Long ago and not so far away, marketers used to brew all sorts of campaigns with tactics like print ads, radio spots, and direct mail. They set about on a journey that would reach consumers throughout their day with a touch of insight and a dash of luck. Though they couldn’t really measure their efforts, they saw that people were paying attention and spending money on their products and services. Fast forward to 1994 when the first clickable banner ad went live and posted an impressive 44% CTR (Pause for trivia question: name the publication and the advertiser). We can only assume that the CTR coupled with the novelty of the internet drove the advertising masses to digital. 

Since that time, digital’s growth has been both impressive and overwhelming, so much so that it’s often treated as an entity unto itself leaving no room or budget for other media. Good marketers know that digital marketing is a medium that is most effective when it is part of a larger campaign that is populated with a variety of other tactics. 

No doubt, digital is where brands want and need to be and where it will be for the foreseeable future. It meets people where they are with customized content that can be measured with some degree of accuracy: In other words, it’s a marketers dream. However, brands of all sizes have become so enamored with it, that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Digital advertising has become synonymous with well, advertising in general and, to the detriment of many brands, it’s not uncommon to see digital-only approaches. But the fact remains that to maximum your reach, create and sustain awareness, and fill in the digital gaps, you have to support digital with offline tactics. 

Consider this: Consumers see an estimated 4,000 messages a day depending on their career and their lifestyle. And, with the Rule of 7 (a consumer must see an ad at least 7 times before they take note of it), digital can easily and inexpensively meet that goal. However, after a consumer has chosen to take an action on an ad or conversely, simply ignore it, the message gets lost in the noisy arena that is digital. The conundrum of the conversion means that after a purchase has been made, the consumer may not be as receptive to those digital ads and will most likely need to be marketed to through different tactics.

Digital can be akin to getting a CVS receipt with a coupon for shampoo that you get immediately after you purchase shampoo. Sure, you can target and personalize the message, but for items with a long lifecycle (e.g., cars, appliances, furniture) and for companies that sell only one product (e.g., Casper mattress) the consumer may not be planning to shop with you for a while. That’s where offline keeps awareness high and breathes new life into your campaigns.  

Much is made about the bold digital moves of brands that have been around for decades (think KFC, Nike, and Toyota). Those brands came of age in a pre-digital era that relied on the power of traditional advertising. The natural next step was to harness digital marketing through search, social, and videos. But they didn’t abandon the media that got them where they are (dance with the one who brought you mentality), they simply integrated digital in order to reach people in another way. 

No doubt, digital marketing excels at collecting data about what customers like, what their propensities are, and where to find them. All of this information helps in creating campaigns that can be integrated with offline tactics that reach people at home, while traveling, or pretty much any commercial area in the city or the suburbs. Direct mail, traditional and digital out-of-home ([OOH] static and digital signage, kiosks, transit, POP displays), and ambient (floor graphics, window clings, gobos, and wraps) are effective and time-tested additions to digital campaigns. The goal of offline isn’t to replace digital but to add more touch points for the purpose of increasing reach and awareness.

Each generation seems to have its own preferences for the type of ads that work best. Research shows that Gen Z is more trusting of print which has driven an increase in more highly designed printed magazines. Additionally, brands like Restoration Hardware, Wayfair, and Costco send catalogs that give customers a tactile experience and a new context in which to view the products. Direct mail speaks to all generations and has enjoyed an average $38.5 billion in ad spend for U.S. local advertising each year and 70% of consumers say direct mail is more personal than online interactions. OOH spending is increasing in large part to the digital component of it in dynamic messaging and audience tracking. And, ambient is an affordable (some even consider it a guerilla marketing tactic) and fun way to gain awareness.

Remember, consumers don’t buy products and services, they buy outcomes and promoting how your solution can give them the results they’re looking for requires both digital and offline advertising. Think of it like this, if someone is trying to get important information to you and they only communicate via phone, that’s a siloed effort that probably won’t yield the best results. Spreading your advertising budget among online and offline tactics ensures that you cover your bases and reach people with the right message where they are. 

Answer to the trivia question: AT&T was the advertiser and the website was HotWired.com!

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