The Great Debate: Digital Vs Traditional Marketing

The Great Debate: Digital Marketing vs The Letter Box Drop

I attended a Sydney Marketing function in June this year held by the popular Real Estate platform, RateMyAgent, and led by CEO, Mark Armstrong. His presentation was aimed at addressing the evolution of communication with an audience based on how quickly the commercial environment is changing today. This is both a relevant and tough debate, indeed!

While this event was Real Estate specific, it is a topical discussion being held across every industry and every market around the world in all boardrooms and strategy meetings: digital vs traditional marketing.

Where do we spend our precious budget to get the most cut through to engage our audiences and achieve our organisational goals?

So, it’s finally time to analyse both sides and get to the bottom of this debate.

Where Are Our Customers?

Effective Marketing is all about your audience. This is never up for dispute as we all know it to be true. Knowing that, it may be time to take a step back and consider that age old question: have we thought about our customer?

Recent research shows that 87% of consumers now search online for reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and I’m sure that statistic is pretty similar for how people are researching product information too. This is a big shift in behaviour from only a couple of years ago. Organisations didn’t start this- consumers did. We did. We, as people, changed the game, and organisations today are hugely na├»ve if they don’t think people are already doing most of their research before even contacting your business.

As An Example

Mark Armstrong said his son needed an internet router for his house the other day, and at first, he had no clue what a router even was. In about ten minutes online, he become a pro with all of the brands, prices and specifications, then went straight into a local store, went to the shelf and purchased it without speaking to anyone in store.

This is very indicative of the modern customer.

The Digital Interview

Today, it’s all about ‘the digital interview’- in other words, searching online to find more information about a person or business without actually contacting them. Online dating, LinkedIn, Facebook, websites- it’s all about research before meeting in person. Around 70% of customers make up their mind before that stage, which is something businesses need to accept and adapt to.

While statistics are always fickle, all you need to do is think about your own customer’s behaviour, and you instantly know this to be true. Hardly ever does a customer go in unprepared or uninformed.

They’re All Online

How often do we go to a bar or a restaurant, and find everyone looking at a screen? It’s a sad reality, but a reality none the less. That is where your customer is! On their digital device.

People aren’t looking for reviews and information in your physical office or in your marketing collateral – they are looking online. So, being there for your audience is absolutely crucial for your business success.
It’s all about your audience, after all.

The Three Arguments: Digital vs Traditional Marketing

There are the three main considerations when deciding the pros and cons of new digital marketing versus more traditional methods, like the letter box drop or print.

(1) Cost
(2) Effectiveness
(3) Accountability


As a general rule, more traditional methods tend to be far more costly in so many ways. It’s expensive to design, print and physically deliver materials like these. Now look at digital methods: it’s almost instant, requires little design due to templates, and the reach is not physically limited, meaning you can get ten times the exposure for around one-tenth of the cost.

They seem to be light years apart on the cost front.

For example, a client came to me recently and told me that the only advertising he was doing was on the back of local shopper dockets, which wasn’t giving him any tangible results, but was still costing him a few hundred dollars a month. For a fraction of this cost, I put his adverts onto Facebook and Google, and he immediately noticed the difference in leads generated!


How long do letterbox drops, print media and even mainstream advertising last?
Think about a letterbox specifically. The printed material sits in an office, then in a mail box all day. Then, when your audience gets home, are they truly engaged when they check their letterbox, stumbling in from work? They are coming home with the shopping, or wrangling the kids. This material has literally one second to capture them in amongst the rest of the clutter, and is so easy to ignore. That’s not to say it doesn’t occasionally work, but the chance of engagement is very low.

Now, consider digital ads. It stays online for a much longer time, and due to the customisable nature of online targeting, it can pop up when the customer is more engaged and in the right headspace. It meets them on their terms, like when they are on their phone killing time, or browsing on a website, and so on. They can also interact with it by clicking on it, watching it, zooming in on it, saving it and much more.

In comparison, think about when you hear a radio ad or see a TV ad: you have to remember and recall the advert at a later time for it to have any impact. This means your audience has to spend the effort to remember to act on it at a later time when it’s more relevant, such as when they get out of the car. Making this worse today is that we are constantly bombarded by ads and messages, which means that it’s very hard to keep one specific advert in your mind. You can’t rely on your customer recalling the message – you need to make it easy and at their fingertips.

Digitally, your customer can fully interact at the very point they experience the piece of content, meaning engagement is far greater.


Which technique truly works? What really has cut through and metrics to measure it? If you ask most organisations who spend budget yearly on letterbox drops, for example, they will say things like “$50,000 a year”, and then if you ask them “does this work?”, all they do is shrug their shoulders.

The problem is, some businesses get into a rut of “it’s how we’ve always done it.” This represents a concerning shortfall in our perspective and our priorities. Our industries are too tough and our competitors too smart for us to be thinking this way anymore.

On the digital marketing side, with retarget marketing and tracking cookies, online communication and adverts are able to serve up your communication to more defined and far better aligned demographics. Your adverts are more intelligent because they learn about the behaviour of your audience and adapt to how they consume content, then works out where and when to best display your marketing.

The Three Battlegrounds of Marketing

From the 1960ies, there has been an evolution of Marketing and communication battlegrounds based on how we built our customer database.

(1) The Physical Address

Organisations clambered to obtain the physical addresses of customers to communicate with them physically, either with a sales person, door knocking or letter box communications.

(2) The Email Address

Next, emails went through an effective stage and businesses rushed to fill their databases with everyone’s address. However today, we have found this to be far less effective do the quantity of spam everyone receives daily.

(3) The Computer Address

People live on their mobiles and tablets now- this is where they are today. The battlefield has become exposure based on IP address online. Building a database of tracking cookies has become the Marketing battleground of today.

While these IP addresses are kept private due to Privacy Laws and you never get the actual details, it doesn’t matter as you can rest assured that this technology is getting your message in front of the right people. Then tracking success comes from the metrics and analytics behind these interactions.
The core essence of Marketing hasn’t changed across any of the above battlegrounds: it’s always been about reaching your audience. The only thing that has changes is how- and this is a direct result from how the marketplace and consumer behaviour is evolving.

What is it about Digital Marketing then?

Digital Marketing is effective because it is customisable. It can target specific demographics to ensure that the best audience is getting your adverts and content at the right times.

The following are three combined ways of how digital marketing finds your audience.

(1) Location

Google tags computers with a geographical location. While letterbox drops can do the same, location is where the comparison ends. Digital is able to combine location with the following two qualifiers to ensure that your message is tailored, rather than mass distributed to just anyone.

For example, in the Real Estate industry, around 70% of residences are investor controlled, which means letterbox drops are ineffective because the people receiving the materials are not the decision makers and therefore not finding themselves in the hands of the right people. Digital equivalents would use location and the following two to ensure it is being fed to the right customers.

(2) Browsing History

It is the fact above that allows digital marketing to take it one step further. The history of your browser paints a picture of the type of person your customer is and their interests, which means that adverts can be served up to match this. It’s not a perfectly accurate science, however due to the cost effectiveness of digital marketing, it has a far better cut through and success rate.

(3) Remarketing and Tracking Cookies

As you move from website to website, tracking cookies embed themselves into your web browser to allow the content be catered specifically to you, so you are not receiving irrelevant messages. This allows advertising content to be shown to a relevant audience rather than just anyone.

Where is Marketing Heading Next?

Given that digital marketing is following around your ideal customer and delivering them relevant content, it seems to be working effectively at the moment. However, if I know Marketing the way I think I do, the next stage will be empathetic retarget marketing, which means showing the advert not just anywhere on any website, but when the person is browsing material that is contextually relevant.

For example, when your customer, who has already been identified as interested in Real Estate, reaches a Real Estate or property website, the ad will be displayed, as opposed to how it is now, where it comes up on any website they may be looking at.

It’s all about being in front of the right customer when they are in the right frame of mind.

The Seven Part Plan To Building A Brand

Building a brand is more than just fixing a catchy name on a product. Brand is all about relationships-it is how customers feel about your product. That feeling will either incline them to use your product or pass it by for something else. What control does a marketer have over the minds and hearts of buyers? Marketing authority David Jobber has identified seven factors in building a successful brand.

While a seller cannot create the public’s perception of their product, the seller must influence opinion using strategic suggestions. This is called positioning, and to do it properly the seller must first identify the advantages of using the product or service. These benefits must align with the customer’s needs, wants, and desires.

If you are lucky enough to be the first on the market to offer a particular product or service you may have an advantage-initially. If your product is successful you can be sure competition will arrive shortly; however, it is possible for the first successful brand to create a clear position in the minds of customers before the competition enters the market. Whether or not your product is the first of its kind, your first challenge is to establish credibility. Consumers must take your product seriously if they are to develop trust and loyalty to your brand.

Of course, before customers will buy a product, they must know about it. Communications play a critical role in building brand. Initial effort will focus on building brand awareness. As awareness increases, brand personality will be important to develop. Reinforcing position will be an on-going challenge.

This is where the next factor of brand-building comes into play. No amount of hustling can cover for quality. Statistically, higher quality brands always outplay their inferior counterparts in the marketing arena. Part of building a brand is communicating to consumers the benefits of using your brand-and consistently delivering on that promise.

Brand values must be understood and accepted internally as well as externally. This means that brand building involves a certain amount of internal marketing and training, so that any face-to-face contact customers have with the product is consistent and positive.

Even with the best of marketing, brand loyalty takes time to secure. Therefore, a long-term perspective is required when investing in a brand. Initially building up the brand will be an expense. Any business venture is a risk. If there comes a time when a brand has become tired or its market has gone into decline, the business may need to work at repositioning the product to reflect the change in consumers taste. Repositioning is an important, and none too easy factor, in brand building.

These seven factors: positioning, credibility, communications, quality, internal marketing, long-term perspective, and repositioning, are critical to building brand value. A proper marketing plan will address each factor. In addition, the marketing strategy should be evaluated and updated at regular intervals.

Measuring Brand Equity – The First Crucial Step in Maximizing Value

Intangible assets are crucial to a company’s future. Assuring long-term growth and constant increase of shareholder value depend on the company maximizing its brand value.
Improving brand value should be a key goal for management and workers alike. To improve brand value, it must be constantly monitored and measured, as exemplified by the model described herein, which was developed for that very purpose.

Accounting standards address the issue of measuring the value of intangibles, for instance through IFRS3, but these present methods for measuring brand value are flawed. One of the problems is that there is no distinction between goodwill resulting from the brand and goodwill in general. For another, a brand developed in-house does not appear in the books: it is not considered an asset. Its value only appears during an acquisition event, whether it is acquired alone or as part of a business operation. Bare accounting practices, as expressed in the company’s books, cannot provide a full picture of the company’s value, including all tangible and intangible assets.

To illustrate the point, just compare the book value of companies versus their fair value (market value). Over the years, it has become apparent that intangible assets are driving value creation for shareholders. A study conducted over 20 years on the Russell 3,000 companies found a sharp shift towards intangible values. If in 1978, 95% of a company’s value was clear from the books, by the beginning of the 2000s that proportion had plunged to about 15%. Other studies carried out among S&P-500 index companies and among the 350 largest-cap companies listed on London’s FTSE delivered similar results – 70% to 75% of the companies’ values, respectively, could not be explained by their books.

Let’s look at specific companies. In Disney’s case, 70% of its value can’t be explained through the book figures. For Heinz that ratio rises to 85% and for Microsoft, 98%. Coca Cola’s ratio is 80%. Where is the value coming from? Intangible assets, mainly the brand.

Companies are increasingly beginning to grasp that they have to manage their intangible assets, just as they do their tangible ones. During the economic downturn in the early 1990s as part of the global economic cycle, companies slashed expenditure. They scaled back their tangible assets and stopped investing in supporting their intangible assets, including their brands – without carefully considering accruing and future outcome of these actions.

In hindsight, we now know that companies who didn’t neglect their intangible assets, and continued to build and financially manage their brands, weathered the trouble. The capital markets applauded their sustained growth, too. As a retail giant, Wal-Mart for instance is highly vulnerable to market fluctuations: yet it did not cut back spending on branding, and in fact leveraged the recession to build up its brand even more, creating a sustainable competitive edge for itself. The lesson is that even when times turn rough, a company must not cease managing its portfolio of tangible and intangible assets. It needs not to stop spending, but rather spend effectively.

The benefits of measuring brand value touch on almost every aspect of the business, from strategy and management to finances, marketing, and even the legal department. Brand value is a factor when analyzing returns on marketing drives, brand portfolio, or brand performance, even management performance. Brand value is key when evaluating a company for the purposes of M&A or in the event of ownership disputes, licensing lawsuits, partnership conflicts, and licensing agreements.

The Tefen-Globes-Giza Model

The model we developed is based on premium pricing, a method designed to calculate the current net value that the brand can be expected to produce for the company, and to other links in the value chain along the years.

The model focuses on the basic role of the brand – to create a preference based on which the consumer can be charged a premium. Therefore, the monetary value that the brand creates is the total premium revenues collected from the consumer, minus the brand’s maintenance costs (advertising, support, and so on), capitalized based on the risk of the brand minus the rate of growth.

How is the premium underlying the brand calculated? The premium is the difference between the branded product’s price, and that of the identical non-branded product available on the shelf. The premium is the end that which the consumer is willing to pay.

The premium paid by the consumer is divided by the different value chain components. For example, the premium paid for Coca Cola, will be divided between Coca Cola, the brand owner, and the specific retailer selling the brand.

Tefen and Giza carried out risk evaluation of each brand in the Israeli market, assessing the risks at three levels: sector risk, the specific risk of the brand, and the inherent risk of the brand owner. Each of these levels present different risks for the brand. The analysis compared these risks and focused on evaluating each and every brand by analyzing the ten most dominant parameters, such as degree of regulation, steadiness of demand, entry barriers, and intensity of competition. The lesser amount of risk, the greater the value the brand will hold.

There are other models, alongside the Tefen-Globes-Giza model used in business circles to evaluate brand value. One such model is the Interbrand model. Developed by Omnicom, Interbrand ranks the leading brands in world markets each year and the leading brands in selected markets. The model’s methodology measures the brand value in three phases: financial forecasting – identifying revenues from the model or service that originate from the company’s intangible assets, and building an estimate of future revenues originating from the intangible assets over the next six years; the role of branding – identifying the proportion of revenues from the intangible assets that originate from the brand alone; and brand strength – to calculate the net present value of the brand’s revenues, a deduction representing the risk profile (time and likelihood of the scenario).

The Tefen model, unlike the Interbrand model, can measure more than just the brand value of companies: it can also measure the brand value of products. This is especially significant in markets such as FMCG, where companies have developed into “houses of brands.” Leading companies such as P&G and Unilever should measure the value of each brand separately, since the consumer is usually unaware of the corporate brand.

Brand Management

Much has been written about brand management, but a thorough investigation using the Tefen-Globes-Giza model shows that a company must invest its efforts on three main fronts to squeeze the most out of its brand: volume, premium, and branding expenditure. Correct management on the three fronts will maximize the brand’s economic potential for the company, thus creating value for both the company and the consumer.

The product and its characteristics are fundamental to creating high brand equity. Comparisons cannot be drawn between products and services provided in a saturated market to those in “blue oceans,” which can grow much more and for which the consumer will pay much greater premiums. Therefore, brand equity is not only a function of the brand itself, but is also influenced by market characteristics such as regulation, entry barriers, and steadiness of demand.

The company usually cannot affect these external parameters, but should be aware of them. There are three main factors which can be influenced and can increase brand equity: volume, premium, and branding expenditure.


Naturally, the three parameters affect one another. Product volume is affected by the premium charged from the consumer, which in turn is affected by the investment in marketing the brand.
There are many ways to stimulate volume demand for a product, such as stretching the brand or approaching new consumer segments. Adjusting the value offering of the brand to changing market needs is critical to maintaining sales.

Let’s take the example of Ford and Toyota, which were measured using the Interbrand global brands model. In 2003 both companies had roughly the same brand value ($17 billion for Ford and $20 billion for Toyota). By 2007, however, Toyota had a brand value of $32 billion while Ford’s had shrunk to $9 billion. The Globes-Tefen “brands index,” an annual study of the 100 leading brands in Israel, likewise showed that Toyota’s brand value in Israel increased by 32% from 2002 to 2007, while Ford’s dropped in real terms, losing 2% in the five years.

How does a thing like that happen? Toyota identified rising demand for economic and environmentally friendly cars, while Ford continued to make gas guzzlers and SUVs. The Detroit giant misread the future of the market and lost miles to their rival from Japan. Toyota recognized the market’s yearning for “green” and adjusted its model, offering perceived added value to the consumer in the form of more efficient cars.

The success of the Toyota Prius and the good press the model received showed that identifying and meeting existing demand required lower investment on the brand than the standard models launched by the other car companies.


The premium charged for the brand is the difference between the price of the branded products and the price of comparable products lacking branding. The premium positions the brand, and determines its profitability.

Setting the premium lower forces the manufacturer to drive heavy demand for the product in order to achieve high brand value. Drumming up demand of that magnitude requires heavy investment in branding, which in and of itself, diminishes the brand value. On the other hand, setting the premium too high can hurt sales and stunt growth.

To properly set the premium the brand can collect, the manufacturer must know the market inside and out: the competition and consumers. It also depends on the positioning of the brand itself – is it a luxury brand? Does the added value that it brings the client justify a high premium? What is the highest possible premium under prevailing market conditions?

Luxury brands are the best example of charging a high premium in exchange for added value, for the feeling of exclusiveness and perceived quality. If a mass market brand can command a premium of up to 30%, then for a luxury brand the premium could reach more than 90%. The Interbrand index of 100 global brands includes three luxury brands of Louis Vuitton – Moet & Chandon, Louis Vuitton, and Hennessy. Louis Vuitton has a brand equity of more than $20 billion.

Another area where brands command high premiums is sports. The Tefen-Globes-Giza brands model places Nike Israel and Toyota Israel side by side, with a negligible difference of 2.5% between their brand values. However, Toyota Israel’s sales turnover is much greater than that of Nike Israel. The reason for their practically identical brand value is the premium that Nike charges, meaning the percent of the price that the customer is paying for the pleasure of the brand. It can be more than 50% of the final price. Toyota, which is considered expensive for a non-luxury brand, charges a premium of less than half that of Nike.

Brand expenditure

This front includes all the direct expenditure on branding your product, from studying the market to designing the product to marketing -whether the branding is above or below it. This does not include actual product development costs, but focuses on expenditure that advances the product as a brand.

The company’s goal is to optimize these expenses while preserving the values of the brand, whether at the level of design or experience. Ideally, the product and the value that the consumer derives from it, should speak for itself. Positive buzz, or word of mouth, can be major marketing tools.

Our index of the 100 leading brands in Israel placed Google Israel in 21st place, and immediately following it was the Danone dairy brand. The brand value of the two brands was practically identical, even though Danone’s local branch makes more than double the revenue of Google Israel. How is this possible? Danone spends terrific sums of money in marketing and promotion, while Google relies on the good name of its parent company and the strength of its products. Compared with peer enterprises, it invests relatively little on branding itself, which inflates its brand equity to beyond that of heavy-spending Danone.

A Juggling Act

Balancing between volume, the premium, and branding expenditure is a perpetual juggling act by the brand manager throughout the brand’s lifetime. The manager’s purpose is to maximize the value of the brand for the company and the consumer. Maximizing the brand’s economic value should be a basic goal of strategic planning, alongside the company’s desire to maximize shareholder value. Management should ask whether the brand is realizing its full financial potential.

Volume, the premium, and branding expenditure are interlinked. Change one and you change the rest, directly affecting brand value. Measuring these components is not trivial, but it is necessary to keep track of brand value and to design a strategy to maximize it. A company that wants to maximize value must keep constant track of these parameters, and define goals and work plans, which should all be a part of its corporate marketing strategy.