Promotion is the business of communicating with customers. It will provide information that will assist them in making a decision to purchase a product or service. The razzmatazz, pace and creativity of some promotional activities are almost alien to normal business activities.
The cost associated with promotion or advertising goods and services often represents a sizeable proportion of the overall cost of producing an item. However, successful promotion increases sales so that advertising and other costs are spread over a larger output. Though increased promotional activity is often a sign of a response to a problem such as competitive activity, it enables an organisation to develop and build up a succession of messages and can be extremely cost-effective.
Promotion, the fourth marketing-mix element, consists of several methods of communicating with and influencing customers. The major tools are sales force, advertising, sales promotion, and public relations.
Sales representatives are the most expensive means of promotion, because they require income, expenses, and supplementary benefits. Their ability to personalize the promotion process makes salespeople most effective at selling complex goods, big-ticket items, and highly personal goods—for example, those related to religion or insurance. Salespeople are trained to make presentations, answer objections, gain commitments to purchase, and manage account growth. Some companies have successfully reduced their sales-force costs by replacing certain functions (for example, finding new customers) with less expensive methods (such as direct mail and telemarketing).
Advertising includes all forms of paid, nonpersonal communication and promotion of products, services, or ideas by a specified sponsor. Advertising appears in such media as print (newspapers, magazines, billboards, flyers) or broadcast (radio, television). Print advertisements typically consist of a picture, a headline, information about the product, and occasionally a response coupon. Broadcast advertisements consist of an audio or video narrative that can range from short 15-second spots to longer segments known as infomercials, which generally last 30 or 60 minutes.
While advertising presents a reason to buy a product, sales promotion offers a short-term incentive to purchase. Sales promotions often attract brand switchers (those who are not loyal to a specific brand) who are looking primarily for low price and good value. Thus, especially in markets where brands are highly similar, sales promotions can cause a short-term increase in sales but little permanent gain in market share. Alternatively, in markets where brands are quite dissimilar, sales promotions can alter market shares more permanently. The use of promotions has risen considerably during the late 20th century. This is due to a number of factors within companies, including an increased sophistication in sales promotion techniques and greater pressure to increase sales. Several market factors also have fostered this increase, including a rise in the number of brands (especially similar ones) and a decrease in the efficiency of traditional advertising due to increasingly fractionated consumer markets.
Public relations, in contrast to advertising and sales promotion, generally involves less commercialized modes of communication. Its primary purpose is to disseminate information and opinion to groups and individuals who have an actual or potential impact on a company’s ability to achieve its objectives. In addition, public relations specialists are responsible for monitoring these individuals and groups and for maintaining good relationships with them. One of their key activities is to work with news and information media to ensure appropriate coverage of the company’s activities and products. Public relations specialists create publicity by arranging press conferences, contests, meetings, and other events that will draw attention to a company’s products or services. Another public relations responsibility is crisis management—that is, handling situations in which public awareness of a particular issue may dramatically and negatively impact the company’s ability to achieve its goals. For example, when it was discovered that some bottles of Perrier sparkling water might have been tainted by a harmful chemical, Source Perrier, SA’s public relations team had to ensure that the general consuming public did not thereafter automatically associate Perrier with tainted water. Other public relations activities include lobbying, advising management about public issues, and planning community events.
Because public relations does not always seek to impact sales or profitability directly, it is sometimes seen as serving a function that is separate from marketing. However, some companies recognize that public relations can work in conjunction with other marketing activities to facilitate the exchange process directly and indirectly. These organizations have established marketing public relations departments to directly support corporate and product promotion and image management.
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