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For years various “Marketing Experts” have been falsely proclaiming that traditional marketing is dead. The list includes such respected publications as the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. The one such proclamation along this line was the statement, “The traditional marketing playbook is broken.” in a post on Entrepreneur.com (which I will not validate with a link).

It doesn’t matter who is saying it or how often it is said, these kinds of statements are false. Traditional marketing is not dead. Billions of people around the world still watch television and listen to the radio. Print newspapers and magazines have shrunk in readership but advertising in them still gets results. Direct mail is still very effective.

Such pronouncements are usually accompanied by various numbers that supposedly support what the “expert” saying. Here are some of the “statistics” used in the Entrepreneur article and what’s wrong with them.

  1. Almost everyone – 91 percent, to be precise – has unsubscribed from email lists. This number is twisted in such a way as to make it seem like email marketing doesn’t work and at first glance would seem to indicate that this percentage of people will unsubscribe from your email lists. That just isn’t true. If I was on 10 email lists and unsubscribed to 2 of them, then the statement that I “unsubscribed to email lists” could be said to apply to me. but the fact is that I unsubscribed to just 20% of the lists I was on. In the real world I only unsubscribe from lists whose emails are not useful to me. I’m sure it is true that 91% of the population has unsubscribed to one or more email list at some point in their lives, but most businesses are not going to lose 91% of their subscribers.
  1. Two-out-of-three people (68 percent) who record TV content do so to skip advertisements. So? What does that mean compared to the total number of people who watch TV? This 68 percent of people who record content could represent 0.0068 percent of the total TV viewing public for all I know. The specifics aren’t given so the 68% is actually meaningless.
  1. The average click-through rate on display ads is only 0.2 percent. Okay, and what about other forms of “traditional” ads like TV, radio, print? And of course the other question is what does that represent in actual numbers of people going to company websites? It’s possible to get a return on your investment at 0.2 percent click through.

Having said all that, here’s something that is true: marketers have to work harder now to get results than they did 25-30 years ago. The reason is the sheer number of channels and marketing messages people are subjected to. Consumers are inundated with all kinds of messages and information today. There’s an incredible amount of advertising and non-advertising communications coming at us daily. With all that “noise” companies have to communicate louder and more frequently for their message to get through. Additionally, potential customers have access to a great deal more information about the products they are interested in and the companies that sell them than any time in history. As a result, companies have to produce higher quality products and services and be more honest than ever. If they don’t then the word will get out to their target audience and the business will fail. Thus product and/or service quality can impact marketing results.

No matter how you go about marketing your company’s products or services, the same fundamentals apply – have a great product, ensure it is produced at a consistently high quality, grow your audience (mailing lists, viewers, etc.) and market the product to your target customers loudly enough to be heard over the din of other messages. If you do those things, you’ll be successful.