Promotion can be loosely classified as “above the line” and “below the line” promotion. The promotional activities carried out through mass media like television, radio, newspaper etc. is above the line promotion.
The terms ‘below-the-line’ promotion or communications, refers to forms of non-media communication, even non-media advertising. Below-the-line promotions are becoming increasingly important within the communications mix of many companies, not only those involved in fmcg products, but also for industrial goods.
Some of the ways by which companies do BTL (below the line) promotions are by exhibitions, sponsorship activities, public relations and sales promotions like giving freebies with goods, trade discounts given to dealers and customers, reduced price offers on products, giving coupons which can be redeemed later etc.
BELOW THE LINE SALES PROMOTION
Below the line sales promotions are short-term incentives, largely aimed at consumers. With the increasing pressure on the marketing team to achieve communication objectives more efficiently in a limited budget, there has been a need to find out more effective and cost efficient ways to communicate with the target markets. This has led to a shift from the regular media based advertising.
A definition of below-the-line sales promotion given by Hugh Davidson:
‘An immediate or delayed incentive to purchase, expressed in cash or in kind, and having only a short term or temporary duration’.
Methods of below the line sales promotion
1. Price promotions
Price promotions are also commonly known as” price discounting”. These can be done in two ways:
(1) A discount to the normal selling price of a product, or
(2) More of the product at the normal price.
Price promotions however can also have a negative effect by spoiling the brand reputation or just a temporary sales boost (during the discounts) followed by a lull when the discount would be called off.
Coupons are another, very versatile, way of offering a discount. Consider the following examples of the use of coupons:
– On a pack to encourage repeat purchase
– In coupon books sent out in newspapers allowing customers to redeem the coupon at a retailer
– A cut-out coupon as part of an advert
– On the back of till receipts
The key objective with a coupon promotion is to maximize the redemption rate – this is the proportion of customers actually using the coupon.
It must be ensured when a company uses coupons that the retailers must hold sufficient stock to avoid customer disappointment.
Use of coupon promotions is often best for new products or perhaps to encourage sales of existing products that are slowing down.
3. Gift with purchase
The “gift with purchase” is a very common promotional technique. In this scheme, the customer gets something extra along with the normal good purchased. It works best for
– Subscription-based products (e.g. magazines)
– Consumer luxuries (e.g. perfumes)
4. Competitions and prizes
This is an important tool to increase brand awareness amongst the target consumer. It can be used to boost up sales for temporary period and ensure usage amongst first time users.
5. Money refunds
Here, a customer receives a money refund after submitting a proof of purchase to the manufacturer.
Customers often view these schemes with some suspicion – particularly if the method of obtaining a refund looks unusual or onerous.
6. Frequent user / loyalty incentives
Repeat purchases may be stimulated by frequent user incentives. Perhaps the best examples of this are the many frequent flyer or user schemes used by airlines, train companies, car hire companies etc.
7. Point-of-sale displays
Shopping habits are changing for the people living in metropolitan cities. People prefer big retail outlets like Big Bazaar to local kirana stores. Most of the decisions of buying are taken by the virtue of point-of-sale displays in these retail outlets.
SOME INTERSTING EXAMPLES OF BTL PROMOTION
Most of the big brands are following the suit of BTL promotion because of rising prices of media based promotion, advertising clutter and increased impulse purchasing.
Some of the interesting examples are:
Most of the educational institutes like career launcher, Time and PT are holding informative workshops and free tests for students which give a direct interaction of these institutes with the target customer and hence a suitable platform to sell themselves.
Ring tones and music videos on cell phones are helping the entertainment industry to promote for a music video or a movie for dirt-cheap rate as compared to media promotion.
Various companies sponsor sport events to promote their brand, but nowadays media companies like Hindustan Times are holding weekly events through out the country in which companies can put up their stalls, display banners and posters and arrange for some fun activities. These events give the companies a platform at very low price to promote their brand and increase visibility among target consumer. These companies also give discount coupons to winners in the games, which in turn boost the sales of the products and ensure that first time users try these products as well.
Pepsi organized an inter school cricket event for 425 schools across 14 cities which did wonders for the company by promoting the brand amongst the right target customer for almost no cost.
Most of the pharmacy companies do BTL promotion by getting shelf space through doctors to display their products or by giving away free calcium tablets again through doctors, knowing that for a patient a personal advise from a doctor would hold more value as compared to a commercial advertisement.
Another interesting BTL promotion was by NIKE, an athlete dressed up in Nike sportswear could be seen jogging on an elevated treadmill for the whole day on National Highway 8, Delhi.
BTL promotions are gaining popularity among all big companies nowadays considering their effectiveness because of the “individual customer promotion” at a price, which is much lesser than the normal media promotions.