11.11. Integrating The Promotional Mix
Communication does not necessarily create all its impact at once. A series of communications will move the recipient up a ‘ladder’ of effects. At the bottom of the ladder are those consumers who are completely unaware of the product in question; at the top of the ladder are those who actually purchase the product.
Given the differing nature of the consumer's involvement at each stage of the hierarchy, it is clear that no single communication method will work at every stage. Equally, not every consumer will be at the same stage at the same time; therefore it follows that several different communications approaches will need to run at once if the communications package is to work effectively.
- In the early stages of a product launch, moving consumers from brand ignorance to brand awareness will be largely the province of advertising. At first, the marketer needs to get the consumers’ attention and prepare them for the more detailed information which is to follow. A teaser campaign is almost entirely concerned with creating awareness.
- Having made the target audience aware of the product, the next stage is to build knowledge. Again, mass advertising will play a major role, but if the product is complex it may be necessary to use mailshots or other more personal communications. This is because the emphasis is on providing information about the product: what it is, what it does, how it works and even that it works at all. In some cases an element of prior knowledge can be assumed.
- Liking for the product might come from trying it (perhaps through a sales promotion), or from reading positive news stories about it (PR), or from persuasive advertising. Liking is an attitude towards a product, and therefore has elements of affect, cognition and conation.
- Preference for the product implies comparison with other brands, so is very much concerned with positioning. An important point to note is that preference will come about only if the product matches up to (or exceeds) the claims made for it in the earlier advertising; if the claims made were inaccurate, unrealistic or simply misunderstood the consumer will be disappointed and will not buy the product again. Also, preference implies that the consumer will need to have sufficient knowledge of the pros and cons of other brands; salespeople will play a role in this part of the process if the product is a high-value one, since they will often be able to point out the drawbacks of competing brands.
- Conviction may come about only after several trials of the product (if it is a fast-moving consumer good) or after a lengthy discussion with a salesperson if the product is a high-value or high-involvement item.
- Adoption is the final stage of the process, when the consumer builds the product into his or her daily life. There is likely to be some ‘slippage’ because it is not possible to expose all the target audience to the communication at the same time. Also, some consumers will already know more than others about the product category. Marketers will need to overlap the promotional effort to give maximum coverage.
One of the problems with the hierarchy of communications effects is that it implies that the process is invariably linear. This is not necessarily the case: an individual can become aware of a product and form an instant liking for it, without having detailed knowledge of the product. Equally, it is perfectly possible for a consumer to buy a product on impulse and form an opinion about it afterwards.
Having said that, the hierarchy of effects model is helpful in planning communications campaigns, since different communications methods and styles can be used according to the consumer's level on the hierarchy. For example, when a new product is introduced (or a product is introduced into a new market), few of the target audience will know anything about it.
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