As we discuss in our Promotion Decisions tutorial, promotions are used to achieved five key objectives: 1) building general awareness; 2) creating customer interest; 3) providing product information; 4) stimulating demand; and 5) reinforcing the purchase decision. For many new products, these objectives are accomplished in a hierarchical manner with previous objectives needing to be met before moving to the next. For example, it would be hard to get customers to be interested in a new product (Object #2) without them first being aware of the product (Objective #1). Consequently, the first step in launching something new is to make sure those in the target market are aware of it.
For products marketed by major corporations, all four promotion mix methods – advertising, sales promotion, public relations and personal selling – are used to build awareness. Unfortunately, smaller marketers, who have limited promotional funds, often cannot afford to use each promotional method to meet the awareness objective. However, not fully utilizing the full range of promotions to build awareness may place these products at a distinct disadvantage for several reasons.
First, customers are exposed to messages from thousands of products each day. For marketers, getting through this clutter to gain customers’ attention is becoming much more challenging. If a marketer limits their message to just one promotional platform (e.g., television advertising) they may miss opportunities to reach a large portion of their target market, who may be receptive to messages through other outlets (e.g., mobile apps). Second, customers are interacting with products in many more ways than in the past. For instance, today a first-time product purchase often occurs without customers ever physically handling a product (e.g., purchase it based on a description on Amazon). So some promotional methods, such as point-of-purchase displays placed in stores, may never be experienced by many potential customers, who do much of their shopping online. Third, awareness of new products is increasingly coming from social media interaction and not from direct messages controlled by marketers. Marketers that are not paying close attention to what is happening on social media may be missing opportunities to engage customers at times that could help bolster awareness.
Understanding how capturing customers’ attention is changing has lead to the evolving area of brand activation. As discussed in this Advertising Age story, brand activation is often presented as a highly coordinated strategy involving all forms of promotion. It also views social media interaction as a key component in generating customer involvement. Smaller marketers may not be able to follow the full-range of strategies presented here, but they may find useful insight into a few new ways for building awareness.