With so many promotional options available, choosing the ones that are most likely to result in an effective IMC strategy can be very daunting. In this section, we will discuss some of the factors considered when deciding the ‘best’ promotional options for our situation. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices but proper research, and experience, will help the decision maker to decide on the best promotional avenues to pursue.
Factors Impacting the IMC Strategy
Determining a promotional budget can be accomplished using a variety of methods. The ones discussed here are Objective and Task, Percent of Sales, and Competition Matching. Some smaller businesses may choose to not have a budget and rather spend money on promotions based on situational influences as well as available funding. While short-term objectives might be achieved, this is not recommended for long-term efficiency or effectiveness.
The objective and task budgeting method is more time consuming and involves more research than the other methods. However it results in more effective spending as money is invested into achieving specific goals. With this method, each objective is listed in order of priority. Then, based on experience and research, the strategies needed to achieve each objective are listed and priced out. When this has been done for all objectives, the cost of all the tasks are totaled and compared to available funding. If, as is very common, there is not enough funds to cover the desired activities, objectives and their accompanying tasks, can be dropped from the bottom. This method allows for more accountability and ensures the money is being spent on the most important objectives.
The percentage of sales method is very common and easy to use. However, there is a risk associated with it as well. As the name implies, for this budgeting method, a percentage of sales is put into a promotional budget to fund future activities. The risk with this method is that if sales are low, the promotional budget will be small which is when you probably need to spend more money on promotions to try and increase those sales.
Finally, the competition matching method is used when there are a couple competitors that dominate the industry). In addition to their regular budgeting method, they will set aside some funds to match what their competition is doing. The goal is not to achieve their own objectives but rather to keep the competitor from gaining market share.
In addition to considering recent market, consumer and technological shifts, brands must assess their marketing budget and target audience when setting IMC goals. An IMC strategy with a budget of $2 million will be radically different in size, scope and reach than a marketing budget of only $2,000. Thus, smaller businesses with tiny IMC budgets may rely heavily on social media advertising and word-of-mouth networks to increase brand presence and generate new leads, rather than more expensive television and billboard advertising.
Despite varying budgets, product features and benefits, and consumer behaviors, organizations typically set and work towards the following goals when implementing IMC strategies:
- To develop brand awareness
- To maintain reseller loyalty
- To increase consumer or business demand for a product category
- To change or influence customer beliefs or attitudes
- To enhance purchase actions
- To encourage repeat purchases
- To build customer traffic to physical stores, websites or other marketing channels
- To enhance firm/brand image
- To increase market share
- To increase sales
- To reinforce purchase decisions
IMC strategies may seek to achieve one, many or all of these objectives throughout the course of a campaign. However, multiple objectives should be prioritized. Once strategies have been implemented, they are not changed unless major new events occur. Only changes in the marketplace, new competitive forces, or new promotional opportunities should cause companies to alter strategies and reassess IMC goals.
Product and the Product Life Cycle
Different products require different types of promotion. Very technical products and very expensive products (high involvement) often need professional selling so the customer understands how the product operates and its different features. By contrast, advertising is often relied upon to sell convenience goods and products purchased routinely (low involvement) since customers are familiar with the products and they spend relatively little time making purchase decisions.
Characteristics: A product’s characteristics determine its target market and price.
The characteristics of the product are the features and elements that differentiate it from other products on the market. Product characteristics help determine the marketing mix, potential target market and the pricing of a product.
A product needs to differentiate itself in the market and carry distinct characteristics that separate it from its competitors. Otherwise, there would be no reason for consumers to purchase that product over any other product on the market. Consider the product life cycle and how that will impact a promotional strategy. The stage in the product life cycle affects the type and amount of promotion used. Products in the introductory stages typically need a lot more promotional dollars to create awareness in the marketplace. Consumers and businesses won’t buy a product if they do not know about it. More communication is needed in the beginning of the product life cycle to build awareness and trial, thus they need to be more informational. However, in the maturity stage where the competitive products are very similar, large investment in advertising and sales promotions are necessary to create an image associated with the product and to encourage customer preferences.
Target Market Characteristics
To determine the best type of promotional strategy, a company should look at its target market. Companies should determine which forms of promotion will reach the most consumers in a specific target market, communicate the appropriate message, and will reach the intended audience. This strategy will help marketing departments efficiently use their promotional budget.
In order to select the best methods to reach different target markets, organizations need to know what types of media different targets use, how often they make purchases, where they make purchases, and what their readiness to purchase is as well as characteristics such as age, gender, and lifestyle. Some people are early adopters and want to try new things as soon as they are available, and other groups wait until products have been on the market for a while. Some consumers might not have the money to purchase different products, although they will need the product later. For example, are most college freshmen ready to purchase new cars?
We’ve already explained that different types of consumers prefer different types of media. In terms of target markets, college-aged students may prefer online, cell phone, mobile marketing, and social media more than older consumers do. Media preferences have been researched extensively by academics, marketing research companies, and companies to find out how consumers want to be reached.
Push and Pull Strategies
Push and pull strategies are promotional strategies used to get the product to its target market. They involve the marketing channel.
A push strategy involves targeting channel members to carry and promote the product to the next channel member or the end user. Examples include, but are not limited to,
- At trade shows and showrooms: businesses can demonstrate the product’s features to potential customers
- Offering discounts and promotional support to resellers
- Salespeople calling on resellers to carry the product and give it a place of prominence
A pull strategy stimulates demand and motivates customers to actively seek out a specific product. It is aimed primarily at the end users. A strong and visible brand is needed to ensure the success of a pull strategy. The different ways a company can use a pull strategy to promote a brand include:
- Advertising strategies that include mass media promotion of a product
- Customer relationship management that makes existing customers aware of new products that will fill a specific need
- Sales promotions and discounts
Using these strategies will create a demand for the product. With that demand, retailers will be encouraged to seek out the product and stock it on their shelves. For instance, Apple successfully uses pull strategies to launch iPhones or iPads. Likewise, music has also fallen under pull strategies due to digitization and the emergence of social networking websites. Music platforms such as iTunes, Grooveshark and Spotify are reflective of the power shift from providers to consumers. Merchants must adapt their strategies to pull in demand, rather than push products–in this case, music–to consumers.
Most businesses will use a combination of push and pull strategies in order to successfully market a product.
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