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Dead Marketing Channels

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It’s fascinating how quick the media is to jump on a sensationalistic, morbid headline like, “Is email marketing dead?” or “The death of print.” or “Here comes the Facebook killer!” It’s getting to be a lot like reading tabloid headlines while waiting in line at the supermarket.

Back in the real world, marketing channels such as email, direct mail, print pieces, trade shows and that dinosaur of the social media world, Facebook, are alive and well and able to play an important part in your marketing mix.

Learn the truth about today’s marketing channels, with no sensationalism, in this week’s ZUZA Marketer’s Blog.


Not dead. Just evolving.

Marketing channels are always evolving. Before the 20th century, newspapers reigned supreme. Then radio came along and stole some of its share. Still, newspapers endured into the 21st century, and have only recently morphed to leave out the word “paper” and become more commonly distributed directly over the Internet.

TV came along, and some thought this might be the end of radio. Yet we still listen to radio in our cars today.

Cable came along, and that was predicted to spell doom for the big TV networks. But ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are still holding their own.

Then corporate intranets, the Internet with a capital “I” and PDFs came along, and these were supposed to usher in the paperless office. Oh, and email was supposed to kill direct mail. Wait, wasn’t social media supposed to mean the end of email? What about SMS killing phone calls?

Or online video killing TV watching altogether???


“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Truth is, very few marketing channels have actually died. With the exception of the telegraph, which only recently was turned off in India, and the fax machine, which is all but extinct, traditional channels have kept their place among the plethora of newer channels. For instance, traditional newspapers, while struggling to reinvent themselves in the Internet age, are still read and loved by many people. Sirius satellite radio and Pandora haven’t eliminated our local radio stations. Network TV is peacefully coexisting with cable. People may spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, (not to mention Pinterest, Instagram and more), but email is still the primary electronic communication medium. We text like crazy to each other but we also still talk on the phone. More people are reading on eReaders and tablets these days than ever, yet people still like to hold and touch their printed books. Heck, even good old vinyl records refuse to die, having enjoyed a recent resurgence (I was recently at a 5K running event where a DJ was spinning records on turntables to rev up the crowd).

Still, the media seems to take increasing delight in predicting the death of everything. When Google+ first came out, many asked if it would be the new “Facebook killer.” When that didn’t pan out, journalists flipped to the opposite extreme, calling Google+ a “ghost town” with nobody participating. Turns out they were wrong both times. Google has slowly, methodically grown Google+ into a very viable, vibrant and unique social network, taking its rightful place amongst the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, and yes, Facebook.

Journalists then started to predict the decline and eventual irrelevance of Facebook. After all, its stock price slumped immediately after its $38/share IPO, and it was aggravatingly slow to adapt to mobile devices (which, after all, are “the PC killer”). Gosh, Facebook is almost ten years old – that’s like a great grandfather in social media years. Yet, Facebook remains a solid platform with no real signs of abating. In fact, as of this writing, Facebook has made great gains in mobile advertising and its stock price has surged back to over $34.

And, how many times have we seen a new smartphone touted as “The Apple Killer!” ? Or been told of the death of Apple after the passing of Steve Jobs, its key (and apparently only) visionary? Yet, Apple just sold a record 31.2 million iPhones in Q3 2013 (at the time of this blog post). What this means for us marketers is that the iOS ecosystem of apps and advertising is still VERY much alive, Android and Samsung notwithstanding.


Some more “dead” channels that are still very much alive.

Email – neither social media nor SMS will make email go away. Email remains the number one way to communicate and share files. It’s also still a great way to reach prospects. The important thing is to avoid spamming. You do that by sending messages custom-tailored to the interests of your carefully selected recipients. In other words, send very relevant content in exactly the right contexts.

Direct mail – with emails bombarding us all day long, and our postal mailboxes getting less and less full, isn’t it a breath of fresh air to receive a well-conceived direct mail piece? I don’t know about you, but for me, nothing beats the excitement of opening a cleverly designed campaign envelope or box to reveal the surprise inside. Direct mail is more appreciated and more trusted today than before because we get so little of it today compared to email, and so much of email is spam. I predict not the death of direct mail, but the resurgence of it.

Print collateral – sure, PDF brochures and iPad catalogs are handy and nice. But the perfect leave-behind is still a printed brochure. Nothing has the sophistication, polish and tactile qualities of a well-printed collateral piece or book. Papers, inks, coatings, and die cuts combine in harmony to delight your multiple senses – the piece’s aesthetic appeal, the feel of its textured paper and coatings, the smell of the paper (not to mention scratch and sniff) and even the sound of turning the pages. Only taste is excluded from this sensory feast – and with the right food photography and digital printing, you may even think you’re tasting something too.

Trade shows – recessions, shrinking travel budgets, webinars and online conferencing were all supposed to signal the eventual obsolescence of traditional trade shows and events. What the pessimists didn’t realize is that nothing comes close to the power of face-to-face contact and in-person shared experiences for relationship building. So as long as there are people, there will be trade shows. Individual events may come and go, but this channel in general will remain very relevant.


The death of “killer” headlines.

Got you excited there for a minute, didn’t I? Wouldn’t it be nice if sensationalistic, morbid headlines just went away? Fat chance – such headlines get more eyeballs to the media and make advertising with them more effective – which is what we marketers want anyway, right? Regardless, the takeaway here is this: don’t let the doomsday headlines influence your choice of marketing channels. There’s plenty of solid research out there that tells a more truthful story.

In reality, what we now have is much more choice in marketing channels. New channels are gaining share at the expense of traditional channels, and each channel is finding its unique niche and strengths. This is both a blessing and a curse for us marketers. It’s a curse because our media buys are now a lot more complicated. We have many more choices to evaluate. It’s also a blessing, because, we have many more ways to reach our target markets, as well as the ability to segment and personalize with unprecedented specificity and accuracy. Big data, predictive analytics and marketing automation are helping us choose the right media and combine both online and offline media to synergistic effect.

It’s really the same as it ever was – advertise wherever you can get the best bang for your buck. For a local retailer, the evening local TV news and drive-time radio talk show may still be the very best places to advertise. For some consumer products, combining Facebook and email is the way to go. For luxury yacht sales, a perfect-bound, 30-page coffee table book and lush direct mail pieces may have the most impact. Depending on your product(s) and target market(s), any combination of these still-viable media may be optimal for you.



Research. Experiment. Adjust. And don’t believe everything you read in the media – including even this blog post. Find out for yourself.

Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.




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