Between the desire for innovation and the need for adaptation to the post-COVID-19 circumstances, marketing evolves at accelerated rates. One such evolution is manifested in hybrid digital marketing. It is by no means a new concept, but it does see enough widespread adoption to warrant discussion.
Thus, we will devote this article to exploring just what hybrid digital marketing is and why the times call for it.
Defining Hybrid Digital Marketing
Almost inevitably, marketing includes definitions that are ambiguous in their interpretations and applications. The two primary types of such terms are, arguably:
- Colloquially similar terms that see interchangeable use, and
- Terms whose broad colloquial use informs their subjective interpretation.
For example, of the former, consider “lead acquisition” versus “lead generation”, or “brand awareness” versus “brand recognition”. These terms are similar in their everyday meanings and are thus used interchangeably.
For the latter type, consider “retargeting” and “remarketing”. Both terms largely refer to the same practice of retargeting a customer to remarket to them. Therefore, marketers may subjectively opt for one or the other, believing it best reflects their practices.
“Hybrid digital marketing”, then, falls somewhere between the two types; it both overlaps with other terms and sees varying uses. To illustrate this point, let us explore three adjacent meanings of it.
1. Hybrid Marketing
The most common definition for this term is, simply, “the combination of traditional and digital marketing”. Under this definition, “hybrid digital marketing” or “hybrid marketing” refers to combining digital marketing with such traditional marketing avenues as:
- Legacy media; TV, radio, and print
- Mailers and fliers
These are not used in isolation, however, as they specifically intend to augment digital marketing strategies like:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), SEO analytics
- Social media marketing and Pay Per Click (PPC) ads
- Email marketing
Thus, the element of hybridization stems from using both in tandem to suit the needs of each individual campaign. Others, like CMSwire, will replace “traditional” with “direct”; “mail, call center, point of sale”. But these definitions still agree on the key identifying feature of hybrid marketing; “marr[ying] the online and offline worlds”.
2. Multi-channel and omni-channel marketing
Another adjacent set of terms is “multi-channel marketing” and “omni-channel marketing”. In brief, somewhat simplifying the terms, both describe using different channels to reach and connect with customers. Thus, they already see interchangeable use as a pair; many see them as the same multi-channel approach at different scales. Other marketers will disagree, citing differences in marketing focus. Shopify, for example, defined omni-channel marketing as “put[ting] the customer, not your product, at the core”. John Bowden, Senior VP of Customer Care at Time Warner Cable, famously asserted that “omni-channel is multi-channel done right!”
To complicate matters further, both also overlap with hybrid marketing, as “hybrid” implies using many channels. The crucial distinction to make here is simple but fundamental;
- Hybrid marketing may be multi-channel or omni-channel
- Multi-channel and omni-channel marketing may or may not be hybrid marketing.
Put differently, a strictly digital campaign may be multi-channel or omni-channel, spanning across many digital channels. However, it will not use traditional marketing, because it is not hybrid marketing. Conversely, a hybrid marketing campaign will be multi-channel or omni-channel; by definition, it cannot confine itself to a single channel. It will, for example, engage in SEO due to Google’s prominence, but to be a hybrid campaign, it will expand to non-digital channels as well.
Alt-tag: A black tablet on a desk, displaying Google’s search engine page.
3. The Hybrid Digital Marketing Model
Finally, the term “hybrid marketing” sees another use, this time describing agency models. Bannerflow defines the hybrid marketing model as “an in-house agency that’s separate from a brand’s marketing team. Additionally, it may occasionally work with other agencies on a contract basis”.
Under this term, “hybrid marketing” no longer describes preferred channels or combining digital channels with traditional/direct ones. Instead, the component of hybridization now describes agency models; the combination of in-house marketing teams with outsourcing to agencies.
This definition is, of course, useful in its own ways. However, it does not describe marketing methods and thus doesn’t overlap with the two above. Therefore, it is more of a business strategy than a marketing one in this sense.
The need for Hybrid Digital Marketing
Having distinguished our terms, let us conclude by identifying why hybrid marketing is so prevalent in recent years. COVID-19 has certainly accelerated this development, but it is not the only factor that propels it forward. For the sake of the text economy, let us identify three crucial factors that dictate the need for hybrid marketing.
1. Traditional marketing is not going away.
FinancesOnline asserted “it is not likely to disappear completely”, on account of such statistics as the following:
- “53.3% of global advertising dollars have been spent on traditional media. (WARC, 2019)”
- “Television still remains as the largest worldwide media channel with a share of 33.5% of ad spend. (WARC, 2019)”
- “TV advertising accounts for 24.7% of the total media ad revenues in 2021. (Statista [Group M], 2020)”
Moreover, digital marketing does embrace outbound advertising in the same way traditional marketing does. Thus, combining the two offers more opportunities for both visibility and insight acquisition.
Alt-tag: A person reading an open newspaper on a gray desk.
2. The Customer takes Centre Stage.
In addition, marketers continue to embrace a “customer-first” philosophy as the digital landscape evolves. It is this philosophy that drives User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) optimizations, at least in part. In essence, it is what spearheaded multi-channel and omnichannel marketing for years, in an effort to put the customer first. It is so prevalent that HubSpot suggests replacing the funnel model with the flywheel model, focusing on retention over acquisition. The need for this direction is simple; customer acquisition costs several times more than retention, as studies find.
3. COVID-19 changed the Consumers.
Finally, hybrid marketing addresses the need to adapt to drastically different consumer habits and behavior patterns. From economic strife to social isolation, ResearchWorld identifies powerful consumer trends that marketers need to adapt to. Some such consumer profiles are now far too tech-savvy, socially conscious, and fiscally conservative to be courted exclusively digitally. In combination with the statistics above, hybrid digital marketing becomes both a necessity and a promising direction.
To summarize, hybrid digital marketing will typically mean combining traditional and digital marketing practices. At times, it may be referred to as multichannel or omnichannel marketing, which terms arguably don’t best convey its substance. Finally, it may refer to combining in-house marketing with outsourcing, established practice with distinct benefits. However, in all cases, hybrid digital marketing combines the old and new across digital and physical channels. In doing so, it seeks to captivate changing audiences and respond to emerging marketing challenges.
About the author :
Michael Dean is a digital marketer, philologist, and aspiring web designer. He currently collaborates with Movers Development, where he authors content on SEO and CRM software for the moving industry.