Researchers have identified five types of communication effects that promotion information can have on consumers. These effects can be ordered in a hierarchical sequence of events or actions that are necessary before consumers can or will purchase a brand. From the marketing manager’s perspective, these effects can be treated as a sequence of goals or objectives for promotion communications.
• Consumers must have a recognized need for the product category or product form.
• Consumers must be aware of the brand.
• Consumers must have a favorable brand attitude.
• Consumers must have an intention to purchase the brand.
• Consumers must perform various behaviors to purchase the brand (such as travel to the store, find the brand in the store, talk to salespeople).
In this section we discuss each communication goal, identify the types of promotion strategies best suited for each goal, and briefly describe how these communication effects can be created. Several concepts discussed earlier in the text will be relevant for our analysis.
Stimulate Category Need. Before they make any brand purchase, consumers must recognize (feel) a need for the product category or the product form. Only consumers who have recognized the self-relevance of the product and have formed a general intention to purchase it are “in the market” for the product. As you learned in Chapters 6 and 7, consumers’ intentions to buy a brand are based on their attitudes toward buying and their social beliefs about what others want them to buy. Aact in turn is based on consumers’ beliefs about the consequences of buying the brand. Thus, to stimulate a category need, marketers need to create beliefs about the positive consequences of buying and using the product category or form.
When consumers in the target market already recognize a category need, marketers can concentrate promotion strategies on other goals. However, at any given time, relatively few consumers are likely to have a general intention to buy a product. For instance, perhaps 20 percent of consumers might intend to buy laundry detergent at any time, compared to 1 percent who intend to buy a new car. Moreover, it can be difficult to distinguish the consumers who have formed such intentions from those not fully in the market.
Marketers usually use advertising to stimulate a category need among additional consumers, although publicity and personal selling also can influence category need to some extent. These strategies should be designed to convince consumers that the product category or form is associated with important end goals and values. Essentially, stimulating product need involves creating positive Means–End Chains at the level of the product category or product form.
Brand Awareness . Because consumers cannot buy a brand unless they are aware of it, brand awareness is a general communication goal for all promotion strategies. By creating brand awareness, the marketer hopes that whenever the category need arises, the brand will be activated from memory for inclusion in the consideration set of choice alternatives for the decision (see Exhibit 7.3). Advertising probably has the greatest influence on brand awareness, 22 although publicity, personal selling, and sales promotion also can increase awareness.
In the store, sales personnel can generate brand awareness by bringing certain brands to consumers’ attention. Various sales promotion strategies, such as colorful price discount signs and end-of-aisle displays (a large stack of brand packages at the end of the supermarket aisle), draw consumers’ attention to brands. Also, shelf position and brand placement within the store can influence brand awareness. Finally, prominent brand-name signs (buses and billboards) also remind consumers of the brand name and maintain brand awareness.
The level of consumers’ brand awareness necessary to induce purchase varies depending on how and where they make their purchase decisions for that product category or form. Many brand choice decisions about grocery and personal care products, clothing items, appliances, and electronic products are made in the store. Consumers do not need to recall a brand name; they need only to be able to quickly recognize familiar brands (often based on package cues), which then activates their relevant brand knowledge in memory. Thus, an implication is to show the brand package in the advertising so consumers can more easily recognize the brand in the store.
In other decision situations, a higher level of brand awareness is necessary to influence brand choice. If the purchase decision is made at home or in another environment where few brand-related cues are available, the brand must be recalled from memory to enter the consideration set. Restaurant choices are an example. In such cases, knowledge in memory may be more important than environmental factors. Unless consumers are able to recall the brand name (activate it from memory), the brand is not likely to be considered or purchased.
Marketers can measure the level of consumers’ brand awareness by asking them to state the brand names they can remember (with no hints—unaided recall) or by observing which brands consumers recognize as familiar. Whether brand recall or recognition is suitable depends on where and when the purchase decision is made.
A company’s brand awareness strategy depends on how well known the brand is. Sometimes the marketing goal is to maintain already high levels of brand awareness. Much of the advertising for well-known brands such as Coca-Cola, Dell, and Tylenol serves a reminder function that keeps the brand name at a high level of awareness. 25 This makes brand activation more likely in a decision situation. Publicity and sales promotions also can have reminder effects. Managers of less familiar brands have a more difficult task and may have to spend heavily to create brand awareness.
Brand Attitude consumers are likely to have an attitude toward every brand they purchase. Each promotion strategy can influence consumers’ brand attitudes, but the specific communication objective depends on consumers’ current attitudes toward the brand. More specifically, for a new or unfamiliar brand, the goal might be to create a brand attitude. For an already popular brand, marketers may be content to maintain existing favorable brand attitudes. For brands with neutral or slightly unfavorable attitudes, marketers may wish to increase the affect of the existing attitude. In each case, the general promotion strategy will be to create more beliefs about the favorable consequences of salient brand attributes.
Marketers make a big mistake if they analyze consumers’ brand attitudes in an absolute or very general sense without specifying the situational context. Usually the Salient Beliefs about important attributes, consequences, and end goals will vary across situations and contexts. Therefore, brand attitudes are likely to vary from one decision context to another. The meanings of beliefs about brand consequences depend on the ends to which they are related. For instance, in different circumstances, consumers may believe that a functional consequence for toothpaste such as “makes my mouth feel fresh” leads to different ends, including “sensory enjoyment, eliminate bad breath and avoid offending others, or feel more alive.” In general, the overall communication goal is to create means–end Knowledge Structures that link the brand to important consequences and values.
Brand Purchase Intention . Marketers intend most promotion strategies to increase (or maintain) the probability that consumers will buy the brand (increase BI ). As you learned in Chapters 6 and 7, all voluntary behaviors are based on intentions to behave (I will buy Herbal Essences shampoo this afternoon). Behavioral intentions ( BI ) may be activated from memory as stored Decision Plan (When I run low on mouthwash, I will buy more Scope). Alternatively, BI can be constructed through Integration Processes at the time of the decision choice, usually in the store (I’ll buy this red Hanes T-shirt). An intention to buy a brand is based on a consumer’s attitude toward buying the brand ( Aact ) as well as the influence of social norms ( SN ) about what other people expect. Aact is based on means–end chains of beliefs about the consequences and values associated with the acts of buying or using the brand.
To develop effective promotion strategies directed at brand purchase intentions, marketers must know when BI are formed by most of the target consumers. Consumers do not necessarily form an intention to buy immediately on exposure to advertising information about the brand. Only consumers who recognize the category need and are actively in the market for the product (they have a general intention to buy the product) are likely to form a brand purchase intention at the time of exposure to an ad.
More typically, formation of a brand BI is delayed until well after exposure to advertising, when the consumer is in a purchase context such as a store. This situation is more likely for brands that are not high in Intrinsic Self-Relevance (candy bars), which are more likely to be purchased on impulse (that is, environmental factors tend to trigger purchase). An estimated 85 percent of candy purchases, 83 percent of snack purchases, and 45 percent of soft-drink purchases are based on impulse where the BI to purchase is formed in the store.
In contrast, personal selling and sales promotions usually are designed to influence purchase intentions at the time of exposure to the promotion information. 29 The goal is for consumers to immediately form a connection between the brand and important consequences and values. For example, a lower price due to a 25-percent-off price promotion might be seen as leading to “saving money” and “having more money to use for other things,” which in turn is linked to the values of “being a careful consumer” and “self-esteem.” Thus, consumers might form a positive Aact and BI on the spot.
Facilitate Other Behaviors. Finally, some promotion strategies are designed to facilitate behaviors other than purchase. Consumers often must perform several other behaviors prior to making a brand purchase. For instance, buying certain brands of clothing requires consumers to enter the stores that carry such brands and then find the brand. Sales promotions and publicity are likely to have little influence on these other behaviors, but advertising and personal selling strategies may increase their probability. For instance, an ad might be directed at encouraging consumers to come to the dealership to test-drive a new car. Salespeople might encourage consumers to operate the controls of an appliance or a digital camera, which increases the probability of making a purchase. Other advertising strategies might encourage consumers to engage in positive word-of-mouth communication by telling other people about the brand.
The Promotion Environment
The promotion environment includes all the stimuli associated with the physical and social environment in which consumers experience promotion strategies. Many of these factors can affect the success of a promotion. In this section we discuss two environmental factors that can influence advertising and sales promotion strategies— promotion clutter and level of competition.