Digital vs traditional marketing: Is there still an argument for traditional spend?

Between digital vs traditional marketing, there is a greater focus on digital. But does this mean traditional marketing is dead? Continue reading to find out.

Stephen Reilly
3 MIN|January 26, 2023
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Digital marketing has been king of the hill for quite some time now. Around 72% of marketing budgets are being spent on digital each year. Does this mean that you should pull all traditional marketing and give everything you’ve got to the digital side of things?

Not quite.

In this blog we’ll take a look at the digital vs traditional marketing debate, a debate we touched on in our Ask Us Anything webinar a couple of months ago. If you missed it, be sure to watch below.

As Martina touches on in the video, it really is a case of horses for courses. While some audiences may require interactive mobile content, some demographics would rather flick through real, tangible pages – perhaps while smoking a pipe in the library, or in the back of the Rolls on the way to the opera (ed: that isn’t what traditional means, Ben.).

What is ‘traditional’ marketing?

Apparently, traditional marketing has nothing to do with aristocrats and old money. No, it’s all about a pre-digital world of advertising that Don Draper might recognise. TV ads, billboards, print ads, brochures, direct response mail and all that jazz.

Microsoft Surface laptop billboard Ad

While we may joke about it being old fashioned, traditional marketing still plays a significant role in many a large corporation’s growth efforts. And as Martina also said, sometimes you need it to make that all important human connection.

Making a connection

If you’ve seen any of the P&G TV ads from the Olympics and winter Olympics, then you’ll know what this means. Making an emotional connection with your audience, showing them that you understand them, and know what they need, creates strong positive connotations with your brand.

That’s what P&G did with these TV slots. With a reputation for being a giant, faceless corporation, they wanted to inject some real human experience (that included their products) into their marketing efforts. And it worked.

But these ads, were likely extremely expensive, far beyond the entire marketing budget for many organisations. And they took place around 10 years ago. Now these kinds of campaigns are run online, like the #TheLastMile VW Beetle ad, due to higher reach and more easily targeted audiences.

Do these B2C examples transfer over to B2B?

So is B2B traditional marketing dead?

The short answer is no (sorry, Stephen). In fact, it’s far from dead. In 2022, B2B organisations increased their spending on traditional marketing for the first time in a decade. Traditional marketing still carries with it a level of trust that is almost impossible to recreate on the internet. According to Marketing Sherpa, the top five most trusted forms of advertising are still traditional, with print ads, TV ads and mail brochures taking the top three spots.

Around 72% of marketing budgets are being spent on digital each year.

Strangely enough, the organisations that are doing this the most seem to be tech companies. As digital ads get more expensive, and more ‘digital clutter’ appears on the internet every day, marketers are looking for a way to be heard above the noise. Strategic print ads and billboards offer an opportunity to sidestep some of the PPC chess games that we often see in the highly competitive sectors, like SaaS for example.

Taking the old with the new

The opportunity here lies in combining the two approaches, where applicable for your business. We’re far from seeing any major decline in digital spending any time soon, but with huge ad platforms at Twitter and Meta on the ropes, marketers are exploring alternatives to keep their content fresh, and this could lead to a mini resurgence in traditional methods.

There have been some great examples of combined approaches, from that Superbowl TV ad that consisted solely of a moving QR code, to creative billboards that are just waiting to go viral. Rather than thinking about these approaches as an either/or, marketers need to consider traditional and digital as different tools that can be used together for greater effect.

Coinbase ad using a QR code floating on the screen

Digital fatigue

It’s also important to remember that all of this is taking place in the wake of a world-changing event. One that saw everyone’s screen time creep up, and remote working thrust into the mainstream. It isn’t surprising then that some audiences are becoming a little tired of pop ups and ads before videos.

This digital burnout has led to the resurgence of some approaches that many considered completely obsolete. A Forrester study in summer 2022 uncovered that B2B marketers were once again investing in direct mail and corporate gifting as a means of marketing strategy. And the organisation expects those figures to grow again in 2022/23.

Isn’t Fifty Five and Five a digital agency?

Yes. But as Barnaby mentioned in the video, our big break came when we began publishing our Microsoft Partner Top 50 – a physical guide to the latest movers and shakers in the Microsoft Partner Network. We’re digital first, but we recognise that there’s a growing appeal for traditional methods among some organisations.


The key to success for B2B businesses is going to be about understanding their audience and adopting approaches that pertain to them. It sounds simple, but the execution can be a little more complex.


This is where our team of experts come in. We know how to use digital and traditional marketing to craft a story and make that all important human connection. Our experience says it all. We understand the needs of marketing in the B2B technology space, what makes audiences tick and how to generate outstanding results at every stage in the funnel.


Take your B2B technology marketing to the next level with a team that has the expertise to get you there.