Direct Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing – What’s the Difference?

Do you ever buy a product or service without having been told that you need it or wanted it?

You’re not alone. Most of us have been there. We’ve opened an email or clicked on a Facebook ad and then landed on a website where we’re asked to make a purchase before we know what hit us!

If you’re wondering what sets direct marketing (or online marketing, as it’s often called) apart from traditional marketing, here are a few key differences.

Focus On Valuable Target Audiences

Let’s be honest, not everyone wants to buy a car or houseplant. There are certain demographics and psychographics that traditional marketers have traditionally focused on (age, gender, location), but the goal posts have now moved.

The best direct marketers know their target audience and craft marketing material specifically for them. Instead of shooting for the general public, marketers can now choose to zero in on a more valuable audience and pay more attention to their needs.

They do this by using tools like Google Analytics to see what their target audience is doing on their site and how they’re interacting with marketing material. This way, they can craft more valuable (and thus, effective) marketing material.

Personalization Is the Key

Think about all of the email and marketing material that you’ve seen from your favorite brands. Chances are, you’ve gotten really, really good at recognizing those hilarious cat memes or unique hashtag slogans because those are the kind of personalized messages that you’re used to seeing.

Traditional marketers have always used personalized messages to get you to click. Why? It’s simple. When a marketer crafts a message for the general public, they typically use cookie-cutter approaches. However, if you communicate with your target audience and give them value, you’re talking to someone who is much more likely to remember you and your brand.

This is one of the central principles behind effective direct marketing. Instead of using the same generic messages and getting the same results, you’re much more likely to see effectiveness from a marketing campaign that is personalized for each individual recipient.

Vary Your Metaphors

There’s a reason why cats are always a popular choice for meme generators and why “crazy” has been a common hashtag on Instagram since its inception. Whether you’re a fan of the feline species or not, there’s no denying that they’re pretty brilliant when it comes to marketing.

If you’ve ever shopped at a thrift store, you may have stumbled upon some fantastic pieces of vintage merch that you really couldn’t afford to buy. However, as a consumer, you may have felt that those cheap t-shirts and hoodies were pretty funny or clever and thus, you might have bought them just to laugh at or share with your friends.

That’s exactly what happened to me. A few months back, I was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, visiting a thrift store when I found a vintage t-shirt that read, “Don’t Think. Just Act.” I thought it was hilarious and bought it right then and there.

Then I saw another just like it and decided to purchase that one too. When I got home, I started noticing that everything from toothbrushes to shot glasses to dinner plates seemed to be emblazoned with this slogan. I quickly became a believer and decided to use it as the title of my blog. It’s a great way to encourage action without feeling too preachy because it’s short and sweet. I use it because it makes me laugh every time I see it. It’s not meant to be taken seriously.

As a brand, humor can be one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience. If you can laugh together, you can connect on a much deeper level. When you think about brand loyalty and how easily we switch companies and services, using humor can be a great way to keep your customers interested and engaged.

Content Is King (or Queen, in the case of Instagram)

Have you ever gotten an email from a marketing company that just plowed through a bunch of information in the subject line and then said, “You’ll also want to read about…”?

Most of us have. We open the email and are then presented with a long block of text, a massive table or a combination of the two. Most of us are forced to scroll or click to find out what the hell is going on.

That’s a major bummer because text doesn’t grab us the same way images and videos do. To someone who is hearing impaired or has text-blindness, it can be maddening trying to go through lengthy articles that have no pictures.

Traditional marketing is still around because people are still interested in being advertised to. What sets direct marketing apart is the method in which advertisements are presented. For a consumer, it is extremely easy to ignore marketing material that comes in the form of an email or text message. Digital marketers have thus focused on creating content that is easy to share (and thus, more likely to be engaged with), whether that’s an engaging graphic or a video.

Thought leaders in their industry attribute much of the success that they and their brands have to their content strategy. Just look at TikTok! They’ve mastered the art of creating content that is both entertaining and educational while also being digestible in short bursts.

Consumers can’t get enough of it. Now, more than ever before, people are looking to share what they discover on social media platforms. When someone discovers something new, they want to tell their friends so that they can all learn together.