4 Undead Marketing Channels Reanimated By Digital

There’s something spooky afoot this quarter. All those marketing channels proclaimed dead by countless marketing experts are clawing at the earth above their graves or dragging their battered bodies away to return.

Turns out, proclaiming these marketing technologies dead is like calling the antagonist in any horror movie dead – no matter how many times they were hit (or how dead they appear), perhaps they aren’t dead just yet.

According to Dictionary.com, undead is defined as “Technically dead but still animate,” usually through the means of some supernatural force. In today’s post, we look at four marketing tactics and technologies that were proclaimed dead but have been animated again by digital.

Direct Mail  

Sometimes, when I get mail from a brand, I like to try to guess if its junk mail or not before I open the envelope.

In 2018, the direct mail response rate was 4.9% for prospect lists. That’s the highest it’s been since 2003, which truly proves that this is an undead marketing technology.

According to the same data set, direct mail pulls a higher response rate than any digital direct marketing medium.

It is also the most expensive way to generate leads, with each conversion costing about 50 dollars.

Unlike the other technologies in this list, direct mail is not digitized (email would be the closest). Direct mail is directly benefitting by the amount of digital clutter online. Perhaps that’s why the response rate has been improving. There has been a move away from direct mail because of its price and environmental concerns, so the channel itself is less cluttered overall.


Marketing ruined me. I can’t pass a billboard without judging the messaging it contained.

“What was that even for?”

“That got my attention!”

“That seems like a lot of words to read while driving by.”

It’s thought that the first “large-format American poster” was created in New York when Jared Bell began printing circus posters that were larger than 50 square feet. The first recorded leasing of billboards occurred in 1867.

One would think that means that billboards are long dead, after more than 150 years of use. But like any good undead marketing tactic, billboards have made slow changes that have allowed it to stay relevant. Today, we see a blend of both conventional, printed billboards and digital billboards.

Digital billboards are interesting because they’ve allowed further segmentation of this older marketing technology. Now advertisers can choose when, where, and how long their advertisement is displayed on the digital billboard.

Locally, we have a number of these billboards and some of the messaging sticks out. One is from Lamar, and it gives live weather updates, something that is useful for travelers.

Digital media on billboards reach more people than videos online. According to Arbitron, as many as 52% of American teenagers and adults have viewed a digital billboard in the last week.

In-Person Sampling/Demos

It’s harder to find out the history sampling than you would imagine. Brands have been handing out samples of their offers (especially in person) for decades.

Like most marketing prior to the internet, it was much harder to track who took a sample and who took a product back in the day.

But handing out product samples has evolved, keeping it relevant in today’s digital environment. I hand out samples as a side hustle, and even in the last five years, the industry has changed dramatically.

We went from filling out pieces of paper with data to using apps that easily log the consumer data and place it directly in the hands of the brand.

Technological shifts aside, the reason that in-person sampling works is because it is an interaction between two human beings. Instead of researching an offering and hoping it works, the consumer has access to a knowledgeable person with lots of experience with the brand and its offerings.

This face-to-face interaction creates much better customer relationships than a digital ad on social media.


Video killed the radio star supposedly, but who checked for the body?

Radio has evolved dramatically over the years. Sure, it isn’t the primary entertainment source like it was in the days before television. Sure, maybe the number of people tuning the dial on their radio to the local news station has dropped, but with the advent of podcasting, there are more people listening to audio than ever.

There are more than 700,000 active podcasts and almost 29 million podcast episodes.

And today’s NPR stations are sponsored by companies like Amazon and Google. That means that, despite being proclaimed dead with the advent of television, audio and radio have their audiences, and massive companies have decided these audiences are worth investing in.

These four marketing channels might have seemed dead at first glance, enough for many marketers to have walked away from them completely. But because of digital, they have been reanimated for particular markets and marketers.

Maybe in the land of digital, every channel has its place. So, don’t declare any channel dead just yet, it might come back to haunt you.


Let us know what you think: 

  • Are there are any undead marketing channels we missed in this list? 
  • What are they? 
  • Are there any other channels that you think could be reanimated by digital? 



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