Let’s Untangle Marketing Channel From Marketing Medium

Developing a marketing strategy that works for you is not something that can be done overnight. It takes careful planning, a dedicated team and a clear roadmap of all the steps along the way. An often overlooked step is choosing your channel.

Marketers, brand managers and SME owners mistakenly believe that using a marketing channel is choosing a marketing channel. That’s not always the case. Some channels are not suited for your brand, audience and message and sometimes we can be using a method that we are mistakenly calling a channel.

A common definition of a marketing channel is the medium your brand uses to market itself – the “substance” through which you message is transmitted. To figure out the medium ask the question, do people read words, hear sounds, or look at moving images that communicate what your brand stands for. But does the answer to this question match up with our definition of marketing channel? For example: many of us consider Out Of Home and Social Media different channels. But if you post the same image from a billboard on your social media page that could also be seen as the same medium – a poster consisting of a graphic with text. So should the channel be named for what our audience consumes, or where and how they consume it?

Another example being content marketing. Some would consider content marketing a single marketing channel, but content can be anything from short video to long articles which are two different mediums.  

In the early days of marketing channels were easy to define – radio, television, and print. Each is clearly defined because they are each so different. But today you can listen to the radio on your television and watch television in your car so, of course, the overlap can cause some roadblocks in communication. So, let’s step back and refocus. Let’s keep our marketing mediums simple – what does our audience engage with:

Audio/Visual (AV) – moving images, and animated graphics, images or text with music and/or narration or dialogue, eg video

Audio – narration or dialogue sometimes with music and/or sound effects, eg radio jingle

Visual – animated or moving graphics or images, sometimes with simple text over it, eg gif

Display – static graphics or images, sometimes with simple text over it, eg poster

Digital – specific to platforms that have the capability to host images and video with text alongside, this medium is simply the display, visual or AV mediums with accompanying captions, eg Instagram post

Article – a piece of writing on a particular topic, sometimes with accompanying images or graphics, eg blog post

Now our marketing channels – where our audiences encounter our messaging. You’ll notice that some channels can only use certain mediums, where other channels can use multiple mediums.

Traditional Television – AV only
Video platforms (eg YouTube) – AV will be most successful, but use of audio and display or visual can also be beneficial
Traditional Radio – audio only
Audio platforms (eg Spotify) – audio only will be most successful, but use of accompanying display or visual can also be beneficial
Traditional Print – display, article
Social Media – digital (digital only is recommended, but captions can always be omitted)
Web – digital, visual display, article
Mobile Apps – display, visual
Email – AV, display, article, visual
Out Of Home – AV, display, visual
Direct Mail/Community – display (printed)
Word Of Mouth/ Face-to-Face – audio, display

Some channels can also use other channels, allowing you the use of mediums that those channels don’t support. Certain social media platforms allow you to link to websites in your caption, where you can potentially host the articles medium. With face-to-face, in person meetings we can point to emails or direct mail that use the display medium to drive home our message.

At the end of the day different teams will communicate with each other and in turn with their audiences in different ways. But to avoid confusion and miscommunication it’s always good to define what we mean from the onset. So that when we work together towards a common goal – that of engaging with our audiences – we do so using the same tools in the same way for the same outcomes.

Nucleus Vision Digital and Design Legends
A full-service Marketing and Design Agency