, to get people to pay attention to your brand and product, you will typically need to resort to expensive techniques, like celebrities in TV ads or extravagant displays in retail stores.

In contrast, online marketing allows for much more affordable ways to attract attention. If you want to attract potential customers to your product, you can simply create attractive and compelling content, and make sure to put a call-to-action (CTA) at the end of every post.

Attention-grabbing content does not necessarily mean provocative or shocking content. However, it can, as long as the content is interesting or valuable to the reader. An example of attention-grabbing content would be an infographic, or a list of the top 10 reasons why your product or service is better than your competition.

If you have an e-commerce store, you can use tools like Google Analytics to determine the articles or content that are performing well, and then take inspiration from there to create more of the same.


Finally, traditional marketing is often considered “authoritative” in nature, as it typically represents a marketing message from a trusted source. In contrast, since you are not necessarily imparting information about a certain brand or product, but are simply engaging with your target audience through content, you can be considered more of a “commodity” than an “authority.” This type of marketing is often used in combination with social media, where marketers can use their authority in the form of a brand to encourage people to follow them, and thus gain access to a greater audience.

You can also use social media to engage with your audience and gain their trust, showing them you are a person of good character who is willing to engage with them and help them make more informed decisions.

If you want to be considered more of an authority on a certain topic, then go above and beyond to prove you know what you are talking about. Create videos and blogs about your expertise, and share these with your audience. If you want to be seen as an expert in your industry, then become an industry leader, with the others trying to follow your example. You can also use social media to build an audience, and then use your existing followers to build your brand’s authority.

These Differences Impact How Marketers Can Effectively Utilize Each Method

The fundamental differences between traditional marketing and online marketing mean that marketers can effectively utilize each method, but for entirely different reasons. Below, we will discuss how these differences can be applied to the advantage of marketers.


The first and most obvious difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing is that the latter is heavily focused on branding. With traditional marketing, the objective is to establish a relationship with potential customers by creating brand awareness. However, since this is usually accomplished through advertising and word-of-mouth marketing, this strategy often leaves a lot to be desired, as it is extremely difficult to measure.

This is why many brands choose to supplement their marketing efforts with paid advertisements. These advertisements will often appear in the form of commercials during commercial breaks, or in the form of sponsored content, like articles or videos, which are authored or produced by brands. The benefits of paid advertisements are that they allow marketers to achieve their goals of establishing brand awareness and generating leads, as the advertisements will often be shown to someone who is already familiar with the brand or product (i.e., someone who has previously searched for or heard of the brand or product).

To put it simply, paid advertisements help establish a stronger connection between a brand and an audience, drawing more potential customers to their products. Additionally, since these customers are already likely to be interested in your brand or product, they are more inclined to be responsive to your calls to action (CTAs), like purchasing a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or signing up for a mailing list.


As we discussed above, marketing to behavior is highly cost-effective. There are no set rules for determining when to engage with an audience through paid advertisements and when to engage with them through content creation. This is why many marketers consider this type of marketing to be “broadcast” marketing, as opposed to “targeted” or “online” marketing.