Vintage is all the rage, even when it comes to marketing. Many old-school promotional techniques, like direct mail marketing and selling at conferences, are experiencing a new heyday after being pulled back from the near brink of death.
  • But beware: just because some formerly failed marketing practices are suddenly excellent again doesn't mean they all are.

And if your marketing has stayed the same with the times, you could sabotage your success.

Old-School Marketing: Different or Just Plain Stupid?

It's no secret that differentiation is critical to your visibility, but setting yourself apart from others doesn't come easy. Convince and Convert's recent study unsurprisingly pinpointed creativity as the second most significant challenge for marketers (time took the number one spot).

This could be why many marketers are inclined to fall back on techniques that used to be hot but have yet to be largely forgotten, giving them a new twist to be different than current experiences.

It works to an extent.

Giving new life to old-school marketing can be an easy, effective way to make your company stand out. Essentially, it's all about doing something that no one else is (even if it's been done before). But there's a fine line between doing something different and something stupid.

In some cases, old forms of marketing were traded in favor of more modern approaches. Audiences shift, technology evolves, and new competition enters the market, so your marketing must adapt to these changes.

In other cases, marketing practices were abandoned because they were never good. This is sometimes a strict distinction for companies to make, especially those relatively new and with less experience in testing different methods to promote themselves.

  • Bottom line: if you're investing any amount of money into marketing, you must first recognize that some approaches aren't worthwhile. Get out of the "It used to work" or "It's how we've always done it" mentality and start searching for ways to improve your marketing - and ultimately your ROI.

How Old-School Marketing is Hurting Your Business

When's the last time you stepped inside a Kmart, bought a Kodak camera, or let your inner child loose in a Toys R Us (too soon?)?Old-School Marketing

These companies failed to innovate in various ways, marketing included, and either have paid or are now paying the price.

Kmart's history dates back to 1899, and its stores' appearance also looks like they belong in a different time.

Kodak had the chance to disrupt the filmless photography industry in 1975 but chose not to.

Online shopping wasn't the only killer of Toys' R Us, but it certainly didn't help matters.

While their downfalls aren't attributed solely to how they marketed their companies, these classic examples reflect the dangers of failing to innovate and relying on brand status or whatever else has "always worked" in the past.

Not adapting to the way customers buy today is a dangerous business. However, it can be challenging to see how ineffective some marketing techniques can be when so many companies still engage in them.

So what's the harm, besides that you're mostly wasting your time?

Marketing and branding are so closely linked that your audience forms an impression of your company based on your marketing messages. The look, tone, imagery, and delivery of your marketing reflects who you are as a company. You can make this work in your favor - or not.

Only updating your marketing can make your entire company appear updated and resistant to change. You seem out of tune with your customers. Plus, it shows you haven't kept up in your industry, which may make customers question your ability to serve them.

As new platforms emerge and you don't take advantage of them, you stand a much lower chance of maintaining connections with your audience. Granted, you don't have to engage in every latest and greatest innovation. Social media, PPC marketing, and webinars may not make sense for your business. However, you should keep a finger on the pulse of what your audience prefers so you can tailor your marketing to match.

Tried and True Methods Need Updating, Too

Even old yet effective techniques need some tweaking to make them relevant to today's buyers.
  • Case in point: Before the internet invaded every home in America, direct mail was one of the most popular forms of marketing. The craze died drastically as email marketing took over, but direct mail is making a comeback that no one saw coming.
This is partly due to many things, first and foremost being that only a few companies are investing in it. Direct mail lost its touch because competing in a mile-high stack of junk mail was getting harder. But now, studies show that direct mail can have as much as 10-30 times the response rate compared to digital marketing.

But today's direct mail success is different from 20 years ago. Today, marketers are pushing for personalization, crafty designs, better branding and avoiding sales messages or information overload. Compared to the sales letters and too-good-to-be-true yesteryear offers, direct mail is a welcome surprise in today's mailboxes.

It's unfair to just say that direct mail has made a comeback because it looks different than during its last heyday. It's targeting a different set of audiences. It's competing with varying media than it used to. It must employ some modern marketing techniques, such as personalization.

These changes are necessary for direct mail to be alive. Other older forms of marketing may follow a similar path as long as they've been remodeled for a modern audience.

How to Make Tried and True Marketing Work For You

Being different for being different will only sometimes work in your favor. Sure, it might earn you attention, but if that attention doesn't result in sales, you may turn the lights off and go home.

Instead, the best practice when changing your marketing is to avoid investing in whatever's trendy and find ways to ensure you remain relevant to your audience.

The good news is that as the focus on digital continues to thrive, the old, tried, and correct marketing techniques stand a much better chance of helping you stand out if you use the right approach. A few tweaks may be all you need to bring traditional marketing to a modern audience and enjoy the results - even if something new comes along.