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Trash or Treasure: Does Traditional Marketing Still Work?


Do traditional marketing methods still work? In the rush to embrace social media, online marketing, and other newer marketing methods, many companies are leaving traditional marketing methods behind. While traditional marketing efforts aren’t a great fit for everyone, many of them still have a place in modern advertising. But the success of traditional channels like radio ads, billboards, or newspapers depends heavily on two things: the message you need to convey and the audience you need to reach. Done properly, traditional marketing methods can still work.


As I said in The 5th P: Getting Personal Through Stories, the traditional billboard is not a right fit for every story, but it definitely still has its place in the advertising arena. When considering advertising on a billboard, ask yourself: Can a billboard communicate the level of detail you need to tell your story, and is it putting your story in front of the right audience? A well-designed billboard can be very effective for telling a very quick story to a local audience.




Above are great examples of billboard designs we’ve created for clients who had a simple, compelling message that needed to reach a rather large market in a specific geographical area. This is the perfect formula for billboard placement.

How to Make Billboards Work

If you are considering billboard advertising, ensure that it meets these qualifications:

1. Close proximity to your business or worth the drive.

A well-placed billboard may be 3 or 4 times the price as a billboard the same size in a poor location. It is often tempting to go with a bargain, but remember that the point of advertising is to reach potential clients, and more marketing dollars well spent are better than fewer dollars wasted.

2. Reach your target audience.

Billboards work best with they are advertising a solution to a broad need: medical care, public awareness campaign, gasoline, food, a place to sleep, a popular vacation destination, and more. These are basic needs that will affect most drivers or passengers. According to an Arbitron National In-Car Study, the average American spends nearly 20 hours per week in a car – either as the driver or as a passenger. So by strategically placing ads on well-travel roads, you can advertise to a rather large audience.

3. Make an impression.

While you may be reaching a high traffic area, according to Marketing Scoop, on average, a person will see your billboard for about two to three seconds. This means you’ll need to keep your messages short and to the point. Ensure your billboard stands out with great design, imagery and messaging that conveys the benefit a customer receives from your product or service, and a call to action large enough, and simple enough to comprehend in a few seconds while driving.

Direct Mail

Even in the age of Facebook, SEO, and significant tech updates every three months, the benefits of direct mail are on the rise.


Like the examples above, direct mail can be successful if it is: mailed to a highly-targeted list and/or to a well-vetted existing list, is engaging, personal, contains content of value, and features a unique call to action. Direct mail can be pricey but can bring a lot of bang for your buck. If your mailing holds pertinent information to the reader, your mail will most likely be read and can result in a purchase.

How to Make Direct Mail Work

Here are some tips on how to make direct mail work for you:

1. Have a highly targeted mail list.

Mailers are very successful when targeted to existing customers (obviously a very interested group since they’ve already purchased from you) or a very specific market. If you do not already keep a detailed database of your customers, find a way to incorporate that into your practice. Having a list of customer contact information is a great way to continue engagement with direct mail or email, which we’ll talk about more later. If you don’t have a list of existing customers or are looking to expand your market, purchased databases are great options for you. Using a service like InfoUSA you can create a very custom list with options including the follow:

  • Criteria for business to business mailings: Type of business, size of business, geographic location, net income, credit rating, years in business and even get the contact information of specific job titles.
  • Criteria for business to consumer mailings: Geographic location (including zip codes, neighborhoods, radius around an address, etc.), age, estimated household income, marital status, gender, housing type, personal finance, voter information, religion, ethnicity, even special interests like history, music, cooking, fitness, motorsports, sports, and travel.

2. Make it eye-catching and engaging.

94% of customers judge direct mail by visual appearance so make sure your design stands out! Some suggestions for accomplishing a stand-out piece:

  • Most direct mail comes in standard sizes so creating a piece that is taller or wider than average can help your message stand out.
  • Adding full color increases response rates by 45% so make informed color choices. As discussed in a previous post Identity Crisis: A Brand New Approach For Your Business, colors spark certain emotions in viewers so make sure producing the proper response from readers.
  • Lastly, be as personal as possible. The recipient of every mailer is a human reader. Direct mail is pricey, and variable labeling can be even pricier, so be creative with ways to add that personal touch. Mail to specific databases based on previous purchases (like a cruise catalog with discounted purchase rates mailed to someone who recently took a cruise), or take the time to write a handwritten note (or design a handwritten look like the Madison piece above) to each mailing, and lastly, integrate with social media and online marketing so readers have a place to go for more information or to ask further questions before making a purchase.

3. Include a call to action.

A call to action is not covered by basic contact information – you need to make it clear that your mailers that there is an obvious next step. 56% of people welcome mail that gives them useful information, 62% like to receive mail for special offers, 70% want mail that rewards their loyalty. These offers need to be specific and trackable offers, for example: “Call and mention this mailer for 10% off your purchase.” Or, “We appreciate your business bring this mailer with you on your next visit for a complementary gift.” Keep up with the success of these offers to know what is working and what isn’t for future marketing efforts.

Newspaper & Magazine Ads

In recent years, a growing number of people no longer receive the newspaper. Newspapers aren’t alone: magazine consumption has also been on the decline as more individuals choose to find their news online.

These changes can create positive opportunities, and the newspapers and magazines that have survived are the ones that have adapted to keep with the times. As businesses, our marketing efforts must evolve as well. Just like newspapers and magazines, we have to be agile enough to adapt and advertising strategy needs.



There are some markets and industries where newspapers, magazines, and industry publications are still quite effective. Before purchasing print advertising, request a copy of the publication’s media kit. This should include current circulation numbers and readership demographics. It will also help you target specific issues covering topics that better reach your market. Lastly, don’t be afraid to combine your print ad with online options, if offered.

How to Make Newspaper and Magazine Ads Work

If you are considering advertising in publications, ensure that you following these guidelines:

1. Choose an efficient ad size.

You don’t have to purchase a full page ad to make a big impact. Grab a current issue of the paper or magazine and review the ads that stand out. Depending on the amount of information your ad needs to convey, a smaller size may be plenty if it is well designed and colorful.

2. Know publication schedules.

Newspapers sections and issues reach different targets. Know your target’s interests and place your ad in a high traffic area for your market. Similarly, most magazines have special themed issues. Know the publication schedule well in advance to look for themed issues that may be a good match. For example, a bridal issue of a local magazine may be the perfect time to advertise your event venue.

3. Invest in robust options.

Meet the audience where they are: if your audience is going online for news, you need to meet them there. You have to be knowledgeable about your target audience and tracking their activities. Most newspapers and magazines now have an online version as well. Look for advertising packages that will place your ad in both the physical and online publications.

TV and Radio Commercials

Radio and TV advertising are worthwhile options for businesses with the budgets to do them. This type of advertising is on the high end of many budgets but is a great way to reach a local audience.


How to Make TV and Radio Ads Work

If you are considering advertising with radio of television stations, consider these suggestions:

1. Choose the Right Stations and TV Shows

Be as strategic as possible when placing TV or radio ads. Ask for demographics and choose TV shows and radio stations that already reach your market.

2. Have a Unique Message

TV and radio ads are fleeting often 30 seconds or even less. Your ad must grab attention quickly and be memorable to be effective. Spend some time carefully considering what your unique message is and the best way of getting it across in an engaging way.

3. Get Creative with Air Times

Think outside of the box when it comes to programming your air times. Prime time may seem like the best option, but will also be the most expensive. Mix both high dollar time slots and cheaper ones to gain the most reach for you budget.

Apply Here

Identifying and understanding your market is still key to great marketing. Traditional techniques can be appropriate if it is the best way to target audience activities, location, or buying behavior.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be one or the other: The best company strategies have robust marketing efforts with great messaging, design, consistency and, most of all, tracking to see which efforts are working.

If This Feels Daunting, We Can Help.

Red Sage offers marketing strategy services ranging from brand consulting and market research, to in-depth annual marketing strategies with 12-month consulting campaigns and management.

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