10.3 Promotional Mix: Public Relations and Sales Promotions


In this section we will discuss two of the promotional mix elements: public relations and sales promotions. Public relations are activities done to get others to pay attention to our brand and/or message.  Organizations can spend significant funds on PR activities but there is a ‘downside’. There is no guarantee what will end up being printed, distributed, or discussed. The risk with PR activities is that others, usually media, determine the final content and distribution.

Sales promotions tend to be short-term as they need to be changed frequently to be most effective. It has historically been viewed as the ‘other’ category in the promotional mix since it encompasses many variations. The goal is to stimulate demand for a quick boost to sales.

Public Relations

Good public relations efforts can help a firm create rapport with its customers, promote what it has to offer, and supplement its sales efforts. PR puts a positive spin on news stories and is often perceived as more neutral and objective than other forms of promotion because much of the information is tailored to sound as if it has been created by an organization independent of the seller. Public relations materials include press releases, publicity, and news conferences. Companies also use PR to promote products and to supplement their sales efforts.

Many organizations that engage in public relations have in-house PR departments, media relations groups, or investor relations groups. Other organizations sometimes hire external PR firms or advertising agencies to find and create public relations opportunities for them. PR specialists must build relationships with people at different media outlets to help get their stories placed. Universities, hospitals, government organizations, and charitable organizations often hire PR people to help disseminate positive information about their services and to increase interest in what they do. As such, PR is part of a company’s promotion budget and their integrated marketing communications.

PR specialists also help political campaign managers generate positive information in the press. PR specialists can handle crisis communication and put a positive view on situations when something bad happens to an organization or person. In foreign markets, PR agencies may help ensure product concepts are understood correctly. Getting all PR stories placed in desired media is not guaranteed. A lot of time and effort is spent getting to know people who can help publish or announce the information to the public.

Companies use a variety of tools for their public relations purposes, including annual reports, brochures and magazines for both employees and the public, websites to show good things they’re doing, speeches, blogs, and podcasts. Some of the most commonly used PR tools include press releases, and news conferences.

Part of a company’s public relations efforts includes putting a positive spin on news stories. A press release is a news story written by an organization to promote a product, organization, or person. Consider how much better a story or a product recommendation is likely to be perceived when the receiver thinks the content is from an objective third party rather than an organization writing about itself. Public relations personnel frequently prepare press releases in hopes that the news media will pick them up and disseminate the information to the public. However, there is no guarantee that the media will use a press release. Some of the PR opportunities that companies may seek to highlight in their press releases include charity events, awards, new products, company reports, and things they are doing to improve the environment or local community.

Similarly, companies that move into foreign markets are sometimes perceived negatively by locals because they have little information about the firms. In India, the reputation of companies is very important to workers and their families. As a result, U.S. employers recruiting in the tech industry in India often have to work hard to make their brands and products known so people will want to work for them. The firms do so via various PR efforts.

Just as press releases can be used to promote the good things an organization or person does, press conferences can also be held when a company is simply seeking good PR. An organization might hold a press conference to announce that it has hired new, highly sought-after executives, that it is breaking ground on a new building, or to talk about its community service projects.

The risk associated with PR activities is that the media controls the content. Since the information is being given to the media to distribute, it is up to them to decide what to use and how to edit.

Sales Promotions

Objectives of a Sales Promotion

Sales promotion is one of the many tools used in an organization’s promotional mix. Sales promotional tactics include contests, coupons,  point-of-purchase displays, premiums, prizes, product samples, and rebates. Sales promotion may be referred to as “below the line” or “point of sale. ” For example, price reductions at the cash register or complimentary gifts with purchases all fall under sales promotional tactics. The objectives of a sales promotion is to increase consumer demand, stimulate market demand, to get potential buyers to heed a call to action, increase the size of purchases and improve product availability using media and non-media marketing communications. However, effective sales promotion techniques need to change frequently to pique the customers’ interest.


A pile of clipped coupons.

Coupons: The distribution of coupons is a common sales promotion tactic to encourage customer sales.

Sales Promotion Techniques – Consumers

Sales promotions can be directed to consumers, channel members’ employees or other organizations. Sales and coupons are some of the most common sales promotion tactics to stimulate interest and encourage consumers to purchase products. Reward programs focus on customer retention and repeat purchases, awarding customers points, miles, or credits for purchases and future redemptions. Besides price reduction and loyalty programs, point-of-purchase displays are a common tactic used by brands to prompt “impulse” customer purchases. For example, chewing gum and candy are often placed next to the register to increase sales of those products.

Other promotional tools include coupon booklets, mobile couponing, on-shelf couponing, as well as product signage and packaging, which are strategically placed to encourage immediate customer sales. For new marketing initiatives, brands implement retail “mechanics” such as “Buy One, Get One Free” Or “Three for Two” promotions to encourage consumers to buy new market releases.



A coupon is a ticket or document that can be exchanged for a financial discount or rebate when purchasing a product. Coupons offer instantly redeemable savings on certain products. That means that consumers get an instant reduction on the price at the point of purchase. They don’t have to send anything to the manufacturer, they don’t have to enter any type of contest. They walk away from the store with the satisfaction that they have saved money.

Why would a company let consumers walk away paying less for their product than the displayed price? Peer pressure may be one reason. Coupons are an inexpensive form of marketing. Due to this fact, almost half of all retailers say that they use some type of coupon program. If a company’s competitors are doing it, the company will most likely consider doing it as well.

That’s not the only reason, however. Coupon programs offer a host of benefits. They can:

  • Increase the number of new customers – A customer may try a product just because they have a coupon for it and like it enough to continue to buy it.
  • Help move a specific product
  • Build brand awareness – A consumer sees the brand name on the coupon even when the coupon is not redeemed.
  • Reward current customers – Customers are delighted when they receive the gift of savings from the manufacturer of a product that they buy regularly.
  • Entice former customers to return
  • Create the opportunity for the marketer to up-sell a more profitable product
  • Provide the marketer with a highly measurable marketing program

The idea behind a coupon program isn’t simply to get consumers to buy your product. You want them to notice your brand. Well-designed coupon programs accomplish that goal. In addition, retailers will benefit from such programs as it will drive traffic to their store.

Coupons, though, can have both advantages and disadvantages. The optimal scenario for marketers is that coupons create brand awareness without consumers using the coupon. In fact most coupons are never redeemed. This makes marketers happy as there is no reduction in revenue. A reduction of revenue, however, is just one of the disadvantages of a coupon program. Others include:

  • Mass-cutting
  • Counterfeiting
  • Misredemptions

You will not be able to judge the effectiveness of your coupon campaign without testing and measuring it. Tracking codes let retailers know not only who redeemed the coupons, but also where the coupons were found. This data can help you decide which coupon is best for your target audience.


A rebate is an amount paid, by way of reduction, return, or refund on what has already been paid or contributed. It one of the sales incentives promotion marketers use to supplement product sales.

The mail-in rebate (MIR) is the most common.

Rebates are offered by either the retailer or the manufacturer of the chosen product. Large stores often work in conjunction with manufacturers, usually requiring two or even three separate rebates for each item. Manufacturer rebates are sometimes valid only at a single store. Rebate forms and special receipts are sometimes printed by the cash register at time of purchase on a separate receipt, or available online for download.

In some cases, the rebate is available immediately, in which case it is referred to as an instant rebate. Some rebate programs offer several payout options to consumers, including a paper check, a prepaid card that can be spent immediately without a trip to the bank or even PayPal payout.

Rebates are heavily used for advertised sales in retail stores in the United States. In the UK, rebates are less common, with manufacturers and retailers preferring to give discounts at the point-of-sale rather than requiring mail-in or coupons. However rebates are sometimes given in the form of “cashback offers” for mobile phone contracts or other high value retail items sold alongside a credit agreement.


Another form of consumer sales promotion is the premium. Premiums are prizes, gifts, or other special offers received when a consumer purchases a product. When a company presents a premium, the consumer pays full price for the good or service, as opposed to coupons that grant price reductions or to samples, instead of receiving the actually product.

One of the first loyalty marketing programs ever offered was a premium in which proof of purchase was redeemed for prizes or gifts. Some marketing experts believe that coupon over-use damages a brand ‘s image, while premiums can actually enhance it. The key is to match the right type of premium with the product and a predisposed buyer.

Though not as successful as coupons, premiums can be used to boost sales and remain a valuable consumer promotional tool. In the United States, each year over $4.5 billion is spent on premiums.

Loyalty Marketing

Loyalty marketing is an approach to marketing, based on strategic management, in which a company focuses on growing and retaining existing customers through incentives.


A pile of customer loyalty cards for various businesses, including hotel and car rental companies.

Various Loyalty Cards: Loyalty programs are structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior.

Branding, product marketing and loyalty marketing all form part of the customer proposition – the subjective assessment by the customer of whether to purchase a brand or not, based on the integrated combination of the value they receive from each of these marketing disciplines.

The discipline of customer loyalty marketing has been around for many years, its value as an advertising and marketing vehicle have made it omnipresent in consumer marketing organizations since the mid- to late-1990s.

Some loyalty marketing industry insiders, such as Fred Reichheld, have claimed a strong link between customer loyalty marketing and customer referral. In recent years, a new marketing discipline called “customer advocacy marketing” has been combined with, or replaced, “customer loyalty marketing. ” To the general public, many airline miles programs, hotel frequent guest programs and credit card incentive programs are the most visible customer loyalty marketing programs.

Contests and Sweepstakes

Consumers tend to like sales promotions because they get something for “free. ” If you as a marketer really want to get their attention, however, give a select few of them the chance to receive something with a high value.

Marketers who want to use this type of sales promotion have two options to choose from:

  • Contests
  • Sweepstakes

Contests normally require the participant to perform some type of activity. The winner is selected based on who performs the best or provides the most correct answers. No purchase is required to enter a contest and a panel of judges determines the winner. Consumers can enter as many times as they wish, although it is permissible for firms to restrict customers to one entry per visit to the store.


A window display of wine bottles placed on top of a box. A chalkboard containing handwritten information about a store contest is propped up in front of the box.

The Best Quote Wins: Contests require skill; sweepstakes generally only reward luck.


There is another consumer sales promotion known as a sweepstake (also known by its inflected forms which are both single and plural: sweepstakes and sweeps). These have become associated with marketing promotions targeted toward both generating enthusiasm and providing incentive reactions among customers. A sweepstake entices consumers to submit free entries into drawings of chance (and not skill) that are tied to product or service awareness wherein the featured prizes are given away by sponsoring companies.

Prizes can vary in value from less than one dollar to more than one million U.S. dollars and can be in the form of cash, cars, homes, electronics, and so on. In Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, a sweepstake is known as a competition.

Sweepstakes frequently have eligibility limited by international, national, state, local, or other geographical factors.

Sweepstakes are often referred to by marketing promoters as second-chance sweepstakes when utilized in conjunction with the awarding of unclaimed prizes during instant-win promotions.


In 2000, best-selling author Seth Godin released a book entitled “The Idea Virus” and then proceeded to give it away for free. Was Seth, who has sold tons of books, suffering from temporary insanity? No, quite the contrary. You see, Seth knew that if he gave the book away for free, people would read it, and if they liked it they would help create a buzz about the book. That’s exactly what happened. In less than a month, 400,000 copies were downloaded for free and even though the downloads were free, people bought the hardcover. The book ended up being #5 on Amazon.com’s best seller list. The promotion strategy Seth Godin used is called sampling and when done correctly it can be one of the most effective ways to market your product.

A free sample or “freebie” is a portion of food or other product (for example, beauty products) given to consumers in shopping malls, supermarkets, retail stores, or other venues. Sometimes samples of non-perishable items are included in direct marketing mailings.

The purpose of a free sample is to acquaint the consumer with a new product. It is similar to the concept of a test drive, in that a customer is able to try out a product before purchasing it.


A group of people standing in front of a counter containing wine bottles and glasses for sampling. A salesperson behind the counter talks to some of the people.

Try It, You’ll Like It: This free wine tasting allows potential buyers to try, or sample, the wine before making a purchase.

Many consumer product companies now offer free samples through their websites to encourage consumers to regularly use the products and to gather data for mailing lists of potentially interested customers.

Food courts, grocery stores, and companies such as Costco and Sams Club routinely give out free samples to customers to persuade them to buy the product. Paint chips are samples of paint colors that are sometimes offered as free samples.

The expansion of online marketing with regard to promotional giveaways has facilitated the rise of “Freebie sites” that seek to aggregate all promotional free sample offers in one place. These sites will often compile free product samples from all over the web and categorize them by type.

Some product sample offers may require consumers to complete a survey or refer a friend to qualify for the freebies. When all requirements are fulfilled, the product samples are shipped to the consumer.

Additionally, the advent of the social graph and the realization that consumers take more and more cues from each other’s reviews, has opened up a new branch of sampling called social sampling.

Point-of-Purchase Promotions

At some point in your life, you have been motivated and stimulated to buy something on impulse: an unplanned and somewhat emotionally driven purchase. Don’t be ashamed. You aren’t alone. According to research, almost 66% of all decisions to buy something are made while people are in the store shopping. What’s more, 53% of these decisions are classified as impulse buying.

Point of purchase promotions offer marketers one of the most effective sales promotion tools included in the “promotional mix.”

Point-of-sale displays (POS) are a specialized form of sales promotion found near, on, or next to a checkout counter (the “point of sale”). They are intended to draw the customers’ attention to products. These may be new products, a special offer, or may promote special events, such seasonal or holiday-time sales.


A display at the end of a supermarket aisle promoting sales for Easter items.

Point-of-Purchase Display: A point-of-sale display selling products related to the Easter holiday.

POS displays can include:

  • shelf edging
  • dummy packs
  • display packs
  • display stands
  • mobiles
  • posters
  • banners

Note that POS can also refer to systems used to record transactions between the customer and the commerce, such as check-out registers, which are used at the point of sale. Don’t get confused if you see it used in this context.

Online Sales Promotion

Sales promotion techniques are certainly not new but they have been revitalized through new media and technology, especially as it relates to online usage.


Internet Marketing Plan: Some of the same promotions that work offline also work online.

Online sales promotions are meant to turn site visitors into consumers. The objective is to get the visitor to take action by contacting a sales representative and ultimately buying the offered product. The methods to accomplish this goal are diverse and include:

  • Advertising
  • Loyalty and rewards programs
  • Contests
  • Search engine usage and optimization
  • Social media
  • Email blasts
  • Referral marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Videos
  • Coupons, premiums, rebates, and other discounts

Sales Promotion Techniques – B2B

Trade Allowances

Trade discounts and allowances are price reductions given to middlemen (e.g. wholesalers, industrial distributors, retailers) to encourage them to stock and give preferential treatment to an organization’s products. For example, a consumer goods company may give a retailer a 20% discount to place a larger order for soap. Such a discount might also be used to gain shelf space or a preferred position in the store. Trade discounts are often combined to include a series of functions, for example 20/12/5 could indicate a 20% discount for warehousing the product, an additional 12% discount for shipping the product, and an additional 5% discount for keeping the shelves stocked with the product.

Sales Contests

It is common for a manufacturer, for example, to sponsor sales contests for the employees of their distributors, retailers, etc. These contests are usually for significant prizes such as major electronics or trips.  The goal is to encourage the sales people to emphasize the manufacturer’s products over that of the competition.

Trade Shows

Trade shows are an excellent way to get a company’s name, products, and branding in front of the target audience.  Trade shows can range from small, local shows to very large international shows. They revolve around a specific industry. Any vendor who sells any type of product to that industry can apply to rent booth space.  This includes vendors who sell products directly used in the industry, to outsourcing services such as payroll and human resource services to marketing and financial institutions.  Attendees walk around the exhibit space at their own pace, visiting the booths that have products of interest to them.  Informal yet informational conversations take place and, if the attendee is interested, they will give their contact information to the vendor to be followed up after the trade show.


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