Skip main navigation

The pros and cons of each marketing channel

What are the key pros and cons of each marketing channel, and how will understanding them help your marketing approach? Learn more in this article.
Hand writing on blackboard with two columns, first column having plus sign symbolic for ‘pros’ and second column minus sign symbolic for ‘cons’.

When it comes to selecting the right media marketing channels, one of the keys is to that balance between what customers use and respect. It’s about finding the right channel to best carry your message.

Now, each particular channel has its own rules and restraints, but it also has its own pros and cons. When you are considering which channel to use these pros and cons must be part of your consideration – and does the reward outweigh the risk? So let’s look into it.

Online – web and email

Pros:

  • Having a website is an expectation of the public. We’ve moved beyond the days of your website being impressive. Now it’s more noticeable if you don’t have a website at all.
  • You can reach anyone around the world, regardless of your marketplace. This one’s fairly self-explanatory, but it does open the world up to your business and brand.
  • A website also puts you in your customers’ hands. The primary device for accessing the website is a mobile phone. There are currently 92.3% of internet users accessing it through a mobile phone, globally [1].
  • The pandemic has reshaped purchase behaviour and we now see whole customer journeys in some industries being conducted online – from research to sales and repeat purchases.

Cons:

  • The biggest downside of a website – based on my career involving more than 1500 websites – is maintenance. The biggest challenge for many businesses keeping their websites up to date and ahead of the curve. And nothing kills your hard-fought reputation more than an out-of-date website.
  • Competition. It’s really easy to put together a website, and because it’s so easy, your competition is…everyone.
  • Restrictions on some platforms in different parts of the world. If you have export markets, this can be a challenge.
  • Hacking. Especially if you offer online ordering.

Online – social

Pros:

  • The majority of the world is on social media. There are 4.2 billion people using social media around the world [1].
  • People are already entrenched in the space and well-versed in using it.
  • They’re maintained by the people who run them, so you don’t need to. There’s no maintenance or resource implications for your brand.

Cons:

  • The social media platform is the gatekeeper to your message and has the capacity to promote you or shut you down based on what they think.
  • Most platforms want you to stay within their platform and can punish you for leaving the platform. Unfortunately, the best result for you is to get people from social media to your website. And that’s a bit of an issue.
  • The absolute explosion of platforms that fragments your audience.

Mainstream media advertising

Pros:

  • It’s known and it’s widespread. Newspapers or radio cover entire cities or in some cases countries, so the key advantage here is reach.
  • You can reach a significant number of people at once.
  • You have total control over your message

Cons:

  • The downside is credibility. We know you paid for your advertising spot, and you put messages into it, so the credibility factor is low.
  • One major con – apart from the credibility issue of talking up your own brand in an advertisement you paid for – is cost. This needs to be factored into your marketing program.
  • People are disconnecting from advertising messages by introducing another device or simply changing channels. Around 52% of your total market tunes out when your advertisement appears on TV [2].

Outdoor

Pros:

  • The upside of outdoor advertising is you can capture people while they are moving and they are not distracted by media.
  • The greater numbers you will reach by you placing a billboard on a busy street corner might give you visibility to the half million people that walk or drive past that street corner.

Cons:

  • The major downside is cost.
  • A lower response ratio from those who see the advertisement as compared to other marketing channels.
  • The margin of error when it comes to delivering creativity is quite small.

Video

Pros:

  • The majority of the world is watching videos right now. According to Sandvine’s 2023 Global Industry Phenomena Report, 65% of global internet traffic is video [3].
  • Video leads naturally into storytelling which is great for engaging with people using an emotional connection.
  • Another upside of video is that you are able to do it yourself with advances in camera technology. Often the best cameras in the marketplace are on your phone, and industry-standard editing software is very accessible, especially when compared to years past.  

Cons:

  • While you can produce videos yourself, this more often than not produces cheap videos that look unprofessional. And that’s not something you necessarily want to have to reflect on your brand.
  • If you do it ‘properly’, a downside is cost. It can be a resource drain if you want to go high-end, particularly if you’re a luxury brand, because this type of video can be expensive.

Direct and delivered mail

Pros: 

  • As the digital space continues to morph, people’s changing behaviour on certain social media platforms reduces your chances of reaching them. But their letterbox is still a live option.
  • Some target audience groups based on age would prefer delivered mail rather than email. They tend to be older audiences.
  • As many other brands have shifted to digital and away from the space there can be less competition.

Cons:

  • Younger audiences don’t always respond, so you may be wasting your time and resources.
  • Cost: Direct mail campaigns can be expensive compared to digital, as you are now paying for printing, postage and mailing lists.
  • Environmental impact: Direct mail can have a significant environmental impact, as it requires the production of physical materials that may end up in landfill. Businesses need to consider the sustainability of their direct mail campaigns and whether alternative strategies, such as email marketing, may be more environmentally friendly.
  • Delivery time. Direct mail campaigns require time for printing, production and delivery and can take weeks. This makes it hard to react quickly to changes to customer needs, or even tweak your creative.

Printed materials

Pros:

  • There are still some industries and still some purchase decisions which require time and therefore people would like to read them through. These industries, such as finance, investment or luxury items such as cars or jewellery require expensive production to justify all to position the brand in the luxury space.
  • Versatility: Printed materials can be used in a variety of ways, including direct mail, point-of-sale displays, trade shows, and events.
  • Longevity: Printed materials can have a longer shelf life than digital materials. A well-designed and printed brochure, for example, can be kept by the audience for a long time, providing a lasting reminder of the message and brand.

Cons:

  • Cost: Printed marketing materials can be expensive to produce, especially when compared to digital marketing channels. The cost of design, printing, and distribution can add up quickly, making it challenging for small businesses with limited budgets.
  • Limited audience reach: Printed materials are typically limited to a specific geographic area or target audience. Unlike digital marketing channels, it can be difficult to reach a broader audience with printed materials.
  • Environmental impact: Printed materials can have a significant environmental impact, particularly if they are not recycled or disposed of properly. Businesses need to consider the sustainability of their printing practices and whether alternative strategies, such as digital marketing, may be more environmentally friendly.
  • Limited interactivity and inability to track success: Printed materials are static and do not offer the same level of interactivity as digital marketing channels. It can be challenging to track engagement with printed materials and you may not know how many people have seen your materials or taken action as a result.

References

1. Kemp S. Digital 2023: Global Overview Report [Internet]. DataReportal. 2023. Available from: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-global-overview-report

2. ‌Sienko A. 52% of consumers tune out TV ads, says Midia Research [Internet]. Fierce Video. 2021. Available from: https://www.fiercevideo.com/video/52-consumers-tune-out-tv-ads-says-midia-research‌

3. Sandvine. Global Internet Phenomena Report 2023 [Internet]. www.sandvine.com. Available from: https://www.sandvine.com/global-internet-phenomena-report-2023‌

This article is from the free online

Marketing Essentials

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now