ATL v BTL Marketing

The presence of a vast and diverse consumer market – with different aspirations, needs, methods, preferences, etc. – necessitates a vast portfolio of products that can cater to specific segments. A consequence of this is that as each segment behaves and responds differently to marketing, there has to be a different set of tactics for each product in the market. These tactics have been clubbed into three different buckets, on the basis of how the information is disseminated to the customer.

As a marketer, this poses a huge dilemma because there now exists three varying sets of tactics for my plan. The important questions are – How does one make the split between the three sets of tactics? What underlying factors contribute to the split and why?

To understand this better, let us take the example of a Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) promotional strategies for three brands of the same product line – Surf, Rin& Wheel.

Each of these products represents a different segment and consequently have warranted a different promotional strategy.

Analysis of these strategies give us some insights on the key factors influencing the split of the marketing tactics:

  • Decision Influencers – For the higher segment of customers, the decision influencers have now turned to the internet while the rural market is heavily influenced by word-of-mouth publicity. This difference in decision influencing processes implies that there is a need for a larger mass reach with ATL marketing for some brands (Surf), as opposed to a larger need for personalized selling with BTL marketing in others (Wheel)
  • Access to mass media – The target customer’s access to mass media is a key factor. Marketers realized that since a large portion of their target customers do not have frequent access to mass media, they have a larger portion of their campaign with BTL tactics. A prime example of this is a missed-call campaign floated for Wheel in 2011 which became a roaring success for the brand in UP and Bihar.2On the contrary, Surf enjoys the maximum amount of airtime amongst the three brands.
  • Product Positioning–The positioning of the product plays a large role in determining how your promotional tactics will shape up. In this example, Surf was positioned for the urbane customers who were looking for top-of-the-line products. Consequently, their innovative campaigns such as “DaagAccheHain” and “ZiddiDaag Removal” warranted a mass reach.
  • Price sensitivity – Price sensitivity is another critical consideration. In a highly cross-elastic market, there is a need to undercut on expenses at every level to stay competitive. BTL marketing typically costs lower than ATL and therefore is preferred by marketers in extremely competitive scenarios.

Rin v. Tide and Wheel v. Nirma typically sees lower ATL marketing than Surf because of the price sensitive nature of their markets

  • Stage in Life-cycle – Typically, marketers focus on ATL marketing at the nascent stages of the product life-cycle. There is a tapering off of ATL as the product matures.
  • Knowledge Disseminated to Customer– Typically, ATL marketing is required when the customer is to be educated in a new feature. An example is when Surf launched their “Bucket Wash”, a move away from the traditional scrub wash. This required a dedicated campaign to educate the customer on the benefits of this new feature.

While all these factors influence one set of tactics over another, it is important to note that simply using one set of tactics will be detrimental to the entire campaign. In our example too, Wheel has had Salman Khan as an ambassador while Surf has been creative with its roadshows. Thus, an ideal marketing decision should weigh these factors and come up with the right balance (TTL) campaign to maximise the success of the campaign.





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