Harley David Rubin

6 Old-School Marketing Tactics That Can Still Work Today


Old-school Marketing
Image Credit – BonNontawat/

I was lucky enough to be an intern at an ad agency for four summers, so I existed in the “working world” before email and the internet and therefore witnessed old-school marketing firsthand. (Yes, I’m ancient. But young at heart.) Everything was written, photocopied, faxed and delivered to desks by hand. Phones weren’t in your pocket; they were wired and took up valuable desk space with their blinking lights and multiple lines.

Things are WAY better now. Faster. Easier. Portable. But while office technology like fax machines have become a “they still exist?!?” kind of thing, I still believe there’s a great deal of merit to be found in some of the marketing tactics that we used way back in the 20th century.

How to Use Old-School Marketing Tactics Today

#1 Old School-Marketing via Brochures/Flyers/Handouts

Some people still like to read physical things — printed materials that they can hold in their hand, leave on their desk, or keep in a file for later reference.

Why They’re Relevant: It’s hard to read a PDF on most smartphones, on which so many people check their email and handle a lot of day-to-day tasks. So, while it’s not always ideal to hand out printed pieces, it can be easier to read and deal with for some people — and it saves them the trouble of printing out PDFs or pages from your website, which might not print very well.

#2 Coupons

People still get circulars and mailers full of local coupons delivered to their homes. Marketers wouldn’t do that if it didn’t work; that’s a lot of paper and ink and postage costs.

Why They’re Relevant: Again, it’s easier than having people print out coupons from your site (using their own paper and printer ink) — and relying on the quality of their printer to produce a usable coupon that they can bring to your location. And savings offers are always a hit if you hit the right person at the right time.

#3 Direct Mail

Targeting will never go out of style. In fact, the internet took it to a whole new level. Whatever your industry, whatever your hobby, wherever you are, you can find like-minded people who are seeking out people like you.

Why It’s Relevant: If you can reach out to prospects with a memorable message and an attractive offer — and give them multiple ways to connect with you (phone, email, website, or even a pre-paid postcard) — you can achieve a tremendous return on investment (ROI) on a relatively small budget.

PRO TIP: You don’t want to be viewed as “junk mail,” so do something to stand out from the rest of the pile of mail — try a unique size or shape mailer, color palette, headline, savings offer, etc.

#4 Premium Items

Whether you call them premium items, giveaways, or “branded stuff to throw in a drawer,” if you can make your item something that’s both relevant to your business and useful to your audience, that’s a win-win investment. (Especially when you can save money by ordering in bulk.)

Why It’s Relevant: It’s relevant when you make it that way. I have a couple branded flash drives on my desk right now — one on a keychain, the other that’s actually inside a purple rubber bracelet. A giveaway like a flash drive can be a valuable little tool for your prospects to have with them (at work or at home) if they have files they want to take with them.

PRO TIP: Think beyond the mouse pad. Yes, we all have work spaces (even us freelancers), and if your item is useful on an everyday basis, that person is seeing your logo several times a day.

#5 Print Ads

While so much content has moved from the print world to the online world, that doesn’t mean people have stopped reading magazines and newspapers. Millions of people continue to subscribe to periodicals, and if you’re in a very specific industry, there are always “must read” publications that you use to stay on top of news and trends.

Why It’s Relevant: A creative, well-written and designed print ad will always stand out from the competition (and other advertisers) to communicate your message effectively. The great thing about having a print ad or campaign that you’re proud of? You can repurpose it for use online as a banner ad or microsite.

#6 Radio

True Confession: If I could just write radio spots all day, I would — and not just because I love doing voice-over work! Radio is a fantastic creative medium that writers love, because aside from the music and sound effects, it’s all about the words. But at the heart of this clever little medium is the logic and structure involved in writing a radio spot that helps you relate to listeners — who are conditioned to the cadence of “intro/offer, story/details, repeat offer” of a :30 or :60 commercial.

Why It’s Relevant: Terrestrial radio has survived, despite the advent of subscription radio and smartphones with music apps. Probably because it’s free, as well as the fact that the cost-per-million (CPM) of buying time on radio stations is still great. Reaching captive audiences where radio is still king — in commuter cars, in waiting rooms everywhere, etc. — is a fantastic way to get your message out there.

Times Have Changed — But Old-School Marketing Classics Endure

It would be silly to just forget about these marketing tactics — which, when executed creatively and strategically, can still get you great results for your marketing dollar. So make sure you keep them in mind, especially with planning for 2017 going on right now!

What’s your favorite old-school marketing tactic? Have you had great success with it? Feel free to share your ideas/stories in the comments below. And please share this blog with your social networks if you found it interesting!



Harley David Rubin

Harley David Rubin is a freelance copywriter, content creator and marketing strategist who has worked for both advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments for more than 20 years. He loves his family, pop culture, fantasy baseball and creativity in all its forms.

More Posts

Download Our SEO Guide

Created in a joint partnership with Advice Local, this guide — What You Need to Know About SEO — provides an introduction to SEO concepts, strategies and best practices for optimizing a website. Complete the form below and get instant access.


    Web Design & Development

    Your website needs to be aesthetically pleasing and functional. We build websites for desktop and mobile that are both.


    Your website needs to attract search engines and consumers. We are experts in local search and SEO, and can make that happen.


    Anybody can write words on a page, but can they write content that integrates SEO best practices and converts? We can.

    Here’s What our CLIENTs have to say

    [RICH_REVIEWS_SHOW num="all"]

    Their Local Business Websites Rock

    Rocks Digital knows how to build local business websites that convert prospects to customers. Not only do I recommend them to work on my reputation management client’s websites, but they work on the Reputation Sensei brand, too.
    - Chris Snellgrove

    They Customize Their Solutions

    Rocks Digital customizes to meet their client’s needs. We needed our existing website optimized for search. We are now placing for more industry keywords and continue to improve. They consult with our in-house team on content optimization, manage our GMB listing & more.
    - Greta Valenti

    Highly Recommend

    Rocks Digital manages not only the Association of Directory Publishers website, but our Trusted Local Directory. From helping us get our event information on the website to producing guides, blogs and new content, they have what it takes.
    - Cindi Aldrich



    Is your Google My Business listing helping or hurting you? Is bad data causing consumers and search engines to lose trust in your business? This is information you simply must know.

    To get these answers right now, just enter your business name below to run our FREE
    visibility report.

    Need a facelift
    for your website? More search traffic? Need to blog, but don’t have time?

    Our Digital Services Could Be For You