What is Sales Promotion?

Sales promotion is any initiative undertaken by an organisation to promote an increase in sales, usage or trial of a product or service (i.e. initiatives that are not covered by the other elements of the marketing communications or promotions mix).


Make No Promises.

We are all too familiar with product or service offers. Take a wander down the aisles of your local supermarket and you’ll spot BOGOF, limited editions, ‘when they’re gone, they’re gone’ signs and on-pack promotions. Credit cards boast introductory offers whilst gyms often reduce the first months fees when you sign up to a six month contract.  

Sadly, we all too often end up hearing of individual experiences where the deal wasn’t really a deal in the first place. Despite being created and launched with the best intentions, offers can go sour – and when they turn, they turn quickly!


No news can be good news

As the saying goes, it is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. Well, it’s not too dissimilar in the world of product promotions – if you have any doubt that a promotion will be well received, it may be worth holding off and not launching the promotion just yet.

Once the likes of MoneySavingsExpert.com or WatchDog get hold of a deal that isn’t deemed fair to consumers, the show is over people.

Just think of the 10,000 Japanese customers who got more than they bargained for when they won MP3 players. Not only were the MP3s loaded with 10 free songs, but they also carried a Trojan virus which grabbed user passwords and information and sent it to hackers as soon as it was plugged into a computer. McDonalds were left red faced and tasked with recalling and fixing the issue before redistributing new devices.

Or the bargain hunters who swamped Colgate’s stall at London’s Waterloo station where they were offering to swap old toothbrushes for brand-new £170 electric models, causing the stall to be taken down and numerous angry tweets to be sent, before MoneySavingsExpert.com posted a scathing article that stated “This is a Colgate fail. In its rush, it’s lost reputation and will need to find a way to make it up to the disgruntled customers”.


Brand integrity

The integrity of a promotion is paramount to loyalty, long term success and for a brand to take pride of their place in people’s lives.

Even discounting the utter ‘fails’ of badly paired or deployed promotions, such as those discussed above, I am sure we can all think of numerous situations we have almost bought in to a deal, only to find that we have to jump through a million hoops first – buy six, collect the coupons, send them off, receive a code, enter the code online, print the PDF voucher, and THEN get your free item. Your free item has just cost you four hours of your time and the respect of the brand in question.


The key to a great promotion isn’t hard, it just has to follow three simple rules:

Be transparent, both externally and internally:

  • Don’t lead customers to believe they are getting something they’re not, they will only end up disappointed in you. Always under promise and over deliver.
  • Let ALL your staff know what’s going on. Even the simplest of promotions, such as claiming a free drink at a restaurant when checking in on Yelp or Tripadvisor can go wrong if your staff aren’t prepared with what the qualifying criteria are.


Do your homework:

  • Will your promotion even work – don’t repeat the simplest of mistakes, like companies who have put a QR code on a poster… that is underground without signal and placed behind electrified rail tracks! Talk to the experts, who can advise on some simple do’s and don’ts.
  • Predict uptake levels – there’s nothing worse than having a great interest in your promotion, only to leave more disappointed than elated. Promotional experts will help you model the traction of your promotion or event.
  • Target your efforts – be clear who you are targeting and what you are looking to achieve, whether this be increased purchase frequency, new customers or simply a change to how people view your brand.

Check, check, and check again!:

  • Take heed from those who have made simple but devastating mistakes, such as the hashtag that became accidentally X-rated ahead of Susan Boyle launch party when the promotion team #susanalbumparty out to the world.
  • Take your time, make sure your marketing is consistent across all media, and everything is ready to go ahead of time. Don’t rely on being able to send new messages to your customer once the first marketing is released – consumers want all the information, and none of the confusion.