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Appreciating The Classics

We’ve spent the lion’s share of the last five years squinting keenly at marketing’s future. Then we’ve pressed forward, struggling mightily to stay on technology’s frontier. New media, social media… we do our best to embrace whatever media is de rigueur and along the way we’ve left many of our old, familiar media options in the past. Poor newspapers. Poor radio. Poor billboards.

But wait. Are these “classics” really so threadbare? Are they so old-fashioned that they are without value? The answer is no. Instead, most of these message delivery options have simply evolved from being broadcast media to being narrowcast media. Television and magazines started this trend thirty years ago. Where there was once a few general interest options (such as CBS and Time magazine), now there are hundreds (thousands?) of media vehicles with much more specific target audiences (Bravo, Food Network, Backpacker magazine).

The convergence of print, video and the web has forced many of these businesses to adapt (Hulu, iPad magazines, online newspapers) but the smart ones are finding new footing with their audiences. That being said, there is still a time and a place for their original incarnations – at least most of the time.

Outdoor advertising is a good example. While our cars seem to get smarter every day, it’s still important to watch where we are going. That means we still see billboards and vehicle wraps as we drive, and the “geographic targeting” opportunities are very valuable. However, with more and more cities imposing strict limitations on billboards, the prices of existing signs can be high. If your budget allows, though, outdoor advertising can be a great way to build your brand – especially a retail brand.

As newspapers age, so do their audiences. If you read that last sentence as a negative, however, you are missing the point. A mature audience is simply a different kind of audience. If you want to reach millenials, don’t buy newspaper advertising. If you want to reach baby boomers and their parents, newspapers are still a great option, especially if they’ve managed to include a digital edition in their offerings.

Why buy terrestrial radio? To reach anybody who is interested in local news and issues. That’s not everybody, but it is somebody – and it could be somebody who is your target audience. Direct mail is a great example of a medium where competition has decreased so much that it is actually easy to stand out again. A direct mail campaign has become unique by its very nature. Why not be the only brand-building message in your customer’s mailbox?

As you can see, the days of using these media vehicles to reach a mass audience are gone. The truth is, however, that new media can’t do that job either. There is simply no such thing as “mass media” anymore (and nobody should be priced like there is). Instead, you need to clearly identify your target audience, then narrowcast your message specifically to them by carefully seeking out the right media vehicles. It takes some strategic planning on the front end, but the improved efficiency is most certainly worth it as your message is delivered.

Don’t forget the “classics” when it comes to your media mix. Depending on your target audience, they may exactly what your plan is looking for.