What Is Digital Marketing

What Is Digital Marketing? A Clear Explanation [2021]

What is Digital Marketing exactly, and WHY you hear about it so often? Is Digital Marketing another fancy word used to looks smart in meetings, or is it the REAL DEAL?

In this digital marketing guide, we will learn everything there is to know about it. 

The first time Digital Marketing started to get popular was about two decades ago, in the early 2000s. So, how long is that? 20 years? That’s not that long ago. Well, prepare to be in for a big surprise!

Digital Marketing was born long ago. Just about 100 years ago, when the first “transmission of wireless signals” was made. And here is a photo of the first digital marketer in history.

Guglielmo Marconi (1869)

His name is Guglielmo Marconi – the guy that invented the radio back in 1869. Shortly after his invention, he did the first Morse code transmission over the open sea. It took about a decade for radio to become accessible to regular consumers and not much longer for people to realize they could use radio to sell stuff. 

The first public radio broadcast as we know it today was “Mazarin Sings by Wireless” opera, and guess what people did afterward? 

They rushed to get tickets! And so, Digital Marketing was born. 

“But hey, I thought digital marketing is all about smartphones and the internet, and Google…”

Don’t worry. I was surprised too when I first started reading about it. Digital Marketing has nothing to do with the Internet. 

Table of contents

What is Digital Marketing?

Simply said, digital marketing is advertising using digital channels. Channels such as search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing), social media (Facebook, Instagram), websites, emails, mobile apps, and right about any other electronic device you can think of. 

And yes, advertising on radio and TV is digital marketing too. 

There is a twist to it, however. Digital marketing can be both online and offline. 

As the name implies, Online Digital Marketing is anytime we advertise via the Internet. Online Digital Marketing is also known as Internet Marketing. 

Offline Digital Marketing is when we use devices that are not required to be connected to the Internet, such as radio and TV. 

Why Digital Marketing?

I’m sure you remember billboards – the big colorful panels that cost millions, and no one sees today? They used to be the go-to for advertising not long ago. 

And sometimes big brands would start a billboard war and win a few laughs on the way.  

In 2021, there’s plenty of firms willing to pay millions of dollars for billboard advertising. We often advise to “just throw the money” or better “give it to us” 🙂

Not willing to sound too cynical, but when was the last time you bought something posted on a billboard? Where was the last billboard you saw? What was on it? 

Sadly or not, billboards are dead. What killed them? 

Source: Shamal J Wijeweera

Have a quick look at the passenger seat next time you drive – only for a bit. The chances are your driving companion is staring at its phone. Let’s assume you pass by a billboard and see something of interest. Will you stop in the traffic to capture the thing? That’s right. 

Google and Facebook make more cash than any traditional advertising company on the planet. And that’s just because they control more eyes. That’s why digital marketing matters; that’s where the eyeballs are. 

Source: Pinterest

The amount of people spending more time using mobile devices is just going to go up. With almost a third of Americans being online virtually always, the Internet became the new playground for recreation and work. 

And yes, online digital marketing is also the reason why the kid next door stays in his room all day playing games and making millions of dollars per year while you’re in the office all day for way less. 

What about offline digital marketing? Is it still alive? The answer is yes!

Let’s take a quick ride and explore both concepts. 

Online vs. Offline Marketing.

Online and Offline Marketing are the two pillars of Digital Marketing. This article will take a quick overview of each online marketing concept only and dive into more details on separate guides. 

Online Marketing consists of 7 big categories:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Content Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Pay-per-click Advertising (PPC)

Unbounce made an awesome infographic of Online Marketing, and since one image makes more than 1000 words, here it is:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is noob-guide-to-marketing-infographic-900.png
Source: unbounce.com

Wow, that looks like .. a lot! What about other types of digital marketing?

Remember we mentioned: Offline Marketing? Or, how Neil Patel calls it: Enhanced Offline Marketing. “Enhanced” as Offline Marketing is not entirely “Off”. It still uses electronic devices. 

Take, for example, your favorite Japanese restaurant using iPads to place menu orders. This is a form of marketing that is entirely offline but using electronic devices for advertisement. 

Turn on your radio, and hear an overly enthusiastic voice “almost begging” you to buy the latest and greatest car insurance. 

And of course, TV Marketing. Those annoying movie breaks, every 30 minutes or so, to advertise some SF vacuum or magic detergent? 

Who can forget those?

And finally, the most relevant offline marketing method of all, even now in 2021: Phone Marketing – go figure. 

Enhanced Offline Marketing

Remember billboards? We mentioned them a short while ago. Most billboards today use LED (Light Emitting Diodes) to bring advertisements to life. Millions of dollars are spent yearly for a few square feet in New York City for such a billboard. And, they’re placed for just one thing: get your attention!

Source: Lumavate

That’s right. Someone is willing to pay millions to get your attention!  

Alright. The next thing is quite cool. And if you remember it, you must have the same age as me.  

Source: PC Games (1997)

These demo CD games came bundled with some other video games or often included in paper magazines. Remember PC Games, PC Zones, or PC Mania? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. 

Radio Marketing

That’s about 100 years since the first wireless transmission using radio waves happened. Many things were invented since, got their glory period, and faded away. That does not apply to radio, however.

The way we share data changed quite dramatically in the past decades. However, the radio took a lesser hit than TV in this transition and remained a relevant part of our lives. Radio is just one of those things that refuse to die. 

Some interesting facts:

  • Radio is still popular among 80% of the US population.
  • Internet radio is quite popular among Americans. Half of the population listens to internet radio at least once per week.
  • On average, Americans listen to the radio for 2 hours per day.
  • About 35% of radio advertisement costs worldwide come from the US.

Though the profits are shrinking every year, radio is still a popular choice thanks to streaming services like Pandora (21 million users) and Spotify (138 million users). 

Take Pandora, for instance. Last year profits were estimated at $1.72 billion – quite an impressive amount for a company created just in 2007.

Source: Billboard

Spotify hasn’t published their numbers yet, though the company is known for investing $2.8 billion in its growth since 2008. 

Source: Spotify

So yes, radio is going to remain our companion still.

TV Marketing

The giant among all giants. Television is where the most money is spent every year. And we’re talking about serious money here. 

Regardless, no other digital media took such a hit than the TV industry. Who can be “blamed” for that? Well, you guessed it: YouTube

And for good reasons too. 

Who wants to stick with the same pattern every day when you can choose whatever you want on YouTube? Why watching a creepy music show on TV when you can pick-up your favorite songs on YouTube

And it’s 100% free. Fewer viewers mean fewer buyers – as simple as that.  

So why advertisers still pay millions for ads on TV if they make pennies? Because TV is still popular among many. For instance, Americans watch TV on average between 3 to 5 hours per day. 

So why TV adverts don’t make as much profit as YouTube? The answer is simple: TV ads target everyone with everything.

You see, Google built its advertisement ecosystem around things we want. If you’re watching top gadgets in 2021, you won’t get shoe ads on your video.  

Google spent billions to develop algorithms that learn customer behavior and needs, while TV remained more or less the same for a long time. You might be watching a commercial selling shoe deodorizer now, followed by a juicy burger king that gets “messy” on the first bite. You get my point. 

Source: Daily News

So, besides a few fitness ads that bring some revenue, is TV advertising dead?

Let’s look at the average time spent on TV in the US between 2014 and 2021.

Source: eMarketer.com

Even if global TV consumption declined for years, companies still spend about $200 billion annually worldwide on TV adverts

As we know, television will eventually die so, be wise and invest your time and money in marketing channels still relevant in the future. Such as the next one:

Phone Marketing

Well, well, well. Phone Marketing is definitively something that deserves more credit. Think of it for just a sec. 

A staggering 3.5B people worldwide used smartphones in 2020. That is almost half of the global population. 

Source: Internet Advisor

In 2020, the money spent on mobile ads equivalated the amount spent on TV adverts. Yet, phone marketing is still grossly underestimated. 

But before we can see how we can market on smartphones with an internet connection, let’s have a quick look at offline marketing. 

Texting and Calling

Texting is way more common these days than calling. So let’s start with texting. 

Is there anyone out there not familiarized yet with this form of communication? Mobile text messaging became so embedded in our routine that we favor it instead of calling by far. 

I don’t know about you, but days pass without hearing any voice on my mobile device’s other end. And that, while I’m in constant texting with hundreds of people every day. 

Texting is so embedded in our lifestyle that every new message we get is almost always a guaranteed read. Just imagine how great that could be for your restaurant or shop. You could be reaching millions with just a tap.

Here’s an idea of advertising using text messages:

Source: tatango.com

A big Thank You goes a long way! Nothing like making loyal customers.

Do you agree? 

What about coupons and discounts

Source: Punjab Grill

And you don’t need a graphic designer either. Tools like Wishpond or Heyo put you within minutes of designing your ad or landing page and send it to many. 

The list goes on. 

Last but not least, let’s have a look at cold calling.  Cold calling is just calling someone you don’t know. 

Source: pixabay.com

82% of sales reps reported meetings with potential customers following cold calling campaigns in 2020. That’s quite an impressive amount. But things are not always that great. On average, 6 phone calls are required to close a sale. That’s quite a substantial effort. 

You realize quickly that the Cold Calls strategy does not scale very well, especially for the B2C model. 


Marketing has always been about connecting with many. 

Digital Marketing is all about connecting with many using digital channels. 

Digital Marketing is also a bit like cooking: a little bit of this, more of that until you get the right flavor. 

So let’s recap. Digital Marketing is built on two pillars: online and offline marketing. 

Online Marketing

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Content Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Pay-per-click Advertising (PPC)

Offline Marketing

Enhanced Offline Marketing

  • Electronic Billboards
  • Digital Products & Samples

Radio Marketing

  • Radio Advertisement
  • Show Sponsorship

TV Marketing

  • TV Commercials 
  • Tele-shopping

Phone Marketing

  • Text Messaging
  • Cold Calling

I honestly hope my Digital Marketing 2021 Guide answered some of your questions. But if we failed in any way, drop me a comment below or message me here. You have no idea how much I value your feedback!

If you struggle with bringing traffic to your blog, check out my guide about 6 Ways to Increase Website Traffic in 2021

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