Promotion and advertising is the cornerstone of the marketing plan and marketing department, requiring a strategic plan to work out the best way to leverage marketing efforts to successfully promote a product.
The Promotion Mix
The promotion mix consists of advertising, personally selling, sales promotion, public relations and direct marketing, utilising the main elements of the original marketing mix. It depends on the product, industry and market as to which of the promotions mix to use, however usually a combination of two or more is the most effective way of communicating and sparking the interest of the target market.
Common trends have blurred the lines between which promotion method works well, and consumers today require very tailored messaging for them to actually pay attention to the marketing activity itself. “Same old” advertising is starting to get lost in the clutter, to be replaced by innovative and viral campaigns that engage consumers.
The IMC Approach
Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is the approach where all marketing efforts utilised by the organisation from the promotion mix communicate a clear, consistent and compelling message about the product or organisation themselves. Shifts in communication and message should be done slowly overtime, rather than confusing the customers by promoting inconsistent messages. IMC is a way that an organisation manages its entire portfolio of communication.
The Whole Communication Offering
An organisation is constantly communicating messages to the target market. These include:
(1) Planned and deliberate messaging: via the promotion mix
(2) Product messaging: via the marketing mix (such as price, distribution, etc)
(3) Service messaging: via interaction with the customers themselves
(4) Unplanned and uncontrollable messaging: via gossip, external publicity, reviews, rumours and other external environment buzz.
An IMC plan will ensure that an organisation presents a united, solid communication front to customers: this means the management of all contact points of an organisation and product (what is said in the promotional mix, confirmed by the unplanned messages, and performed via the product and service messages).
Elements in the Communication Process
All messages follow a process:
(1) The sender creates the message and encodes. By encoding, this means the process of creativity of the message.
(2) The message is then send out via the medium chosen. At this point is must also compete in amongst what is known as ‘noise’- these are all of the conflicting messages and all other interference that can distract the target receiver.
(3) Once the message is received via the medium, the receiver must decode the creativity of the sender, which is heavily biased by their own perceptions, judgements and past experiences, to finally receive the message.
(4) After this, a response action is triggered, whether it be dismissal, negative, positive, purchase, and so on.
(5) Concluding the action, feedback from the receiver to the sender is sent, which must also go through the ‘noise’ or interference factor before the sender can use the data.
Different elements of the promotional mix approach this cycle in different ways. For example, personally selling is effective because it completes the cycle entirely in almost one transaction, whereas Public Relations campaigns are slower and can experience high amounts of noise.
Developing Effective Communication
(1) Identify the target audience
(2) Determine the objectives and goals of the communication message
(3) Design or encode the message creatively, catered to what would spark the interest of the target audience.
(4) Select appropriate channels
(5) Establish a budget for this message so as to determine best use of resources
(6) Determine which elements of the promotional mix to utilise
(7) Measure results
(8) Manage the IMC system
(9) Collect data on this experience to improve the next message
Reach and Frequency
When it comes to marketing communication strategy, reach and frequency are the two main factors that must be decided upon.
The reach is all about the level of access to the target market. How many segments within the target market need to be accessed? What times? What demographics? Which media do they use?
The frequency is about how many messages through those reach channels, above. If, for example, a magazine is the selected medium, then how many issues is the communication present in? How many times does the advertisement run on television? And so on.
There tends to be an “S”-shaped response curve that occurs with frequency and effectiveness that all marketers must take into consideration. It is generally accepted that a low frequency of communications, such as between zero and three exposures, is not very effective at all. A medium frequency, above this, gains a high acceptance with the target market and thus is very effective (usually between three and ten rapid exposures). However a high frequency starts to lose its effectiveness and can even become negative if the target market becomes saturated and over-exposed to the content.
Advertising, also known as paid-promotion or ‘above the line’ marketing is any communication message that is paid for by an organisation to a medium sponsor (such as a television station, a magazine, a bus shelter, a billboard, a radio station, and so on) that presents and promotes a product, non-personally. This means that it does not involve a personal, one-on-one interaction.
These kind of promotion offers the organisation almost complete control of the message as they can purchase a space and advertise however they’d like, within reason. This is usually the most expensive and competitive form however is extremely effective.
Marketers today, however, face a lot of challenges in advertising as there is a lot of noise and consumers are starting to filter out the ‘same-old’ advertising thrown constantly at them. As consumers are becoming more de-sensitised through over-exposure, marketers have to be far more creative to cater better and more effective messages to the target audience.
Marketers now tend to use different forms of advertising, such as ‘crowd-sourcing’, which is getting the target market actively involved in the advertising and creativity for a reward. This has large uptake by a target market as they feel involvement as worth their attention.
Advertising has five functions when being utilised: informing, persuading, reminding, adding value, assisting organisational efforts and favourability. One message can perform one or a combination of all of these functions. Favourability tends to be utilised more today- if a message is liked by an audience, it will tend to have more cut-through than an ad that rubs the audience the wrong way.
Public Relations (PR)
This is known as ‘below-the-line’ marketing and involves creating good relationships with the organisation’s publics and stake-holders through favourable publicity, positive corporate and product image and managing or debunking unfavourable rumours, reviews and messages.
PR can be positive or negative and can function as an outlet for information or promotion, depending on the context. Unfortunately, PR isn’t always in control by the organisation. Whilst some forms can be intentional, such as a press release, sometimes PR can be written or circulated without the knowledge of the organisation. Organisations such as Greenpeace tend to use witty PR campaigns to gain momentum for the causes within the community.
Event sponsorship is a form of PR, where an organisation pays to be an official branded sponsor. This kind of PR allows for positive brand association with the event. However, for this to be a success, it is important that the product ties in well with the event- it can be a waste if there is no leverage by the organisation. Just a brand at an event isn’t enough; there must be some related activity such as a stall at the event. A good sponsorship PR campaign capitalises by promoting the tie with the event.
However, with event sponsorship, ‘ambush marketing’ threatens to take advantage of such events. This is where an organisation will advertise with the event’s theme unofficially so as to appear to be a sponsor and steal the limelight, when they’re in fact not.
Experiential Marketing Campaign
A good way to gain positive PR is by letting customers trial a brand or product as an experience so that they consume the brand in a favourable experience setting and then share this with the market. For example, wine tasting in a beautiful vineyard or sports drinks during a volleyball game on the beach.
Sampling is another similar example of this, where consumers are given access to free trials to promote the product and break through distrust barriers.
Sales promotion is a short-term incentive given to customers to spur and increase purchase behaviour, such as the push and pull strategies discussed above. These can come in the form of discounts, buy-one-get-one free, coupons, lotteries, competitions and so on.
It is important, however, than an organisation avoids the sales promotion trap, which is over-incentivising to a point where the discount becomes the norm and the organisation can no longer remove the promotion.
Diverting can also occur. This is where someone or an organisation avoids the restrictions of a sales promotion, purchases these discounted goods in one region, and then sells in a non-discounted region.
This type of promotion began with physical mail marketing and has evolved to email and mobile phone marketing. Basically, it is any form of advertising that utilises an interactive media to gain a measureable result and response at any location.
Unfortunately, direct marketing tends to bombard consumers, so a good ‘call to action’ together with something that sparks the interest and curiosity of the target market enough to get them to respond.
The Internet’s Role In Marketing
The internet is a fantastic resource for marketing efforts. It can perform the following functions for an organisation:
– Public relations
– Investor communications
– Customer service
– Prospect qualification
– Product sales
– Customer interaction and feedback
– Internal communications
It is very important that the use of the internet is consistent with the marketing strategy as, because it can perform so many simultaneous functions at once, all must be correctly utilised and managed to ensure a united front and message (a good IMC).
The internet’s use has shifted greatly from simple websites to completely out-of-the-square marketing efforts such as interactive social media campaigns, mobile device marketing and so on.