What is Promotion?

In general terms, for a potential customer or buyer (person, company, organization, government) to buy or buy a product that they need or want (be it a good, service, idea, place, person or combinations of these), they need before : 1) know of its existence, 2) feel persuaded to buy that product and 3) remember that it exists.

Therefore, if we want potential customers to buy a product X (which obviously has to be of good quality, satisfy needs or wants, have a price that customers are willing to pay and be available at the right place and time), It is essential to carry out a series of activities that adequately communicate to these potential customers the existence of that product, persuade it to buy it and then remind it that it exists. And all this is part of a marketing tool: PROMOTION .

But what is promotion really ? Is it synonymous with selling, advertising or offering? Does it serve to manipulate people so that companies sell them what they want? In this article, these basic but fundamental questions about promotion will be clearly answered and, in addition, some practical concepts will be exposed.

What is Promotion?

First, let’s see what some experts on marketing say:

  • Stanton, Etzel and Walker define promotion ” as all the personal and impersonal efforts of a seller or seller’s representative to inform, persuade or remind a target audience ” [1].
  • According to Jerome McCarthy (who introduced the concept of the 4P’s of marketing: Product, Place, Price and Promotion) and William Perreault, “promotion consists of transmitting information between the seller and the potential buyers or other members of the channel to influence their attitudes and behaviors ”. To this they add something to consider: ” The main function of the marketing director is to communicate to target consumers that the right product is available in the right place at the right price ” [2].
  • For Kerin, Hartley and Rudelius, “ Promotion represents the fourth element in the marketing mix. The promotional element consists of communication tools, including advertising, personal sales, sales promotion, public relations and direct marketing. The combination of one or more of these communication tools is called a promotional mix ”[3].
  • Now, it should be mentioned that experts such as Kotler and Keller do not use the term promotion to refer to this tool or element of the marketing mix, but rather they call it “Marketing Communications” and define it as ” the means by which a company tries to inform, convince and remember, directly or indirectly, their products and brands to the general public. In a way, it could be said that marketing communications represent the voice of the brand, and enable dialogue and the creation of relationships with consumers ”. For both experts, the mix of marketing communications “It is made up of six main types of communications: Advertising, Sales Promotion, Events and Experiences, Public Relations and Advertising, Direct Marketing and Personal Sales ”[4].

At this point, and taking into account the previous definitions, I pose the following answer to the question: What is Promotion ?

Promotion is an element or tool of marketing that has as its specific objectives: to inform, persuade and remind the target audience about the products that the company or organization offers them, thereby seeking to influence their attitudes and behaviors, for which It includes a set of tools such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing and personal sales.

Explained in More Detail:

The promotion is a marketing tool, but also it is said to be an element of the marketing mix (the others are the product, price and place). In any case, whether as a tool or element of the mix, the promotion has objectives to achieve and its own tools to do so, as we will see below:

  • The general objective of the promotion is to influence the attitudes and behaviors of the target audience in favor of the products and the company that offers them . This means that promotion can influence : 1) (if we take into account Kimball Young’s definition of attitude [5]), on the tendency or predisposition that people have to respond in a rather persistent and characteristic way, usually positively or negatively (for or against), with reference to a situation, idea, value, object or class of material objects, or to a person or group of people, and 2)the behavior or way of proceeding that people have, in relation to their environment or world of stimuli [6].

    This means in a few words that if the promotion achieves this objective, what it is actually achieving is causing a change in how people (who are part of a target audience) respond to a situation, idea, product, person, etc. ., and also, this change can be persistent and characteristic in them. A classic example of a promotion that achieved this goal en masse is the one that used and uses Coca Cola, making a large number of people want to drink Coca Cola instead of water (which is healthier) when they are thirsty or want to accompany a meal. , which represents a change in attitude and behavior.

    Therefore, knowing this general objective of the promotion helps us to better understand the high value of this marketing tool and the enormous responsibility that comes with planning and implementing it to make good use of the promotion.

  • The promotion has specific objectives which are: to inform, persuade and remind the client of the existence of products and services. That is, to publicize the characteristics, advantages and benefits of a product (inform), get potential customers to act by buying the product (persuade) and keep the brand name in the memory of customers (remember). Now, it should be borne in mind that these specific objectives are changing depending on the life cycle of the product, for example, in the Introduction stage, the objective will be to inform the target audience about the existence of the product and its characteristics, benefits and even advantages. In the Growth stage, you can choose the persuasion objective, which will emphasize the advantages and benefits and will try to lead the potential client towards the action of buying. In the Maturity stage, The “remember” objective will be chosen where more emphasis can be placed on benefits. In any case, the guideline of using promotion as a valuable marketing tool that has the function of contributing to the satisfaction of the needs and / or desires of the target audience, is used at all stages of the product life cycle.
  • The promotion includes a set of tools such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, personal sales and (according to Kotler and Keller) events and experiences to achieve their objectives (general and specific) . Next, we will see a table that includes the elements that each of these tools has:
Advertising : Print, radio and TV ads, packaging, packaging inserts, cartoons, brochures, posters and flyers, directories, ad reprints, spectacular ads, display signs, point-of-sale displays, audiovisual material, symbols and logos, videos.

Sales promotion : Contests, games, raffles, lotteries, gifts, samples, fairs and commercial shows, exhibitions, demonstrations, coupons, returns, low interest rate financing, entertainment, continuity programs, agreements.

Events and experiences : Sports events, entertainment, art exhibitions, causes, factory visits, company museums, street activities.

Public Relations : Press releases, speeches, seminars, annual reports, donations, publications, community relations, lobbying, identity media, company magazine.

Personal Sales : Sales representations, sales meetings, incentive programs, samples, fairs and commercial shows.

Direct Marketing : Catalogs, mail messages, telemarketing, internet copying, tv sales, fax messages, email and voicemail.

Source: Marketing Directorate, Twelfth Edition, by Kotler Philip and Keller Kevin Lane, Pearson Education, 2006, p. 537, Table 17.1

  • Knowing the existence of all these tools helps us keep in mind that promotion offers us a wide range of options to creatively inform, persuade or remind the target audience about the products that the company offers, but without forgetting that the ultimate goal is to influence their attitudes and behaviors for the satisfaction of needs and desires, and NOT to manipulate people into doing something they want at any given time.

    Now, what tools to use and at what time, is part of the art and science of planning and implementing the promotion because it depends on many factors, such as the segment or niche of the market that the product is aimed at, the type of product, the channels distribution you use, the price, in addition to the budget you have, etc …

In summary…

Know the answer to the question, what is promotion ? It allows us to realize the enormous value of this tool or element of the marketing mix, which in essence is an element or tool of marketing that has as specific objectives: to inform, persuade and remind the target audience about the products that the company or organization In this way, it offers them to influence their attitudes and behaviors, for which it includes a set of tools such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing and personal sales.

To finish, I will answer the questions that were asked at the beginning of this article: 1) Promotion is not synonymous with marketing, but is one of its tools or elements, 2) it is not synonymous with advertising or sales, since these are only a part of promotion and 3) promotion is not a tool to manipulate people, but its function is to help satisfy needs and wants through information, persuasion and remembrance.

And in a few words, promotion is a valuable and indispensable marketing tool whose function is basically to establish communication with potential customers in order to achieve certain objectives.


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