How to Apply Digital Marketing Principles to Traditional Media Channels

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The right message, at the right time, shown to the right person. That was probably the first thing we were taught about marketing. Even as the martech stack becomes more advanced, the integrations increase, and the personalization of campaigns gets more specific, they are still in service of this simple mantra. 

Digital marketing has eroded traditional marketing’s share of spend, rightfully so, as it has been able to add more “science” into this equation, relying less on the “art” of your agency partner. The “fact” vs. “belief” paradigm is at play. 

The reality is that people still watch TV, listen to the radio, and drive by OOH boards. It isn’t an OR, it is an AND — traditional media and digital. A huge miss with avoiding traditional media is scale. Sure, custom Facebook targeting is great, but can you reach two million people with one spot? 

So, let’s break down how we can apply the principles of digital marketing (which really are the principles of traditional direct mail marketing, but that is another topic altogether) to our more traditional channels.

First, a few words about location.

Store’s Physical Location

A successful retailer is built on a strong real estate foundation. Going back to the marketing 101 mantra “right message, right place, right time,” if your location isn’t convenient to a consumer, it doesn’t matter. This is not the Field of Dreams — just because you built it, it doesn’t mean they will come.

From a traditional media standpoint, you can assess the geo-spatial relationship between where the store is, where the consumers are, and how media is delivered. How far are consumers willing to drive (in real drive-time, not just as-the-crow-flies distance)? What is a realistic targeting area, and how does your media channel overlap?

If 80% of your consumers are within 25 minutes of your store (which for most retailers is true), how much waste is in your DMA-wide TV buy? Are you buying the right radio stations that actually cover that custom targeting area? Factoring that waste into your current media CPMs is required to truly understand if your media even has a shot at driving incremental action.

Consumer’s Physical Location

Thinking back to P.C. (pre-Covid), consumer movement patterns were fairly stable and predictable. We aren’t there yet, but at some point, consumer behavior will stabilize. When it does, how can you be ready to use that to drive efficiency? Simple — avoid the tactics / spends that have the lowest likelihood to disrupt behavior.

Understanding where a consumer physically is can help assess the potential waste. Once we know the WHERE, we can need to focus on the WHEN. When are they in their homes? When are they commuting? When are they running errands? When are they relaxing?

From a CRM perspective, the “where” of a consumer is typically their home address. By looking at anonymized mobility data, you can now tell the movement patterns of those consumers, not just their home address. If I want to target consumers who live in ZIP code 55804, where do they work? Where do they play?

Now, let’s look at right message, right place, right time.

The Right Message

Traditional can’t touch digital’s personalization, so we need to reframe that question. It isn’t how can you customize a TV spot for an individual, it is how do you take advantage of what the channel is good at?

Don’t try to make an out-of-home board “act” like a custom-audience paid social ad. Instead, use it to generate awareness. Don’t overthink radio – terrestrial stations already tell you what format of music they play. They have done the hard work of segmentation already (rock stations skew older, white, and male, while Top 40 are younger and more diverse). Just use it!  

The Right Time

Time is relative. I am not talking of marcom sequencing here or cart-abandonment interstitials. This is more from the consumer POV. What is the consumer doing when you are trying to reach them? How are they spending their time? The key here is to understand what task you are trying to distract them from. 

What someone is willing to “care” about as they shift from parent, to co-worker, to Sunday school teacher, to coach, to “chauffeur” changes. Make sure you are understanding the “time” context as to where this shift exists, and build your media plans accordingly.

The Right Person

There are over 41,000 ZIP codes in the US, each one of them unique in its makeup. The key for traditional media is to understand the profile of these geographies and go after areas that have the highest density of your target. 

The combination of the consumer’s physical location and medium (phone, TV, radio, etc.) provides the needed context to assess the potential waste. If the goal of the campaign is new customer acquisition, do you really think that OOH board near the store is going to disrupt their already-planned errand run? Or would the OOH investment be better served closer to their home, building the consideration set to influence the next run, not trying to disrupt the current one?

Traditional channels such as TV, radio, and OOH might have limitations on targeting when you compare them to digital channels, but I challenge everyone to think beyond the simplistic mass marketing vs 1:1 argument.  The scale and reach potential of these traditional channels is still massive, and by asking the right questions and changing your perspective to focus on what they can deliver, there most likely is a way to incorporate them effectively in your mix. 

Nik Hengel is Director of Localytics for the Geo-Spatial Analytics Group at Novus Media.