The right marketing mix: online vs. offline

Affiliate, content, social, mobile – when it comes to online marketing, new trends just keep on coming! You’d need to read up on the different strategies practically every day to stay up to date. But there are still many classic marketing measures that haven’t yet ventured into the world of online business. This is because many business owners are still skeptical and have many unanswered questions: 'What are the possibilities of online marketing?', 'What are the pros and cons compared to traditional marketing?' and 'Is it even worth investing in online marketing?'

Online marketing – increasingly important in the digital age

From Google and Amazon to Facebook and Twitter, practically everyone uses social media, makes online purchases, and uses the world wide web to research products, services and all kinds of offers. In the US, over 285 million people (88.5% of the population) use the internet. E-mail use is rife too with only 9% of the population having never sent an e-mail. Statista goes into even more detail about internet use in the US. With all these facts and figures it no wonder more and more businesses are relying on online marketing campaigns.

Marketing instruments: flyers vs. Facebook ads

There are many different options in marketing that you can use to reach out to customers and promote your products, both online or offline. Here’s a selection of different marketing tools for both sectors:

Traditional marketing

Online marketing

TV commercials

Radio commercials

Print ads & advertorials

Outdoor advertising (e.g. posters)

Promotional items


Pairs and exhibitions

Sponsoring (e.g. events)

Online banners

Content marketing

Social media

Affiliate marketing

E-mail marketing

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine advertising (SEA)

Multimedia: videos, podcasts, etc.

Classic marketing: strengths and weaknesses

Media, radio, TV, and newspapers all belong to classic marketing channels, and have been reaching large audiences for decades. Together with other offline and direct marketing strategies (e.g. outdoor advertising), these classic methods have a strong presence and often a wide reach since they also speak to those who aren’t that internet savvy.

A disadvantage of outdoor advertising and print ads, however, is that they have a fixed position. This means you’re paying for an ad that will be seen by many people, but you don’t know how many of them are actually in your target group. This results in a high scattering loss. Online ads used to be exclusively bought and shown on specific sites, but now it’s possible to show online ads to a particular group of people. Read more about this in our article on real-time advertising.

Strong brand identity

Traditional marketing, such as on the radio or in the form of large-scale posters or ads in magazines, builds a strong brand identity even if it is subtle. TV advertising can prove costly which is why many startups concentrate more on the favorable online marketing sector. But don’t shy away from traditional advertising just because of the high costs! Whether you choose outside advertising, flyers, posters, trade fairs, or sponsorships, a combination of different strategies builds the foundation for brand awareness. Traditional marketing contributes to brand identity and has a strong presence in the everyday life of potential customers.

Flexible actions and personalization rarely possible

Classic marketing measures generally don’t leave much room for spontaneous changes. Once an ad or a poster has been printed, or a commercial has been filmed, no further modifications can be carried out. If one of the ads receives negative feedback, it can’t be changed. It’s also difficult to address people individually since the same newspaper ad (for example) is seen by all readers, whether they’re part of your target group or not. In the online sector, it’s possible to show different ads depending on the visitor’s profile, their online behavior, and any personal information that’s known about them.

Online marketing: real-time and personalization are key

An obvious advantage that online marketing has over traditional marketing is audience targeting and retargeting, marketing measures that match advertisements exactly to each individual recipient. You can determine which user groups should see which ads when it comes to search engine advertising e.g. with AdWords campaigns or banner advertising in display marketing.

Personalization 3.0

Through various targeting techniques, you can obtain precise information about the buying habits of individual users. The newly acquired data can then be used for advertising in online marketing. This also ensures that a man in his mid-30s who’s interested in soccer and NASCAR doesn’t get any ads for cosmetic products and spas. Every user leaves a digital footprint that the online marketer can then use to their advantage. Therefore, the results are based on millions of pieces of customer data that have been collected and combined.

This is possible thanks to data management platforms. DMPs collect data from customers by analyzing cookies, among other things. They can be seen as giant warehouses that store customer data, analyze it, and make it available when needed. DMPs issue this data to marketers to help them when placing their ads online so that they can reach the exact users that belong to their defined target groups.

Unique performance measures

Using online marketing techniques, you can observe how effective your advertising measures are (if at all). Analytical tools and tracking tools can be used to see who views which ads and how often they’re clicked on. When it comes to offline measures, there aren’t so many ways to track your success. If you rely on outdoor advertising, you can only estimate how many people have seen your advert. You can then only gather a rough estimate of how many people have gone on to buy the product shown in the ad, by carrying out customer surveys, but this process is unreliable and time consuming. However, when products are purchased online, it’s possible to measure performance and success rates precisely. It’s possible to monitor an ad’s CTR (click-through rate) as well as the conversion rate, which reveals how many users have bought the product after seeing the ad.

Real-time response

By carrying out detailed performance measurements, marketers in the online sector can determine quite early on how well an advertisement is faring. If an ad or blog post is negatively perceived, its creators can react quickly. Online, it’s possible to change ads within minutes, respond to social media posts quickly, and change texts at the drop of a hat. The same can’t be said for print media, where mistakes are impossible to fix once the advert has been published. Online marketing also offers the advantage of being able to communicate in real-time over social media, via creating a dialogue with customers as well as responding to current events.

Comparison: online vs. offline

In many ways, online marketing comes out on top when up against offline marketing. With modern technology, you can find out a lot about potential customers and therefore customize your ads to suit their needs. Here is a comparison of the facts once more:

Traditional marketing

Online marketing

Wide reach and stronger branding effect since target groups don’t need an internet connection

High scattering loss depending on medium used

Ad placement is static and unchangeable

High investment

Accurate measurement of success is difficult

Limited personalization options

Limited/no direct communication with customer

Only internet users can be reached

Low scattering loss due to ability to personalizing ads

Flexible areas of application


Exact tracking of all activities possible

Personalized customer approach

Interactive channels

Conclusion: individual marketing mix

Every company needs the right marketing concept as its foundation in order to reach customers and build relationships with them. This concept usually combines online and offline marketing measures. The measures you use should be determined by the group of users you wish to reach with your offer, rather than your personal preference. A target group consisting of teenagers is unlikely to be reached with an advertisement in a national newspaper, but on popular social media platforms such as Snapchat or Instagram, you’re more likely to be successful. On the other hand, if you want to appeal to those with less internet expertise, you should invest in offline marketing and use it on traditional means of advertising. A detailed target group analysis is therefore the basis on which all further goals and strategies should be built.

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