The difference between Digital Marketing and Online Marketing

The difference between Digital Marketing and Online Marketing

In this very first article, we discuss the difference between two terms that are commonly used interchangeably, digital marketing versus online marketing. And let's find out whether or not distinguishing between those two terms matters at all. Let's get the ball rolling.

Alright, there is a no better way to start a digital marketing blog than defining the difference between two terms that we are all familiar with, and yet fail to explain or often understand the difference when asked point blank. Yes, I did work with some experts in the field, and they used both terms interchangeably, so don't feel bad if you are one of them. I am just super anal here because I want to discuss all areas of digital marketing in this blog instead of limiting myself to online marketing only.

Anyway, it was primarily with the use of the internet and other new digital media and technology that have given rise to a bewildering range of labels and jargon for the "modern way of marketing" created by both academics, professionals, and advocates of "making simple things sound overly complicated." The two that stuck most were digital and online marketing. So let's distinguish.

Without further ado, the answer to the question is, online marketing is a subset of digital marketing. The answer is hidden in the name as you may have guessed digital marketing refers to using digital channels. By that, I mean anything digital where you can slap your name, logo or whatnot on it to influence a customers journey. The point here is, digital marketing does not have to be online. For example, both SMS and MMS campaigns (as rare as they may be) are a form of digital marketing but have nothing to do with online marketing.

Then there is another somewhat fuzzy distinction. Consider slipping in some product placements into an ebook. The customer may be reading it on an offline device, and yet a digital one, making it a subject matter of digital marketing, but not online marketing. Although you would assume that the customer has downloaded the eBook at some point, this thought is perhaps me taking things too literally.

One area of digital marketing (or perhaps not) had me confused for the past years, and that is television. Television has moved from analog technology to digital, which reproduces crystal-clear picture and sound without fading or interference. But not only the quality of the image is improving and becoming more reliable, but there have also been quantum leaps when it comes to TV, big data and insights. And yet, Television is in most cases not considered to be part of digital marketing, but rather attributed to traditional marketing channels. Most blogs, forums and even literature talk about DM vs. TV, and so do many experts.

I made a clear distinction for years, attributing anything digital that allows me to gather exact data, down to the gender to be digital marketing. I know that may be an exaggeration, but you get the point. Anything that allows me to gather reliable data to make informed decisions and or build better relationships to improve my overall effort toward a clearly defined goal. So there is a bit of a gray area perhaps. For the sake of this blog I will cling on to my conservative and old way of thinking and leave TV outside the spectrum of digital marketing, and yet respect and appreciate it as a valuable channel to reach potential customers (the R in the Race planning framework - don't worry, we will get to that soon enough).

So does it, after all, make any difference? For the layman certainly not, and no one, including so-called experts, will judge you if you use them interchangeably. For now and the purpose of this blog it is sufficient that you are aware that there are differences, gray areas, and unfortunately various definitions out there. If ever pressured for an explanation of digital marketing, say: "Anything digital, not necessarily online related." and you will be just fine.

The main points of this article:

  • Marketing is an umbrella term.
  • Digital Marketing is a subset of Marketing.
  • Online Marketing is a subset of Digital Marketing.

This article is found in:

Marketing Digital Marketing Online Marketing

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