Online business using traditional media, now that’s non-traditional

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

The landscape of marketing has been very interesting to watch over the last 4-5 years. Roles have seemed to switch. Many marketers who relied heavily on TV and other traditional media have been dedicating more advertising dollars to online tactics. This makes sense, though they haven’t abandoned mass media completely. There is still great value in reaching the masses and letting them know you exist and you have something of value to offer. This brings me to the second half of the observation, many virtual companies are putting more of their marketing dollars into traditional, mass media, especially TV. It seems everyone is switching roles. Online is marketing offline and brick-and-mortar is marketing online. Why is that?

The biggest reason is both groups realize that they are missing a large portion of their customers by relying too heavily on a single platform. Many understand why many physical stores are marketing more heavily online, but why are the virtual stores starting to pour dollars into traditional media? My belief is they are beginning to realize that individual customers still consume media differently. Remember the mantra of new media: “It’s a world of fragmented markets and niches. The long tail.”? While this is still true, many are seeing growth and revenue slowing way down. You see, just because people have many choices today, doesn’t mean they have quit reading magazines (which are making a strong come back in ad revenue and newsstand sales) and many TV shows are still popular. People still like watching TV. So why are these virtual marketers advertising offline?

Mass reach and brand awareness are what they lack and haven’t been able to gain online. For example, Vistaprint had launched their first TV campaign. They are an online printer offering very inexpensive printing services on things such as business cards, letterhead, and trifold brochures. Their target are micro-businesses with less than 10 people. Asked why, Trynka Shineman, CMO for Vistaprint, said their visibility was very low. It was only 25% within their target market. That’s fine if you are a fairly new company, but they’ve been around since 1999. Not good. They are also committing dollars to direct mail, email marketing, catalogs, and give-aways. Now, if you’re thinking that the reason why their awareness numbers are low is because they have done very little marketing online or offline over those years, you’re wrong. Vistaprint spends over $100 million a year in marketing, mostly online advertising and email marketing. Obviously, they aren’t reaching the micro-business owners. Ms. Shineman understands, they need a broader way to let their customers know they exist and have great values to offer them.

Google is another example of an online company pushing their product in traditional media. Now days, it’s hard to go to a larger city and not see an Android billboard or wrapped bus. I also constantly get postcards in the mail from Google and Verizon telling me how wonderful their smart phone is. Neither Google or Vistaprint have abandon online marketing, nor should they, but they both realize to create critical mass and greater awareness, you need to employ mass media in the marketing mix. (hence, the name, “mass media”) Why is mass important? As Ms. Shineman states, “Sampling TV for the first time represented a chance to attract some new attention on a broader platform.” In other words, you need greater awareness for people to know there are other options out there. How will they know to search you if they don’t know you exist? I know SEO is suppose to solve that problem, but that’s real estate you don’t own and can’t always count on. Obviously for Google and Vistaprint, SEO alone wasn’t enough.

Watching this flip-flop between virtual marketers and brick-and-mortar marketers has been very interesting. It just reinforces the principle of knowing how and when to use each tactic in your marketing arsenal. It also supports the concept that no single platform is superior in all situations.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: