Consumer Behavior and Promotion Strategy

By Peter, J.P., Olson, J.C.

Edited by Paul Ducham


Advertising is any paid, nonpersonal presentation of information about a product, brand, company, or store. It usually has an identified sponsor. Advertising is intended to influence consumers’ affect and cognitions—their evaluations, feelings, knowledge, meanings, beliefs, attitudes, and images concerning products and brands. In fact, advertising has been characterized as image management: creating and maintaining images and meanings in consumers’ minds. Even though ads first influence affect and cognition, the ultimate goal is to influence consumers’ purchase behavior.

 Advertisements may be conveyed via a variety of media—the Internet, TV, radio, print (magazines, newspapers), billboards, signs, and miscellaneous media such as hot-air balloons or T-shirt imprints. Although the typical consumer is exposed to hundreds of ads daily, the vast majority of these messages receive low levels of attention and comprehension. Thus, a major challenge for marketers is to develop ad messages and select media that expose consumers, capture their attention, and generate appropriate comprehension.

 For many years, Nike Corporation used print ads and billboards featuring strong visual images of athletes—Carl Lewis long jumping, Michael Jordan leaping for the basket, or unknown ordinary people jogging—and little else. Some outdoor ads contained only the Nike “swoosh” logo in the corner and the athletes wearing Nike shoes and clothes. At first, consumers probably had to look twice to comprehend what product was being advertised. But once the association was made, Nikerelated meanings were easily activated when consumers encountered other ads in the series. In markets where the ads were run, Nike sales increased an average of 30 percent.


Sales promotions are direct inducements to the consumer to make a purchase. TV advertising may be more glamorous, but more money is spent on sales promotions in the United States.

 The many types of sales promotions—including temporary price reductions through coupons, rebates, and multipack sales; contests and sweepstakes; trading stamps; trade shows and exhibitions; point-of-purchase displays; free samples; and premiums and gifts—make defining them difficult. According to Parker Lindberg, past president of the Promotion Marketing Association of America, the key aspect of sales promotions is to “move the product today, not tomorrow. A sales promotion gets people to pick the product up at retail and try it by offering something concrete—a premium, cents off, or whatever.” In sum, most sales promotions are oriented at changing consumers’ immediate purchase behaviors.

 Consider a promotion by ITT Sheraton, now Starwood hotels, to increase bookings by travel agents. Research indicated that most travel agents knew little about the $1 billion in improvements Sheraton had made to many of its 430 properties nationwide. Also, many agents did not know the differences among Sheraton hotels, resorts, suites, and inns. The campaign, called “Wish You Were Here,” featured two fictitious travel agents, Ellen and Carol, who sent funny postcards to real-life travel agents describing their “cross-country trip.” In the cards, Ellen and Carol described the Sheraton properties where they stayed, explained the different Sheraton properties, and talked up the renovations and upgrades. Agents who answered five questions on a postcard could enter a sweepstakes contest with prizes such as a free weekend at the Sheraton New York, magazine subscriptions, and cosmetics. The three-month promotion increased awareness of the renovations to 90 percent of travel agents and increased bookings at Sheraton properties by 35 percent.

 Coupons directed at consumers remain the most popular form of sales promotion, with cents-off promotions in second place. Other forms of sales promotions, particularly coupons distributed in the store (electronically at the checkout or via dispensers on the shelf), have increased in popularity, as has the old standby, sampling (giving away free or trial samples of new products). An interesting sales promotion called “Win Your Own Pub in Ireland” was devised by Guinness Import Company. The prize was Connie Doolan’s pub in the sea town of Cobh. To win, consumers had to write a 50-word essay describing the “perfect pint of Guinness,” and 10 finalists competed in dart throwing and beer pouring. Besides generating worldwide publicity, Guinness received more than 30,000 entries and a 29 percent increase in draft sales. 7 The promotion was so successful that Guinness ran another promotion offering the Kilgoban Pub in Bantry as the prize.


Personal selling involves direct personal interactions between a potential buyer and a salesperson. Personal selling can be a powerful promotion method for at least two reasons. First, the personal communication with the salesperson may increase consumers’ involvement with the product and/or the decision process. Thus, consumers may be more motivated to attend to and comprehend the information the salesperson presents about the product. Second, the interactive Communication situation allows salespeople to adapt their sales presentations to fit the informational needs of each potential buyer.

 Certain consumer products, such as life insurance, automobiles, and houses, are traditionally promoted through personal selling (see Consumer Insight 17.1). In retailing, personal selling has decreased over the past 20 years as self-service has become more popular. However, some retailers, like Nordstrom, have established a differential advantage by emphasizing personal selling and customer service. Besides lots of personal attention from a courteous sales staff, customers are coddled by pianos softly playing in the store and champagne at fashion shows.

 For other businesses, personal selling by telephone, or telemarketing, has become popular as the total costs of a direct sales call keep increasing (from $295 in 1993 to $330 in 2001). Telemarketing selling differs considerably from face-to-face selling. The telemarketer usually follows a prepared script, never travels, makes 20 to 50 calls per day that last from one to two minutes, works about four to six hours per day, and is closely supervised. In contrast, a conventional salesperson often travels, usually must improvise the sales presentation to fit the buyers’ needs, makes only 2 to 10 sales calls per day that last about 1 hour each, works about 8 to 12 hours per day, and is loosely supervised. 9 Recently, direct mail spending is up as marketers seek alternatives to telemarketing to counteract increasing restrictions on personal selling by phone.

 Both Avon and Mary Kay Cosmetics, among the largest U.S. marketers of skin care products, were built on personal selling. In their earlier days, neither company spent much on advertising or customer sales promotions. In 2002, Mary Kay did $1.6 billion in wholesale business with little advertising. Most of the Mary Kay promotion budget is spent on sales incentives intended to motivate sales consultants. In addition to symbolic prizes such as medals, ribbons, and commemorative certificates, Mary Kay gives jewelry, calculators, briefcases, and furs as rewards to salespeople. Top sellers receive the use of pink Cadillacs or Buicks. Mary Kay also spends heavily on motivational and training programs for its 1 million female sales consultants worldwide (Mary Kay has very few male salespeople).

 Consumer Insight 17.1


The stuff of American dreams is on sale at Landmark Chevrolet in Huntsville, Alabama, for $10,987 (plus tax, freight, a document fee, a $395 fabric protection package, and a $1,500 down payment). That’s the price of the 2001 Camaro convertible that 21-year-old Jacoby Rice is eyeing. “Bubba” Phelps, a top salesman at Landmark, looks straight into Rice’s nervous eyes, smiles broadly, and says, “If you had all the money in the world, you’d buy this car today, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t worry about the price.”

 This sort of hard sell approach to personal selling is alive and well at many car dealerships in America. However, many car manufacturers have concluded the hard sell approach is bad business and have instituted training programs for salespeople as well as dealer incentives to reduce the predatory sales practices once common in the industry. Ford and Chrysler, for example, have elaborate programs in place to induce dealers to give customers better and more respectful treatment both before and after the purchase.

 But not all dealerships have embraced the new look in personal selling. Many so-called blow and glow dealerships continue to sell cars the old-fashioned way—with urgency, excitement, dickering, low-price teasers, and lots of eye contact and earnest discussions. To create excitement (and a reason to visit the lot), Landmark holds tent sales, provides giveaways (free diamond [chip] necklaces), hosts free breakfasts, arranges helicopter visits from Santa Claus, and conducts stunts like burying a disk jockey alive.

 These promotions, although seemingly hokey and contrived, move metal off the lot. For example, Landmark held a five-day sale over the Fourth of July weekend. Promoted with newspaper ads and live radio broadcasts, Landmark gave away free Cokes, hot dogs, and apple pie. Hundreds of people visited the dealership, where they were offered temporary sales incentives such as doubling the manufacturer’s rebate. Landmark sold 253 new and used cars during the weekend, in contrast to the 21 cars sold during the same period at the low-pressure Saturn dealership down the road, where there is no dickering over price.

 These promotional events influence people to show up at the dealership, but once they are there the sales staff takes over. At Landmark personal selling is taken seriously. Landmark salesmen (only one is a woman) joke about Saturn “sales consultants” who “don’t understand the excitement of buying a car” or “how to build relationships with customers.” At Landmark the salesperson is expected to “control” the customer, “work the deal” for maximum profit and “sell what you see” (sell the cars on the lot, not necessarily what the customer wants to buy). Salespeople at Landmark follow the age-old ritual of taking every purchase offer to the sales manager, presumably to plead for a better deal on behalf of the customer. These price negotiations can be drawn out and intense.

 Not all customers like this hard sell bargaining style, of course, but many customers know what to expect and see the negotiation process as “fun” and “a challenge.” Says one, “They are full of tricks, but I expect all this. I love the wheeling and dealing. I know from experience, Bubba will try to lowball you on the trade-in and stick on all kinds of fees.”

 Salespeople at Landmark believe the consumer “wants to be sold.” Consider how Bubba sold a Caprice sedan to an elderly couple. After he determined they had been married about 45 years, he asked the husband to close his eyes and think back 45 years to the day they were married. “Do you remember how much you loved your wife that day? Do you still love her as much today as you did 45 years ago? If you could have afforded to buy this car for her then, would you have done it?” The husband responded with a hint of anger in his voice, “Boy, you really got me there.” To make him feel better, Bubba knocked off another $50 and closed the sale.

 In this age of self-service retailing, personal selling can be very effective, especially at car dealerships such as Landmark.


Publicity is any unpaid form of communication about the marketer’s company, products, or brands. For instance, an article in PC World comparing various brands of word processing software provides useful product information to consumers at no cost to the marketers of the software. Similarly, descriptions of new products or brands; brand comparisons in trade journals, newspapers, or news magazines; or discussions on radio and TV talk shows provide product information to consumers.

 Publicity can be either positive or negative. Nike received a bonanza of free publicity in the form of favorable news stories about its billboard campaign. One TV news segment in Los Angeles concluded with the reporter urging viewers to “give a honk for Nike, which has raised the billboard from visual blight to at least camp art.” Exxon, on the other hand, received considerable unfavorable publicity when a tanker spilled oil in a pristine bay in Alaska.

 Sometimes publicity can be more effective than advertising because consumers may not screen out the messages so readily. In addition, publicity communications may be considered more credible because they are not presented by the marketing organization. Publicity is difficult to manage, however. Marketers sometimes stage “media events” in the hope of garnering free publicity. For instance, in 1997 IBM spent about $5 million to set up a rematch between world champion chess player Gary Kasparov and its supercomputer named Deep Blue. The match attracted the interest of the media and many people, even non–chess players. Countless stories appeared around the world, including “The Brain’s Last Stand,” a cover story in Newsweek . The IBM Internet site covered the competition live and, during one game, had an astounding 1 million viewers, at the time perhaps the most traffic for an event on the World Wide Web. IBM claimed to have reaped the equivalent of more than $100 million in free publicity, nearly all of it favorable.


Ideally, marketing managers should develop a coherent overall promotion strategy that integrates the four types of promotions into an effective promotion mix. Major environmental forces in the United States over the past three decades have changed the balance of marketing effort devoted to the various types of promotions. The share of total promotion dollars going to media advertising has been decreasing since 1980, while spending on promotions has increased. In 2005, promotion spending was $342 billion, while ad expenditures were $143 billion.

 A controversy continues in marketing about the relative importance of advertising versus sales promotions. As you might expect, most advertising agencies argue that advertising is the best (only?) way to create a strong consumer–brand relationship. 14 Other marketers believe sales promotion can also enhance the consumer–brand relationship and has more powerful effects on immediate buying behaviors and eventual brand success. 15 A long-range trend is occurring in which TV and print advertising are no longer the centerpieces of a company’s promotion mix. Evidence indicates that advertising is having a decreasing influence on consumers’ behaviors, partly owing to people’s increasingly hectic lifestyles and the resulting pressures on their time.

 The promotion mix of the future is likely to be more eclectic with many more options, including event sponsoring (see Consumer Insight 17.2), sports marketing (e.g., Lexus sponsors tennis matches), direct marketing (sending coupons to purchasers of a competitor’s brand), and public relations. These promotion types are being developed partly because of the high costs of advertising and partly because of the need to target customers more precisely. Some years ago, Nintendo of America created a 13-minute MTV-style documentary video to promote its new game, Donkey Kong Country. The company sent more than 2 million copies of the video to a highly targeted group of potential buyers—subscribers of Nintendo Power and recent buyers of the Super Nintendo Entertainment system. (Video promotions have become cost effective; a 10-minute video can be produced and mailed in a four-color box for about $1.50 per unit, compared to perhaps $8.00 for a fancy brochure.) Partly because of this unusual promotion, Nintendo sold 6.1 million units of the game in the pre- Christmas season of 1994, making Donkey Kong Country the fastest-selling game in the history of the videogame industry to that point.

 Another factor in advertising’s decline is the documented decrease in consumers’ ability to remember ads they have seen. In 1986, 64 percent could remember, unaided, at least one ad campaign seen in the previous month. This figure plunged to 48 percent in 1990. 18 Attention to individual ads has decreased even further because of remote controls, commercial-skipping digital video recorders, the clutter of 30- and 15-second ads during commercial breaks, and consumers’ dropping loyalty to favorite brands. Simultaneously, price has become more important as a choice criterion, further increasing the Effectiveness of Sales Promotions, which are often based on price reduction.

 A Communication Perspective

Consumers experience all promotions as information in the environment. Thus, the cognitive processing model of decision making (see Exhibit 3.5 on page 49) is relevant to understanding the effects of promotions on consumers. First, consumers must be exposed to the promotion information. Then they must attend to the promotion communication and comprehend its meaning. Finally, the resulting knowledge, meanings, and beliefs about the promotion must be integrated with other knowledge to create Brand attitude and make purchase decisions (form purchase intentions).

 Consumer Insight 17.2

Promotion: What’s in a (Stadium) Name?

In these times when a 30-second Super Bowl ad can cost in excess of $2.5 million ($78,000 in 1970) and a NASCAR race car sponsorship tops $15 million a year ($6,000 in the early 1960s), purchasing the naming rights to a professional sorts venue may seem like a relative bargain.

 The first major stadium that could be considered to be named for a corporation was Cubs’ Park in Chicago, which was renamed Wrigley Field in 1926, after William Wrigley (then owner of Wrigley Gum). As recently as the early 1990s, baseball and football stadiums in the United States were frequently named in honor of a famous person (Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego) or after something unique to the local city (Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh). However, these unsponsored stadium names started to slowly disappear in baseball after San Francisco’s Candlestick Park was renamed 3Com Park (1995), and also in football after the creation of the RCA Dome in Indianapolis (1994).

 The actual market value to a company considering a purchase of a stadium’s name has been debated since the “corporate stadium” trend began. Dave Buck, Marketing VP for the Philadelphia Phillies, puts it this way: “You’re like, ‘Hey, trust us, your brand name is going to be all over the place. I think everyone intuitively knows that. But it’s harder to put a dollar value on it.’ “ Actually, the Phillies (somehow) did put a dollar value on naming their stadium—$95 million—and the world was introduced to Citizens Bank Park.

 Some buyers try to compare their purchases of a stadium name to an equivalent value of conventional advertising, but this is imprecise to say the least. In the case of M&T Bank Stadium (home to the Baltimore Ravens), M&T Bank estimated that it would get 350 million media impressions a year and 80 million name exposures to motorists passing the stadium. In just five months after the name change, M&T’s name recognition jumped from last to third in a survey of 18 Baltimore-area banks.

 Naming rights do have risks, as this is a long-term financial commitment (anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades). A company’s business plan may change during that time. Ericsson, a mobile phone manufacturer, had to pull out in the middle of a nine-year, $20 million contract with the Carolina Panthers after its marketing focus shifted from consumer technologies to a business-to-business focus. However, risks like “a shift in marketing strategy” or “a losing team” pale in comparison to one stadium sponsorship fact: Since 2001, some 14 percent of the companies sponsoring pro stadiums have filed for bankruptcy protection. Perhaps the “Curse of the Bambino” has been replaced by the “Ghost of Enron Field.”


A cognitive processing perspective suggests that developing successful promotion strategies is largely a communication problem. Exhibit 17.2 presents a simple model that identifies the key factors in the The Communication Process. The process begins when the source of the promotion communication determines what information is to be communicated and encodes the message in the form of appropriate symbols (using words, pictures, and actions). Then the message is transmitted to a receiver over some medium such as a television show, Web site, direct mail, sign, or magazine. The receiver or consumer, if exposed to the promotion, must decode it or interpret its meaning. Then the consumer might take action, which could include going to a store or making a purchase. Marketing managers are usually the sources of promotion communications, and managing the promotion mix is their responsibility. As the target of promotion communications, consumers may be influenced by them.

 Two stages of the communication model are particularly important to the success of promotion strategies. The first occurs when the marketer creates the promotion communication to encode a particular meaning. As you learned in Chapter 12, the marketer selects Cultural Meanings from the environment to create a message that will convey the intended meaning about the brand to the consumer.The other critical stage is decoding, when consumers attend to and comprehend the information in the promotion communication and construct their personal interpretations of its meaning. Consumers’ interpretations, of course, may not have the same meaning as that intended by the marketer.

Exhibit 17.2


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.


A key promotion objective is to increase the probability that consumers will come into contact with, attend to, and comprehend the promotion message. In recent years,however, the amount of marketing promotion has so increased that the effectiveness of any given promotion strategy may be impaired by promotion clutter, the growing number of competitive strategies in the environment.

 Advertisers have long worried that the clutter created by multiple ads during commercial breaks and between TV programs will reduce the communication effectiveness of each ad. There is good reason for alarm: Fewer consumers can remember ads they have seen. One survey of 20,000 consumers found that a surprising 40 percent could not identify a single “outstanding” commercial. These consumers could not remember enough details of any ad to establish that they actually recalled it.

 Clutter also affects other types of promotion strategies, especially sales promotions. Over the past decade, marketers have dramatically increased their spending on sales promotions. Traditionally, couponing has been the most popular form of sales promotion, and its use grew steadily until the mid-1990s. Nearly every major U.S. consumer goods company used coupon promotions in 1995. These firms distributed a staggering 310 billion coupons, about 3,000 per household. Yet redemption rates by consumers were quite low—only about 4.4 percent of all types of coupons were redeemed. By 2002, marketers had distributed 336 billion (3,100 per household per year), and saw overall redemption rates of about 1.2 percent. Consumers do not respond to all coupons in the same way, of course. For instance, the so-called FSI (freestanding insert coupons distributed in supplements to Sunday newspapers) are the most popular form of coupon, accounting for more than 80 percent of coupons. But they have the lowest usage rate; only about 1.0 percent were redeemed in 2002.


The level of competition for a product category is a key aspect of the promotion environment. As competition heats up, marketers’ use of promotions usually increases. We saw this in the large number of promotions tried by the airlines and telephone companies when deregulation created a more competitive environment. Moreover, the types of promotion strategies change as competitive pressures increase.

 Comparative advertising, featuring direct comparisons with competitive brands, has become more common. Sometimes miniature “wars” are fought through TV commercials. In one notable example, Pepsi “challenge” ads claimed taste preference superiority over Coke, and Coca-Cola retaliated with taste tests that showed consumers preferring Coke. New battles erupted in the 1990s when Coke claimed Pepsi drinkers were switching to Diet Coke, and Pepsi showed archaeologists of the future puzzled by their discovery of an “old” can of Coke.

 In fiercely competitive environments, promotion often becomes the key element in the marketers’ competitive arsenal. Marketers of breakfast cereals, for instance, have developed complex promotion mixes that include couponing, in-pack prizes, premiums,advertisements, price reductions, contests, games, and publicity. Rental car companies such as Hertz, Avis, and Budget promote continuously, mostly on price, by offering various deals and discounts, but they also mount extensive advertising campaigns and offer frequent-traveler programs along with occasional contests and prizes.

 Promotion Affect and Cognition

Promotion affect and cognition include all of the Affective and Cognitive responses. Interpretation of promotion communications (attention and comprehension) and integration processes (forming attitudes and intentions) are extremely important. But some researchers claim ad information can influence consumers without any affective or cognitive responses (see Consumer Insight 17.3).

 As we discussed in Chapter 5, consumers’ comprehension processes vary in depth and elaboration, depending on their levels of knowledge and involvement. Thus, exposure to a promotion communication—whether an ad, a coupon, or a sales presentation— may produce meanings that vary in number (elaboration), level (deep versus shallow), and interconnectedness. Consumers also may form inferences about product attributes or consequences or the marketer’s motivation. In this section, we examine two other concepts relevant to understanding the effects of advertising: consumers’ attitudes toward ads and persuasion processes.

 Consumer Insight 17.3

Subliminal Advertising

Although most advertisers pay little or no attention to it, the topic of subliminal persuasion in advertising won’t go away. In 1957, an advertising executive named James Vicary claimed that sales of popcorn and Coke in movie theaters increased dramatically when messages stating “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coke” were quickly flashed on-screen throughout a movie. Six years later, Vicary backed away from his assertion, claiming he had used “a small amount of data—too small to be meaningful.” But by then many others had eagerly latched onto his original claim. Writers like Wilson Key keep turning out widely read books that claim subliminal advertising is all around us. Key claims marketers intentionally embed subliminal stimuli—usually sexual objects, symbols, or words—in advertisements. Moreover, he claims these hidden, subliminal stimuli affect us in powerful ways of which we are unaware.

 What do we know about the effects of subliminal stimulation? First, it is clear that stimulation below the level of a person’s conscious awareness can be shown to have measurable effects on some aspects of that person’s behavior. That is, people do respond to stimuli without being consciously aware of the stimuli. But these stimuli are not necessarily subliminal; that is, they are not presented at intensities below a person’s perceptual threshold. They simply are not consciously noticed as consumers go about their business. As we have seen throughout this text, a great deal of Cognitive Activity occurs automatically, without awareness. Often consumers are unable to report the existence of a stimulus or an awareness that some cognitive process occurred.

 With regard to Key’s claims about sexual embedding, two issues are in question. First, are advertisers doing subliminal embedding in advertisements as a matter of course, as Key claims? Virtually no evidence exists that this is so. Certainly overt sexual stimuli are found in a great many advertisements, but these are not subliminally embedded. Second, can subliminal stimuli affect goal-directed behaviors like purchase choices?

 Most stimuli have little or no influence on our cognitions or behaviors when presented at a recognizable level. Why, then, should they suddenly have a strong impact when presented subliminally? Key claims that humans have two processing systems, one of which operates on a completely unconscious level and immediately picks up on the alleged subliminally embedded information. However, no psychological theories or data support such a system of recognition.

 A key finding in cognitive psychology that we have emphasized throughout this text is that the meaning of a stimulus is not inherent in the stimulus itself. Rather, consumers construct meanings in active and sometimes complex ways as they come into contact with the stimulus.

 In sum, it seems that ads may be able to influence consumers’ meanings at a subconscious level, but the stimuli don’t have to be a subliminal in order for that to occur.


Advertisers have long been interested in measuring consumers’ evaluations of advertisements. Researchers have established that consumers’ attitude toward the ad — their affective evaluations of the ad itself—can influence their attitudes toward the advertised product or brand. 37 That is, ads that consumers like seem to create more positive brand attitudes and purchase intentions than ads they don’t like. Exactly how liking an ad influences brand attitude is not known. It may be that ad liking influences attention (people pay more attention to ads they like) 38 and comprehension (consumers devote more effort to elaborating the information in likable ads).

 Currently a number of other issues remain to be resolved, including what aspects of the ads (perhaps the visual material in print ads) have the greatest influence on ad attitudes and whether consumers’ evaluative reactions to the ads make purchase more likely. 39 Apparently a positive attitude toward an ad may not always lead to increased purchase of the brand. At one time in the mid-1990s, the Energizer Bunny campaign was the 13th most popular ad on TV, but sales of Energizer batteries were up just 3.8 percent compared to a 5 percent increase for batteries in general. As another example, Nestlé developed a very popular, long-running campaign featuring a flirtatious relationship between Tony and Sharon, two 30-somethings with a common attraction to Taster’s Choice coffee. When Tony and Sharon finally shared their first kiss, sales of Taster’s Choice had decreased 2.7 percent, while sales in the instant-coffee category decreased even more (down 5.8 percent).


Persuasion refers to changes in beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions caused by a promotion communication. For the most part, marketing researchers have studied the persuasive effects of advertising communication, but sales promotions, personal selling, and publicity can also persuade consumers.

 The Elaboration Likelihood Model.  The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) identifies two cognitive processes by which promotion communication such as advertising can persuade consumers: the central and peripheral routes to persuasion. 41 Exhibit 17.3 shows how these two processes work. Which persuasion process occurs is determined by consumers’ level of involvement with the product message. 42 The central route to persuasion is more likely when consumers’ involvement is higher; the peripheral route to persuasion is more likely when involvement is lower. The ELM also distinguishes between two types of information in the promotion communication. Specific claims about product attributes or demonstrations of functional and psychosocial consequences, along with supporting evidence, are central information; information about anything other than the product is peripheral.

 In the central route to persuasion, consumers who experience higher levels of involvement with the product or promotion message are motivated to pay greater attention to the central, product-related information and comprehend it at deeper and more elaborate levels. Consumers’ comprehension of the product-related information is indicated by the types of cognitive responses (thoughts) they have to the promotion message. Support arguments are positive thoughts about product attributes and the self-relevant consequences of product use (Head and Shoulders does seem like an effective dandruff shampoo). Support arguments enhance persuasion by leading to favorable product belief, positive brand attitudes, and stronger intentions to buy the product. During comprehension, consumers may produce unfavorable thoughts about the product, called counterarguments (I don’t think that taking this vitamin every day will make a difference in my health). Counterarguing reduces persuasion by leading to unfavorable product beliefs, negative brand attitudes, and weaker intentions or no intention to buy the product.

 The peripheral route to persuasion is quite different. Consumers who have low involvement with the product message (perhaps they are not in the market for the product) have little motivation to attend to and comprehend the central product information in the ad. Therefore, direct persuasion is low because these consumers form few brand beliefs and are unlikely to form brand attitudes or purchase intentions. However, these consumers might pay attention to the peripheral (nonproduct) aspects of the promotion communication, such as the pictures in a print ad or the scenery or actors in a TV commercial, perhaps for their entertainment value. For instance, ads for Pepsi featuring entertainers such as Faith Hill and Beyoncé Knowles are intended to attract such attention. Consumers’ affective and cognitive responses to these peripheral features may be integrated to form an attitude toward the ad (This is a fun or a creative ad). Later, if consumers need to evaluate a brand during decision making, these ad-related meanings could be activated and used to form a brand attitude or a purchase intention. In this way, the peripheral route to persuasion can also persuade consumers to buy, but in an indirect manner.

 Because relatively few consumers are in the market for a particular product, much of the advertising they are exposed to each day is not particularly relevant to their end goals and values. These typically low levels of involvement suggest that most mass media advertising receives peripheral processing. Certainly the low levels of day-after recall for most ads (about 20 percent on average) suggest this is the case. In some cases, however, marketers may want consumers to engage in peripheral route processing. If a brand is similar to competing brands (soft drinks, beer, and cigarettes are examples), marketers may not be able to make credible claims about unique product attributes or consequences. Promotion strategies will therefore tend to focus on image advertising for which peripheral processing is appropriate.

 In situations where a brand has a distinctive advantage, marketers may want to encourage consumers to engage in central route processing by increasing their involvement with the ad message and the product or brand. For instance, comparative advertisements make explicit comparisons with other brands, which tend to make the ad messages more interesting and involving. Sending promotion messages directly to consumers who are in the market for the product category or product form ensures some level of motivation in the brand information.

 Promotion Behaviors

Ultimately promotion strategies must affect not only consumers’ cognitions but also their behaviors. A firm’s sales, profits, and market share objectives can be accomplished only if consumers perform a number of behaviors, including purchase of its product. Different types of promotions can be used to influence the various behaviors in the purchase–consumption sequence. Because we have already discussed purchase behavior in this chapter and throughout the book, we focus here on two other behaviors that are critical to the success of promotion strategies: information contact and word-of-mouth communication with other consumers.

Exhibit 17.3


For promotion information to be successful, consumers must come in contact with it. Information contact with promotions can be intentional (the consumer searches the newspapers for food coupons) but probably is most often incidental (the consumer just happens to come into contact with a promotion when engaging in some other behavior). Sometimes promotion contact can even trigger the purchase decision process, as might occur when the consumer accidentally comes across a sale or other incentive promotion. As a practical matter, the marketer must place the promotion message in the target consumers’ physical environment to maximize chances for exposure and must design the promotion so it will be noticed (attended to). For advertising promotions, this requires knowledge of the media habits of the target market—what TV shows do they watch, what Web sites do they visit, what magazines do they read?

 Placing information in consumers’ environments can be easy when target consumers can be identified accurately. For example, catalog marketers can buy lists of consumers who have made mail-order purchases in the past year. Then they can send promotion materials directly to these target consumers. Of course, sending coupons or a sweepstakes promotion through the mail does not guarantee consumers will open the envelope and read its contents. Consumer Insight 17.4 describes information contact through the Internet.

 Contact for personal selling promotions can be achieved through “cold calls” on consumers. But referrals and leads (or consumers who initiate contact with salespeople during the search process) are likely to be more successful. Marketers sometimes encourage referrals by offering gifts in return for the names of potential customers.

 Telemarketing is a popular and increasingly controversial method of information contact. State Farm Insurance, for example, used a telemarketing approach in which consumers were called and asked what time of the year they pay their homeowners’ and automobile insurance premiums. Then, just before that time, rate information was sent to these consumers to encourage a switch to State Farm’s insurance products.

 Exposure to promotion messages is not enough, however. Consumers must also attend to the promotion messages. Big promotions (large discounts, expensive prizes) tend to be situational sources of involvement and thus are more likely to be noticed and receive higher levels of attention. How well the promotion interacts with such consumer characteristics as intrinsic self-relevance and existing knowledge also affects the level of attention. For instance, the effectiveness of price reduction promotions depends largely on consumers’ price sensitivity.

 Consumer Insight 17.4

Subservient Chicken” Dominates Internet Word of Mouth

In 2004, fast-food chain Burger King was faced with a problem: It was notably behind its competitors in sales of chicken sandwiches and needed to make up lost ground. Its marketing approach to the problem started with a new chicken sandwich promoted with a creative ad campaign based largely on word-of-mouth communication.

 First, Burger King developed the new TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich, a sandwich which touted such attributes as high-quality chicken, better batter, and improvements in seasoning and taste. Said Brian Gies, VP of Marketing Impact at Burger King: “[It] came back in test markets with extremely strong results. We wanted to launch the product and make a splash with a new product introduction in an unconventional way, but at the same time, staying true to the brand promise [‘Have it your way’].”

 The second step was taken when Burger King hired ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky to create the splash. CP+B teamed up with The Barbarian Group to develop a Web site featuring a person in a rather ragged chicken suit standing in front of a simulated webcam. The user of the Web site would then type commands for the chicken to follow (the creative team thought of about 400 commands for the chicken). The tie-in to Burger King was present, but it was a minor element in the Web site, making the experience even more mysterious and interesting for users . . . and thus making it even more likely they would tell a friend.

 To “strike the match” of word-of-mouth, CP+B “seeded” several Internet chat rooms with mentions of the “Subservient Chicken” Web site. From there, awareness of the site spread wildly, resulting in a million hits to the Web site within the first 24 hours, and 20 million for the week. As of March 2005, the site had reached 14 million unique visitors and had 396 million hits. Many of these hits were from 18- to 45-year-old men, a demographic that is generally difficult to engage in advertising.

 One question remains: Did this unconventional “viral” ad campaign actually sell TenderCrisp chicken sandwiches, or was it just financially meaningless pop culture? Burger King, a privately held company, considered the campaign a success, resulting in double-digit growth of awareness of the sandwich and significantly increased sales of their chicken sandwiches. The risks taken by utilizing this highly unconventional campaign paid off in financial dividends for Burger King and industry recognition for Crispin Porter + Bogusky (the firm later went on to secure major accounts such as Volkswagen and Miller Lite).

 In case you haven’t already, you still can make the Subservient Chicken live up to its name at www.


Marketers sometimes encourage consumers’ word-of-mouth communication about a promotion. This helps to spread awareness beyond those consumers who come into direct contact with the promotion. Consumers may share information with friends about good deals on particular products, a valuable coupon in the newspaper, or a sale at a retail store. For example, a consumer may phone a friend who is looking for tires to say Sears is having a great sale. Consumers sometimes recommend that their friends see a particular salesperson who is especially pleasant or well informed or who offers good deals on merchandise. Consumers often pass on impressions of new restaurants, retail stores, or movies to their friends.

 As these examples illustrate, simply by placing promotion information in consumers’ environments, marketers can increase the probability that the information will be communicated to other consumers. And because personal communication from friends and relevant others is a powerful form of communication, marketers may try to design promotions that encourage word-of-mouth communication (convince a friend to join the health club and you will get two months’ membership free).

 Managing Promotion Strategies

Developing and implementing effective promotion strategies is a complex, difficult task. There are four key activities in managing promotion strategies: (1) analyze Consumer–Product Relationship, (2) determine the promotion objectives and budget, (3) design and implement a promotion strategy, and (4) evaluate the effects of the promotion strategy.


Developing effective promotion strategies begins with an analysis of the relationships between consumers and the products or brands of interest. This requires identifying the appropriate target markets for the product. Then marketers must identify consumers’ needs, goals, and values, their levels of product and brand knowledge and involvement, and their current attitudes and behavior patterns. Ideally, marketers should also understand the deeper symbolic meaning of their brand. In short, marketers must strive to understand the relationship between their target consumers and the product or brand of interest.

 When dealing with a new product or brand, marketers may have to conduct considerable marketing research to learn about the consumer–product relationship.

 This research could include interview to identify the dominant means–end chains that reveal how consumers perceive the relationships between the product or brand and their own self-concepts. 48 Other methods might include focus group interviews, concept tests, attitude and use surveys, and even test marketing. For existing products and brands, marketers may already know a great deal about consumer–product relationships. Perhaps only follow-up research may be necessary.

 The FCB Grid.  Exhibit 17.4 presents a simple grid model used by Foote, Cone & Belding, a major advertising agency, to analyze consumer–product relationships. The figure also shows the typical locations of several different products based on extensive consumer research conducted around the world. The Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB) grid is based on two concepts you studied in earlier chapters: consumers’ involvement and their salient knowledge, meanings, and beliefs about the product.

 Consumers have varying degrees of involvement with a product or brand because of intrinsic and situational sources of self-relevance. Moreover, various Types of Knowledge, meanings, and beliefs may be activated when consumers evaluate and choose among alternative products or brands. Some products are considered primarily in terms of rational meanings, such as the functional consequences of using the product. 50 These are termed think products in the grid model. Included in this category are such products as investments, cameras, and car batteries—all products purchased primarily for their functional consequences.

 In contrast, feel products are considered by consumers primarily in terms of nonverbal images (visual or other types of sensory images) and emotional factors, such as psychosocial consequences and values. For instance, products purchased primarily for their sensory qualities—ice cream, soft drinks, cologne—as well as products for which emotional consequences are dominant— flowers or jewelry—are feel products in the FCB grid.

 Because the consumer–product relationships are quite different in the four quadrants of the grid, the FCB grid also has implications for developing creative advertising strategies, measuring advertising effects, and selecting media in which to place ads.

 The appropriate promotion strategy depends on the product’s position in the grid. Sometimes a product can be moved within the grid, like the refrigerator in Exhibit 17.4 , which was shifted from a think to a feel product by the following strategy. A South American client of FCB once had a problem: 5,000 ugly green refrigerators in inventory were not selling, while competing brands offered desirable product features such as ice makers. High-involvement products such as refrigerators tend to be sold in terms of functional consequences, but in this case there was no rational benefit to promote. So FCB designed a promotion strategy to move refrigerators from the think quadrant to the feel quadrant. The agency created ads that featured Venezuelan international beauty queens and termed the refrigerators “another Venezuelan beauty.” The 5,000 refrigerators sold out in 90 days. In general, FCB has found that traditional think products often can be marketed successfully using feel advertising promotion strategies. In sum, the FCB grid model helps marketers analyze consumer– product relationships to develop more effective promotions.

Exhibit 17.4


Promotions can affect consumers’ affect, cognitions, and behaviors. Thus, promotion strategies may be designed to meet one or more of the following objectives:

To influence behaviors. Change or maintain consumers’ specific behaviors concerning the product or brand—usually purchase behaviors.
To inform. Create new knowledge, meanings, or beliefs about the product or brand in consumers’ memories.
To transform affective responses. Modify the images, feelings, and emotions that are activated when consumers consider the product or brand.
To remind. Increase the activation potential of the brand name or some other product meaning in consumers’ memories.

 Before designing a promotion strategy, marketers should determine their specific promotion objectives and the budget available to support them. The long-run objective of most promotion strategies is to influence consumer behavior, especially store patronage and brand purchase. Shopping malls sponsor auto, boat, or home-builder shows to build consumer traffic. Many sales promotions are designed to directly and quickly affect consumer purchases of a particular brand. The rebate programs and low-interest financing offered by automakers are intended to stimulate short-run sales of certain brands and models.

 Finally, some promotions have multiple objectives. Frito-Lay has used a sales promotion strategy of placing coupons on the package. This promotion is designed to do two things—stimulate immediate sales and encourage repeat sales—with the longrun goal of creating more brand-loyal consumers.

 Some promotions are designed to first influence consumers’ cognitions in anticipation of a later influence on their overt behaviors. When a new product or brand is introduced, a primary objective for advertising promotions may be to create awareness of the product and some simple beliefs about it. Marketers also try to generate publicity for new products for these reasons, as well as to create a favorable brand attitude. These cognitions are intended to influence purchase intentions and sales behaviors later.


Designing alternative promotion strategies and selecting one to meet the promotion objectives are based largely on the consumer–product relationships identified through marketing research. Implementing the promotion strategy may include creating ads and placing them in various media, designing and distributing coupons, putting salespeople to work, and developing publicity events. Many of these tasks may be done with the aid of an advertising agency or a promotion consultant.

Designing Promotion Strategies.  The design of effective promotion strategies must be sensitive to the consumer–product relationships represented in different market segments. Consider the various consumer segments portrayed in Exhibit 17.5 . These groups are defined by consumers’ past purchase behavior and current attitudes toward a brand. Consumers who dislike the brand and never buy it are not likely to be influenced by any promotions and can be ignored. But consumers who never buy the brand but have a favorable (or at least neutral) attitude toward it are vulnerable to the company’s promotions. Free samples, premiums, contests, or coupons may create an intention to try the brand and move consumers to an occasional-user segment.

 Occasional purchasers of the brand are vulnerable to the promotion strategies for competing brands. In that situation, marketers may have a promotion objective to encourage repeat purchases of the brand. A purchase plan such as offering a free doughnut after the consumer has bought 12 or a premium for saving proofs of purchase may be effective strategies. Or a firm might try to demonstrate the superiority of its brand over competing brands. For example, Burger King and Pepsi-Cola have used comparative advertising to try to “prove” their brand is better than McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, respectively.

 Finally, brand-loyal consumers who like a company’s brand and purchase it consistently can be influenced by promotions designed to keep them happy customers. The airlines have used a phenomenally successful promotion, frequent-flier programs, to reinforce the attitudes and purchase behavior of their frequent customers. Consumers rack up mileage on flights taken with the airline and receive free trips when they have accumulated sufficient mileage. The programs are supposed to be limited to frequent fliers, originally defined as those taking 12 or more plane trips per year. However, by 1984 an estimated 7 million Americans had enrolled in frequent-flier programs, many more than the estimated 1 million frequent fliers. Currently more than a third of air travelers are enrolled in four such programs—not exactly what the airlines had in mind when the promotion began. 54 In any case, these incentive programs have seemed so successful that they have been widely copied by hotels, car rental firms, restaurants, and other types of companies.

 Phone calls by salespeople to “check on how things are going” may reinforce past customers’ attitudes and intentions to rebuy when the need arises. When Joe Girard was the top car salesperson in the United States for 11 years in a row, he sent out more than 13,000 cards to his customers each month, wishing them Happy New Year from Joe Girard, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and so on. Finally, promotions can inform current consumers of new uses for existing products. Advertising campaigns promoted Arm & Hammer for eliminating fridge odor and WD-40 to clean out the gunk from bottoms of auto cupholders.

 These brief examples illustrate three important points. First, appropriate promotions depend on the type of relationship consumers have with the product or brand, especially their intrinsic self-relevance. Second, promotion methods vary in their effectiveness for achieving certain objectives. Personal selling, for example, is usually more effective for closing sales, whereas advertising is more effective for increasing brand awareness among large groups of consumers. Third, promotion objectives will change over a product’s life cycle as changes occur in consumers’ relationships with the product and the competitive environment. The promotion strategy that worked well when the product was introduced is not likely to be effective at the growth, maturity, or decline stage.

Developing Advertising Strategy.  Marketers should specify advertising strategy in terms of the type of relationship the consumer will have with the product or brand. Then ads should be created to communicate the appropriate means–end connections between the product attributes and consumers’ goals and values. The MECCAS model shown in Exhibit 17.6 can help marketers understand the key aspects of ad strategy and make better strategic decisions. MECCAS defines four elements of advertising strategy —the driving force, the leverage point, consumer benefits, and message elements—based on analyses of consumers’ means–end chains (MECCAS stands for means–end chain conceptualization of advertising strategy ). The fifth component of the MECCAS model, the executional framework, is part of the creative strategy that must develop the details of the actual advertisement that will communicate the ad strategy.

 The first step in creating an advertising strategy is to understand the consumer– product relationship by measuring consumers’ means–end chains for the product category or product form. Then the marketer should select one means–end chain to convert into an advertising strategy. The most important means–end chain in the decision-making process is a likely candidate (unless a competitor already “owns” that chain). Knowing which product attributes are most important for consumers helps marketers decide which information to include as message elements in the ad strategy. (Should the ads for Ruffles potato chips emphasize their flavor, their crunchiness, or their ridges?) Knowing what functional consequences are linked to these salient attributes helps marketers identify the key consumer benefits to be emphasized. (If Ruffles chips are for dipping, focus on the ridges. If Ruffles are an accompaniment for sandwiches, emphasize flavor and crunchiness.)

 The driving force is the basic value or end goal to be communicated by the ad. The driving force usually is communicated indirectly and in a subtle fashion; values are seldom mentioned explicitly in ads. That would be perceived as heavy-handed by most consumers, who may react negatively to being told what value they should be thinking of. Values and end goals are part of the consumer, not the product, and should be aroused or activated “in” the consumer. Explicitly stating a value in an ad does not ensure that it will be activated and felt by consumers. Once activated, the emotional and motivational power of the end goals or values provides the driving force for action, including purchase of the brand.

 The final component of an ad strategy is the important leverage point by which the relatively concrete, tangible message elements and benefits (attributes and functional consequences of the product) are linked to the abstract driving force (values of the consumer). The leverage point can be thought of as a “hook” that “reaches into” the consumer and attaches the product to the activated value that is the driving force of the ad strategy. In advertising, the leverage point is often portrayed as a psychosocial consequence of using the brand. Because consumers automatically perceive the values associated with most psychosocial consequences, the leverage point should activate the driving force and form a connection to it. Thus, the ad does not have to explicitly mention the value in order to communicate the ad strategy.

 In sum, an advertising strategy should specify how a brand will be connected to the important ends the consumer wants. The advertising team must then create an ad that will persuasively communicate these meanings and the linkages among them. The executional framework refers to the various details of the creative strategy (the type of models, how they are dressed, the setting, what people are saying) that are designed to communicate the ad strategy. In general, an effective advertisement should communicate each of the four means–end levels of meaning in the ad strategy (from message elements to driving force) and the links or connections among the levels.

 The MECCAS model is not a foolproof tool for creating successful ads; rather, it is a guide to developing advertising strategies and creating effective ads. Marketers still must carefully analyze consumers and use their creative imaginations. Marketers can use the MECCAS model to translate several means–end chains into possible ad strategies, which can then be evaluated for their competitive advantages. Although any means–end chain can be translated into an advertising strategy using the MECCAS model, not every means–end chain is a viable strategy. Some strategies, for instance, may already be taken by one’s competitors. Some means–end chains may lack sufficient motivational “power.” Marketers also can use the MECCAS model as a framework for analyzing the meanings communicated in their current advertising and for considering how these ads could be made more persuasive.

Developing Personal Selling Strategies.  The process of developing a personal selling promotion strategy is illustrated in Exhibit 17.7 . This is the ISTEA model, which stands for impression, strategy, transmission, evaluation, and adjustment. This model suggests salespeople’s influence depends on their skills at performing five basic activities: (1) developing useful impressions of the customer, (2) formulating selling strategies based on these impressions, (3) transmitting appropriate messages, (4) evaluating customer reactions to the messages, and (5) making appropriate adjustments in presentation should the initial approach fail.

According to this model, the personal selling process works as follows:

In the first activity, the salesperson combines information gained through past experience with information relevant to the specific interaction to develop an impression of the customer. Salespersons can derive information about their target customers by examining past experiences with this and other customers, by observing the target customer during an interaction, and by projecting themselves into the target customer’s decision-making situation.

 In the second activity, the salesperson analyzes his/her impression of the customer and develops a communication strategy which includes an objective for the strategy, a method for implementing the strategy, and specific message formats.

 Having formulated the strategy, the salesperson transmits the messages to the customer. As the salesperson delivers the messages, she/he evaluates their effects by observing the customer’s reactions and soliciting opinions. On the basis of these evaluations, the salesperson can make adjustments by either reformulating the impression of the customer, selecting a new strategic objective, or changing the method for achieving the strategic objective, or the salesperson can continue to implement the same strategy.

 Although the ISTEA model was developed for industrial (business-to-business) marketing situations, it is consistent with the communication approach to consumer promotion discussed here. The model emphasizes analysis of the customer as the starting point for strategy development. Research confirms that impression formation (consumer analysis) and strategy formulation by salespeople improve their sales performance. Similarly, research on sales transactions in retail sporting goods stores suggests that successful salespeople adapt their communication style to interact appropriately with customers.

Exhibit 17.5

Exhibit 17.6

Exhibit 17.7


Evaluating the effects of a promotion strategy involves comparing its results with the objectives. Although this may seem simple, determining promotion effects can be difficult. For example, even clearly stated cognitive objectives, such as “increase brand awareness by 25 percent,” are not easily evaluated because different methods of measuring awareness may give different results. Moreover, it is often difficult to determine whether a change in brand awareness resulted from the promotion strategy or from something else, such as word-of-mouth communication.

 Similarly, promotion objectives stated in behavior terms— “increase sales by 10 percent”—can be hard to evaluate. It is often difficult to determine what factors caused a sales increase. Increases in competitors’ prices, opening new territories and outlets, changes in consumers’ attitudes, and various other factors may be responsible for the increase in sales. Likewise, if sales decrease or remain the same during the promotion period, it is difficult to determine whether the promotion strategy was ineffective or whether other factors were responsible.

 In other cases, however, evaluation of promotion effects can be relatively straightforward. Sales promotion tools such as coupons are used to stimulate short-term sales, and coupon redemption rates can give a good idea of effectiveness. The dollar amounts sold by different salespeople can also be compared to determine their relative effectiveness. In sum, although measuring the effectiveness of promotion strategies may be difficult, marketers do have methods for estimating these effects.

Measuring Advertising Effects.  Because the main immediate impact of advertising is on consumers’ affective responses and cognitions, measuring the effects of advertising is difficult. However, because the costs of advertising are very high (an estimated $201 billion was spent in the United States in 1998), marketers are very interested in determining the communication effectiveness of their ads so they can improve them. A wide variety of approaches have been taken to measuring advertising effects, including pretesting (testing the effects of ads that are in rough, unfinished form before the ad is run in the Natural Environment) and copy testing (determining the meanings consumers derive from ads.)

 Three broad criteria have been used as indicators of advertising effectiveness: sales, recall, and persuasion. Many researchers have tried to relate advertising to sales by measuring the aggregate purchase behavior of large groups of consumers who supposedly were exposed to the ads. Linking sales to advertising has proven quite difficult because of the number of factors, in addition to advertising, that influence purchase behavior. However, current technology is moving marketers closer to the day when they will be able to relate advertising exposure to purchase of the product.

 Another common measure of ad effectiveness is consumers’ recall of the ad or some aspect of the ad. For example, in day-after recall studies, researchers telephone consumers the day after a TV commercial has run and ask them if they watched the TV program the previous evening. If so, consumers are asked if they remember any ads, and what they specifically recall about the ad in question. Only viewers who can remember a visual element or a sales message are counted as having recalled the ad. In 2000 the average ad received a recall rating of about 13 percent, down from about 24 percent in the late 1970s. Of course, many ads score both lower and higher than that. Recall has been criticized for not really measuring the most important impacts of ads (such as creating product meanings or affective responses), but it can be an important objective in certain cases. For ads that are intended primarily to enhance consumers’ awareness of the brand, recall may be an appropriate measure of effectiveness.

 The third major criterion for advertising effectiveness is persuasion . Most studies of persuasion measure whether consumers’ comprehension of the ad produced changes (positive ones, preferably) in beliefs about the attributes or consequences of the product, brand attitudes (Ao), attitudes toward buying the brand ( Aact), or purchase intentions (BI) . Another useful approach is to see if the ad created the desired means–end chains of product knowledge—that is, find out whether consumers formed an appropriate association between the brand and self-relevant ends.