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Strengths of Traditional Communications

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

 The Five Constraints

Creating a marketing plan requires assessing five constraints. These are known as the 5 Cs:

  • Customers: Who are your customers? Who are your target markets? And you need to do some analysis. How much data can you get about your customers?
  • Competitors: Who are your competitors? There may be people out there that you don’t really think are a direct competitor to you, but actually your customers do, or consumers do.
  • Company resources: What resources have you got? Don’t develop a plan that stretches you beyond your resources, making it too difficult to execute or costing too much.
  • Collaboration: Who can you collaborate with? Who can you build partnerships with? More and more brands are building strong partnerships together because they can help each other achieve mutual goals.
  • Context: What is the context? What is happing in the market? What is the context of this plan? What’s the external context for everything that you’re trying to do?

Consumer touch points

There are a number of consumer touch points in traditional communications. With traditional communications, unlike digital, these touch points tend to be more tangible.

Tangible touch points

One example would be direct marketing. It’s about being in a physical environment. And your marketing plan can even influence things like customer service or the retail environment.

Retail environment

Retail environment is so important. And it’s a massive opportunity to really push what your brand stands for. Think about some of the best retailers and the experience those brands deliver through their retail environment.

In the UK, think about brands like Topshop, for example, with their huge store right in the heart of London in Oxford Circus. Their marketeers are constantly planning change, which represents the brand. The brand Topshop stands for being at the cutting edge, and offering affordable fashion to its customers.

Internal communications

It’s not just your external customers who are important. Your internal customers are too!

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

This used to be very much about corporate to corporate communication. You wanted to be able to stand out maybe amongst the investor community by saying, “Hey, we’re doing things a little bit differently.”

But today, CSR is a huge part of what a brand stands for. Consider Unilever. A big part of their CSR policy was the environment, and that’s now a part of their purpose. And consumers are more and more influenced around the ethics of a business. Consider the Nestle milk scandal. Or more recently in the UK, Byron Burger, a burger chain. They were found to be helping out with the customs’ officers find people who may have been working illegally. As a result, people questioned their ethics. Campaigners went into Byron restaurants, completely disrupting things, and unleashing hordes of insects within the restaurants. Similarly, some start-ups like Deliveroo have faced problems. Zero-hour contracts have become a huge discussion point.

So companies really need to think about how they’re presenting ethics through their brand, through their CSR policy, and through their public relations.

Main characteristics

What are the characteristics of traditional marketing?

Broadcast style

Traditional communications is often a one-way conversation. Unless it’s around the customer experience (such as a customer talking in a retail environment or talking over the telephone to a customer service agent), traditional communication is broadcast style. As much as you want to shout at the television about an ad that you hate, that brand is not going to hear you! It’s a brand pushing out that message.


This is where brands essentially are trying to teach customers what they stand for. Remember, traditional communications is not a conversation, it can sometimes come across as very adult-to-child. It may not feel like a friend talking to you. Actually a lot of traditional communications can sometimes come across as being very deferential. They want consumers to be deferential. It’s because it’s a one-way conversation. They’re telling you what you should be doing.

Features focused

Consider a television ad for a car, for example. Often, it’ll be around the lifestyle they want to imagine, and what it feels like to drive that car. They will talk about some of the features, particularly if they are key points of differentiation. Or it’s around a message. It’s broadcast.


As technology changes, traditional communications channels like television start targeting different segments, different audiences, with a different television advert. But, on the whole, these are generalized. You can’t really target radio beyond picking a station that you hope your consumer target audience listens to.

And it’s a general message. This is sometimes difficult when you have a brand that is trying to be different things to different audiences. This is a challenge many banks face. When banks are doing a television advert, they may be aiming at everyone, from someone who owns accounts or checking accounts or credit card with them, right through to a business owner or a chairman of a FTSE 100 or a NASDAQ business. And that brand has to speak to all those people.


Traditional communications repeat a message again and again, hoping that it will influence the customer, and they will recall that brand at a key moment. So it’s important to think when you’re building your marketing plan about what key message that is, and how easy it is to repeat. You can’t have something massively long. Consumers won’t remember. It has to be short and simple in order for that repetition to work.

Strengths of traditional communications channels

Traditional communications have many strengths:

  • Ability to reach a mass audience: Digital can be very focused. It relies on massive data to target in a specific message to a specific person. With broadcast traditional communications, you can reach huge audiences. Think about the number of people that may watch a very popular television show or drive on a certain road during rush hour every day, and you have a huge outdoor poster. You can reach big audiences.
  • Drive awareness: A good campaign will drive awareness of that brand.
  • Proven track record: There’s a reason why people still use these channels. Because they work! The cost-per-acquisition can be high in some channels. But that’s not necessarily the channel not working. That may just be down to the creative approach you’ve taken. And it’s important to test approaches in each channel. But understand the reason that traditional communication is still used by businesses worldwide is because of this proven track record.
  • Experienced staff available: Think again about business resourcing. There have been so many people involved in building really successful television campaigns or successful direct marketing campaigns. These skills are widely available.
  • Achieve short-term results: If you have a very successful radio campaign or television advert, you can suddenly see the change in consumer behavior. You can see people buying your product.
  • Tangible: Whether it’s that piece of direct mail that drops through your door, whether it’s the retail experience, whether it’s the business card, whether it’s the annual report. These are things that we can touch, and we can experience in the physical environment with our eyes, with our hands, and with our ears.

Contribution to business goals

Traditional communications also align with company objectives, and they help contribute to wider business goals.

  • Increase sales: If you have really good campaigns using traditional media, you see increased sales.
  • Improve brand reputation: Remember how Byron and Deliveroo were affected. You want your brand to have a strong reputation because it’s a key part of the consumer purchase decision-making journey. If your brand has a bad reputation, consumers won’t come near it.
  • Widen your customer base: If you’re very targeted, which you can be with your digital communications, think about the broadcast element of traditional coms. They help you widen that customer base. It may be that because you’re using advertising on television during a very popular show, people that may not necessarily have come to your website will suddenly learn about you.
  • Increase your average revenue per customer: You can also optimize revenues from existing customers. Remember that this is not just about talking to new business. It’s about increasing your share of wallet from existing customers as well. And that share of wallet is key. You don’t want the consumers just to purchase your product as a one-off and then disappear because you want to build up a relationship.

Project a coherent message

Traditional communications enable you to project consistent, coherent messages on an on-going basis. And that’s across three areas:

  • Management communication
  • Marketing communication
  • Organizational communications

Management communications

These are your executives. These are the heads of businesses talking to the rest of the staff, the rest of your colleagues. The tone of voice is critical. What you want is you want the heads of business to have character, to be individuals. But they need to stay on message because if they’re not, they affect your brand.

A classic example in the UK is a chief executive, Gerald Ratner. He owned a chain of jewelry stores called Ratner’s, and was called into a parliamentary committee to talk about retail. A member of parliament asked him whether he would shop at his own stores. And Gerald Ratner said on record in front of television cameras that he wouldn’t buy jewelry from his stores! That chain of jewelry stores went bust within about a year afterwards. He didn’t believe in his brand. And he said that in public.

So management communications are critical, both internally and externally.

Marketing communication

We’ve already covered this subject earlier.

Organizational communications

Being a brand guardian is a really important role within a business. There are so many tools now that allow individuals to openly communicate with all their other colleagues.

You have to make sure that everyone understands the tone of voice and what your brand stands for. Otherwise, the message becomes muddied. It can even become dangerous as other people start saying things. And the brand isn’t necessarily understood. And that will affect how people in your organization talk to your customers.

In this omni-channel environment, the brand consistency, both internally and externally, is key. It is a challenge balancing it and not coming across as if you’re just trying to kill off any messages, or you’re trying to stop your leaders from having personality. You need to allow that to shine through, but keep the consistency of the brand message. It’s crucial.

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John Makin-Shaw

John Makin-Shaw is the Head of Marketing at Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance. For over 15 years he has been designing, launching, and managing customer propositions for some of the UK’s biggest brands.

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    Traditional Communications
    John Makin-Shaw
    Skills Expert

    This module introduces fundamental marketing principles and tools including the value proposition, the classic marketing mix, market research, the customer journey, communications planning, creative planning, media strategy, and amplifying brand performance. By referring to current and recent examples, it illustrates how digital technology and changing consumer behavior and lifestyles are altering the consumer decision-making process and disrupting traditional marketing models and strategies.