The Ultimate Marking Battle: Online vs. Offline | Pel Hughes

Marketing can be a funny thing. It’s one of those industries that has been around for centuries, yet the trends current at the time drive its entire purpose. Yes, a similar thing can be said for most industries and professions (e.g., retail, press, sales, etc.). However, marketers must keep abreast not only of changes in the current trends, but also recognize the best way to deliver messages to customers in the wake of these trends. Arguably, the single largest change to the way customers receive marketing messages was through the introduction of online marketing.  

So, how significant was this change, and is there a clear winner as to the best marketing method? Was traditional marketing overtaken by digital marketing when we put down the newspaper and picked up Instagram? In this article we discuss some of the major differences between offline and online marketing, and in the end, try to answer these often-rhetorical questions. 

What is “Offline” Marketing?

Offline, or traditional, marketing is a form of marketing that we have all been exposed to at one point or another. This conventional marketing method is generally meant to reach a semi-targeting audience using a variety of methods. Most of these methods can be broken down into just a few categories, including direct mail, broadcasting, print, and telephone. 

For the most part, these forms of offline marketing are prevalent in our everyday society. We still receive catalogues, see commercials on TV, pick up the Sunday paper, and unfortunately, still get telemarketers calling us throughout the day. Offline marketing has evolved substantially throughout the past decades, and continues to evolve in the way it delivers messages to customers (e.g., SMS instead of telemarketers, or using analytics when initiating direct mail campaigns). 

What is “Online” Marketing?

As with offline marketing, its online counterpart is also something that we have all been exposed to, and likely on a daily basis. Online, or digital, marketing is a strategy that utilizes the internet to deliver its message and solicit the attention of its target audience. Through the use of analytics, search engine optimization (SEO), etc. online marketing can deliver near-instantaneous messages to a more targeted audience. 

Online marketing operates by employing web content, email campaigns, video advertising, and even augmented or virtual reality to drive direct sales or generate sales leads. 

Positives & Negatives of Offline 

Offline marketing is an effective tool, and the means by which businesses utilize offline marketing is preferable to many of its customers. A business that uses high-quality offline marketing material often builds trust faster than its online counterpart. It often offers a tangible object that the customer can physically touch, or in some cases, interact with. 

Furthermore, offline marketing can create a long-lasting impression that cannot be ignored. According to marketing statistics, people remember traditional advertisements better than when they see them online, particularly in print form, such as flyers, brochures and posters.

However, offline marketing doesn’t offer the low cost, long lasting form or effectiveness that is there in online marketing. Although print marketing can be cheap, producing magazines, billboards, and TV advertisements are increasingly expensive. Moreover, it’s difficult to reach a large audience with offline marketing, and when using advertisement space, you can only utilize that space for a limited amount of time. The higher costs, lack of interaction, limited customization options, and poor campaign tracking are large downsides to traditional offline marketing. 

Digital Prominence 

Although online marketing is arguably more familiar to most people, there are still some downfalls to this method. Primarily, effective online marketing typically requires special expertise, it cannot reach customers that are offline, and it’s more difficult to build trust with your audience. 

It’s clear that most businesses are investing heavily in online marketing, however, this can lead to downsides. As everyone is focusing on online messages, they lack the personal touch of a postcard, and don’t offer the thoughtfulness that offline marketing can provide. Also, aside from those who simply do not use technology and therefore cannot be exposed to your digital marketing campaigns, users can also turn off their social media advertisements, or even pay for applications that do not contain ads. 

Nevertheless, we live in a digital world. That means that while online ads make lack a personal aspect, they still dominate our everyday lives. Successful marketing requires a business to connect to potential customers in the best possible way so that there is an actual return on the investment (ROI). The best way to do this is to get out there and gain exposure. The more customers are exposed to your brand, the more familiar they become, eventually leading to close relationships that are developed through trust. Online marketing is the most efficient way to do this. 

For marketers, there are even more benefits to online marketing, and these come in the form of measurability. Marketers can see real-time results of their online marketing campaigns, and measure their ROI. If they determine that they should be going in a different way, they can simply change their target online, then use analytics tools to trace and record whether their ROI is improving or if further changes need to be made. This can take months with offline marketing. 


We’ll leave you with a few statistics to let you be the final judge:

  • More than 80% of customers research online before investing in a product/service
  • 72% of U.S. citizens use social media on a regular basis.
  • 94% of B2B marketers are actively using LinkedIn for marketing.
  • Mobile accounts for over 70% of digital marketing spending.
  • 90% B2B businesses report social media as being the most effective content marketing tactic.