Magazine article Marketing

Tricks or Treats?

Magazine article Marketing

Tricks or Treats?

Article excerpt

Recent bad press has led consumers to view promotions suspiciously. To get around this, give them instant rewards, says Hester Thomas

Most people may be flaunting the caring, sharing 90s but not in the world of sales promotions. "We're in the 'give me' phase," says Bernice Lovell, director at BLP. "Consumers have become far too value-oriented: they want something for themselves."

Any promotion which provides an immediate reward is popular. "Consumers want instant gratification," comments Andrew Orbell, deputy managing director at Promotional Campaigns. "Maybe it's linked to recession. People want little treats."

Instant wins, link saves, multi-buys, on-pack free gifts, price cuts, free extra volume -- all are proving extremely popular (and maybe overworked) promotions. Jacob's is currently running such a promotion, devised by Promotional Campaigns, across its range of biscuits and snacks from Twiglets, Iced Gems and Club Class to Ritz Cartons and Jacob's Cream Crackers.

If the consumer finds a joker sachet in the Jacob's pack he or she can win prizes ranging from a holiday to a T-shirt or product coupon. The promotion is designed to boost awareness of Jacob's brands and works particularly well where the product is a frequent purchase and the consumer has several chances to win.

Why consumers prefer the bird in the hand to the two in the bush approach is debatable. "My gut feeling is that consumers are beginning to view all promotions as a bit of a con," says Colin Croxford, sales promotion manager at Colgate-Palmolive.

He blames such cynicism on the catastrophic Hoover promotion whose impact is still reverberating around the industry. There's a feeling that every promotion might be tainted. Croxford says: "If it's an instant promotion you can rely on the reward." Anything which requires more time, raises doubts.

"All sales promotions fall into one of two types," claims Jim Porteous, sales promotion manager at Nestle Rowntree. "They are either about value, such as money off, or style which furthers the persona of the brand or customer."

Value promotions which are short term and tactical are aimed at consumers and retailers. "The biggest change in recent years is the move from national branded promotions to tailor-made promotions for individual large retail chains," says Porteous. These may even be run on a local basis but receive little coverage in the trade press. Winkling information about them from manufacturers, retailers or sales promotions agencies (who have been told to talk in generalities to the press) is almost impossible. The message is that retailers want exclusive promotions.

But they are also becoming choosy about what kind of promotions they will take. "Often a promotion does nothing for a retailer," says Croxford. "Consumers simply swop from one brand to another and there's no overall increase in sales for the store."

He believes retailers will tolerate combination cross-brand activities, such as offering a free toothbrush with a particular brand of toothpaste. "Retailers are more inclined to see this as getting a trial product and they'll support it," he says.

Manufacturers are also paying more attention to independent retailers. "Getting extra share in a major retail chain is extremely difficult. But you can make a difference in many independent retailers such as grocers, petrol stations or confectioners, tobacconists and newsagents (CTNs) where there's no credible own-label and where the margins are better," says Mark Zimmer, director at ZGC.

Rothmans asked ZGC to devise a sales promotion which would increase the range of its products stocked in CTNs. ZGC came up with 'Advantage' -- an incentive programme which rewards retailers for maintaining an agreed planogram. From the outset the sales representative encourages the retailer to take a wider range of Rothmans products and shows how they can be merchandised to increase sales. …

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