Is [insert any traditional marketing device] dead?

The demise of direct mail, e-mail marketing, print advertising, brochures, newsletters—I can’t even remember all of those doomed traditional marketing devices—has been announced for a long time. Even marketing itself has been declared dead.

A wake-up call, folks: none of these is dead, not even close.

To start from the top, marketing is not dead. BAD marketing is dead. That’s a good thing. When I started my career at Anderson & Lembke (yes, those who were in the end swallowed by Chiat/Day in the US) in the mid-1980s, we already knew what was good marketing and what was bad marketing. It amazes me no end that these at least 30-year-old truths are now being rehashed and offered as something only the holy New Technologies or revered Social Network Gurus have been able to bring about.

In those days, we didn’t have social networks in today’s sense. A social network was the circle of people someone was in frequent touch with, just as today, but it was done face-to-face.

Today, the face-to-face is more like screen-to-screen. That’s also a good thing. We can now all be in touch with a far wider circle of people through our computers.

Yet, the marketing truths of time immemorial (in the internet/social media sense) still hold.

1. Provide value to your audience
One of the things I remember vividly from almost day one is the axiom “The seller doesn’t sell, the buyer buys.” Amazing, isn’t it? This almost 30 years ago and in a remote northern corner of Europe some people still haven’t even heard about. In marketing, you have to provide a solution to your prospect’s problem, not sell something you have your warehouse full of.

2. Talk to the right audience
Find your prospect’s pain point (although in those faraway days, it was called a “problem” or “need”). Find the industries who might have that problem. Find companies within that industry who do have the problem. Find the people within the companies who are responsible for getting the problem to go away. No rocket science. Some people make a living out of this so-called revelation today, but alas, it was invented a long time ago…

3. Be timely, don’t pester
Ah yes, we didn’t talk about “customer touchpoints” or “sales funnel” back then—how old-fashioned. But we knew we had to create content… oops, now I’m again getting ahead of myself… ads and brochures and direct-mail pieces separately for potential buyers who were in search of a solution, had pinpointed a solution but were unsure of whom to buy it from, wanted our solution but wanted to make sure it was a good one and didn’t get them fired. We also knew we couldn’t send DM (that’s not a Direct Message, in those days it referred to Direct Mail) pieces to these people 7 days a week unless we wanted to totally alienate them from our company.

There’s no denying that social media are a huge addition to a marketer’s arsenal. Still, they are just that: an addition to the arsenal. Just as the invention of ballistic missiles didn’t make artillery obsolete overnight, the traditional marketing devices are still as valuable as they’ve always been.

Of course, social media are the newest “shiny thing”, so everybody is rushing to adopt them. However, if you’re a marketer, or selling services to marketers, you shouldn’t be blinded by the shine. By all means, add new things to your marketing strategy and mix, but only if they add to the outcome, not at the cost of something that’s been proven to work for decades, if not centuries.

#social media#traditional marketing


  1. RJ Stribley - 2010-11-16 @ 05:04

    This makes allot of sense. It’s fun to learn ‘the newest thing’, but in the end if buzz doesn’t buy, what good is it? SM is a potential channel for savvy users, but, as you say, it’s not THE game, just part of it. I honestly haven’t figured out how to ‘market’ using SM tools yet… perhaps if I were a SEO or SM guru I would be hocking my services by now. So this is a investment of my ‘R&D time’ that has to pay at some point or be sidelined as not productive (for whatever reason). In my brief interlude with social I do think that it’s not for everybody.

    Grounded post;)

  2. Davina K. Brewer - 2010-11-16 @ 17:44

    I love that you call out BAD marketing, Kimmo. Whenever I read a how to or a list of “don’ts” I am like this is all true, but it applies to bad business, bad PR, bad marketing. Targeting the right audience smartly, strategically; offering quality products and services; it’s nothing new, that’s business 101.

    I don’t think any of it is dead either, all changing and evolving. And requires smarter planning on part of the marketer, so that newsletter gets sent to the right people at the right time. Social media isn’t stand alone; it’s one of many tools that works best when integrated with the rest of the marketing mix.

    “People don’t like to be sold but they like to buy” is another of those popular sayings, still true. As is helping customers by problem solving… though as a counterpoint, I’ll offer Apple. Some of its niche products like the iPad or MacBook Air have been called “solutions looking for problems” and yet Apple’s found an untapped market for those products, haven’t they? Goes to providing value, focusing on the right customer niche. FWIW.

  3. Kimmo Linkama - 2010-11-16 @ 18:14

    @Bob — Thanks for stopping by! Yes, if your market doesn’t hang out on Twitter or whatever, it’s a waste of time. On the other hand, though, you CAN get a heck of a lot of exposure through social media. It’ll just be difficult to find the link between your presence and any new business you might get. That’s why I haven’t thrown in the towel yet.

    @Davina — I knew I could count on your support if you ever found your way here 🙂 Seriously, you’re right about there being no need to reinvent the wheel as far as good marketing is concerned. Could it be that we’ve had so many years of good economy that marketers have become lazy? On your point about Apple, I think we have to congratulate Apple for finding the problem even if nobody was aware of its existence. Thanks a bunch for participating, your view certainly IW.

    • Davina K. Brewer - 2010-11-16 @ 20:05

      Okay, now I feel guilty not finding my way here more often. 🙂 You’re right about the wheel reinvention, people holding up shiny new pennies just replacing the words “newsletter” and “direct mail” with “blog” and “tweet” thinking it changes things. Good is still good; bad is still bad. That said social media marketing IS different; you can’t push, push, sell, sell. IME customers on social media tend to be more savvy, see through the gimmicks and hard pitch.

      • Kimmo Linkama - 2010-11-16 @ 20:50

        Right you are. I think that may actually be the greatest value of social networks: you’re forced to be transparent and provide tangible value if you want to succeed. Snake oil vendors will die out in the long run. Ah, and no need to feel guilty. I’m really happy every time someone I’ve come to trust and appreciate pops by 😉

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