Alicia Beachley takes event planners through the often confusing world of promotional marketing.


Promotional marketing, brand activation, experiential marketing. Are they all the same, or different disciplines that form part of below the line marketing?

It gets confusing, especially for clients that are not familiar with the terms we (as agencies) refer to ourselves as.Over the past few years, sales promotion agencies have morphed into promotional marketing agencies, and more recently, they have extended their offering to include experiential marketing, digital and shopper marketing.

Brand Activation Agency is the current ‘banner’ term that describes most effectively what we do, defines the work that we produce and really integrates the whole shopper experience. Essentially, we are integrated below the line agencies that specialise in facilitating consumer action as a result of the campaigns that we create.

Our campaigns were once more tactical, however, they too have morphed to be more strategic and aligned with the overall brand objectives and goals. As agencies we are increasingly seen as integral parts of the marketing team as opposed to ‘add ons’ to a campaign, or something to spend a bit of spare marketing budget on.
By definition, the Australasian Promotional Marketing Association (APMA) uses the following definition on its site. As member agencies we operate within a code of conduct that helps to set the guidelines for the work we do.

Promotional and Experiential Marketing

Promotional and Experiential Marketing are now well recognised as invaluable components of the total marketing mix. Consequently, a diverse range of market sectors are using Promotional and Experiential Marketing to build their businesses. Everything from FMCG companies, to airlines, retailers, service companies, financial institutions and even the media are running Promotional and Experiential Marketing campaigns to convert consumer attention into interest, desire and ultimately purchase!

Promotional and Experiential Marketing are still essentially tactical tools in the marketer’s armoury, but when devised and implemented well, they can play key roles in strategically building a brand and positively impacting its long term future rather than merely generating a short-term sales spike.
So whilst Promotional and Experiential Marketing ultimately generate significant, measurable sales volume increases, they are also being used both tactically and strategically to:

  • Generate brand awareness and trial
  • Generate brand switching
  • Generate brand loyalty
  • Generate impulse purchase
  • Assist in establishing brand image/positioning
  • Build long-term brand equity
  • Give consumers a brand experience

What we are and how the clients are engaging us, depend on the client /agency relationship. We can do our best strategic thinking if we are considered as part of the team and it is then that we can add the most value to campaigns, creating opportunities previously unthought-of. The more we get to know and work with the brand, the more we can align work to achieve brand objectives.
In fact, many marketers are now shifting the focus of the above the line funds and are increasingly looking at the value of Brand Activation campaigns. Put simply, these campaigns get consumers to act and they can be easily measured, achieving objectives, delivering tangible results and return on investment. It is surprising what can be achieved on a small budget, so much so that APMA through its industry awards, the Star Awards, has two categories that recognise best practice in this area.

As well as the increased interest from marketers, Brand Activation is expanding its footprint by straying outside of the traditional territory of FMCG and Liquor with its principles now being applied to non-traditional areas such as retail, IT and service providers.
A few years ago, agencies large and small were offering Promotional Marketing and many other below the line disciplines as part of their skill set. It was at this time that a number of large ‘one-stop-shops’ were created. More recently, we have seen a trend for smaller agencies with a specific skill base offering customised and strategic advice and programs while staying true to their core business.
Clients want to work with specialists in their field and develop a deeper agency client relationship. This is when you see the best practice work being produced and it just gets better over time.

There are many agencies that specialise in Promotional Marketing, Sales Promotion, Experiential, or Brand Activation, and if you are looking to create campaigns that drive consumer action, my advice is to work with those agencies as they have the experience and skills to deliver on your brand objectives. m