Can traditional marketing methods still cut it in a digital age?

Once upon a time, video killed the radio star (apparently) so we at Studio North were keen to see if a similar theme was occurring in the world of marketing in today’s day and age.

This article will briefly explore if traditional marketing and advertising methods still pack enough punch to have a place alongside their digital counterparts and to determine if they are still effective enough to engage both new and existing customers/consumers.

When goals, demographics and budgets can be set, viewed, paused, and measured daily on social media and Google Ad platforms it’s clear to see why such methods are the go-to in a modern marketer’s tactics toolbox. And I’ll be honest, before writing this article, if the choice had to be one or the other, as opposed to a complementary omni-channel approach, my default stance would be that a client’s budget is better placed in digital mediums over the traditional methods. But after writing this, I’m not sure it’s as clear cut in each instance… read on to find to out why and see if you agree.

For the purposes of this article when I say ‘traditional methods’ I am referring to the following which have been around for over 100 years:

  • Direct Mail
  • Print Advertisements
  • Billboards

Direct Mail:

One of, if not the oldest marketing method, with one of its first uses recorded as early as 1000 BC in ancient Egypt written on papyrus paper(1), fast forward a few thousand years and it’s safe to say Direct Mail has evolved with mass production, data processing and content management systems being the norm and having an influential part to play in what makes Direct Mail so appealing.

But how effective is Direct Mail and what potential return can businesses expect? In research undertaken by JICMAIL & the Post Office they found that:

  • 83% of door drop items are engaged with by customers and 5% are shared with other people(2)
  • Door drops stay in the home for 5.4 days on average(2)
  • 90% of campaigns including door drops reported a rise in new customers compared to 59% for those without(2)

With the above considered, there’s clear evidence that Direct Mail is still a great way to reach audiences and engage with them on a personal level, either at work or at home, of course this must be complemented by standout creative, a distinctive design and a compelling CTA to underpin/achieve a brand’s objectives.

Studio North Effectiveness Rating: 8/10 for Brand Awareness & Driving Conversions

Print Advertisements:

For just about as long as there has been newspapers, magazines and leaflets there’s been print ads featured in them! But given the plethora of information now available online for free, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that print media is in decline – but does this mean print ads no longer have as large of an impact as they did before the internet?

With fake news being the buzzword of the last few years, appreciation for journalism as a trusted source of information is on the rise, with daily digital national news readership being up 20% year on year(3) – so it’s fair to say any well placed and relevant ads which feature alongside such credible sources will have the same positive and trusted association attached to them.

Dwell/reading time has also increased over the past year as readers are spending on average 24% longer reading their newspaper during the coronavirus pandemic, which translates to a significant 1 hr 40 mins in total on the days they read(3). This in effect may result in repeat exposure to featured ads in such publications and ultimately result in a brand/a brand’s product(s) remaining front of mind.

Other significant findings from RAMetrics in relation to the effectiveness of print ads are as follows:

  • Print ads are 141% easier to understand (52% vs 37% for digital)(3)
  • Branding is 185% stronger in print advertising vs digital advertising (37% vs 20% for digital) (3)
  • Ad recall is 1.7 times higher for ads within print news brands than it is for ads appearing in digital news brands (77% vs 46% for digital) (3)

There’s clear evidence which supports the many strengths of print especially in relation to brand awareness and recall, so if your primary goal is to build your brand awareness print should definitely feature in your mix!

Studio North Effectiveness Rating: 7/10 for Brand Awareness Building


Or as our Creative Director often refers to them, ‘a good 48 sheet’, and they date back as far as the 1830s when one Jared Bell created the very first of their kind. Given the continual technological updates made to the medium since such as, 3D projections and digital screens Billboards continue to inspire new ideas to captivate consumers, some notable examples include:

  • Marmite’s Exploding Billboard: Who can forget this year’s explosive set of billboards to announce the new limited edition chilli flavour of Marmite with the lid blown off! This is one is not to be missed…take a look  
  • The Survival Billboard: To celebrate the launch of the new Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015 contestants stood on a billboard for over 20 hours while the public controlled the elements which they’d be subjected to in true Tomb Raider fashion, check it out here
  • LianTronics Glass-Free 3D Screen: Last year the billboard evolved even further in China, as a giant 3D spaceship broke out above passers-by and set social media alight! Could this Blade Runner-like technology become the norm in years to come? See what you think here

As well as these creative executions which clearly disrupt and engage consumers, brands who utilise this medium can also benefit by repeatably reaching audiences outside of their target demographic due to their sheer scale and unavoidable nature wherever they are placed, and the fact that there are also tools available to allow tracking of reach and impressions etc means there can be no doubt that Billboards are as effective as ever in today’s day and age!

Studio North Effectiveness Rating: 8/10 for Brand Awareness & Disruption

In summary, the immediacy of digital, especially in relation to driving conversions and accurately measuring performance cannot be ignored and is one of, if not the most appealing factor for many brands; but to truly have a positive impact by way of brand awareness, association, and trust there can be no doubt that these traditional ways are still a must have for brands to remain relevant.

So not only can the traditional methods still cut it, the ‘old dogs’ very much continue to learn new tricks to stay relevant and effective!


  1. CMS Direct Mail, 2020:
  2. Royal Mail & JICMAIL, 2020:
  3. RAMetrics Insight, 2020:

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