Сontent Marketing vs Traditional Product Marketing: Clash of the Titans


When I was a little girl, I loved watching TV commercials. Everything said or shown on TV was an undeniable truth for me, and getting a hold of something ever advertised on Cartoon Network or Disney Channel immediately made me feel happy.

Ever since I learned about content marketing, I can’t get rid of that childhood feeling of exaltation. Great content gives you confidence in the product, makes you respect a brand, and influences your decision to buy. And all that without a single call to action.

In 2015, 88% of businesses used content marketing to promote their products (according to Content Marketing Institute). Needless to say, content marketing managed to take over the digital world, and it seems like it is not going to lose ground anytime soon.

However, does this content marketing hype mean that traditional advertising is doomed? Did customers really stop responding to adverts in magazines or on TV? And most importantly, which strategy would work best for your business? Keep reading to find answers!


Key Concepts of Traditional Marketing

Traditional product marketing has been with us since the 1600s when the first advert appeared in a print newspaper in Italy. To cut a long story short, a product is a center of the traditional marketing universe, and everything you write, draw, or film revolves around it. When I say “traditional marketing” I basically mean good old advertising, which nowadays exists in various forms:

  • My favorite TV commercials
  • My not so favorite radio ads
  • Ads in printed media (magazines, newspapers, directories)
  • Outdoor advertising (billboards, sandwich boards)
  • Handouts (leaflets, brochures, fliers)
  • Telemarketing, promotional emails
  • Web banners
  • Posters on transport

Essentially, traditional marketing pitches a product directly to a customer. You know how it works – take a product, tell how amazing it is, and persuade customers to buy it. Repeat till you are satisfied with how much money you’ve made.


What Makes Content Marketing So Innovative?


Content marketing managed to gain so many supporters because it offered a new approach to product positioning. A primary task of a content marketer is to create amazing non-promotional content that would help customers solve their problems instead of directly imposing an idea to buy something. No “buy one get one free”, no special offers, discounts, no sales pitches.

Such content answers questions, motivates, educates, contributes to our overall well-being. Content marketing became possible with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, and other social networking channels where people not only communicate but also learn from each other and share valuable information. Therefore, content marketing came into existence in the following forms:

  •             Blog articles
  •             Social media posts
  •             Email newsletters
  •             Online conferences, webinars
  •             White papers
  •             Podcasts, videos
  •             Infographics


A great example of content marketing is Tailwind by Hipmunk. It’s a travel blog where you can find answers to all your questions: what are the must-see places in Capetown, how to pack a backpack when it’s raining, what are the best food festivals to visit.

Reading such amazing content, you can’t help but wonder who stands behind all that. Who are those people who know so much about traveling? You respect them, unwillingly, and when the time comes to set off on your own adventure, you trust them to organize a trip for you.


A Battle of Content Marketing and Traditional Marketing

In this clash, two titans will meet and we will judge them according to several criteria: cost, exposure, engagement, lifespan, and tracking ROI.



Winner: Content marketing

Traditional advertising is a multi-million dollar industry with prices that are far from being affordable. TV ads cost around $342,000 per 30 seconds (according to Webpagefx), but this price can go up to millions of dollars (just think how much it takes to plan and shoot a video clip, let alone pay for the airtime). Of course, there are cheaper alternatives like newspaper ads and email marketing, but you still need to fork out a decent sum of money to achieve real results.

I can’t say that content marketing is cheap either. Yes, you can get an article written for a couple of dollars on Fiverr or Upwork, but superior quality pieces of writing can cost up to $500. Apart from that, content marketing strategy and various assessment tools are also not free (more on that read here). However, even taking into consideration all those expenses, content marketing is still more budget-friendly than any paid advertising campaign.



Winner: Traditional marketing


Well, wouldn’t you expect millions of people to see your ad having paid a king’s ransom for it? I would! Traditional marketing does an amazing job getting your message across to a record number of people (and the more money you are ready to invest, the bigger this number is).

This is why commercials broadcast during big events like Super Bowl or the Oscars are so incredibly expensive. This is why billboards in Times Square cost a couple of millions a year and billboards elsewhere – $1000 – $2000 per month only.

Content marketing, on the other hand, cannot boast such a huge exposure, even though social media is quite a powerful promotion tool. It still takes time and effort to get people to read, like, and share your content.



Winner: Debatable

You know what people hate? When someone all of a sudden tries to sell them something. Traditional advertising is generally seen as interruptive marketing, where companies pop up from nowhere with their products and start pitching them to us. That’s exactly why content marketing worked just so well: people were tired of being sold to. They were tired of one-sided communication with no chance of getting heard.


Content marketing, on the other hand, focuses on helping rather than aggressively pushing a product forward. You tell an interesting story, share your experience, consult, or encourage to become more productive, and, in return, you get shares, recommendations, appreciation, and trust. You help to live a fuller, happier life, and it works better than any advert. Even though content marketing is still marketing, meaning that you do it in order to get new customers and, consequently, make more money, this subtle communication between you and your audience creates strong bonds and lasting connections.

However, in doesn’t mean that traditional marketing is going to die completely anytime soon. It is, by all means, effective, because it broadcasts a frank and straightforward message: we have a cool product, and we want you to know about it. Yes, customers of digital era are spoiled, and it was much easier to impress them in 2001. But if you run an extremely creative marketing campaign and offer something that touches, stuns, and makes people stop and say “wow!”, you’ll soon hear sales knocking at your door.



Winner: Content marketing


Though traditional marketing is a relatively fast way to grow sales, most ads are forgotten the minute they disappear from streets, magazines, TV, or web pages. You spend a fortune on advertising, but you have to constantly be seen and heard in order to be remembered. In other words, you constantly have to pay over and over again. At the same time, higher exposure does not always translate into higher conversion, as people who see your ads are not always people who need your products.

Content marketing is a long-time strategy, but once the result is achieved, it stays with you for a long time. Customers won through content marketing tend to be more loyal and, according to Forbes, and are less likely to treat your business as a one-night stand.

Content marketing always comes at a right time, as you simply give your customers, information that they initially were interested in finding. Apart from that, quality content never goes out of date; instead, like a good wine, it gets better and better with time.


Tracking ROI

Winner: Traditional marketing

With traditional marketing, it’s really easy to calculate returns. Today you launched your campaign, tomorrow you can see how successful (or lousy) it is. You know why your sales went up or down, and it’s easy to decide what strategies to use in the future. Tracking ROI may be harder if you use several channels to spread the word about your product, but traditional marketing allows for more accurate numbers.

Things get complicated with content marketing: there are too many metrics to track, and it’s hard to tell which one is the closest to measuring effectiveness. Should you focus on average time spent on a page, visits, or number of shares? How do you measure success in content marketing? Of course, there are many tools nowadays that help, but the question is still not fully answered.



Content marketing is, undeniably, in vogue right now. It’s effective. It’s impressive. It’s cheap, but it works. Even big companies like Starbucks started doing content marketing, and they, of course, are nailing it.

However, it definitely doesn’t mean that you have to cancel your traditional product marketing campaign right now. Advertising still has its benefits; primarily, it lets people know that you exist. Putting a sandwich board in front of your shoe repair shop will not scare away your customers (in fact, if you hire a top-notch copywriter to do some magic on it, this sandwich board will only skyrocket your sales).


About the Author: 

Jenna Brandon is a blogger, copywriter, and digital marketer at Writology.com. When she’s not busy creating articles on content marketing, social media, and consumer psychology, she takes stunning pictures of California or cooks pizza. Jenna is also an avid traveller, and she is secretly Italian at heart.


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