Skip links

Digital and Physical Marketing Examples and Differences

The major difference between digital and physical marketing is the medium through which an audience encounters a marketing message. In this digital age, it’s normal to buy all sorts of products over the internet. For instance, during the pandemic COVID-19, the increase in digital purchases grew, and there were inevitable accelerated changes in the way we shop. However, despite the increase in digital purchases, some people still prefer to visit shops and enjoy that personalized service and customer experience of interacting with the sales team.

These preferences and changes give an insight into how marketing needs to evolve together with the changes in how people shop. New concepts need to be created to blend digital and physical marketing strategies. Brands should be able to offer customers a blend of e-commerce experience and physical experience. As consumer behavior changes, marketers have had to create strategies that have to shift along with the changes.

Digital and physical marketing are the two ways of promoting and selling products or services
Digital and physical marketing are the two ways of promoting and selling products or services

A good marketing strategy should take advantage of everything that is available to the customer. And since in this time and age, digital technology has become a big part of everyday life, marketers need strategies that would consider this element. This is why digital marketing is on the rise these days. Consumers, on the other hand, still long for some physical elements of brick-and-mortar establishments. Hence, it has become crucial for businesses and brands to craft marketing plans that incorporate the digital and physical aspects that matter to consumers.

What are digital and physical marketing?

Digital marketing involves the use of digital media, such as social media, blogs, websites, etc, to promote and sell products or services. Physical marketing (also known as traditional marketing) involves the use of traditional media such as magazines and newspapers etc, to promote and sell products or services. Hence, the main difference between digital and physical marketing is the medium through which an audience encounters a marketing message.

Despite being in a digital age, physical (traditional) marketing isn’t old-fashioned. It still plays an important role in people’s lives with the ever-growing need to step out of the digital world. More so, digital marketing is just as important as physical marketing, if not even more so. This is because it uses every touch point of a customer or prospect’s daily use of the internet to reach them. For instance, you may be on google searching for holiday ideas for your next weekend getaway, and there are chances that soon after, you will come across a tailored sponsored ad from a travel agency.

We use the internet every day for several hours, and digital marketing uses this to its advantage by cleverly weaving marketing communications into every digital channel. This is not the case for physical marketing, which basically relies on broadcasts, referrals, billboards, and prints. There are various forms of digital and physical marketing.

Related: Examples of Marketing Strategies

Examples of digital and physical marketing

Digital MarketingPhysical Marketing
Content marketingPrint marketing
Social media marketing (SMM)One-to-one marketing
Native advertisingOutdoor marketing
Marketing automationBroadcasting
Pay Per Click (PPC)Direct mail
Affiliate marketingReferral marketing
Email marketingDirect advertising
Online PRDonations
Inbound marketingUse of labels
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)Gift giving
A table showing the various types of digital and physical marketing

Digital marketing examples

Content Marketing

This involves the development, publishing, and promotion of content for a targeted audience so as to increase traffic, create brand awareness, generate leads, etc.

Social media marketing (SMM)

This type of marketing involves promoting your brand over social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc. It helps in creating brand awareness, increasing traffic, and generating leads.

Native advertising

This is a form of advertising that resembles the type and function of the media upon which the ad appears. This is named so because the customer might not be able to identify that it is an ad because it would blend the ad into the native or non-paid content. A typical example of such ads is ‘Sponsored Ads’ on Facebook or Instagram.

Marketing automation

This is a form of digital marketing which involves the use of software designed to perform marketing functions in an effective manner on various platforms and automate repetitive tasks, such as emails, etc.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

In digital marketing, PPC is an advertising model generally used to drive traffic to the website. The advertiser pays the publisher a certain sum each time the advertiser company’s ad is clicked. You may have come across such ads on the search result pages of Google and Bing.

Affiliate marketing

This is a form of digital marketing which involves the practice of promoting other companies’ offerings on your website and earning a part of the profit for each sales conversion.

Email marketing

This is an effective type of digital marketing that involves communication with customers by sending emails to a targeted audience relating to discounts, events, new products, offers, etc., and directing the audience to the company’s website.

Online PR

This stands for online public relations. It involves the public relations activities of the marketers that make use of available online platforms, such as social media, blogs, websites, etc.

Inbound marketing

This example of digital marketing involves the process of assisting prospective customers in finding your business or company through branding, social media, sending emails, content marketing, etc. This involves attracting, converting, closing, and delighting customers.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This involves optimizing your website or content in such a way that it ranks at the top spots in the search results. This increases the organic traffic on your website.

Physical (traditional) marketing examples

Print marketing

This includes newspapers, journals, posters, magazines, pamphlets, etc, for promotions and local advertisement. These prints offer daily news, classifieds, and interest-based periodicals, which earn revenue by promoting a product or service.

One-to-one marketing

This form of physical marketing covers telemarketing or SMS marketing, which involves promoting the product or services to consumers through telephone or SMS.

Outdoor Marketing

This is a type of physical marketing that involves the use of billboards and hoardings. These two ways of home marketing play an important role in influencing consumers over time.


This is an example of physical marketing that includes television and radio, which renders knowledge, information, and news along with entertainment. It is usually sponsored by advertisements.

Direct mail

This is also known as advertising mail or mailshot. This includes the process of delivering the advertising material to the people through postal mail. It includes postcards, brochures, flyers, catalogs, newsletters, and sales letters.

Referral marketing

This is also known as ‘word of mouth’ marketing. It solely depends on the customers to convey information and recommendations about a product or service to their friends and family.

Direct advertising

An important aspect of advertising is to create physical reinforcements of the company such as business cards, banners, billboards, flyers, and brochures. While advertising, the message should be clear and concise, whilst the delivery should be warm and inviting. With direct advertising, you approach existing customers and stand a chance to acquire new customers who weren’t seeking your services. Hence, you have to be creative in your attempt to win them over. Direct advertising may also include window displays and signs.


Another way of carrying out physical marketing is to donate branded items to local fundraising events or support community programs. This will establish trust and respect, forming lasting relationships between the brand and the customers. It also gets the brand name out amongst those most likely to utilize it.

Use of labels

Marketing is about utilizing any avenue available to get your business name and logo out there. Hence, well-designed, high-quality labeled products will help spread your brand’s name and exudes professionalism. This is a type of physical marketing that reinforces the legitimacy of your brand or business and places a reminder of who you are directly into your client’s hands, all for a very small cost.

Gift giving

Giving promotional items to clients and staff is a form of traditional marketing. It creates a positive relationship between yourself and the client. This creates a sense of gratefulness and establishes a bond. Gift giving is a physical reminder of your business; thus, they will utilize it and be reminded of your business constantly. When thinking of sending out gifts to your clients, think of what they are most likely to use frequently to get the best advertising for your money.

Related: Product Marketing Strategies with Examples

Digital and physical marketing: What is the difference?

There are so many differences between digital and physical marketing in relation to the medium used, the operational activities, as well as their pros and cons.

The table below highlights some of the differences between digital and physical marketing.

S/NoDigital MarketingPhysical Marketing
1Digital marketing is the process of promoting and selling products and services by using online marketing channels and tactics.Physical marketing is the process of promoting, advertising, or campaigning products and services by using conventional channels like radio, television, newspapers, etc.
2This type of marketing is dynamic in natureThis type of marketing is static in nature
3In digital marketing, the rate of conversion from a prospect to a lead is faster compared to traditional marketing. It is data-driven marketing, and ads are shown to people based on their likes and interests, generating qualified leadsIn physical marketing, the rate of conversion from prospect to lead is slower compared to digital marketing. The ads are not basically shown to people based on their likes and interests
4The interaction rate between a customer and a company (customer engagement) through different online channels is higher in digital marketing because the customers can directly view the product details and other offers just by a click.The interaction rate between a customer and a company (customer engagement) via different offline channels is lesser in physical marketing because the customers may need to visit the showroom or the company to get the details of the product.
5The Return on Investment (ROI) in digital marketing can easily be calculatedThe Return on Investment cannot be calculated in the case of traditional marketing
6Digital marketing is less expensive and more effective.Physical marketing is less effective and more expensive
7With digital marketing, one can easily monitor where the buyer is coming from, the most viewed product, how many are interested and are actually buying the product, etc.With physical marketing, tracking the customer and prospects is not at all possible
8This marketing uses personalization, in that products are shown to the customers based on their recently shown interest or their search for it over the internet for quite some time (intent-based marketing).This marketing uses standardized methods to target customers. It involves mass marketing with a very low personal touch.
9Tweaking can be performed anytime, even after the ad is placedTweakings are not possible once the ad is placed
10It uses the internet, and the products and services that are being promoted can fetch demand globally. Hence, digital marketing is not confined to a specific area onlyIt caters to the audience of a specific geographical area only; thus, the reach is local or limited to the concerned area where the ad is shown
11When it comes to results, digital marketing shows quick and real-time results to the marketerWhen it comes to results, physical marketing takes time to show the results of the marketing activities
12In the case of digital marketing, consumers can avoid or skip the ads that they do not find useful or are not interested inIn the case of physical marketing, consumers cannot skip the ads, as they are bound to see, hear or watch them
13Digital marketing is two-way communication because as the company place ads to spread information, customers can also provide their feedback about the products and services, in the form of reviews, etcTraditional (physical) marketing is a one-way communication, where the company spreads information about the product or services offered,
A table showing the differences between digital and physical marketing

Digital and physical marketing are both important in business. Hence, as a good marketer, you should know the drawback and advantages of using the two marketing strategies when setting your marketing goals and mapping out activities. Here are the different pros and cons associated with digital and physical marketing:

Related: Societal Marketing Orientation

Pros and Cons of Digital and Physical Marketing

Digital Marketing(1) There are more options for engagement: One can physically see what their target audience thinks of their brands as well as their marketing efforts through channels such as social media. If your marketing post has been liked, shared, and has plenty of positive comments, you can know you’re on the right path.

(2) Easy to measure your campaigns: The specifics of digital marketing tracking are exceptionally in-depth. This makes your learnings extremely clear for your next round of marketing efforts.

(3) It makes targeting a specific audience possible: You can easily create perfectly tailored contents to target a specific audience.
(1) Digital ads can be deemed as annoying: For instance, a prospect may be watching or doing something of interest online, only to be interrupted with a sponsored ad for something related to random stuff the person googled before. It’s sure to make the person passively dislike the brand doing the clever targeting.

(2) Less permanent: Digital marketing efforts such as Google ads, promo emails, banners, or social media ads can have a temporary character. They’re intangible and can easily be ignored by the audience. If the target audience keeps scrolling or clicks to the next page, the ad will be gone from their screen.

(3) Constantly evolves: There is a lot to learn in order to get the most out of your digital marketing efforts. Each channel usually requires its own specialist, from search engine marketing to social media. Each channel requires a pro to get the best out of your digital marketing efforts.
Physical Marketing(1) Impactful and easy to understand: They’re easy to digest and often entertaining. For instance, a striking TV commercial is a normal part of most people’s day-to-day lives.

(2) Printed marketing materials are more permanent: Placing an advert in magazines, for instance, will be there until the magazine is recycled. This is of great advantage if the customer is an avid collector.

(3) More memorable: Seeing something in real life is more likely to be remembered compared to seeing it online.
(1) It is more difficult to measure campaigns: There are ways to measure physical marketing campaigns, such as brand trackers. However, these methods are nowhere near as in-depth or intelligent as the measuring tools available for digital marketing.

(2) Often expensive: If you’re a start-up or small business owner, there are chances you don’t have the funds for the traditional means of marketing. Many forms of physical marketing will set you back a considerable amount.

(3) No direct interaction with the consumer: In physical marketing, no direct interaction. You may have less knowledge about your audience’s reaction to your marketing efforts.
A table showing the pros and cons of physical and digital marketing

The importance of combining digital and physical marketing

Because of the rise of social media, marketers often undervalue physical marketing. This is not ideal for business as physical marketing still very much has a place in a consumer’s day-to-day life. If a brand has the budget and time to share its campaigns in magazines and social media, its money could be well spent.

The key to a great and successful marketing campaign is to find the right balance between physical and digital. In fact, one can say that digital marketing is the yin to physical marketing’s yang. This is because they both play an important role in a marketing strategy, though they are each elevated when used in unison.

For instance, take a look at some influential brands. Let’s use Guinness as a case study. If you’ve noticed, their TV commercials are infamous because of their unique and powerful cinematography. And for over 20 years now, the Guinness’ classic 1999 ‘Surfer’ campaign is still one of the best TV commercials of all time. However, even with this legendary status, the brand has moved with the times and has incorporated digital marketing into its strategy so that they don’t miss out on some huge marketing opportunities. Guinness has been making video content specifically for Facebook and Instagram.

Related: Content is King and Marketing is Queen

Reasons why you should incorporate digital and physical marketing strategies

  1. Combining digital and physical marketing strategies works together in an integrated way to help your customers through your sales journey.
  2. Making use of both digital and physical marketing approaches will serve as a means to transition people offline and online toward that all-important conversion.
  3. In as much as customers look forward to memorable and shareable content that has been created with brand cohesion, they also crave meaningful physical experiences in other ways, too.
  4. Focusing only on digital marketing will make you miss out on a whole world of opportunities because the fact is, in as much as our customers spend more time online, they want to engage with people in the real world. Hence, when you implement purely online strategies, you neglect the ‘real world,’ and run the risk of neglecting potential customers.
  5. Giving your brand a digital and physical presence is important. Away from social media and online platforms, some people like to read physical flyers and store them away for later reference.
  6. As you create promotional content for your brand online, do something physical, too, like gifting, broadcasting, etc. For instance, your customers can use that promo bag you gifted them for their shopping, getting your brand out there as they go about their daily travels. Some people will even get your brand’s jingle stuck in their heads after listening to a radio spot and find themselves randomly singing about your brand.


Digital marketing has evolved in recent years and has become more popular than traditional (physical) marketing due to its various advantages. One of its major advantages is its effectiveness over expensiveness. Notwithstanding, smart brands and businesses make use of both digital and physical marketing to develop strong relationships between prospects, leads, and customers.

It is unarguable that both types of marketing have their pros and cons. However, the most important thing is to understand your specific marketing needs, consider your budget and understand your target audience. This will guide you on how to combine these two marketing strategies.

For instance, traditional marketing channels are often more expected and welcomed by the Baby Boomer generation (born between the end of WWII and the mid-1960s) and Gen X (1965-1980)- people who own televisions and prefer to buy newspapers. However, as much as millennials (1981 – 1996) and Gen Z (1997 – 2012) are easily reached via digital marketing, this type of marketing is still a surprisingly suitable route for all ages.

Hence, the important thing to note is that physical marketing tactics alone won’t give your brand the recognition that you seek, just as focusing purely on digital marketing is a risky attempt. Therefore, both digital and physical marketing can work for you, as long as you know what your audience wants.