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April 11, 2011
The Great Promotions Revival
I’d like to lay out a case for why you need to get on board with promotions. The great evolution of digital media integration that we have witnessed recently has created many opportunities for companies and marketers. Those enhanced opportunities are not just about outbound advertising impressions; they’re about interaction and engagement with customers. And engagement is about promotion. A strong promotion needs to become central in your thinking about marketing and a part of every marketing plan.
Promotion used to be one of those specialty practices that haughty, big-agency types would disdainfully dismiss. From their perspective the messaging was “crude”—all about coupons, price savings, and cheesy offers. Truth be told, there was a lot of that crudeness years ago in the infancy of the industry—the creative was often horrible with bad art direction, big type, and lots of starbursts. In fact, when poorly done, a lot of promotions do little to advance brand image and can actually devalue brands, doing more harm than good and often just teaching the consumer to wait for the “big sale” or the next price discount.
Promotional marketing is essential to brands. Historically, promos were done by smaller agencies that really understood the discipline. We have long known that any campaign is more effective when advertising, promotion, and PR are integrated; however, the practice of actually achieving that integration was usually lost, as agencies fought for the clients’ marketing dollars. Finally, during the ‘90s, the “full service agency movement” and the “integrated agency movement” of the 2000s, many advertising firms attempted to bring promo work in-house—with varying degrees of success. Today integrated firms do most promotions.
Every CPG (consumer package good) marketing person certainly understands the need for promotion, as does every sales-driven organization. Promotion is all about providing an incentive or “offer” to generate an action from a specifically targeted audience. Promotion is an essential part of the sales and marketing process. Remember your Marketing 101 textbook? The four elements of marketing: product, price, promotion, distribution. True practitioners of promotion are great salesmen and great dealmakers, and very in-tune with what will resonate with consumers. They have always been cognizant of ROI and levels of engagement. Higher order promotion today involves experiential marketing, sponsorships, viral marketing, product placement, partnership marketing and event marketing—truly some pretty sexy stuff that, when done well, will further enhance the brand image at the same time it increases sales and market share.
Promotions in Action
Let me bring this full circle. Today’s social and interactive marketplace is not so much about projecting imagery toward an audience, but providing something of value to them—an offer of one kind or another that adds value and enhances the audience’s perception of the brand.
  • The ads with the highest click rates online are those that carry a promotional offer.
  • Content marketing email campaigns that feature “free” information.
  • The most popular Super Bowl ads from Doritos were developed by actual consumers as a part of a promotion.
  • A great deal of PR is media-genic promotions or publicity stunts, generating extensive coverage.
No matter what business you are in, the development of a smart promotional offer and a creative way to deliver that offer to potential consumers should be a top priority, because it can build your business like no other marketing discipline.

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Brian Bennett is the President and Owner of Stir Advertising + Integrated Messaging in Milwaukee, WI. His career includes key positions at some of the top advertising agencies in the country, as well as marketing management positions at two Fortune 100 companies. The scope and diversity of these experiences helped shape Stir, and today provides ongoing benefits to the agency’s clients. 

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