Digital beats offline as marketers’ most effective tool for brand building, survey finds

More marketers say digital media – over offline channels – is effective at building brands. But how much of it is being driven by shrinking budgets and easier to track metrics?

A higher number of marketers believe digital is effective at building brands than offline media, according to new data, in a significant shift of attitudes.

The vast majority (86.7%) of the more than 1,300 brand-side marketers who completed Marketing Week’s second annual Language of Effectiveness survey, supported by Kantar, believe that digital channels for content and advertising are an effective tool for building brands compared to the 80.1% who think the same of offline media.

This change in attitude from the established belief that digital is more effective for short-term results than longer-term brand building is being driven mainly by B2B marketers, the survey suggests. More than a third (38.3%) of B2B marketers say digital is ‘very effective’ at building brands compared with 34.9% of B2C marketers who believe the same. While B2C marketers (37.4%) are still more positive about the brand building capabilities of offline channels than their B2B counterparts (30.1%).

It is important to note, however, that B2B, B2C and those with a mixture of both all consider digital to be more effective at building brands than offline.

This holds true, too, when you split the sample down by company size. Marketers who work for SMEs (a company with less than 250 employees) believe digital (83.3%) is more effective than offline (74.7%). And larger firms (more than 250 employees) believe the same, with 90% suggesting digital is an effective tool for brand building versus 85.6% who say the same for offline media.

It’s also worth caveating that we don’t know whether respondents were including video, SEO, etc within digital media as we didn’t ask this specifically.

There is a contradiction, however, in that more than 40% of respondents don’t believe that brand building requires a different strategic or creative approach online than it does offline. However, a similar number (45.7%) do believe offline and digital strategies should be separate and distinct.

Marketers said digital strategies require “punchier creative” as consumers have a “different mindset” when absorbing digital content. But all these responses would indicate marketers do appreciate that digital and offline are two very different mediums.

The answer to this contradiction seems to lie in the size of the company responding. While nearly half of SME marketers (47.5%) do not believe a change of approach is needed depending on channel (and higher than the 39.2% who do) this is completely flipped when looking at larger businesses. More than half (52.8%) of bigger companies believe a different approach is needed versus 34.8% who are happy to have the same approach for both.

It is speculation, of course, that budget differences is the sole reason behind this thinking but, looking at all respondents again, digital media spend has increased by 48.3% while offline spend has fallen by 25.6%.

Cause and effect

Perhaps, though, the reason behind this shift could be the relative ease in tracking the effectiveness of digital campaigns compared to their offline counterparts. More than two-thirds of marketers (71.8%) believe it is easy to measure the effectiveness of a digital campaign which is a significant lead over the 38.1% who say it is easy to measure the effectiveness of an offline campaign.

When more marketers are feeling under pressure to show results – Marketing Week’s Language of Effectiveness survey has already revealed there has been an increase in performance over brand marketing – perhaps this shift to digital-first is not surprising.

B2B and B2C marketers are in agreement when it comes to digital being simpler to measure, with 70.8% of B2B marketers finding digital easy to measure and just 37.3% saying the same for offline.

While in B2C the number who feel digital is easy to measure drops to (67.2%) compared to 43.5% who think the same of offline.

All of this taken together it is clear that digital brand building is something many marketers now believe is possible – and it’s about time, according to Marketing Week columnist Tom Roach. In his column published earlier this week, he said: “Improvements in the impact of brand building advertising can happen through better integration through the funnel, not just by creating more impact at the top.”

Far from being performance-only, digital as brand building tool may be here to stay.

Marketing Week will be publishing a series of content based on the Language of Effectiveness data, including a deeper dive into why more marketers view digital channels as effective at brand building. 

Click here to read all our Language of Effectiveness content



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