Advertising as a Marketing Tool to Reach and Influence Customers

Advertising. It’s everywhere. We’re exposed to hundreds of advertising messages daily, so our brain starts to filter them subconsciously. But businesses and brands don’t want these advertising communication filtered – they want customers to take in the messages and remember them. This week’s blog article explores advertising and a range […]

Advertising. It’s everywhere.

We’re exposed to hundreds of advertising messages daily, so our brain starts to filter them subconsciously.

But businesses and brands don’t want these advertising communication filtered – they want customers to take in the messages and remember them.

This week’s blog article explores advertising and a range of different advertising approaches that businesses can use to reach their target audience.

What is advertising?

Advertising is a marketing communication method that attempts to inform and/or influence the opinions and buying behaviour of potential users of a product or service. Also called an “ad” or advert for short, it is a one-way message to promote an identified organisation/brand, product, service or an idea.

Businesses buy advertising space or time, and it is openly sponsored, controlled and non-personal message (designed for mass media).

The world is saturated with advertising, wherever we go. Advertising is almost always present, though we might not be consciously aware of it.

Advertising’s ability to deliver a specific message to many people has given it a significant role in most businesses’ marketing.

“In market-based economies, consumers have learned to rely on advertising and other forms of promotion for information they can use in making purchase decisions.” (Belch & Belch, 2003)

The confusion between advertising and marketing

Advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. People often make the mistake of viewing marketing in terms of individual activities. For example, for some, marketing would have a sales-dominated view, for others, it might be market research and product planning. For others, marketing and advertising seem to be interchangeable terms.

However, these activities are all just components of marketing, cogs in a machine working together. Marketing is the total process of planning and executing product or service design, and the pricing, promotion, and distribution to meet a firm’s objectives.

Elements of the promotional mix (Belch and Belch, 2003)

The aims of advertising

All advertising is trying to capture the attention of their target audience, but advertising strategies will differ across industries and situations. One advertiser may be aiming for an immediate response or action from customers, while another may be developing a positive brand awareness over a longer period.

Some of the aims of advertising are as follows:

  • inform customers of a company or brand’s offering,
  • persuade and convince consumers their offering fits their needs or wants,
  • stimulate a decision to purchase,
  • create a brand image by associating an offering with certain qualities,
  • differentiate an offering from competitors in a crowded market,
  • to be informative and trustworthy,
  • launch a new product from an established brand,
  • increase consumption, sales and market share,
  • promote causes,
  • market political candidates,
  • increase awareness of social issues such as drink driving.

“Constructive advertising can alert consumers to the existence and location of products, and it can also convey (pre-purchase) information concerning the functions and qualities of products.” (Bagwell, 2007)

AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action) is a popular advertising model first used over 100 years ago (See Elias St. Elmo Lewis, 1898), that uses a hierarchy of effects to help illustrate the four stages of the purchase process.

  • Awareness: The prospect is aware of their problems and viable solutions for them. Marketing attracts customer attention to the product. The customer becomes aware it is available.
  • Interest: The prospect shows interest in a group of services or products. Marketing develops an interest in a product or service.
  • Desire: The prospect begins to evaluate a certain brand. Marketing develops a desire to own a product. The customer wants it.
  • Action: The prospect decides whether to purchase. Marketing prompts action to purchase the product.

This model has since become the foundation of a sales and marketing funnel.

Sales and Marketing Funnel

“Brand advertising has a significant and positive effect on the brand’s current sales and market share.” (Bagwell, 2007)

Should advertising be persuasive or informative?

There are two schools of thought on the role of advertising. First, advertising as a persuasive market power, where advertising affects consumer preferences and tastes and differentiates from the competitors. Informative advertising educates consumers about product attributes and but does not change the way they value those attributes.

Persuasive advertising

The persuasive approach views advertising as a tool to alter consumers’ tastes, creates product differentiation and brand loyalty. Market share becomes more stable, and advertising leads to higher prices and profits. A tool for established firms to increase the barrier to entry to that market. Advertising can lead to anti-competitive effects, resulting in concentrated markets characterized by unreasonable prices and profits.

Informative advertising

The informative view of advertising is based on the fact many markets have inequal amounts of information, and the time and effort required to learn about alternatives can deter customers.

Because of these market inefficiencies, advertising becomes a solution — consumers receive information. In this view, the demand increases elasticity, advertising promoting competition between established brands. Advertising facilitates entry to the marketplace and therefore advertising has pro-competitive effects.

Types of advertising

There are many types of advertising. Businesses can communicate through mass media such as a television, or it could be a flyer delivered in your mail.

The most suitable method for each business will depend on their budget and what is the most suitable approach to reach their target audience as many times as possible.

In the age of the internet, advertising has evolved and now there are far more methods available to businesses, so we are no longer as reliant on expensive traditional media advertising such as television.

Traditional advertising reaches a wide audience, but it is not as targeted — many people will see you advertising who will never be a customer. This is where digital marketing has the edge — it has a lower-cost and its far more targeted.

This section will cover some of the popular traditional forms of advertising such as print and radio, as well as some of the newer approaches such as social media advertising.

Print

Advertising through print was once the dominant form of advertising. While advertising has evolved and there are far more options available, print advertising can still be effective. Just at a much higher cost than other methods such as digital advertising.

Newspaper advertising

Newspaper

Newspaper advertising reaches a wide range of people, usually in one location. Display advertising is throughout newspapers, and classified advertising is all in one specific section. Display advertising is far more expensive, as the ads can blend in with the articles.

Magazine

Magazines typically service a group of customers (e.g. Women’s gossip magazines) or by trade or topic (e.g. car magazines).

Magazines serve a much wider geographic area than newspapers, so tends to work best for larger businesses with a national market. They also have a much longer shelf life than newspapers, which people might quickly throw away — magazines often sit on coffee tables for months on end.

Direct mail

The distribution of direct mail is direct to people in their mail, in a specific geographic area. This technique is effective for a localised market — for example, it is a popular strategy for real estate agents to distribute ‘just sold’ and ‘for sale’ flyers in the local area.

Catalogues, leaflets, flyers, and brochures are all forms of direct mail and only have minor differences — usually in the amount of information contained. A catalogue will list several products in a booklet for example, while a leaflet is on a single piece of paper and it aims to look attractive rather than display a lot of information.

Broadcast

Broadcast advertising is promotional material via television or radio. It is a comparatively expensive form of advertising, but the audience potential is large. It was once the go-to for any large brand, but it the age of the internet, there are now far more options for businesses that are more targeted.

Radio

Radio is more targeted than Television. For example, it is easier to target a specific geographic area and certain demographics. For example, if you are a store selling tools, you could advertise on a radio station that plays classic rock music, where you know the audience is predominantly men over the age of 30. Sound can have its limitations, as people do not get a visual of your brand, they can quickly forget. Radio advertisement works best if it is consistent over a period.

TV Advertising

Television

Television advertising usually has reach at a national level (unless you are a local station of course), so generally works best for businesses with a large national or international market. Because TV advertising has visuals and sound, movement and colour being more engaging than sound alone.

Like radio, TV advertising is sold in units (e.g. 15 or 30 seconds) and costs vary according to the popularity of the network and the time slot. Obviously, when more people are watching, the advertising will cost more. It can be expensive.

Directories

Directories list businesses in a geographic area or by industry, the Yellow Pages is an example. Typically, a consumer who uses directories have already planned to buy — they are researching what business to choose.

Outdoor

Outdoor advertising includes large road-side billboards, hoardings at stadiums, sponsored buildings, on the back of buses or sign written vehicles, and posters at bus stops. These contain a limited amount of information as they are difficult to read — they are often just the branding. Again, advertising is restricted to the geographic area.

Digital marketing

Online

Fast evolving technology over the past 25 years has changed the way consumers interact with brands. A mobile phone in virtually everybody’s hand or pocket means advertising no-longer must be to a mass-market place — it can become hyper-targeted based on almost any demographic.

The internet has provided an avenue for any business to be able to advertise their business digitally, without the big marketing budgets required for traditional forms for advertising. Another benefit of digital marketing is that it is immediate and easy to measure results.

Paid search advertising

Google ads are an example of paid search advertising. This involves bidding on certain keywords, so the ad shows on the top of search results when a user searches for that keyword. Advertisers pay-per-click (PPC) — when someone clicks on their ad.

Social media advertising

Advertising via social media has become immensely popular with small businesses and large brands alike. Ads are placed in the social media feed, along with posts from friends or family. The advertisements can be very targeted, meaning you do not waste money marketing to people unlikely to be customers.

The ability to track where sales are coming from and retarget people who have previously purchased or engaged in an ad are other advantages. Budgets can be as little as a couple of dollars a day.

Native advertising

Native advertising tries to hide its marketing intent by matching the look and feel of the content of the website. Articles, infographics or videos are advertised on websites hosting similar material, and the content contains valuable information rather than being promotional. This form of advertising is unobtrusive so come across as more trustworthy.

“Consumer attitudes toward advertising in general have long been found to be negative.” (Tsang, Ho, & Liang, 2004)

Factors that impact advertising performance

Businesses must consider how the audience will interpret and respond to their advertising. According to Martins, Costa, Oliveira, Gonçalves, and Branco (2019), informativeness, credibility, entertainment, and incentives positively influence advertising. Irritation has a negative influence on advertising effectiveness.

  • Informativeness is the ability of advertising to advise consumers of product and brand information
  • Entertainment is the perception of enjoyable or likeable advertising. Humour for example.
  • The credibility of the brand influences the credibility of their advertising and how much consumers trust them. This credibility positively affects a consumer’s behavioural intentions, and the above authors found that credibility was the strongest positive factor in advertising performance, followed by entertainment and informativeness.
  • Incentives are monetary gains to consumers such as discounts and gifts.
  • Irritation reflects unwanted advertising techniques that annoy, offend, insult, or manipulate consumers. Consumers will often avoid these brands and ignore their advertising in the future.

“Television ads often have a higher degree of irritation than radio ads, which are less irritating because radio programs usually serve as background music.” (Tsang, Ho, & Liang, 2004)

Customer attitudes

A person’s attitude includes their positive or negative evaluations, feelings, and actions towards an object or idea. This attitude will influence the response to advertising. Consumers typically have negative attitudes toward advertising.

Ads are annoying right? That is why they must be informative, entertaining and credible, to increase the chances of a positive impact on consumers’ attitudes towards that brand. Ads that irritate negatively influencing consumers’ attitude toward that brand.

ASNF

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