Promotion is the marketing term used to describe all marketing communications activities and includes personal selling, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, trade fairs and exhibitions, advertising and sponsorship. Promotion needs to be precisely coordinated and integrated into the businesses global communications message, and this is called Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). IMC integrates the message through the available channels to deliver a consistent and clear message about your company’s brands, products and services. Any movement away from the single message confuses the consumer and undermines the brand.
The promotions mix (the marketing communications mix) is the specific blend of promotion tools that the company uses to persuasively communicate customer value and build customer relationships.
Promotion is the element of the marketing mix which is entirely responsible for communicating the marketing proposition. Marketers work hard to create a unique marketing proposition for their product or service. McDonald’s is about community, food and enjoyment. Audi is about the driver experience and technology.
Think of it like a cake mix, the basic ingredients are always the same. However if you vary the amounts of one of the ingredients, the final outcome is different. It is the same with promotions. You can integrate different aspects of the promotions mix to deliver a unique campaign. Now let’s look at the different elements of the promotions mix.
The elements of the promotions mix are:
- Personal Selling.
- Sales Promotion.
- Public Relations.
- Direct Mail.
- Trade Fairs and Exhibitions.
And also online promotions.
The elements of the promotions mix are integrated to form a coherent campaign. As with all forms of communication, the message from the marketer follows the ‘communications process’ as illustrated above. For example, a radio advert is made for a car manufacturer. The car manufacturer (sender) pays for a specific advert with contains a message specific to a target audience (encoding). It is transmitted during a set of commercials from a radio station (message/medium).
The message is decoded by a car radio (decoding) and the target consumer interprets the message (receiver). He or she might visit a dealership or seek further information from a web site (Response). The consumer might buy a car or express an interest or dislike (feedback). This information will inform future elements of an integrated promotional campaign. Perhaps a direct mail campaign would push the consumer to the point of purchase. Noise represents the thousands of marketing communications that a consumer is exposed to everyday, all competing for attention.
The Promotions Mix.
Let us look at the individual components of the promotions mix in more detail. Remember all of the elements are ‘integrated’ to form a specific communications campaign.
1. Personal Selling.
Personal Selling is an effective way to manage personal customer relationships. The sales person acts on behalf of the organization. They tend to be well trained in the approaches and techniques of personal selling. However sales people are very expensive and should only be used where there is a genuine return on investment. For example salesmen are often used to sell cars or home improvements where the margin is high.
2. Sales Promotion.
Sales promotions tend to be thought of as being all promotions apart from advertising, personal selling, and public relations. For example the BOGOF promotion, or Buy One Get One Free. Others include couponing, money-off promotions, competitions, free accessories (such as free blades with a new razor), introductory offers (such as buy digital TV and get free installation), and so on. Each sales promotion should be carefully costed and compared with the next best alternative.
3. Public Relations (PR).
Public Relations is defined as ‘the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its publics’ (Institute of Public Relations). PR can be relatively cheap, but it is certainly not free. Successful strategies tend to be long-term and plan for all eventualities. All airlines exploit PR; just watch what happens when there is an incident. The pre-planned PR machine clicks in very quickly with a very effective rehearsed plan.
4. Direct Marketing.
Direct marketing is any marketing undertaken without a distributor or intermediary. In terms of promotion it means that the marketing company has direct communication with the customer. For example Nintendo distributes via retailers, although you can register directly with them for information which is often delivered by e-mail or mail.
Direct mail is very highly focussed upon targeting consumers based upon a database. As with all marketing, the potential consumer is targeted based upon a series of attributes and similarities. Creative agencies work with marketers to design a highly focussed communication in the form of a mailing. The mail is sent out to the potential consumers and responses are carefully monitored. For example, if you are marketing medical text books, you would use a database of doctors’ surgeries as the basis of your mail shot.
Similarly e-mail is a form of online direct marketing. You register, or opt in, to join a mailing list for your favourite website. You confirm that you have opted in, and then you will receive newsletters and e-mails based upon your favourite topics. You need to be able to unsubscribe at any time, or opt out. Mailing lists which generate sales are like gold dust to the online marketer. Make sure that you use a mailing list with integrity just as you would expect when you sign up. The mailing list needs to be kept up-to-date, and often forms the basis of online Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
5. Trade Fairs and Exhibitions.
Such approaches are very good for making new contacts and renewing old ones. Companies will seldom sell much at such events. The purpose is to increase awareness and to encourage trial. They offer the opportunity for companies to meet with both the trade and the consumer.
Advertising is a ‘paid for’ communication. It is used to develop attitudes, create awareness, and transmit information in order to gain a response from the target market. There are many advertising ‘media’ such as newspapers (local, national, free, trade), magazines and journals, television (local, national, terrestrial, satellite) cinema, outdoor advertising (such as posters, bus sides). There is much more about digital, online and Internet advertising further down this pages, as well as throughout Marketing Teacher and the Marketing Teacher Blog.
Sponsorship is where an organization pays to be associated with a particular event, cause or image. Companies will sponsor sports events such as the Olympics or Formula One. The attributes of the event are then associated with the sponsoring organization.
The elements of the promotional mix are then integrated to form a unique, but coherent campaign.
Online promotions will include many of the promotions mix elements which we considered above. For example advertising exists online with pay per click advertising which is marketed by Google. You can sponsor are website for example. Online businesses regularly send out newsletters which are targeted using e-mail and mailing lists, which is a form of direct marketing. Indeed websites are premium vehicle in the public relations industry to communicate particular points of view to relevant publics.
The online promotions field is indeed emerging. The field will soon spread into Geo targeting of adverts to people in specific locations via smart phones. Another example would be how social media targets adverts to you whilst you socialising online. Take a look at Marketing Teacher’s Blog for more up-to-date examples of the emerging online promotions space.