Thursday 07 August, 2014

Above the Line vs. Below the Line Promotions

When discussing different types of promotions, we often use the terms above the line and below the line in marketing. These are advertising techniques that companies use to sell their products.

Above the Line

Above the line refers to promotions that basically try to reach a large audience, usually through the mass media. Although there is a specific target market, the message in an above the line promotion is more general and not so targeted. ATL ads may appear on television, on radio, in print or on the internet. Their purpose is to inform the customer, raise awareness and brand the company.

Below the Line

Below the line promotions are meant for a small, highly targeted group, offering a message that speaks directly to that group and only to them. BTL promotions are direct and usually involve something tangible for the customer, such as a coupon, gift, prize, sample, cash bonus, etc.

ATL and BTL Promotions Today

There’s a third type of promotion which is called through the line promotions. TTL promotions employ a bit of both ATL and BTL. This is usually considered the best approach since it harnesses the power of both types.

In fact, recently the boundaries between these types of advertising tactics are blurring. This is why many marketers no longer use these terms today. They’re not as relevant as they were pre-internet.

The internet allows you to reach a large audience without the need to spend money on mass advertising. It also gives you plenty of opportunity to reach very specifically targeted groups. BTL-type promotion is much easier to do online also because you can target your market more narrowly and get to know them better.

Inbound v. Outbound

Today, many marketers use the terms inbound and outbound rather than ATL and BTL to describe their marketing efforts. Outbound marketing means proactively going out and getting customers. Outbound methods include direct sales, cold calling, ad campaigns, etc.

Inbound refers to the passive approach of creating content and letting customers come to do. This is done through search engine optimization and quality content. Most types of online marketing such as content marketing or social media marketing are considered inbound.

The advantage of outbound is that it’s proactive and can yield quite dramatic results. However it’s costly in terms of financial resources, time and labor. It’s also harder to do effectively these days when people are so inundated with promotional messages.

Inbound is easier and cheaper, and it’s an approach that’s better suited to the internet world. People are looking for information online and you’re providing that information. However, as a more passive approach, it doesn’t always produce results. If you do only inbound marketing, it’s a bit like setting up shop and then waiting for customers to drift in.

Which is Better?

Of course, the ideal approach is to use both inbound and outbound marketing. Outbound marketing spreads your message to the masses and brings leads to you. But inbound marketing, in the form of your excellent content and great offers, is what keeps them interested.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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