Understanding Marketing Mediums

See also: The 7 P's of Marketing

Marketing activity is defined as the activity used by a business to promote its goods or services. Companies can use a variety of platforms, or mediums, for this activity. The choice of platform is critical in determining the outcomes of your marketing, so it pays to understand what you are doing.

The traditional choices of medium were broadcast or print media, direct mail and telephone sales. However, there are now many more options, including digital and interactive, and social media. This page explains more about each of these, to help you make an informed choice between them.

Choosing the Right Marketing Medium

It is important to choose the right medium(s) for your marketing activity.

The platform needs to fit the aims of your marketing, including the target audience. Each platform also has different costs, and advantages and disadvantages, so can make a big difference to both the success of your campaign, and your bottom line.

It is therefore vital to understand the options available, including their pros and cons.

Traditional Mediums

Traditional marketing mediums include broadcast and print media, telephone and direct mail.

  • Broadcast media include radio and television

    Television used to be an important way to reach particular groups. Slots at certain times, or during certain events such as sports finals, were particularly valued. However, the rise in on-demand viewing has meant that television viewers are more likely to be able to fast-forward through advertisements. Advertising is therefore less likely to reach the target audience, making spend less justifiable—and television is also one of the most expensive marketing mediums.

    Radio is a very good way to reach particular demographic groups. Many stations are local, or have a clear target segment dictated by content choice. This means that it is easy to target particular segments. People also often listen to the radio while driving, so are less likely to turn off during advertisements, making the spend better value for money.

  • Direct mail remains important and is increasingly sophisticated

    Direct mail is the use of flyers, letters or catalogues sent to target consumers. There is a perception that this approach is untargeted and unsophisticated. However, this is very much not the case. Companies using direct mail often use very sophisticated targeting methods. The huge advantage of direct mail is that customers have a piece of paper in their hands, which is in stark contrast to online media. However, it is costly to mail hundreds or thousands of people. The development of privacy protection legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, also means that it is harder for companies to hold and pass on personal data.

  • Telephone marketing is becoming less important thanks to consumer protection legislation

    Telephone marketing, or telemarketing, gets a bad press. It has been restricted in recent years to curb aggressive sales approaches, and also because of ‘ambulance chasers’, companies that buy data from insurance companies, and follow up people who have had accidents. The data protection legislation has also had an adverse effect, because people can ask to be ‘forgotten’. This renders their data worthless to the marketing company. Telemarketing is also time-consuming, because each operator can only call one person at once. Its popularity is therefore waning, although it remains an option.

  • Print media includes both newspapers and magazines

    Newspapers and magazines are now often available both in print and online—and advertising and sponsored copy can be included in both. There is therefore an overlap between traditional and so-called new media here. However, fewer people now read newspapers, with many choosing to consume news via websites that collate stories from multiple sources. It is therefore harder to target particular groups via print media.

New forms of marketing media

New marketing media include all forms of online and interactive platforms, including social media. They are generally separated into ‘digital/interactive’, which covers the internet, mobile and email, and ‘social media’, which covers social networking sites.

  • Digital/interactive media include mobile, email and internet

    Digital and interactive marketing includes a wide range of activities.

    For example, email may include targeted mailings based on web activity, sending out newsletters via email, and sending offers to prospects. Website-based activity may include banner advertisements on websites, corporate websites, and streaming audio or video. Mobile activity includes mobile ad messaging using location technology.

    One particular form worth mentioning is search engine marketing (SEM). This is about improving your ranking for particular terms in search results. It can be both paid and organic.

    Organic involves optimising your website to make the site appear more attractive to search engines, and therefore move yourself up the organic search findings, this is known as search engine optimisation (SEO).

    Paid simply means paying to appear at the top (or near the top) of specific search results, but labelled as an advertisement. Advertisers pay for clicks through from the advertisement, so it is easy to measure effectiveness. However, ‘pay per click’ (PPC) is becoming less popular now that users are more aware of it, and avoid clicking on advertisements. Depending on the search team you are paying for this type of marketing can be expensive.

  • Social media includes all social networking sites

    Social media is the use of social networking sites to share information with customers, engage with them, and respond to their comments. It may include both organic and paid activity. It is important to pick your social media site to match your target audience. You also need to tailor your content to the site. Social media has a crucial advantage: organic activity is free. However, most companies have now found that they need to pay to engage fully with their audience. Fortunately, the costs are still fairly low, and social media companies support extremely fine targeting of content, so the returns can be very good.

    There is more about this in our page on Social Media Marketing.

A wide range of options

As this page makes clear, there are many different marketing mediums now available. In many ways, this has made it harder for marketers, rather than easier. Their audience is now more fragmented, and they may need to use more approaches to reach a smaller group of people. However, there are also more free or low cost options, such as organic social media and email.

The key is to choose your medium to fit your audience. As with any other marketing activity, you need to think about what you want to achieve before you start.