A marketing manager from one company might decide to focus on social media, whereas a marketing manager from another company might decide to focus her company’s efforts on television commercials. Why do companies select different types of media for what may be perceived as similar messages? As Figure 11.2 Factors That Influence Selection of Promotion Mix shows, a number of factors affect the choice of promotion mix elements.
Budget Available. For many companies, the budget available to market a product determines what elements of the promotion mix are utilized. The budget affects a promotion’s reach (number of people exposed to the message) and frequency (how often people are exposed). For example, many smaller companies may lack the money to create and run commercials on top-rated television shows or during the Super Bowl. As a result, they may not get the exposure they need to be successful. Other firms such as McDonald’s may come up with creative ways to reach different target markets. For example, For example, McDonald’s targeted college students with a special promotion that it filmed live in a Boston University lecture.
Stage in the product life cycle. The stage in the product life cycle also 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. Imagine how much more fuel an airplane needs for takeoff than it needs once it is in the air. The same is true of communication. More “fuel” is needed in the beginning to help with the takeoff.
Type of product and type of purchase decision. Different products also require different types of promotion. Very technical products and very expensive products often need personal 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 since customers are familiar with the products.
Target market characteristics and consumers’ readiness to purchase. In order to select the best method to reach their target market(s), organizations must also understand how ready different target markets are to make purchases. For example, 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?
Consumers’ preferences for various media. We’ve already explained that different types of consumers prefer different types of media. In terms of target markets, as we mentioned, college-aged students prefer online, cell phone, and social media more than older consumers do. Consumers’ media preferences have been researched extensively by academics and marketing research companies. Companies also do their own research and conduct surveys of their consumers to find out how they want to be reached.
Regulations, competitors, and environmental factors. Regulations can affect the type of promotion used. For example, laws in the United States prohibit tobacco products from being advertised on television. In some Asian countries, controversial products such as alcohol cannot be advertised during Golden (prime) time on television. The hope is that by advertising late at night, young children do not see the advertisements. The strength of the economy can have an impact as well. In a weak economy, some organizations use more sales promotions such as coupons to get consumers into their stores. The risk is that consumers may begin to expect coupons and not want to buy items without a special promotion.
Availability of media. Organizations must also plan their promotions based on availability of media. The top-rated television shows and Super Bowl ad slots, for example, often sell out quickly. Magazines tend to have a longer lead time, so companies must plan far in advance for some magazines. By contrast, because of the number of radio stations and the nature of the medium, organizations can often place radio commercials the same day they want them to be aired. Uncontrollable events can affect a company’s promotions, too. For example, when a disaster occurs, TV stations often cut advertisements to make way for continuous news coverage. If there is a crisis or disaster and your company is in the middle of a promotion being advertised on TV, you will likely have to scramble to reach consumers via another medium.
Push versus pull strategy. Businesses must also decide whether to use a push strategy, a pull strategy, or both push and pull strategies. A push strategyinvolves promoting a product to middlemen, such as wholesalers and retailers, who then promote the product to consumers. Manufacturers may set up displays in retail outlets for new products so the retailer can promote the product to consumers. A pull strategy involves promoting a product to final consumers. For example, a manufacturer promotes its new product on television to consumers and places coupons in the newspaper inserts to get the consumers demanding the product. Their pull causes wholesalers and retailers to buy the product to try to meet their demand. Many manufacturers use both a push strategy and a pull strategy. More details on push and pull strategies are discussed in Chapter 12 "Public Relations and Sales Promotions".