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Chapter 10
Marketing Communications

Marketing communications are intended to both inform and persuade a target audience, with a view to influencing the behaviour of that group. The behaviour of interest to agribusinesses can range from encouraging farmers to adopt improved husbandry practices or to grow a particular crop (or variety of crop), to encouraging industrial or consumer buyers to try a product or service. As has been said on other occasions, each element of the marketing mix must be designed so as to further the overall marketing strategy, and this includes marketing communications.

Chapter Objectives

This chapter is designed to help the reader:

Structure Of The Chapter

The chapter opens with a brief description of the main forms which marketing communications take. A framework for developing marketing communication strategies is presented and much of the remainder of the chapter is structured around this framework. The framework depicts the marketing communications programme as a sub-component of the overall marketing strategy. It shows the sequence of decisions to be made in designing a promotional programme along with the factors which will impinge upon those decisions and the shape of the promotional programme which will eventually emerge. The chapter also features a fairly detailed discussion of the relative roles of each element of the promotional mix in the overall communication process. This is followed by a review of the main approaches used in setting communications budgets. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of the techniques used to check the effectiveness of the market communications programme.

The nature of marketing communications

Not everyone believes that promotion is necessary. Both Marx and Lenin viewed advertising as a pernicious activity characteristic of bourgeois capitalism. Marx denounced advertising as “parasitic” whilst Lenin thought it irrelevant to socialism where centralised planning would ensure that exactly the right amount of product would be made available to meet consumer needs. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that advertising (excluding that taking the form of propaganda) has for a long time been restricted, controlled, and sometimes banned, in many of the nations which adopted communist and socialist political systems, including a good number of developing countries. Even after market liberalisation and political reform within these countries there often remains uncertainty over the need for advertising and other forms of promotion, and a suspicion that it adds nothing but costs to the marketing process. (The same scepticism exists among some members of society in capitalist countries).

Case 10.1 China's Communist Consumers Get the Message
    Not all centrally planned economies have rejected advertising. During China's Cultural Revolution (1966– 1977) commercial advertising agencies were either closed down or turned to producing government propaganda, but these re-emerged around 1979. In that year a Communist Party newspaper ran an editorial supporting advertising as, “…a means of promoting trade, earning foreign exchange, and opening the eyes of the masses”. A large number of Chinese advertising agencies began to operate in the months immediately following the appearance of this editorial.
    By the mid-1980s China had 680 advertising agencies which were placing advertisements on 167 radio stations, 104 television stations and in 3,415 magazines and 1,300 newspapers. In 1986, the advertising industry generated $228 million in revenues and employed 81,130 people. Its growth has been of staggering proportions.
    In more recent years, China has implemented its own forms of market liberlisation, and as private enterprise has begun to develop so has its use of advertising. Foreign commercial enterprises can also now have access to China's huge markets and they too make extensive use of advertising within the country. However, even during the post-Cultural Revolution era, when most enterprises were state-owned, advertising was seen to have a role in support of the goals of Chinese Socialism. In particular advertising was being used to help:
    • encourage the consumption of “approved” goods and to discourage the consumption of others;
    • achieve state policy production goals;
    • sell obsolete, sub-standard or unwanted products; and
    • improve communications between the government departments responsible for production and distributors and consumers.
    Thus, although at one time overt promotional activity was prohibited in China, it has since become ideologically acceptable with advertising now being used to redirect demand and so effect the economic plans of Chinese socialism1.

In fact, without effective marketing communications the consumer remain unaware of products and services they need, who might supply them and the benefits which both product and suppliers can offer. Moreover, it is impossible to develop effective and efficient marketing systems without first establishing channels of communication. Even the best products do not sell themselves. Marketing communications serve five key objectives:

Marketing communications takes four forms - advertising, sales promotion, personal selling and publicity. These must be formulated within a co-ordinated marketing communications plan. If there is more than one target market then there will need to be more than one communications programme. Like all other elements of the marketing mix, it must be tuned to the characteristics and needs of the target market.

Advertising: Advertising is the most visible element of the communications mix because it makes use of the mass media, i.e. newspapers, television, radio, magazines, bus hoardings and billboards. Mass consumption and geographically dispersed markets make advertising particularly appropriate for products that rely on sending the same promotional message to large audiences. Many of the objectives of advertising are only realised in the longer term and therefore it is largely a strategic marketing tool.

The objectives of advertising are broader than that of directly stimulating sales volumes. African Distillers, for example, contribute to a series of television advertisements, shown around the time of public holidays in Zimbabwe. These warn people of the dangers and irresponsibility of driving when intoxicated. This involvement serves to enhance African Distillers' image as a socially responsible and caring organisation. The objective of this kind of advertising is to create a positive attitude towards the company on the part of its publics, e.g. government, pressure groups, shareholders, suppliers, agents and the general public. Some of these publics will never consume the company's products and this kind of advertising campaign is not intended to encourage them to do so.

Sales Promotion: Sales promotion employs short-term incentives, such as free gifts, money-off coupons, product samples etc., and its effects also tend to be short-term. Therefore, sales promotion is a tactical marketing instrument. Sales promotions may be targetted either at consumers or members of the channel of distribution, or both.

Public relations: Public relations is an organisation's communications with its various publics. These publics include customers, suppliers, stockholders (shareholders, financial institutions and others with money invested in the business), employees, the government and the general public. In the past, organisations thought in terms of publicity rather than public relations. The distinction between advertising and publicity was based on whether or not payment was made to convey information via the mass media. Advertising requires payment by the sponsor of the message or information whilst publicity is information which the media decides to broadcast because it is considered newsworthy and therefore no payment is received by the media from a sponsor. It is more common these days to speak of public relations than of publicity. Public relations is much more focused in its purposes.

The objectives of public relations tend to be broader than those of other components of promotional strategy. It is concerned with the prestige and image of the organisation as a whole among groups whose attitudes and behaviour can impact upon the performance and aims of the organisation. To the extent that public relations is ever used in product promotion, it constitutes an indirect approach to promoting an organizations products and/or services.

Personal selling: This can be described as an interpersonal influence process involving an agribusiness' promotional presentation conducted on a person-to-person basis with the prospective buyer. It is used in both consumer and industrial marketing and is the dominant form of marketing communication in the case of the latter.

Developing an appropriate communications programme

Marketing strategy is derived from an organisation's corporate strategy. The marketing strategy then has to be translated into a strategic plan, or set of strategic plans if the organisation intends to exploit opportunities in more than one target market. Strategic plans are very broad statements of principles which the organisation believes will lead it to achieve its marketing objectives within a chosen target market. These principles become operational when they are expressed in the form of a marketing plan consisting of a detailed blueprint for each element of the marketing mix product, distribution, pricing and marketing communications.

The framework in figure 10.1 shows the connection between marketing communications and the marketing strategy. It also highlights the main stages involved in developing a marketing communications programme. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to explaining these stages.

Figure 10.1 Developing a marketing communications programme

Figure 10.1

Once the overall marketing strategy has been determined and the marketing plan has been outlined, it is necessary to develop a set of operational communication objectives. It is only when this is done that an appropriate marketing communications mix can be designed. There are, however, a number of intervening factors to be considered before the communications mix is finalised. These include the nature of both the product and the market, the stage at which the product lies in its life cycle and the relative value of the product in terms of its price to potential purchasers. Having decided upon the communications mix, the promotional message can be determined and the medium or media best suited to delivering this message can be chosen. At this point, the budgetary implications of the decisions made so far have to be considered. If the cost of the communications programme exceeds the resources available to the organisation, then there may have to be an adjustment in the communications mix. In some instances, the organisation may conclude that it can adjust the communications mix to reduce the cost to an affordable level but that the revised communications package is unlikely to achieve the original objectives. Faced with this situation, the organisation may resort to revising its marketing communications objectives. Once the budget has been set the programme can be implemented. The effectiveness of the programme has to be measured against its objectives and, if necessary, adjustments or wholesale revisions of the programme will be made.

Setting marketing communication objectives

The question arises as to how operational communication objectives can be developed, given that these cannot be usefully defined in terms of sales volumes. A three step approach is proposed and this takes into account the longer term outcomes of marketing communications. The three steps are:

  1. Identify the target segment

  2. Determine the behavioural change to be brought about

  3. Decide what needs to be done to bring about the change in behaviour.

Identifying the target segment: The identification of the target audience is obtained from the marketing strategy and marketing plan. There may, however, need to be a refinement of the target group for a particular promotional campaign. Returning to our earlier example of the problem of persuading farmers in the arid areas of Botswana to grow sorghum, it may be that the target group is defined as, “Those farmers operating small holdings of 5 hectares or less, in arid areas, who grew sorghum as a food crop in the past but stopped doing so completely to take up the growing of cash crops”. There is a direct relationship between the degree of precision with which the target group is defined and the clarity with which communication objectives can be stated. Moreover, if the target group is defined with precision this greatly assists in deciding upon both the content of the promotional message and the medium chosen to carry it.

Intended behavioural changes: There should be a clear understanding of what behavioural changes the communications programme is intended to bring about. Is it: To increase usage among existing customers? To convert non-users to users? To establish new uses for an existing products? To reduce the amount of brand switching and encourage more users to be brand loyal? To enable customers to make better, more effective, more efficient or less wasteful use of the product and thereby increase its value to them? It is possible to measure the extent to which changes in behaviour have occurred, but marketing communication objectives can only become operational when the intended behavioural changes are stated with precision and without ambiguity.

Deciding what needs to be done: The third step in developing operation objectives for marketing communications, is to specify the required course of action. To increase the number of uses of a product might only require an awareness campaign, to improve the way in which a product is used (e.g. farmer's application of plant growth chemicals) would probably involve an educational campaign, to create a liking of the product a programme aimed at attitudinal change would be necessary, and the conversion of non-users of the product to users is likely to focus upon creating a conviction about its benefits and attributes.

Factors influencing the communications mix

There are at least 5 major influences on what makes a given mix of promotional techniques appropriate. These are: the nature of the market, the nature of the product, the stage in the product life cycle, price and the funds available for promotional activities.

Nature of the market: An organisation's target audience greatly influences the form of communication to be used. Where a market is comprised of relatively few buyers, in reasonable proximity to one another, then personal selling may prove efficient as well as effective. Conversely, large and dispersed markets are perhaps unsuitable for personal selling because the costs per contact will be high. The customer type also has an impact. A target market made up of industrial purchasers, wholesalers or retailers is more likely to be served by organisations which employ personal selling than is a market of consumers.

Another important consideration is the state of the prospective customer's knowledge and preferences with respect to the product or service. In some cases, the task will be to make potential customers aware of a product which is entirely new to them, whilst in others, the aim will be to attract them away from a competing product. The two tasks are quite different in nature and may require the use of differing forms of communication. (See also the topic of the hierarchy of effects which is explored a little later in this chapter).

Nature of the product: Highly standardised products, with minimal servicing requirements, are less likely to depend upon personal selling than are custom designed products that are technically complex and/or require frequent servicing. Standardised, high sales volume products, especially consumer products, will probably rely more on advertising through the mass media. Where the product is targetted at a narrow market segment or where those who can use the product effectively are few in number then personal selling will prove the more cost effective method of communications. For instance, in areas such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, field sizes are too small for four wheeled tractors to work effectively. However, there may be a relatively small number of farmers who have larger fields and who can use such a tractor both effectively and efficiently. In these circumstances, a more direct approach to the target group of farmers would be advisable.

Stage in the product life cycle: The promotional mix must be matched to a product's stage in the product life cycle. During the introductory stage, heavy emphasis is placed upon personal selling to convey the attributes and benefits of the product. Intermediaries are personally contacted to engender awareness, interest and, if possible, commitment to the product. Trade shows and demonstrations are also frequently used to inform and educate prospective dealers/retailers and, sometimes, consumers. Advertising at this stage is chiefly informative, and sales promotion techniques, such as product samples and money-off coupons, are designed to achieve the goals of getting potential customers to try the product.

As a product graduates into the growth and maturity stages, advertising places greater emphasis upon persuasion, with the ultimate objective of encouraging the target market to become purchasers of the product. Personal selling efforts continue to be directed at marketing intermediaries in an attempt to expand distribution. As more competitors enter the market, advertising begins to stress product differences to establish brand loyalty. Reminder advertisements begin to appear in the maturity and early decline stages.

Thus, we see that as a product progresses through the product life cycle, both the marketing objectives, and the promotional mix used to achieve them, may well change.

Price: The fourth factor impinging upon the promotional mix is that of price. Advertising and/or sales promotion are the dominant promotional tools for low unit value products due to the high per contact costs in personal selling. Higher value products can justify, and usually require, personal selling.

Promotional budget: A real barrier to implementing any promotional strategy is the size of the promotional budget. Mass media advertising tends to be expensive although the message can reach large numbers of people and hence the cost per contact is relatively low. For many new or smaller firms the costs are prohibitive and they are forced to seek less efficient but cheaper methods. Ideally, a promotional strategy should first be developed and then costed rather than designing a promotional strategy around a preset budget.

The table below summarises the main influences upon the selection of the elements of the communications mix.

Table 10.1 Choosing between personal selling and mass media

 Personal SellingMass Media
Number of buyersFewMany
Type of marketIndustrialConsumer
Product complexityCustomStandardised
Service level requiredHighLow
Life cycle stageIntroductory to early growthMaturity to early stage of decline
BudgetHigh unit valueLow value

The marketing communications mix

The next set of decisions is to determine the role of each element of the promotional mix. Depending upon the situation, it is likely that more emphasis will be given to certain forms of promotion than to others. Table 10.2 provides a brief overview of the main advantages and disadvantages of each element of the promotional mix.

Table 10.2 The main promotional methods

Form of PromotionAdvantagesDisadvantages
Personal sellingPermits flexible presentation and gains immediate response.Costs more than all other forms per contact.
Difficult to attract good sales personnel.
Sales promotionGains attention and has instant effect.Easy for others to imitate
AdvertisingAppropriate for reaching mass audiences.
Allows direct appeal and control over the message.
Considerable waste.
Hard to demonstrate product.
Hard to close sale.
Difficult to measure results.
Public relationsHas a high degree of believability when done well.Not as easily controlled as other forms.
Difficult to demonstrate or measure results.


Advertising is characterised as a form of communication which its sponsor pays to have transmitted via mass media such as television, radio, cinema screens, newspapers, magazines and direct mail. It is intended to both inform and persuade. Lancaster and Massingham2 describe advertising as being:

“…concerned with the identification and presentation of desirable and believable benefits to the target audience in the most cost effective way.”

Table 10.3 Some of the aims of marketing communications

Consumer CommunicationsTrade CommunicationsCorporate Communicationsa
Correct misconceptions about a product/serviceInform about promotional programmesTo establish, maintain or improve the corporate image
Increase frequency of useAnnounce special trade offersTo inform its publics as to its values, policies and purposes
To remind of products or brandsTo avoid stockpilingTo communicate its business performance
To present special offersTo build loyaltyTo explain mergers and acquisitions to its publics
To educate on product usageTo educate on product usageTo explain fundamental changes in the organisation's mission

a In some respects the aims of corporate communications would seem more a responsibility of public relations rather than advertising. However, reference here is made to the use of medium for which the organisation has paid. Public relations does not pay to make use of the mass media.

Harper3 believes that the same volume of advertising can have a greater effect in a developing country than it would have in a developed country because of the relatively low amount of advertising in LDCs and the low levels of competition between advertisers for the attention of audiences.

The aims of advertising are many. Table 10.3 lists some of the aims which advertising may be directed towards achieving.

Theory suggests that there is a lag between advertising activity and its effect on sales. Changes to consumer attitudes take time, as does creating customer awareness or creating an understanding of a product or product attributes. Thus, whilst advertising can undoubtedly have an immediate impact, the total effects of advertising are only realised in the longer term. Figure 10.2 reveals some of the longer term outcomes of advertising.

Figure 10.2 Longer term outcomes of promotion

Figure 10.2

Since the effects of advertising are only evident in the longer term it should be treated as a strategic rather than tactical tool of the marketing communications mix. Advertising does not have the immediate impact of creating a customer. Instead, it has a hierarchy of effects as depicted in figure 10.3. Lavidge and Steiner's4 hierarchy of effects model describes communication as a process rather than a simple outcome in the form of a sale.

Figure 10.3 The hierarchy of effects model2

Figure 10.3

Awareness: Consider the task facing a government which is attempting to persuade farmers in a frequently drought-stricken area to switch some of their production from maize to more drought-resistant sorghum. The initial step is for advertising to create an awareness of both the economic and technical benefits of sorghum which would accrue to farmers within drought-stricken areas. There may also be an awareness task to be accomplished with respect to new sorghum varieties whose higher yields help compensate for the superior economic rewards of growing maize in a good season. Levels of awareness can be measured and thereby used as a measure of the effectiveness of advertising. For example, prior to beginning a planned advertising campaign a target such as the following might be set:

‘Within 3 months of the campaign running, we expect at least 30 percent of farmers in region X to be aware of the new sorghum variety and to be able to recall the 3 main technical benefits that are claimed for the variety in the campaign.’

Subsequent research among the region's farmers would permit management to determine whether the advertising had accomplished this target or not.

Knowledge: The next step is to instill, in farmers, a given level of knowledge about, for instance, how to choose economically viable sorghum varieties and the best husbandry practices to maximise yields; and economic results, the technical and commercial benefits of the new variety and how these are achieved. It is unlikely that advertising alone can communicate this type of information. The technical nature of the information would suggest that farmers would wish to put questions to sales personnel and/or extension agents in order to obtain further explanation.

Whatever combination of marketing communications is used, quantitative targets can again be set and the performance of the programme can be evaluated against them. It is particularly important that post-campaign research establishes the level of understanding among the target group. It should never be assumed that just because a message is received it is also understood.

Once an awareness and understanding has been built up among the target audience the marketer can then focus on establishing a liking or positive attitude towards the crop. This might be done, for instance, by promoting the virtues of the new variety, e.g. drought-resistant, high-yielding and palatable.

Case 10.2 Promoting Herbicide And Insecticide Usage In Nigeria
    The Ilorin Agricultural Development Project (IADP), in Western Nigeria, operated some 52 farm service centres and was concerned about the low level of agrochemical usage by farmers within the project area. A survey carried out by the IADP suggested the need for a marketing communications programme. In the case of insecticides and herbicides, there was a need to create higher levels of awareness. The task, with respect to fertilizers, was rather different. Awareness levels were fairly high but usage rates were low. The survey revealed many serious misconceptions about the use of fertilizers and so there was a need for an educational programme that would improve farmers' knowledge of fertilizers.
    Farmers' awareness levels of insecticides and herbicides was 10 and 5 percent respectively. Usage rates were 4 percent for insecticides and 1 percent for herbicides. The survey further revealed that those who were aware of these agrochemicals tended to be the larger farmers. Even then the extent of their awareness was fairly limited with awareness of insecticide being limited to seed dressing.
    In the case of fertilizer, the survey concluded that the awareness level was far higher, at 65 percent of farmers in the project area. However, the lack of understanding of fertilizers became apparent during personal interviews when many farmers expressed some strange fears and beliefs about the effects of their application on yams. It was widely held among these farmers that yams grown using fertilizer were unpalatable, unsuitable for pounding, could not be used in yam setts and had poor storage characteristics.
    This case reinforces the point that advertising rarely results in an immediate sale. The farmers within the IADP area are unlikely to be converted to the use of these agrochemicals by a single advertising campaign, no matter how cleverly designed it may be. It is more likely that any conversions from non-users to users will take place over a considerable period of time. Considerable efforts will have to be made to improve both awareness and knowledge of agrochemicals, among these farmers, before any attempt is made to induce them to try the product.5

Preference: Even though the campaign may create a positive predisposition towards the product or service, the product may not be preferred to the alternatives. In the case of the hypothetical new sorghum variety, the target audience may like what it hears about the variety but this may not yet be preferred to existing varieties or to planting maize. Preference can be created by promoting the comparative advantages of the new product or service over its alternatives. In Botswana6, the government was successful in promoting the production of sorghum by using the extension service to stress the versatility of the crop in use and, therefore, marketing opportunities. Sorghum can be made into soft porridge (motogo) or stiff porridge (papa or bogobe). It can also be used to produce three fermented products: traditional beer, “mageu”, a non-alcoholic drink, and “ting”, a fermented porridge. Whilst the versatility of the crop might create a preference for planting sorghum over maize in arid areas, additional benefits would have to exist in order to create a preference for this variety over other types of sorghum. Perhaps the new variety yields a particularly sour taste much favoured among drinkers of traditional beer in Botswana and/or is impregnated with queleatox to protect it from the main pest attacking sorghum, the quelea bird. To create preference the promotional message must convey benefits which alternatives do not possess.

Conviction: It is possible that whilst the target audience has developed a preference for a product or service their conviction about that product or service is not yet strong enough to actually cause them to adopt it. Here, the role of communication is to convince the target audience that the claimed benefits of the product or service are both real and sufficiently great to warrant a change in their behaviour. For example, prospective growers of the new sorghum variety will want to see the benefits for themselves through field trails and demonstration plots, and will perhaps want to converse with farmers who have already grown the new variety. This hypothetical example indicates that the medium of communication (e.g. printed media or demonstrations) and sources of information (e.g. extension personnel or other farmers) may change from stage to stage.

Adoption: The final step is for the target audience to adopt the crop, husbandry practice, product or service. The original hierarchy of effects model had purchase as its final step but here the term adoption is preferred because it emphasises that the ultimate objective of promotion is to encourage a long term change in behaviour and not a one-off trial or purchase. To facilitate the initial purchase or trail of the product or service the promotional campaign might centre around a low introductory price or enable potential customers to try it on a limited basis. Prospective growers of the new sorghum variety could be offered seed at a discounted price or the seed might be specially packed in small sample sachets so that it could be sown on a trial plot of land. Target rates of adoption, over a specified time, should be set. However, as will be explained a little later in this chapter, direct comparisons between the number of adopters and promotional activity would not be meaningful since there are many other intervening variable. If targets are not being met, then what can be done is to reassess promotional efforts. In particular, research needs to be carried out to determine answers to the following questions:

Put another way, the key questions are:

Message - Is the right message being communicated?

Media - Is the right medium or media being employed?

Target - Is the target being reached by the communication?

Source - Is the source of the information credible with the target audience?

There is a great deal of empirical evidence to support the notion that there are distinct stages in the communication process and also that the effects of this process occur over time. Studies by Beal and Rogers7 into the adoption of herbicides and new livestock feed formulations by farmers showed not only the distinct steps in the communication process described here as the hierarchy-of-effects, but also that lapses of several years between awareness and adoption can occurb. Similar evidence has been provided by Singh and Pareek8 from their studies of farmers in India.

In summary, what needs to be recognised is that it is unlikely that all of the steps in the communication process can be accomplished by a single advertisement or advertising campaign. The first two steps, for instance, ‘creating awareness’ and ‘developing knowledge’, differ in that the first merely requires that the audience be informed by reaching them whilst the second demands that they be educated. The two tasks are quite different and are, invariably, achieved in different ways. Similarly, the subsequent tasks of creating, a positive predisposition, preference (or loyalty) and adoption of the idea, product or service are different in nature and are most likely to differ in method. Rogers9 suggests that:

“Mass media channels are relatively more important at the knowledge stage and interpersonal channels are relatively more important at the persuasion stage…”.

It should also be recognised that since promotion has a number of intermediary goals its performance cannot be measured simply in terms of sales volumes.

Given that many of the outcomes of advertising are realised only in the longer term, there is little value in attempting to set advertising objectives in terms of immediate sales because there is little prospect of being able to directly associate a given rise (or fall) in sales with a particular promotional campaign or component of a particular campaign. This being the case, promotional objectives based on sales effects do not meet Aaker and Myers' requirement that advertising objectives be operational because they do not provide decision makers with useful criteria on which to base future decisions.

Transforming non-buyers into buyers is seldom achieved in a single direct step. Instead, advertising seeks to take prospective customer through a series of distinct steps as depicted in figure 10.2. Whereas it is not possible to measure the impact of promotional activities in terms of sales effects, targets can be set for each of the intermediate goals which comprise the hierarchy of effects model depicted below. Research can be conducted subsequently to determine the extent to which these goals have been achieved.

Aaker and Myers10 say that:

“Advertising objectives, like organisational objectives, should be operational. They should be effective criteria for decision making and should provide standards with which results can be compared. Furthermore, they should be effective communication tools, providing a line between strategic and tactical decisions.c

It might be thought that the primary objective set for advertising would relate either to immediate sales or to market share targets, but in practice such objectives are seldom, if ever, operational. The reasons are threefold:

Figure 10.4 shows some of the many factors which affect sales levels and make it difficult to isolate the effects of advertising. There is a dichotomy of factors, these being the endogenous factors operating from within the individual, such as his/her attitudes, opinions etc., and those external or exogenous to the individual, including the elements of the marketing mix, the general economic climate and cultural influences.

b An extensive review of this empirical evidence may be found in E.M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, The Free Press, 3rd edition, 1983.

c An extensive review of this empirical evidence may be found in E.M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, The Free Press 3rd edition, 1983.

Figure 10.4 Some of the factors influencing sales

Figure 10.4

Sales promotion

In contrast to advertising, sales promotion is more tactical than strategic. It is usually applied to create an immediate impact, but one which is unlikely to be sustained in the longer term. Thus, marketers tend to use promotion to address short term problems such as reducing the cash burden of overstocked products, stimulating demand during what is traditionally the low season, selling off stocks which are becoming obsolete or are likely to spoil if they remain in storage. Sales promotions may be targetted at consumers, industrial buyers (e.g. crop processors or food manufacturers), channel intermediaries (e.g. traders, wholesalers or retailers) or the organisation's own sales force.

Table 10.4 Types of consumer sales promotion

Sales Promotions Targetted On Customers
Type of promotionExamples
Discount coupons or money-off packsDiscounts on the full price encourage product trial, e.g. $5 off the regular price that will apply to a new pesticide.
PremiumsProducts offered free or at a discount act as an incentive to buy a related product, e.g. farmers buying 25 litres or more of a new pesticide get a 5 litre pack of herbicide free.
Lotteries, games or competitionsIntended to create interest and excitement among customers, e.g. farmers may be offered the opportunity to win a knapsack or tractor mounted agrochemical sprayer.
SamplesFree samples encourage product trial, e.g. farmers could be given a small pack of pesticide and invited to apply it to a small plot and compare results either with a plot to which no pesticide has been applied or against a competing brand.
Point-of-sale merchandisingThese specially designed display units and literature are intended to create impulse (i.e. unplanned) purchases. They are located close to the place where the customer pays for the goods or service, e.g. the packs of pesticide could be arranged on an attractive rack displaying the manufacturer's name and situated, close to the checkout in a farmers service centre.
Trading stampsCustomers are given stamps in ratio to the value of their purchases. Each stamp has a value attached to it although it cannot be redeemed for cash. These stamps can be accumulated and then traded in as whole or partial payment for goods and services. Trading stamps are mainly used by distributive outlets to encourage customer loyalty.

Table 10.4 gives examples of typical forms which sales promotion takes. Many of these forms are equally applicable in consumer and industrial markets.

Sales promotions may be targetted on intermediaries as well, or instead of, consumers. Many types of promotion are used in both sectors. Sometimes, however, their objectives are slightly different. Table 10.5 describes the main forms of trade promotions and their various purposes.

Table 10.5 Types of trade sales promotions

Sales Promotions Targetted On Trade Channels
Type of promotionExamples
Trade allowancesThese temporary price reductions are intended to be passed on, in whole or in part, to the end customer. Thus, intermediaries can elect to have a higher margin per unit or higher volume sales.
Bonus purchasesAn agricultural merchant may be offered 24 packs of pesticide for the price of 20. Such bonuses are not intended to be passed on to customers but are an incentive for the merchant to increase the order size.
CompetitionsThese are directed at the sales and/or service personnel of intermediaries and if sponsored by a manufacturer/grower are intended as an incentive to place particular emphasis on selling that supplier's products or services., e.g. a salesman achieving total orders in excess of 1,000 litres of pesticide might win a cash prize.
Cash incentivesCash bonuses paid to a middleman's sales personnel can help push the product through the channel of distribution.
Cooperative advertising/promotionsSuppliers and middlemen sometimes share the cost of an advertising campaign or promotion, e.g. An agricultural merchant wishing to run a local campaign may obtain assistance from one or other of his/her main suppliers.
Trade shows and exhibitionsAn industry's trade association may organise fairs and exhibitions which offer its members the opportunity to communicate with a well defined target audience. Both manufacturers and intermediaries may participate in these events.

Public relations

Publicity and public relations are not one and the same thing. Organisations often seek publicity, i.e. to disseminate newsworthy items of information about itself, its products/services or about its personnel through the media but does not pay to do so as in the case of advertising. Instead, the organisation hopes that the item is sufficiently newsworthy to appear in an editorial feature, in a newspaper or magazine, or that a radio and/or television station will want to interview an official of the organisation about the item.

Publicity can be a highly effective communication tool, since ‘news’ is often perceived by the target group to have greater authenticity and credibility than ‘advertising’. Moreover, it can penetrate the defences of individuals who intentionally ignore advertising and the overtures of sales personnel. The main disadvantage of publicity is that the organisation has relatively little control over it.

By contrast, the organisation can exert a large degree of control over the results of public relations so long as there are specific objectives in regard to each of the publics at which the communications are to be directed. Public relations may be defined as:

“…the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its public.”11

The ‘public’ referred to in this definition is any group having an actual or potential interest in, or impact upon, an organisation's prospects of achieving its goals. Such publics would be:

The community: An organisation needs to be accepted by the local community. To this end, a community relations programme should be established. Such a programme should devise ways for the organisation to become involved in community activities. A public relations programme can give an organisation a ‘personality’ and, hopefully, one which the local community likes.

Consumers: Public relations should be used to nurture a positive image of the organisation and its products and services, a belief in its intrinsic fairness in dealings with customers and the perception that the organisation values loyal customers.

Other channel members: Wherever the organisation is placed within the marketing channel (as a grower, processor, wholesaler, retailer etc.) it should take cognisance of the need to develop and maintain positive relations with its partners within the marketing system. The public relations programme should make them feel like partners, e.g. by making them privy to privileged information about the organisation's products, promotional programmes, marketing plans, future developments and/or policies.

Opinion leaders: Pressure groups and trade associations are examples of groups which can influence both public and government opinion and therefore should be a target for the organisation's public relations activities Where there is potential conflict between the interests of these groups and those of the organisation it is vital that there remains a dialogue between them so that factual information, rather than rumours, is communicated. In many cases, an effective public relations programme can help avoid conflicts from arising. It can do so by projecting a corporate image of a caring, responsible and responsive organisation. For its part, the organisation must seek to understand the position taken by pressure groups on particular issues.

Case 10.3 Sowing The Seeds Of Success By Communicating With The Market
    “Up until a few years ago, the Seed Co-op was production driven”, admitted the Marketing Manager of The Seed Company of Zimbabwe Limited. He was referring to a situation where the member growers decided how much of each crop they wanted to grow and then asked the Seed Co-op to sell what they were willing to produce. The Marketing Manager went on to say that the situation had changed and members had become, “…very much market-led.” He meant that members had come to understand the need to produce according to customer needs. The Seed Co-op made itself aware of customer needs through marketing communications.
    Zimbabwe's Seed Co-op formerly enjoyed a monopoly and did not see the need to advertise. This changed with the introduction of market reforms that opened the seed supply business to competition. The Seed Co-op set its communication objectives as:
    • To make groups, in addition to farmers, understand the role which the Seed Co-op played in the country's agriculture. These groups were to include: government, financial institutions and manufacturers.
    • To create awareness that the Seed Co-op sold more than maize seed,
    • To communicate the importance of certified seed, and
    • To make potential customers aware of newly introduced seed varieties.
    The seed Co-op's campaign was extensive, and costly. It covered:
    • Rural radio advertising,
    • Rural bus panels,
    • Posters with calendars; these showed the various agro-regions of the country and their recommended crops,
    • Press advertising in both commercial and peasant farmer publications;
    • Rural cinema;
    • Sponsorship of televised weather reports, and
    • Television advertising.
    A post-evaluation of the impact of the advertising campaign was undertaken and the Seed Co-op pronounced itself satisfied by the high level of recall of its promotional theme, “War Against Hunger”.
    The Seed Co-op employed both sales and extension personnel but the two were seen to have distinct roles. In the words of Mr. de Woronin, “A different personality and approach is needed for selling, as opposed to extension work, which we at Seed Co-op have learnt the hard way. Extension people cannot necessarily sell, and vice versa.”
    Public relations also figured strongly in the Seed Co-op of Zimbabwe's marketing communications programme. The organisation became very active in both national and provincial trade fairs and in local field days, in a bid to establish sound working relations with farmers.12

Government: The lobbying of politicians is a sensitive issue but in most countries around the world it is accepted as a reality. Public relations programmes should be designed to create a two-way flow of communications between industry and government (or between a trade association, such as a farmers' union, and government). That is, the organisation should be creating a positive predisposition towards it whilst it should be receiving advance information, from government, on matters such as proposed legislative changes that could impact upon its activities.

Financial institutions: Bankers, finance brokers, investment analysts and other lending institutions are an important public for all commercial organisations. They need to have confidence in the financial stability and prospects for growth since directly or indirectly they will affect the organisation's access to debt capital. Public relations programmes targetted at this group are therefore very important.

Media: Sound press relations can give an organisation access to the ‘news’ channel of communication through which it can disseminate positive information to all of its publics. Through its public relations programme, the press should be given a ready response to all reasonable requests for information within the limits of commercial confidentiality, that the organisation is candid about its intentions and actions.

Employees: Organisations must recognise the need to ‘market’ themselves to their own employees as much as to other publics. Internal public relations often suffers from neglect. The loyalty and commitment of employees to the organisation and its goals cannot be taken for granted. An internal public relations programme can also help build an understanding between the organisation and its personnel as well as helping develop an enduring trust between them.

The methods employed by public relations professionals include:

Public relations has perhaps a different but complementary role to that of other forms of communication. It will be most effective, and controllable, when it has specific objectives, with respect to specific publics, and when it is coordinated with the forms of marketing communication.

Personal selling

Personal selling complements both advertising and sales promotion. Many organisations have a sales force comprised of a number of representatives who have face-to-face contact with the customer. The division of responsibilities between sales representatives may be based on geographical areas or on product groups. For instance, an agrochemical company could divide the market into geographic regions and assign a representative to each district. He or she would have responsibility for selling all of the company's products to the assigned area. Alternatively, the same agrochemical company could organise its sales force so that representatives handle either animal health products or crop protection products. This would make sense if, within a country, farming tended to be specialised into arable and livestock, whereas it would perhaps be less appropriate if mixed farming were the norm and two representatives, from the same firm, were calling on the same farmer.

Reid13 defines personal selling as:

“…the process of analysing potential customers' needs and wants and assisting them in discovering how such needs and wants can best be satisfied by the purchase of a specific product, service or idea.”

Given the importance of personal selling within the marketing mix and the fact that the sales force is likely to be the most expensive element of the company's promotional mix, the organisation must be clear on the objectives of its sales representatives. Sales representatives have at least 7 key tasks:

ProspectingSales representatives find and develop business with new customers.
CommunicatingSales representatives communicate information about the organisation's philosophy, produce/products and/or services and communicate needs. preferences and problems which customers have and the organisation can meet or resolve.
SellingSales representatives should be trained in the art of selling approaching, presenting, countering objections, closing sales and nurturing a long-term customer relationship.
ServicingSales representatives provide various services to customers, such as helping resolve their problems with his/her own organisation, rendering technical assistance, arranging financing and expediting delivery.
Information gatheringSales representatives carry out market research and intelligence work and complete visit reports. Representatives are able to collect information on competitor activity as well as the future needs of customers.
Complementing advertisingThe activities of sales representatives should complement other elements of the promotional mix. The sales approach has to be consistent with the selling propositions conveyed through advertising and sales promotion. Where possible, customer visits should be timed to coordinate with the other promotional mix components.
AllocatingSales representatives are able to evaluate the value of various customers to the organisation and advise on the allocation of scarce produce/products at times of shortage.

Thus, we observe that whilst selling is of fundamental importance, the sales representative has a number of other vital objectives, but at core he/she is part the organisation's promotional effort and is an important contributor to marketing communications.

Case 10.4 Knowledge Of The Market For Onions In The Yemen
    In the Yemen Arab Republic onions were supplied from a region of the country where yields were low, quality poor and supply seasonal. Farmers in Al Bayda, in the southeast of Yemen, discovered that they enjoyed certain advantages in onion production. Ideal agronomic conditions resulted in very high yields, they could produce year-round and the quality was good. Many farmers in Al Bayda took up onion growing and began to transport them over considerable distances to urban markets.
    Whilst Al Bayda farmers had a comparative advantage in onion production they had yet to determine how they could fully exploit this advantage in the market. Since all growers belonged to the same tribe, their chief was able, as an opinion leader and encouraged by a change agency, to convince the growers to cooperate in production, transport and marketing. Coordinated production ensured a continuous flow of produce to market, eight-ton trucks rather than one-ton trucks went to market and transport costs per unit fell to 40 percent of their previous leve. I Produce was sold direct rather than through wholesalers and growers' returns improved by 40 percent.
    The Al Bayda farmers also registered themselves as a cooperative in the neighbouring People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. Whenever they learned by radio that prices were higher there, they were able to redirect supplies to that market.
    A key factor in this success story was the extent to which Al Bayda farmers kept themselves informed of market conditions through an extensive information network. This included using radio, the telephone and messengers to ensure that supplies were directed to where prices and demand said they were most needed.14

In practice, companies will be more specific about how they expect their sales representatives to spend their time. For example, sales personnel may be told what proportion of their time to devote to existing products and customers and how much to spend on prospecting for new business or developing markets for new products. Left to decide for themselves, sales people are likely to devote much of their time to exisitng customers where they know what kind of reception awaits them and to products they are familiar with and which have an established market (especially where sales commission is paid). The sales manager who permits this pattern to emerge is clearly unaware of the concept of product life cycles and the dangers of relying entirely upon today's customers and today's products.

One would expect to observe a difference in the objectives set for the sales force in a market oriented versus a selling/production oriented organisation. In the case of the latter, the accent is wholly upon sales volume and the sales force has no role to play in marketing strategy or issues relating to profitability. A contrasting view should be in evidence where selling is perceived by management to be the central activity within the promotional element of the marketing mix. The market oriented company trains its sales force to produce customer satisfaction and company profit. This involves developing the analytical marketing skills of sales personnel.

Training the sales force

Organisations which send their newly hired sales representatives immediately into the field are almost invariably disappointed by the results. It is true that training programmes can be expensive. Trainers have to be hired, materials purchased and, perhaps, facilities have to be rented. Moreover, the organisations are paying people who are not yet selling. There are also opportunity costs. Experienced sales representatives have to be withdrawn from the field for on-going training, and sales opportunities may be foregone. However, training, and re-training, is necessary if the sales force is to be effective. The sales manager's task is to ensure that training costs are outweighed by the value added to the company's business by having a better equipped sales force.

Not all sales personnel sell: many could better be described as order takers. This is not necessarily a problem as long as this is the purpose for which the “sales force” was intended. Many consumer food products are presold through extensive advertising in the mass media. In these circumstances, the sales person's role is largely confined to taking orders from middlemen who are already motivated to stock the product because of the demand created (or maintained) by the mass media. However, it becomes a problem when an organisation requires its sales force to take a more proactive role and aggressively sell its products and services. Despite stories to the contrary, there are very few ‘born salesmen’. The great majority of sales personnel need to be trained to become active sellers as opposed to being passive order takers.

Sales force training programmes have several goals, including:

Sales representatives need to understand and identify with the company.The first part of most sales training programmes is devoted to describing the company's history and objectives, the organisation and lines of authority, the chief officers, the company's financial structure and facilities, and the chief products and sales volume, as well as the current and prospective customer base.
Sales representatives need product knowledge.Sales trainees are shown how the products are produced and how they function in various uses and in different environments.
Sales representatives need to understand customers' needs, buying motives, and buying habits.They need to learn about the organisation's and competitors' strategies and policies.
Sales representatives need to know how to make effective sales presentations.Sales representatives require training in the principles of salesmanship. In addition, the company outlines the major sales arguments for each product, and some provide a sales script.
Sales representatives need to understand field procedures and responsibilities.Sales representatives learn how to divide their time between existing and prospective customers; how to prepare reports, organise their schedules and select efficient routes.
Sales representatives need to understand their role in marketing intelligence gathering.Some individuals are quicker than others to realise that they have a role in market intelligence gathering. Indeed, representatives repeatedly fail to report information collected in the course of their work because they do not appreciate that it constitutes marketing intelligence. Hence, the need for training in this area.

Training programmes have to be evaluated against the performance (and/or improved performance) of the sales force. Quantitative evidence might include increased sales turnover and sales volumes, larger average order sizes, increases in new accounts, a decline in customer complaints and returns, lower levels of absenteeism, etc.

Change agents

Sales representatives are agents of change. They seek to change customer behaviour in many different ways: from mechanical weeding to herbicides, from bulk transportation of vegetables to prepacking, from broadcasting of seed to the use of precision drills, from employing manual labour to electro-mechanical grain elevators, from open to refrigerated lorries, from purchasing 10 kg bags of maize meal to buying 25 kg sacks, and so on. However, sales representatives are not the only agents of change seeking to communicate with producers, processors, traders, retailers, consumers, and other participants in agricultural and food marketing systems, in an attempt to alter their beliefs, opinions and behaviour in some way. Agricultural extension agents, agricultural marketing extension agents, health workers, farmers' unions, cooperatives, trade associations, professional bodies, consumer associations and NGOs of various types are some of the other change agents whose activities are often found to impinge upon the agricultural and food marketing systems. For example, where change agents are successful in persuading farmers to adopt improved husbandry practices or technological innovations which lead to higher levels of production and/or crop quality, this is likely to have an impact in the marketplace. Similarly, if change agents persuaded Southern African consumers to eat yellow maize (often considered food for livestock) in the place of the traditionally preferred white maize, then this would have an impact on the relative prices of the two grains and upon future levels of plantings and supply of white and yellow maize.

The figure overleaf depicts the role of change agents in the context of agricultural and food marketing systems. It shows the role of change agents, whether they be commercial sales representatives or other types of change agent, is that of linkage between the promoters of change and those who are expected to adopt and implement those changes. Figure 10.5 also gives examples of the types of clients whose beliefs, attitudes, opinions and behaviour change agents might seek to alter.

Figure 10.5 Change agents and their role in the context of agricultural and food marketing systems

Figure 10.5

As figure 10.5 suggests, the change agent forms the link between the change agency and the target client group(s). He/she is a conduit through which information flows, in both directions, between the change agency and the client group. The change agent interprets and transmits the message of change from the change agency to the clients. The change agent is equally responsible for interpreting and transmitting information on the needs and problems of the clients to the change agency, also their reactions to proposed changes, obstacles, difficulties, and the identity of important opinion leaders within the client system.

Case 10.5 Communicating The Benefits Of Hybrid Maize
    Hybrid maize seed was first developed and introduced in lowa State, USA. Promotion of the seed began in 1928 and involved the state extension service and sales representatives from seed companies. Hybrid maize seed yielded about 20 percent more per hectare than the open-pollinated varieties that it replaced. It had higher drought resistance and lent itself to harvesting by mechanical pickers. The chief disadvantage of the new seed was that it lost its vigour after the first generation and therefore farmers had to buy hybrid seed each year whereas they previously used a large amount of farm-saved seed. Thus, adopting the hybrid seed involved the farmer in making a fundamental behavioural change.
    Researchers studying the adoption of the hybrid seed discovered that despite its clear advantages, most farmers moved only slowly from awareness-knowledge through to adoption. Farmers questioned in the study took up to 9 years after learning about the new seed before adopting it. The average respondent took 3–4 years between planting a small trial plot of hybrid maize seed and eventually using it exclusively.
    The researchers found that the various communication channels played different roles at each stage of the adoption process. Farmers reported that, in most instance, information on the hybrid seed first came to them via sales representatives. However, neighbouring farmers played a more significant role in persuading them to plant a trial plot of the hybrid seed.15

The objectives of change agents have a particular sequence, this is also represented in Figure 10.6, and may be explained as follows:

1. Develops the need for change.A change agent's initial objective is often to help clients see the need for change. For example, an extension officer might have to demonstrate how the lack of coordination between farmers in their production and lack of cooperation in the marketing of their produce prevents them from gaining access to distant markets and obtaining reasonable prices.
2. Establish a rapport with the client group.Before they will accept his/her advice, the client group needs to feel that the change agent has empathy with their situation. A frequent obstacle to rapport is where the change agent comes from a different culture, does not speak the language (or dialect), comes from a different socio-economic class or intimidates the client group through ostentatious show of a superior education.
3. Diagnoses of the client groups' problems.Returning to the earlier example, the change agent will have determined, through diagnoses, why the existing marketing system is not working and what the alternative solutions might be.
4. Encourages an intention to change among the client groupHaving explored various alternative course of action, the change agent must motivate the clients to adopt one or other solution. This might involve sending trial shipments of produce to market, for example, to demonstrate that graded produce, carefully packed, earns higher returns for farmers.
5. Translates intent into action.The change agent induces client-centred change. He/she will work through local leaders and opinion leaders so that the proposed change is adopted by the clients rather than always being seen as a solution imposed by the change agency. He/she may, for instance, encourage opinion leaders to call for farmers meetings to discuss how local production might be coordinated and which marketing functions should be based on cooperative activity.
6. Firmly roots adoption and minimises the likelihood of its abandonment.Change agents will seek to reinforce the new behaviour by continual feedback on improvements and benefits. This might take the form of reports on reductions in produce losses due to improved handling and packaging, higher prices than pre-change prices, increases in sales volumes, etc.
7. Makes the change self-perpetuating.Eventually, the change agent should make him/herself redundant. The client group should become self-reliant rather than continuing to rely upon the change agent. This might be evidenced, for example, if farmers not only continued to coordinate their existing production and cooperate in the marketing of their produce but also began to look for better methods and new areas of cooperation in production and marketing.

Whilst sales representatives and other types of change agent are similar in many ways, they are not the same. Sales representatives are essentially profit oriented, as they must be, and this governs their selection of priorities and their behaviour. Other types of change agent are usually, if not always, motivated by social goals. Even when their efforts are directed at improving the economic performance of a client group, this is normally a means to an end and not the end itself. That ‘end’ is usually the economic and social development of the client group.

Developing the message

In most instances, the attention of the target audience can only be held for a relatively short time. That is, the potential customer will spend only a matter of seconds, or at most minutes, reading an advertisement in the printed media, will spare a limited time conversing with sales personnel or extension agents and will quickly lose interest in broadcast messages when these are perceived to be too long. Thus marketers must be selective in the points of information they seek to communicate. Whilst a product or service could have a large set of selling points, these will have to be narrowed down to a select few. Moreover, the single most important selling point will be the one to be included in the principal slogan or headline. This is sometimes termed the unique selling proposition (USP). A USP should only be decided upon after customer research has determined meaningful and important messages (e.g. there is little to be gained from promoting the nutritional superiority of hammer milled whole grain over roller milled refined grain when consumers believe the latter is superior in taste, colour and texture).

Selecting the media

The media plan has to be developed in concert with the overall marketing communications strategy. The hierarchy of effects model, described earlier in this chapter, stressed the multiple stages through which the target customer must be brought and that different media might be more successful at some stages than others. Therefore, it is likely that a mix of media will have to be used within a single marketing communications programme.

Criteria for selecting communications media include:

Message exposure: Marketers are interested in the potential number of message exposures that a given medium offers. The total level of exposure is a function of reach and frequency. Reach is the number of people exposed to the message. For example, to the extent that a higher percentage of rural populations, in developing countries, have access to radio as opposed to television, radio will have the greater reach for this target audience. Frequency is the average number of times an individual is exposed to the message. If the target audience were say farmers, who tend to read a newspaper 2 – 3 times per week but listen to the farming news, on radio, 7 days per week, then radio is likely to achieve the higher frequency rating.

Invariably, there is a trade-off between reach and frequency. Communications budgets will stretch only so far and so more spent on one will reduce the amount that can be spent on the other.

Impact of the promotional message: It can be argued that the impact of a promotion has more to do with the message than the medium. Nonetheless, the medium is an influencing factor on the levels of awareness, comprehension, believability and retention. Radio, being a purely audio medium, will be limited in its impact on farmers' levels of understanding of the operation of a piece of agricultural equipment that is new to them. Visual communication would be important in this case. In the same way, the retention of information is generally higher for audio-visual communications than it is when the information is presented only in audio form.

The target audience: Media have to be selected according to their ability to reach the target audience. This involves analysing the demographic structure of the market socio-economic groups, age groups, language, ethnic groups, etc. Thereafter, marketers can seek to identify media that reach the target group(s).

Cost and cost effectiveness: Some forms of media may prove too expensive for a particular communications budget and although these may have great potential in reaching the target audience, they will be unavailable. Even when this is not the case, it is incumbent upon the marketer to identify the most cost effective media.

The cost-per-thousand method (CPM) is one of the most commonly used in measuring the cost effectiveness of promotional media. For example, if it costs $100,000 to send a mobile cinema around the rural areas for 6 months, to demonstrate the advantages of applying herbicide, and if it is estimated that some 50,000 farmers will see the cine/video film, then the cost per thousand is:

The same calculation can be undertaken for alternative media which are also under consideration. However, when making comparisons of this kind, care has to be taken to allow for the precision of a medium in hitting the target, something which the CPM approach does not do. For instance, in some African countries fish trading has traditionally been carried out by people of Asian origin. If these were the target group for a given promotion then an Asian language newspaper might give pinpoint accuracy in reaching them but would score badly on a CPM rating since they are a minority of the population.

Establishing the promotional budget

Deciding upon the amount to be spent on promotion is one of the most challenging tasks marketing managers have to face. There are simply no scientific solutions to the problem. Since no one has ever established a mathematical relationship between promotional expenditures and their effects, either in terms of sales volumes or revenues, there is no universally accepted formula for setting the promotional budget. Instead, a number of pragmatic approaches have been established over the years. The main budget setting methods are percentage-of-sales, fixed-sum-per-unit, competitive parity, residual-sum and objective-and-task.

Percentage-of-sales: The method involves setting the budget as a percentage of either last year's sales or forecasted sales for next year. Thus, brands or products which are performing well get additional promotional support. The popularity of this approach is probably due to its simplicity. However, it suffers from several weaknesses, for example high sales volumes do not necessarily reflect high profitability, there is little support for marketing managers wanting to turn ‘problem’ products into ‘rising stars’ and when budgets are set according to forecasted sales there is motivation to inflate sales estimates. Another problem with this approach is that using percentages of sales leads to sales determining the promotional mix. In figure 10.1, it was suggested that the reverse was the correct relationship, i.e. the promotional mix should determine sales.

Fixed-sum-per-unit: Some organisations elect to set a specified amount for each unit sold or produced. Thus, for example, a poultry producers might determine the promotional budget by using a figure of $1.50 per gross of eggs sold and 25 cents per broiler sold (or produced).

Competitive parity: This approach is simply one of keeping pace with immediate competitors. The organisation will try to work out approximate expenditure levels by two or three close competitors and will then seek to match those expenditures. It represents a reactive or defensive approach to promotional budget setting. Apart from the difficulties of arriving at reasonably accurate estimates of expenditure by the competition, the method suffers from incorporating the mistakes of competitors who may be spending too much or too little. Alternatively, the amount spent by the competition might be right for them but not for others who have different resource levels and marketing opportunities or problems. The method also discourages organisations from taking a more aggressive marketing stance by seeking to gain a competitive advantage.

Residual-sum: This is a euphemistic term for allotting what the organisation perceives itself to be able to afford after all other budgets have been set. The danger is that in years of good business there may be over-budgeting whilst in times of low sales, when demand most needs to be stimulated, the amount available for promotion falls.

Objective-and-task: An organisation employing the objective-task approach will first specify its communication objectives and will then estimate how much it will cost to achieve those objectives. This is the approach to promotional budget setting recommended in this text. It has the benefit of encouraging marketing managers to set specific communication goals. When these are not attained the communications mix can be reevaluated and modified.

It may be that whilst the communication objectives are valid, the particular organisation cannot supply the resources to meet them. In these circumstances some sort of compromise between expenditure and goals will be necessary.

Perhaps the fundamental weakness of this budgeting method is the implied assumption of cause-and-effect. That is, there is an assumption of a direct relationship between promotion and marketing performance but as has already been said, other elements of the marketing mix will impact upon sales, as will many uncontrollable exogenous factors.

Whichever approach to setting the promotional budget is chosen it should be recognised that it has been established on a less than optimal basis.

Monitoring the effectiveness of marketing communications

The last step in the development of a marketing communications programme is to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme. The evaluation has two components: communications effects and market performance.

Communications effects: Research into communications effects involves the evaluation of a single advertisement. Research in this area focuses upon measuring variables such as attention levels, message comprehension, message retention and intention to purchase. This type of research is often termed copy research. Both broadcast and printed promotional material can be evaluated. Whilst the techniques employed differ in their detail they essential involve exposing a sample of people drawn from the intended target group and exposing them to the proposed advertisements or promotions. For example, a printed advertisement can be inserted in a dummy magazine and given to the sample. After a suitable period of time these people are asked to recall the advertisements seen and to report as much of the detail of the content of the ads selling propositions, images, applications, etc. In the same way, an audience can be recruited to watch television programmes with trial advertisements inserted at the beginning of the programme(s) and/or in the commercial intervals and/or at the end of the programmes. They too can be questioned about the content of the advertisements and the impressions that they made upon the audience.

Market Performance: To a limited extent and in certain situations, the effects of promotion on sales can be measured. The effects of special offers and coupons can be measured by redemption rates. Two approaches which are widely pursued in industrialised countries are as follows:

Field experiments.The organisation selects two geographical areas which are similar in terms of socio-economic groups, levels of disposable income etc. and launches a promotional campaign in one area but not the other. After a period of time, sales in the two areas are compared. The assumption is that the only difference between the two areas is the absence or presence of the promotional campaign and so differences in sales are explained by the promotional campaign.
Analysis of historical market data.Promotional expenditures and sales data can be compared using mathematical or econometric models to first describe the relationship between sales and promotion. Where these can be successfully described there is the prospect of developing other models capable of predicting sales, given a certain level of promotional effort.

The first of these approaches requires the application of very strict controls and careful matching of the areas or markets to be compared. The second approach requires good quality data. That is, the data must be detailed, precise, free from error and must extend over a considerable period of time.


The establishment of effective communication channels between sellers and buyers is a prerequisite of success in agricultural marketing. Marketing communications serve to both inform and persuade. More specifically, through the promotional mix advertising, sales promotion, personal selling and public relations organisations can provide information to other market participants, stimulate demand, differentiate products and services, underline a product's value and regulate sales.

Marketing communication objectives are derived from the marketing plan and must be consistent with the other elements of the marketing mix. These objectives must be operational and require identification of a target market, a specification of any desired changes in that target group's behaviour and a set of performance targets.

The communications mix to be employed will be greatly influenced by the nature of the market and the product, the stage of the product's life cycle, the product's price level and the size of the promotional budget available.

Advertising is a strategic marketing tool. Its effects tend to occur over a relatively long time horizon and there is usually a lag between an advertising campaign and evidence that its desired effects are actually taking place. Advertising rarely, if ever, immediately creates a customer. The buying/adoption process is normally fairly lengthy and involves several stages known as the hierarchy-of-effects. Advertising plays a greater role at some of these stages than at others and so it is usually used in conjunction with other promotional tools such as sales promotion and/or personal selling.

In contrast to advertising, sales promotion is a tactical marketing tool and is typically employed as a quick acting solution to immediate marketing problems. Sales promotions can be targetted on end-users or upon any other group of market participants.

Personal selling involves face-to-face contact between a representative of the trading organisation and the customer. The more expensive and technically complex the product, and the fewer the number of buyers, the more likely it is that emphasis will be given to personal selling.

Public relations are broader in purpose than other elements of the communications mix. Rarely are public relations efforts directed at selling products or services. Rather, the role of public relations is to establish and maintain good relations between an organisation and its various publics.

When developing promotional messages, marketers have to select selling propositions which are unique to the product or service and are meaningful to the target audience. Given that the attention of the target audience can only be held for relatively short time spans, marketers have to be highly selective and limit the amount of information which they attempt to transmit.

The selection of the media to be used should take into account the amount of exposure that a particular medium will give to a message, the potential of the medium to reach the target audience and the relative cost effectiveness of alternative media.

There are agents of change other than sales personnel whose activities can impinge upon the marketing system. Examples include agricultural and marketing extension officers, aid workers and training personnel. These change agents are often representing non-commercial organisations such as government departments, NGOs or development agencies. The success or failure of these change agents can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and/or efficiency of particular market participants and upon the marketing system as a whole. Change agents seek to demonstrate the need for change to a target group and having encouraged that change then try to ensure the change becomes permanent and self-perpetuating.

There are no theoretical models to assist marketing managers in setting optimal promotional budgets and there is no universally accepted formula for setting the promotional budget. There are, however, five widely used approaches, these being: percentage-of-sales, fixed-sum-per-unit, competitive parity, residual-sum and objective-and-task.

The final step in the development of a marketing communication programme is to evaluate its communications effects and impact on market performance. Trial promotions can be tested by exposure to a sample audience and measurements taken of attention levels, message comprehension, message retention and intention to purchase. The impact of promotions on market performance can be measured either through field experiment or through mathematical modelling.

Key Terms

AdvertisingExogenous factorsPersonal selling
Change agentsHierarchy of effectsPublic relations
Communications mixMass mediaSales promotion
Endogenous factorsObjective-and-task methodUnique selling proposition

Review Questions

From your knowledge of the material presented in chapter 10, give brief answers to the following questions.

  1. Briefly list “the intervening factors to be considered before the communications mix is finalised.”

  2. What are the steps that are suggested be followed when seeking to develop operational communication objectives?

  3. Name the 6 stages of the hierarchy of effects model.

  4. According to Rogers, at what stage(s) of the communications process are interpersonal sources likely to be most effective?

  5. Briefly explain the term, endogenous variables.

  6. Who are an organisation's publics?

  7. What is the main weakness of the objective-and-task approach to setting marketing communication budgets?

  8. What are the implications for marketing communications of a marketing programme involving more than one target market?

  9. What criteria might be used to judge the appropriateness of a particular promotional medium in a given situation?

  10. What are ‘change agents’ and what purposes do they serve?

  11. What sort of evidence might be used in assessing the effectiveness of a sales training programme?

  12. List at least 5 methods used in public relations.

  13. What are the 5 key objectives of marketing communications?

  14. Name the two methods of evaluating the impact of marketing communications on market performance described in this text.


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