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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Interactive Marketing vs. Online Marketing

I have never called myself an online marketer.  To me, online marketing refers to a range of activities that happen only on the Internet - from banner advertising to search marketing to email marketing.  Not included in this term are what I would consider interactive (but offline) marketing activities.  Podcasting is largely offline.  Mobile marketing and text messaging are offline, technically.  And you have CDs and DVDs, kiosks, interactive training modules and probably many other channels for interactive marketing that happen offline.  Not to mention the emergence of Word of Mouth marketing, which can be up to 80% offline.  For me, the term online marketing just doesn't do it. 

But as a recent article in Adweek points out, for many "interactive" marketers, the term does just fine to describe what they do.  The article highlights a recent Forrester Research survey which suggests that though there is much interest from interactive marketers in new personal media channels such as blogs, they are often reluctant to commit marketing spend in this area.  This is not surprising, considering the point the article goes on to make about the rapidly evolving online media landscape and already strong performance of "standard" tactics such as search marketing or email marketing create less incentive to think outside the box.  Added to that is the fact that online marketing has a lot more inertia behind it as a term.  At present, Technorati lists 343 blogs that are tagged with "online marketing" and only 40 tagged with "interactive marketing."  For now, many people will use these terms interchangeably.  My view is, as marketing campaigns and strategies start to become more integrated across multiple channels, the term interactive marketing will more accurately describe what we do.  At least until "integrated marketing" finally takes over the entire discipline.  In this business, I suppose it makes sense to order your business cards one box at a time.


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I know that the term "online" has persisted and will persist due to its popularity with budget-setting marketers with offline marketing heritage.

Your author is correct in stating that many emerging interactive marketing approaches are actually "offline," but then misses the opportunity to clarify one of the most egregious naming mistakes in today's interactive marketplace -- display advertising vs. search.

Lumping in display advertising with search has contributed to marketers misreading the value of each, discrete tactic -- search being a vital and misunderstood part of the marketing mix; display being very useful tactic but essentially analagous to more traditional media.

That's a far more pressing issue than the semantics of "online" vs. "interactive."

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