This lesson outlines promotion as a function of marketing and highlights how it may be used to create competitive advantage by effectively communicating with the market. When you are through, there is a short quiz to test your understanding.

What Is Promotion?

Promotion includes all the vehicles used in getting the attention of customers to make them aware of a brand, a product, or a company. Its main purposes are generating sales and developing customer loyalty. Promotional messages are designed to inform, persuade, or remind.

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Promotion is one of the four Ps of the marketing mix: product, place, price, and promotion. It is also one of the seven functions of marketing, the other six being pricing, product/service management, financing, selling, distribution, and marketing information management.

Objectives of Promotion

Promotional messages have five main objectives:

  • To give information
  • To increase demand for a particular brand or product
  • To differentiate the brand or the company from its competitors
  • To highlight the value or benefits of the product
  • To increase and stabilize sales

When organizations are making decisions about promotional messaging, the objectives need to be stated clearly and should be measurable. Promotional messages must support the overall goals of the organization and focus on its strategies for successfully competing in the given market.

Types of Promotional Messages

There are four main ways promotional messages are presented to the market.

The first is advertising, which is mass communication through the media. Examples of such media include television, radio, and newspapers. Advertising can also be done using the Internet and social media.

The second type of promotion is public relations. This is free promotion through the media; organizations that are involved in philanthropy use those activities to highlight their companies and their products. For example, when the local shoe store sends a representative to the television station to publicize the free shoes it gives to the local homeless shelter, the representative uses the opportunity to pitch the company and its products. Public relations is the least expensive form of promotion.

Another type of promotion is personal selling. Organizations find ways of contacting select customers individually. They can do this by sending emails, making telephone calls, or sending ‘snail mail’ containing their advertising. Another method is face-to-face contact with customers. Examples of personal selling include mailing 50% off coupons to customers that fit the company’s profile or prospecting and approaching customers in an attempt to sell products. Cosmetic companies are good personal sellers. Personal selling is the most expensive form of promotion.

Lastly, there is sales promotions, which include all the remaining forms of promotion not listed earlier. Examples include volume discounts, rebates, sampling, exhibits, sweepstakes, demonstrations, and trade-in allowances.

Channels for Promotional Messages

Promotional channels are those vehicles that organizations use to communicate with their public. These channels will differ depending on the target market. Some promotional communication channels are Internet and social media, print media (newspapers, magazines, and flyers) broadcast media (radio and television), display media (billboards, signs, and posters), and electronic media (CDs, kiosks, and audio recordings).

Promotional Strategies

There are many different types of promotional strategies. Some companies use one at a time, changing strategies often; others use a combination of strategies at one time. The main promotional strategies include:

  • Competitions
  • Social media sites
  • Mail order marketing
  • Product give-aways
  • Point-of-sale (POS) advertising
  • End-cap marketing
  • Referral incentive plans
  • Charity promotions and donations
  • Customer appreciation events
  • Post-sale customer satisfaction surveys

Lesson Summary

Promotion includes all the vehicles used in getting the attention of customers to make them aware of a brand, a product, or a company. Promotional messages are designed to inform, persuade, and remind. The four main types are advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotions.