Internet marketing is marketing via the Internet. It is also referred to as online, web, electronic or emarketing.

Digital marketing is marketing by means of digital technology, both online and offline.

Integrated and multichannel marketing are in principal the same thing. Both imply coordinating, integrating and leveraging on the strengths of various marketing communications and activities across channels, platforms and devices.

what is digital marketing

In 2011 I was lucky to supervise a very bright student Erica Dauderis, who wrote a bachelor dissertation where she investigated how scholars defined Internet marketing, and which role and place they assigned to the Internet in the broader marketing theory from the inception of the World Wide Web. She conducted a content analysis of 59 marketing textbooks (available at her library) starting from 1994 till 2011.

The conclusion she arrived at was that in spite of the exploding number of Internet mentions (primarily after 2004), the academics struggled to agree whether the Internet was just an addition to the already existing marketing communications mix, a stand-alone marketing channel or a medium that affected all existing channels. This was in 2011. Has the situation changed since then?

For the past 3 years I have being teaching what I in my classes call digital marketing. Every year I start, as I suppose most lecturers do, by clarifying definitions and I always find this rather challenging to explain the precise differences (if there are any?) between such terms as Internet, online, web, electronic and digital, as well as integrated and multichannel marketing (oh yes and omnichannel?). Typically, I provide some research-based explanations, and on the basis of the provided arguments I then ask the students to reflect upon the reasons for such a plethora of existing concepts.

Marketing managers might probably consider this concept diversity a bagatelle, although I came across some opposing opinions too. Anyhow, this year, before I enter the classroom I will have collected my thoughts in this post. This post is by no means a scientific piece. Rather it is a collection of observations, based on both some academic research and practitioner opinions.

Internet, online and web marketing – same or different?

Although I conducted no systematic content analysis, I was interested in the state of the art in the usage of these terms. To get some overview, I did a quick search on WorldCat, global catalogue of library collections (all resources), and quickly identified that web marketing, digital marketing, electronic marketing and online marketing were the most mentioned terms.

Results of search for web marketing on WorldCat Results of search doe digital marketing on WorldCatResults of search for electronic marketing on WorldCat Results of search for online marketing on WorldCat

To see what terms have been searched for between 2005 (this is as far as you can go) and present, I then turned to Google Trends, which suggested that online marketing and digital marketing were currently the most searched terms, while the popularity of terms Internet marketing and web marketing declined significantly after their peak in 2004. So what happened? And are these terms different?


google trends


Etymologically, the words online, Internet and web have more or less the same origin (hope tech people will not start throwing tomatoes at me now) with online being first mentioned in 1950. Online means “directly connected to a peripheral device”. Internet is the short (or shorter) for “inter- + network” which refers to the network of linked computers of the U.S Defense Department in 1985. This is where the Internet came from (more precisely from ARPANET). Finally, web is the short for World Wide Web, which is a more user friendly system of hypertext documents available through the Internet which allows users to access links and browse between the webpages.

So what is Internet Marketing?

In spite of the evident differences in the applications of these terms, to the lay eye these refer to the technical side of being on-line on the web or connected to the Internet. In that respect, for marketers no particular distinction between these terms is necessary. Indeed, as per diagram from Google Trends, online, Internet and web marketing were the most searched terms between 2004 and 2010. Similarly, in the academic world, early works on “connected” marketing (I am trying to stay neutral in the usage of terms here) used the terms web, Internet and online marketing and just like their practitioner colleagues treated them as interchangeable. As Erica identified in her dissertation, the first mentions of the Internet in the marketing books was related to the discussions of the possible implications the Internet might have for the marketing practice. In these mentions, Internet marketing was viewed as an add-on to the traditional marketing communications mix. Later, online marketing was claimed by academics to be an independent discipline with its own online marketing communications mix (Kitchen, 1999; Kitchen & De Pelsmacker, 2004; Jensen & Jepsen, 2006). Generally:

Internet marketing was defined as a collective umbrella term for all types of marketing activities on the Internet.

And what is integrated marketing?

The Internet offered a range of new marketing opportunities, including new channels. Often, these channels (perhaps due to their complexity) were approached separately and in silos. The coordination of the activities offline and online, or even between the offline channels for that matter, was not yet mastered, and to highlight the importance of the integration of all marketing communications, a new integrated marketing term became popularised. It must be mentioned that the term had existed prior to the wider adoption of the Internet for marketing and had been introduced by the American Association of Advertising Agencies already in 1989. However, its true meaning seems to have been appreciated later. In their review of the concept development,

Schultz and Kitchen (1997) defined Integrated Marketing Communications as a concept of marketing communications planning that recognises the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communications disciplines (for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations) . . . . and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.

How about digital marketing?

The proliferation of new digital media, devices and platforms, some of which were connected to the Internet and some not, yet new marketing terms arrived. To accentuate the growing overemphasis on online marketing exclusively and to stress the ignorance of a border range of digital opportunities (which existed after all), digital marketing entered marketers’ everyday vocabulary. As opposed to Internet marketing, digital marketing was and still is considered to be a broader term, which encompassed both offline and online marketing activities and relied on a variety of digital technologies. According to Chaffey (2012):


Digital marketing is achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies, where some are connected to the Internet (e.g., desktop, mobile, tablet) and some are not (e.g. TV, radio, SMS, digital billboards, digital signage).

So just to clarify… While Internet marketing is always reliant on marketing through the web, digital marketing can be facilitated both online and offline. In this sense, digital marketing is a border concept.

Direct, interactive and multichannel marketing?

In academic circles, in addition to the aforementioned constructs, some other versions were suggested and used too. To exemplify, the Journal of Direct Marketing, whose present scope is to “identify issues and shape ideas associated with the expanding electronicinteractive, and direct marketing environments”, changed its name to Journal of Interactive Marketing in 1998 to highlight an increasingly interactive nature of Internet marketing.

Perhaps in hope to further reiterate the significance of integrating communication and interaction across different channels and media, the academic community attempted to further revive the idea of integration. Kaufman and Horton (2014), for example, used the term integrated digital marketing, depicting it as:

[Integrated digital marketing] is a comprehensive marketing strategy that merges multiple digital channels, platforms, and media to help organizations achieve their goals by providing value for and building sustainable relationships with their target audience.


Even through their formulation of the construct has not caught up (yet?), a similar term – multichannel marketing – has been put forth and actively used by the academic community. The idea behind it is to underline yet another time the necessity of inclusion of offline and online, digital and traditional marketing initiatives. Here is how multichannel marketing is explained:


Multichannel marketing is an arrangement characterised by the sharing of various distribution tasks performed by a combination of distinct channels, indirect or direct. It blends the activities such as telephone, catalogues, ‘brick and mortar’ shops, Internet, personal selling (Valos et al., 2010).


Multichannel marketing is marketing that enables firms to build lasting customer relationships by simultaneously offering their customers and prospects information, products, services, and support through two or more synchronized channels (Rangaswamy and Bruggen, 2005).

Finally, you might have heard of omnichannel marketing. What this time, you may ask? Well, again etymologically, omni implies “all, every, the whole, of every kind”. Thus, omnichannel marketing should be read as marketing embracing all channels. In the industry, however, it seems to be used to highlight that all marketing needs to be planned and executed with the users in mind.

I believe I have covered it all for now. Lets see what other terms I might want to add to this list for my next year’s class…


Selected sources:

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F. (2012). Digital marketing: Strategy, implementation and practice. 5 utg. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Jensen, M.B. and Jespen, A.L. (2006). Online marketing communications: Need for a new typology for IMC? Journal of Website Promotion, 2.1-2: 19-35.

Kaufman, I. and Horton, Ch. (2014). Digital marketing: Integrating strategy and tactics with values. Abingdon: Routledge.

Kitchen, P.J. (1999). Marketing communications: Principles and Practice. International Thomson Business Press.

Kitchen, P.J. and de Pelsmacker P. (2004). Integrated marketing communications: A primer. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rangaswamy, A. and Bruggen, G.H. (2005). Opportunities and challenges in multichannel marketing: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 19.2: 5-11.

Schultz, D.E. and Kitchen, P.J. (1997). Integrated Marketing Communications in U.S. advertising agencies: An exploratory study. Journal of Advertising Research, 7-18. 

Valos, M. J et al. (2010). Marketers’ perceptions of the implementation difficulties of multichannel marketing. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 18.5: 417-434.

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Digital marketing vocabulary

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