Promotion refers to all the various ways in which a firm can communicate with its existing and potential customers to make them aware of the goods and services it offers, and then persuade them to purchase. Promotion is also used to explain the uses and benefits of a firm's products and to differentiate them from competitors in the market. The tool box of promotional methods is known as the firm's Promotional Mix.
The Promotional Mix refers to the specific combination of ingredients that make up a firm's marketing communications strategy. The major elements of the mix are advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, direct marketing and public relations.
It must be recognised that the impact of new technologies and the growth of the World Wide Web have significantly extended the opportunities available to a firm for promotional activities.
Some forms of promotion are paid for, while others are 'free', although even free promotion, such 'word of mouth' may be the result of many years of paid for promotion.
Promotion is part of the firm's marketing plan, which in turn must reflect its mission and corporate objectives. If this is not the case, customers will become confused about the nature and character of the firm.
Promotion of products and services aims to:
- Build brand awareness, so cementing the major main selling points in the minds of customers, both current and prospective.
- Develop recognition of the firm's range.
- Attract attention to the whole 'family' of products offered by the firm.
The key promotional objectives are to:
The importance of these three aims will change as a product moves through its life cycle:
- In the early stages, customers may not have a good understanding of the firm's products and services, so promotion is used to inform by explaining the nature of the product offer; its key features and characteristics.
- As a product moves into the growth phase, the firm will need to persuade customers of other brands to change their brand allegiance. Obviously all campaigns must be 'truthful and honest' and not break the various laws on Trades Descriptions. In some countries 'comparative advertising' (this can be little more than disparaging rival products!) is not allowed.
- When the product is mature, the firm will need to remind loyal customers to repurchase, or encourage them to buy in larger quantities.
Promotional campaigns might also be aimed at achieving other promotional objectives. These may be tactical in nature rather than the more general strategic objectives of increasing sales and profitability. For example, the firm may wish to build awareness of their brands ahead of a new product launch or they may simply wish to clear excess stock in advance of that launch. They may target a specific campaign at reducing seasonality of demand for their products. All of these are tactical promotional objectives as opposed to the more general strategic promotional objectives.