An Introduction to Marketing: Promotion

Welcome to my third post on marketing. If you have not read the first two posts, I encourage you to read the introduction post and the articles on products and people before reading this article.

Now, let’s get started with promotion. Promotion refers to the process through which potential customers learn about a product/service. Its purpose is to create customers for the business and driving profitable sales; this is achieved either via building a brand, controlling damages to a brand. Promotion involves positioning your product to your target segment, using brand tools to help you achieve your positioning, and communicating that you are offering the right product… to the right person… at the right time… in the right manner… through the right channel… at the right price.

Positioning

Most marketing people group segmentation, targeting, and positioning together under the “people” P, and call them the STP of marketing. But I like to categorize positioning under promotion because it is absolutely essential to all branding and market communications.

Positioning is the process through which you determine how your product/company differentiates itself, relative to competing products, in the customer’s mind. Said in a different way, it is your attempt to shape what your customer thinks about the product among the range of choices available, in terms of its application, attributes, features, benefits, quality, class, and how the customers and users are this product are perceived (think social status). For that, obviously, you should research who are the reference groups your target segments, considering their age, family role, and economic status.

If would be helpful if you center your positioning practices around your product’s point of differentiation (an element that sets the product apart). As I explain below, a company’s positioning should be consistently reflected in the product’s looks, packaging, and terms of sales, as well as the company’s brands, marketing communications, and their relationships with their customers.

For the lack of a better place to remind you, customer relationship management requires, but is not limited to, active social media presence, excellent customer service (including customer service representative training, receptivity to feedback, product support, customer education, and building realistic expectations from customers), and producing an excellent in-store shopping experience for customers.

Finally, positioning is a strategic decision: before going ahead with their promotion efforts, a smart marketer identifies the challenges they must overcome through researching the industry’s competitive environment and market trends. Then, he/she asks what companies they have to re-position to achieve their position of interest. Finally, he/she estimates how much financial resources they must spend in order to occupy and hold their position in the customer’s minds.

Branding

After deciding on your positioning, you should communicate and strengthen your positioning using branding tools. A brand is an idea, concept, or an emotion that customers associate with a company/product and that promotes either the product’s position in the customer’s mind or the customer’s position in the mind of other people. Once a brand is recognized well enough to make a positive reflection on a product’s customers, it creates value additional to the product itself and is hence considered an asset. Any idea that a brand reflects brand must be consistent with the company’s core values and among all the different product offerings. Tools to promote a brand include names, symbols, characters, logos, slogans, and jingles associated with a product or a company. If you use logos, they should be visible, inimitable, present on all product packages, and be used as a flag. Similarly, slogans must evoke a pleasant feeling and jingles must stick in the audience’s head.

In summary, the branding step involves picking an idea, a concept, or an emotional experience that is consistent with the company’s core values, consistent with the company’s positioning, consistent among different product offerings, and culturally attractive to your target audience.

Marketing communication

Marketing communication is the vehicle for promotion. First, it requires marketers to have a clear understanding of

  • who is the target customer: Please refer to the marketing post on people.
  • why the firm is communicating anything (i.e. communication goals): suggested long-term goals are building a brand image and controlling damages to the brand. Suggested short-term goals include raising awareness about your product and changing the customers’ preferences to drive sales.
  • the content of the message it wants to send (i.e. message content): The message content must…
    • introduce the product
    • introduce why should customers care about the product
    • introduce how the customer can purchase the product
    • be aligned with company vision
    • reflect your positioning, including the product’s value and point of distinction (PoD)
    • avoid people’s cultural and personal sensitivities
  • and the structure of arguments and claims used in sending the message (i.e. message structure): ideally, tell a story because stories make claims more believable.

After the communication goals, message content, and message structure are solidified, the marketer must decide how to send the message so that:

  1. it stands out and makes the product/company more memorable: try to personalize your ads, promote the product in a desirable context, and simultaneously entertain your customer while entertaining them. The desired context is really about showcasing your product where it would be most valued. Think about an airline wishing to advertise its loyalty points program. They can either demonstrate the happiness of people who are rewarded with a free flight through the program, or even better, the warm destination which the loyalty points took the customer.
  2. it does not send a message of “buy the product” too directly
  3. it entertains end-users for B2C businesses and demonstrates value to businesses for B2B businesses
  4. it is believable: believable messages are consistent with your other messages, experiences, and previous campaigns; are passed along using strong and clear words, strong voice, strong body language;  and are ideally sent by a source who speaks from a position of expertise, trust, and/or authority. Whatever you say, be strong and convincing. Being subtle makes the message less believable. Also, through being consistent, your company becomes a trustworthy source itself.
  5. and it is clearly understood by the target audience: it is a good idea to test the message by showing research subjects and asking them about their understanding of and feelings about the message.

The final step in making a marketing communication plan is to choose a media (communication channel) to send the message through, the geographical location in which to advertise, and what marketing alliances you would want to form. Choose the right communication channels from this comprehensive list which carry out your promotional efforts when people 1) pay attention and 2) more likely to initiate or close a purchase. For example, in-store ads are very useful because they give the customer the idea of a purchase at a time and place where they are more likely to initiate a purchase.

Finally, after the marketing communication plan is made, you execute the communication plan. In executing a marketing campaign, internal communication should precede external communication. Employees, stakeholders and the distribution channel should understand the company’s vision (the company’s values, where the company is going, and why), the products and how/why they are unique (PoD), and what role your employees, partners, and collaborators play, so that (1) they can provide their input on the campaign, (2) their treatment of customers is consistent with the message, and (3) they can pass customer needs and feedback on to your business.

As a part of internal communication, promotional materials supporting your marketing campaign should be printed out and distributed throughout the distribution network, and partners’ input sought so that the intermediaries clearly and consistently communicate your (not their own) messages. Remember, throughout the marketing communication campaign marketers should engage their customers and stakeholders in transparent personal relationships and conversations where buyers feel comfortable providing information about their needs, and sellers communicate the value of their goods.