Promotional Tools in the Marketing Mix

Most authors acknowledge five key promotion tools in the promotion mix, namely advertising, sales promotions, direct marketing, personal selling and public relations (Hsu, Tsai and Chiang, 2009).

Jancic and Zabkar (2002) further subdivide the five categories in to personal and impersonal forms of marketing, acknowledging that both have an important role to play in building relationships with customers. Typically, consumer sales rely on less personal forms of promotion such as advertising, while business sales generally being higher volume and higher value, rely on a more personalised form of promotion such as personal selling.

While the type of promotional tool may vary, the desired result is the same, ensuring value and building relationships with customers (Kotler and Armstrong, 2014, pp.501).

Consumer sales promotion

Advertising through a range of mass media such as television, radio, magazines and social media are all important tools when promoting sales to consumers. Similarly sales promotions such as vouchers and discounts are key to promote brand loyalty and entice new retail customers (Laroche, et al., 2003). While consumers may see a limited amount of direct marketing and personal selling, these are primarily the preserve of trade sales.

Consider the chocolate bar Kit Kat. Most consumers will recognise the brand and slogan “Have a Break” from mass advertising and impersonal sales such as billboards and on the shelves in shops. However, there is also a sales force at the parent company Nestle, who are responsible for sales to retailers and large grocery businesses (The Times, 2014).

Trade Sales Promotion

In the case of Nestle promoting to large traders, they are most likely to use direct marketing and personal sales, for example at trade shows and by forging personal relationships with buyers. For example, I am currently managing a tender for a server solution. Given the potential value, sales representatives have been keen to engage personally to ensure they receive my business.

However, there is not always a strict distinction between the types of promotional tools that can be used for consumer versus trade promotions as both have a place and as Blattberg and Neslin (1989) observe, it is the cumulative effect of various promotional tools which produce the maximum impact.

This week I came across an advert in an in-flight magazine promoting the ability to paint an aircraft with an advertisement. Clearly this advert, while in a consumer publication, was aimed at businesses and further blurs the lines.

Ryanair Advertisement


How can these tools be adapted for global sales promotion?

In a global market, it is important to consider the cultural context of a promotion as a tool which may work in one economy, may not work in another. Boykin (2014) describes this as “host market rules” and suggests that while a discount scheme may work in Europe, cultural differences mean that in Malaysia, consumers would be disengaged with this and actively avoid the brand to prevent embarrassment.

However, certain tools such as social media transcend geographical boundaries and can be effective tools for global sales if used appropriately (Kotler and Armstrong, 2014, pp.493). Therefore, a mixture of promotion techniques is required to ensure the success of a brand globally.





Blattberg, R. & Neslin, S. (1989) ‘Sales promotion: The long and the short of it’, Marketing Letters, 1(1), pp.81-97, Springer. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 23 February 2014).

Boykin, G. (2014) What Is a Sales Promotion & How Is It Used in International Marketing? [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 23 February 2014).

Hsu, T., Tsai, T. & Chiang, P. (2009) ‘Selection of the optimum promotion mix by integrating a fuzzy linguistic decision model with genetic algorithms’, Information Sciences, 179(1-2), pp. 41-52, ScienceDirect. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 23 February 2014).

Jancic, Z. & Zabkar, V. (2002) ‘Impersonal vs. Personal Exchanges in Marketing Relationships’, Journal of Marketing Management, 18(7-8), pp.657-671, Taylor and Francis. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 23 February 2014).

Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (2014) Principles of Marketing, 15th Edition. London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Laroche, M., Pons, F., Zgolli, N., Cervellon, M. & Kim, C. (2003) ‘A model of consumer response to two retail sales promotion techniques’, Journal of Business Research, 56(7), pp. 513–522, ScienceDirect. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 23 February 2014).

The Times (2014) Long term maintenance of a classic brand name: A Nestlé case study. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 23 February 2014).


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