Traditional advertising refers to mass media that delivers commercial messages to mass audiences. Mass media is "paid media." It includes television, radio, outdoor billboards and print media. Advertising's goal is to drive sales of products and services through persuasive communication tactics that influence human behavior over the long term. Promotions share the advertising goal of driving sales. Promotions, however, drive sales by using short-term incentives that stimulate immediate sales.

Branding Advertising

When network television dominated the media landscape and advertising vehicle options were limited, advertising focused on building strong brand names as the most effective route to driving sales. Branding attempts to establish an emotional bond with audiences based on the delivery of a perceived unique and important user benefit that other brands cannot deliver. Small-business owners tended to avoid branding in favor of promotions because promotions are less costly to execute and they produce immediate results. However, without strong brand names, small businesses can be more vulnerable to competitive encroachment.

New Media Impact

The internet and new media have dramatically reduced the influence of mass media. New media have equalized opportunities so that branding is no longer a near-exclusive prerogative of major corporations. The paradigm has shifted in favor of small-business owners who are able to take advantage of the new opportunities. Traditional mass market branding advertising is a one-way form of communication, where advertisers talk "at" audiences. Technology makes it possible to employ promotional techniques that target small audiences with brand-building messages in a two-way process based on their expressed needs and preferences.

Advertising Above and Below the Line

The internet and new media have also resulted in new terms that marketers apply to different forms of advertising; these terms reflect the shift away from mass media advertising. Above-the-line advertising refers to paid media -- traditional mass-media advertising. Below-the-line advertising refers to what was previously called promotions when mass media dominated. BTL includes direct mail, public relations, consumer and trade promotions, infomercials, direct response online marketing, social media marketing and every other kind of customer-focused marketing activity that does not conveniently fit into the rigid definition of traditional advertising. The common feature of all BTL is that it is targeted advertising.

One Tactic for Advertising, Promotion

The internet and new media allow you to build your brand and promote your products or services using the same promotional tactics and vehicles. You can rapidly syndicate information content to targeted audiences by using RSS feeds and inexpensive online syndicators. You can "join the conversation" in relevant social media communities and establish yourself or your company as the "expert" on topics in your business or professional specialty -- a powerful branding technique. You can build your hit list of prospective customers by offering free information in the form of white papers and eBooks. Even if your business is small, your impact can be large.