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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What is digital marketing?

Before we begin our journey into concepts of digital marketing, we should think about how we would define digital marketing. The advent of the internet, and the number of devices and platforms that people use to connect and share content, has given rise to the digital marketing era. Simply put, this online space is where you will find your consumers and grow your business.

Digital marketing is the use of new media or digital technology to achieve marketing and business goals.

If we wish to be more specific, digital marketing can be defined within the parameters of technologies using digital formats and the internet. This ranges from computers to mobile technology, and even things like digital billboards. Moreover, digital marketing encompasses online shared experiences such as social media or digital marketing software. These, in turn, help marketers create, distribute, and track their campaign on digital platforms to drive success.

Inbound and outbound

Two of the most important principles in digital marketing are outbound and inbound marketing.


Outbound marketing begins with the brand advertiser pushing out a message to a specified target audience with the objective being to drive awareness of a product or service. This is done by rapidly spreading word of the campaign product or service to the target audience using, for example, visual display banner and video formats multiple times to ensure people remember the product. This is known as ‘drive product recall,’ and is achieved through audience reach and repetition. It is your more traditional way to do marketing. Essentially, you have a message, you have an audience, and you are pushing that message to your audience. Your hope is that the message captures your audience’s attention. This concept applies to digital marketing as much as traditional marketing.


Inbound marketing is the exact opposite; it’s almost like reverse marketing. Inbound marketing involves trying to pull your audience towards your content, brand, or service. It is about attracting those people who are already interested in your product or service so that they seek you out and engage. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels such as blogs, search engines, email subscriptions, word of mouth, and online reviews/recommendations. As a marketer, you are attempting to find ways to create the conditions where people are drawn to your brand via your content, with the objective of turning them into a customer.

In today’s business world, inbound marketing is the most important aspect to digital marketing as it allows you to attract customers who consider your content or service relevant to them. The strength of inbound marketing is ‘user intent’. What do we mean by user intent? In essence, it is the audience who have the internal drive to take action to find your product. This action is based on their own needs, and how and when they want to proceed with a sale or conversion. Good inbound marketing provides efficient and effective routes for your audience to come to your brand. It stands apart in its effectiveness at encouraging audience action – particularly when that audience has a finite attention span from consuming a limitless amount of content on their devices and platforms.

Types of media

Digital marketing comprises, among other things, three different media channels: owned, paid, and earned.

  • Owned media is the media that you create and manage.
  • Paid media is media or advertising that you have paid for to drive banner and video visibility, or clicks and traffic, to your product, website, or service.
  • Earned media is free publicity generated by consumers, PR, influencers, and people who speak about and share content related to your brand or product. Earned media is generated either in response to content you’ve shared, or via voluntary mentions; in many cases, these people will be your brand advocates and will actively promote your brand because they like you!

While it is important to consider each media type independently, you must also consider how they can work together, and harmoniously, to produce an all-encompassing, successful digital marketing campaign. For instance, you should explore how paid media will promote your own content, and, in turn, how your own content will help to influence earned media?

Owned media

To begin, owned media incorporates a company’s own content, packaging, point-of-sale, and the people who come into contact with consumers. It’s the stuff a brand creates to promote itself. Owned media promotes your brand in a very personal way by exhibiting your company’s values and highlighting what the product or company does.

Some key questions you should ask when considering owned media are:

  • What am I going to talk about?
  • What do I want people to see?
  • What type of message do I want to get across to my audience?

Think of owned media as a source for developing your brand personality. For example, when you post on social media, try to avoid posting something dull and boring. Instead, aim to post something that is true to your values and what you represent.

Some benefits of owned media include the cost efficiency, flexibility, longevity, and power of developing a go-to platform for your audience. Owned media is important for creating trust and legitimacy in the market. It acts as a main platform for communicating all that the company is, sells, and does.

However, there are challenges to driving audience engagement from owned media, as it can take some time to build a reputation and trust that guarantees high levels of traffic to your website, blog, or other digital assets.

Paid media

Our second media type, paid media, comprises any form of media designed to promote your brand or content on the internet for a fee. Examples of this includes social media advertising, paid search, display adverts, or paid influencers.

Paid media helps you to scale up your digital marketing campaign and reach more people than non-paid formats. In tandem with various reporting tools such as Google Analytics, you will be able to analyze who is seeing your media and how the audience engages or interacts with your campaigns. This, in turn, enables you to adjust and optimize your paid media performance. With paid media you can take ad formats and brand content and show it to people who you believe will find it relevant, useful, or engaging. Essentially, this means you have control over where, when, and what is seen. The drawback is that you have to pay for it!

Outbound paid media is useful for building awareness and generating familiarity, as it provides the basis for audience reach, ad repetition, and defined audience targeting. Inbound paid media like paid search and types of remarketing are great ways to drive sales and conversions. However, with the advent of ad blockers, for example, there are challenges to the efficacy of paid media, particularly with today’s ad saturation and the ability to skip or report ads.

Earned media

Finally, earned media is the ultimate goal for brands and digital marketers. It is where you have created a good piece of content, shared it through various platforms – including paid promotion – and now people are engaging with it and actively sharing it with their friends because they view it as important, relevant, interesting, or even funny. Effectively, earned media is about people interacting with your content without you having to put in the effort to drive traffic. Furthermore, your brand can borrow the legitimacy of normal people sharing your content, and this builds trust and credibility far quicker and far more effectively than paid media ever could.

Earned media comprises shares, reviews, mentions, and reposts; anything that allows your content to appear on people’s social media timelines, for example. That is why earned media is so valuable. It has already established a level of trust – it comes personally recommended – and this is something a paid ad cannot do. People will question the relevance of a paid ad because of its very nature, because of the fact that it has been paid for.

Some benefits of earned media include the fact that it creates credibility, is organic, and tends to live on longer than paid or owned media.

However, as this type of media is at the mercy or discretion of internet users, particularly in an age where content can ‘go viral’, it can become difficult to control the direction your earned media moves. In worst-case scenarios, viral content adopts unintended negative meanings. Also, it can be difficult to understand how effective earned media is in driving action or resonating with your audience. We should always consider if it is bringing people to your brand or content for the intended reasons you set out.

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Please note that the module slides are designed to work in collaboration with the module transcript document. It is recommended that you use both resources simultaneously.

Digital Marketing Resources:

Philippe Polman

Philippe is a digital engagement specialist with extensive experience helping clients to create and manage deeper, more personal relationships with their target audiences. In previous roles, Philippe has designed and executed international communications programs focused on internal communications, UX, brand management, media engagement (traditional and digital), investor relations, and corporate positioning. More recently, he has founded his own aviation consultancy business, which combines both his passion and experience for the aerospace industry.

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful. While relevant to this module, you will not be assessed on this content.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library


    Introduction to Digital Marketing
    Philippe Polman
    Skills Expert

    This module introduces the core principles and purpose of digital marketing. It will enable you to develop clear and actionable business objectives for a digital marketing plan, to gain audience and industry insight by conducting digital research, and to prepare the foundations for a fully integrated 360 digital marketing campaign by connecting effectively with your customers and target audience.