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Promotion - introduction to the promotional mix

It is not enough for a business to have good products sold at attractive prices. To generate sales and profits, the benefits of products have to be communicated to customers. In marketing, this is commonly known as "promotion".

Promotion is all about companies communicating with customers.

A business' total marketing communications programme is called the "promotional mix" and consists of a blend of advertising, personal selling, sales promotion and public relations tools. In this revision note, we describe the four key elements of the promotional mix in more detail.

It is helpful to define the four main elements of the promotional mix before considering their strengths and limitations.


(1) Advertising

Any paid form of non-personal communication of ideas or products in the "prime media": i.e. television, newspapers, magazines, billboard posters, radio, cinema etc. Advertising is intended to persuade and to inform. The two basic aspects of advertising are the message (what you want your communication to say) and the medium (how you get your message across)

(2) Personal Selling

Oral communication with potential buyers of a product with the intention of making a sale. The personal selling may focus initially on developing a relationship with the potential buyer, but will always ultimately end with an attempt to "close the sale".

(3) Sales Promotion

Providing incentives to customers or to the distribution channel to stimulate demand for a product.

(4) Publicity

The communication of a product, brand or business by placing information about it in the media without paying for the time or media space directly. otherwise known as "public relations" or PR.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Element of the Promotional Mix

Mix Element

Good for building awareness

Effective at reaching a wide audience

Repetition of main brand and product positioning helps build customer trust

Impersonal - cannot answer all a customer's questions

Not good at getting customers to make a final purchasing decision

Personal Selling

Highly interactive - lots of communication between the buyer and seller

Excellent for communicating complex / detailed product information and features

Relationships can be built up - important if closing the sale make take a long time

Costly - employing a sales force has many hidden costs in addition to wages

Not suitable if there are thousands of important buyers

Sales Promotion

Can stimulate quick increases in sales by targeting promotional incentives on particular products

Good short term tactical tool

If used over the long-term, customers may get used to the effect

Too much promotion may damage the brand image
Public Relations

Often seen as more "credible" - since the message seems to be coming from a third party (e.g. magazine, newspaper)

Cheap way of reaching many customers - if the publicity is achieved through the right media

Risk of losing control - cannot always control what other people write or say about your product