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No one would argue that the world has changed dramatically in the last few decades. You’ll struggle to find a payphone on the street to save your life these days, an entire generation has grown up without ever seeing a television channel go off the air, and cars no longer need gasoline to run.

Truly an amazing time to be alive – that is, if you can keep up! Nowhere are these changes more dramatic than in the world of marketing, where many of the old standbys have been quickly and thoroughly made obsolete by the rise of the Internet. Here’s five old-school marketing techniques we cannot believe people are still trying to use.

The Phone Book


There was a time when the Phone Book meant something – you needed a number, you looked it up. The ads that infested those yellow pages at least had eyeballs roaming over them on a regular basis, and were therefore worth something. In the internet age, however, phone books are regarded as mysterious curiosities. Residents try to refuse them and many simply toss them into the recycling bin upon receipt. In a world where you can look up any bit of information you need, including a telephone number, on the internet, who needs or wants a pile of paper with tiny print?

Direct Mail

In a similar vein, it’s amazing that people are still trying to force you to pay attention to their marketing messages with direct mailings. No one these days wants a paper coupon when there are plenty of group coupons sites out there that are better values, more convenient, and less wasteful. It’s also an incredible unfocused way to advertise, because you’re blindly shooting ads out to addresses without knowing much about who lives there – or used to live there, as your purchased mailing lists are likely out of date.


Not only has telemarketing gotten less effective as the novelty of being engaged directly wears off and people increasingly use their voicemail as an effective shield against it, it’s becoming a negative because most people regard these calls as impersonal, annoying, and overly aggressive. It’s also a negative when the calls are received on mobile phones with expensive plans. Every minute wasted by a telemarketer source the recipient against the company being marketed, because they are reduced to essentially paying for advertising. People are used to browsing the web for information at their leisure, and resent being forced to pay attention to someone else’s schedule.

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Print Ads

Whether classifieds or full-page spreads, newspapers and magazines are circling a drain of lower circulation and less relevancy in the digital age. Print ads are becoming true dinosaurs as more and more people shift their reading and other interactions to online venues. Some newspapers and magazines have been reduced to selling subscriptions at incredible discounts just to keep their circulation numbers high, but the ads they sell simply do not reach a large audience any more.

Billboards and Signage

While some argue that billboards and signs on buses and other street furniture are still an effective way to get your branding or image out there, the fact is people have become extremely inured to these tactics and rarely notice them. Persistence of vision means they see them on some level, yes, and this may have an impact on future purchasing decisions. But without analytics or other trackable data points, this is difficult to establish. The Internet Age also means most people walk around bent over their phones anyway, making expensive billboards and other signage a waste of effort and money in many ways.

It’s important to stay on the cusp of what’s happening. Money spent on advertising that no longer works is worse than simply wasted money – it’s possibly going to actually work against you as people perceive your business as less than cutting-edge in its approach. Let’s face it, the world keeps changing – your business has to change with it.

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Posted by Ross Dempsey

Ross is the Head of Marketing for Glasgoweb, offering web design and online marketing in Glasgow and across the UK. Ross’ particular expertise lies in SEO, PPC, Social Media and Analytics.stuff!


  1. These are dangerously un-sourced opinions put forth with the qualifier of “nearly obsolete” making the entire read shallow.

    There are studies with actual statistical information in them that could prove (or at lease support) some of these assumptions… however using terms like “no one these days” or “the fact is people have become extremely inured to these tactics and rarely notice them” does nothing but set the author up to be proven wrong by marketers who have been in the game longer than he has been alive…

    Nothing “Inspiring” about this nonsense for me…

  2. terrible article.

    Don’t get me wrong, I work in digital – but acknowledge print and outdoor are very much alive and well, and a can play key part a big brand marketing mix.

  3. I’m a marketer and this is a very inaccurate statement. Marketing comes in a variety of efforts:
    – Digital (web, social, mobile, video…)
    – Advertising (tv, print magazine, outdoor, transit…)
    – Promotions (discounts, purchase incentives, loyalty programs…)
    – Public relations (press releases, philanthropic activities, newsletters…)
    – Brand exposure (product placement, event sponsorship, logo merchandising…)
    – Etc.

    For a company to succeed, it needs to have an formulated Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) plan. This is the planning that integrates each of these different efforts in the levels that company should be involved in into an overall strategy with both long term and short term goals. Each company needs to have a well researched IMC plan that has a balance of what features benefit them and ways to measure how. For some companies, mail pieces may be inefficient at reaching their target market and shouldn’t do them, while other companies might find it to be a very valuable marketing asset. Same for all the other types you mentioned.

    This is a vary unresearched article and I hope no one out there takes this as a legitimate view on what marketing trends are these days. Yes we are more digital than before, but these traditional methods are NOT obsolete.

  4. I should have scrolled down to see the author before I wasted my time on this article. Sorry Igor but you have a lot of experiencing to do my friend.

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