Types of Promotion Tutorial

In this tutorial we continue our coverage of promotion decisions with an overview of the different types of promotional methods available to marketers. Our main objective in this section is to lay the groundwork for more in-depth discussion of each method in later sections by focusing on the underlying characteristics of each type of promotion. We will see this by isolating eight key characteristics. 

As will be shown, each promotional method offers advantages and disadvantages which will affect which promotional method the marketer will choose.

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Before we discuss the different promotional options available to the marketer, it is useful to gain an understanding of the key features that set different options apart. For our discussion we isolate eight characteristics on which each promotional option can be judged.

For our discussion we will look at the following characteristics of a promotional method:

  1. Intended Audience: Mass vs. Targeted
  2. Payment Model: Paid vs. Non-Paid
  3. Interaction Type: Personal vs. Non-Personal
  4. Message Flow: One-Way vs. Two-Way
  5. Demand Creation: Quick vs. Lagging
  6. Message Control: Total vs. Minimal
  7. Message Credibility: High vs. Low
  8. Cost Assessment: Exposure vs. Action

While these characteristics are widely understood as being important in evaluating the effectiveness of each type of promotion, they are by no means the only criteria used for evaluation. In fact, as new promotional methods emerge the criteria for evaluating promotional methods will likely change.

Most efforts to promote products require marketers to make direct payment to the medium that delivers the message. For instance, a company must pay a magazine publisher to advertise in the magazine. However, there are several forms of promotion that do not involve direct payment in order to distribute a promotional message. While not necessarily "free" since there may be indirect costs involved, the ability to have a product promoted without making direct payment to the medium can be a viable alternative to expensive promotion options.

Promotions can be categorized based on the intended coverage of a single promotional message. For instance, a single television advertisement for a major sporting event, such as the Super Bowl, World Cup or Olympics, could be seen by millions of viewers at the same time. Such mass promotion, intended to reach as many people as possible, has been a mainstay of marketers’ promotional efforts for a long time.

Unfortunately, while mass promotions are delivered to a large number of people, the actual number that fall within the marketer’s target market may be small. Because of this, many who use mass promotion techniques find it to be an inefficient way to reach desired customers. Instead, today’s marketers are turning to newer techniques designed to focus promotional delivery to only those with a high probability of being in the marketer’s target market. For example, Google, Yahoo and other Internet search engines employ methods for delivering highly targeted ads to customers as they enter search terms. The assumption made by advertisers is that customers who enter search terms are interested in the information they have entered, especially if they are searching by entering detailed search strings (e.g., phrases rather than a single word). Following this logic, advertisers are much more likely to have their ads displayed to customers within their target market and, thus, receive a higher return on their promotional investment. The movement to highly targeted promotions has gained tremendous traction in recent years and, as new and improved targeting methods are introduced, its importance will continue to grow.

Promotions involving real people communicating with other people is considered personal promotion. While salespeople are a common and well understood type of personal promotion, another type of promotion, called controlled word-of-mouth promotion (a.k.a., buzz marketing), is emerging as a form of personal promotion. Unlike salespeople who attempt to obtain an order from customers, controlled word-of-mouth promotion uses real people to help spread information about a product but is not designed to directly elicit orders.

One key advantage personal promotions have is the ability for the message sender to adjust the message as they gain feedback from message receivers (i.e., two-way communication). So if a customer does not understand something in the initial message (e.g., doesn’t fully understand how the product works) the person delivering the message can adjust the promotion to address questions or concerns. Many non-personal forms of promotion, such as a radio advertisement, are inflexible, at least in the short-term, and cannot be easily adjusted to address questions that arise by the audience experiencing the ad.