BTL Marketing: Must be offline, Are you sure

BTL Marketing
Why BTL Marketing has to be always Offline?

    What is a “Line” doing in marketing...??

    Just take your geometry book out & check yourself (๐Ÿ˜‰), or give your own definition, like a “line is a dot on a walk” ๐Ÿ˜‚. We all know it’s a mathematical term, but what is it doing in marketing ๐Ÿ˜ฏ
    Line is a geometrical term often used in Marketing
    What is a line doing in Marketing

    Line in marketing.???.... Well, it’s very much there…. u forgot...!!.... ABOVE-THE-LINE/THROUGH-THE-LINE/BELOW-THE-LINE…. ATL/TTL/BTL...!!...So, now we all know line is a mathematical term used in marketing...!! If “Line” is a mathematical term, then it must be very well defined…right like all other mathematical terms, so let me ask you a couple of questions
    Q1. in ATL/TTL/BTL…. why is the line required??
    Q2. In ATL/TTL/BTL…where is the line??
    Stumped...!!so was I when I first asked this question to myself. Let’s get back to the history to answer it.

    First & Foremost, to start off there was no term as TTL (Through-the-line), it’s more of “Fill-in-the-blanks”. So initially 2 terms first came together ATL & BTL, courtesy P&G. The reason, you will be surprised was not marketing-driven, but cost driven ๐Ÿ˜ฎ, although the basis for the division was marketing.

    Way back in 1954, agencies (primarily advertising agencies) were paid on the same platform whether they used mass-media or direct-marketing approach. P&G wanted to pay those two types of approaches @ a different rate & also earmark those two types of agencies differently. Hence, for the advertising agencies with mass-media they called ATL & that with a direct-marketing they called BTL. Hence the origin. This means the ATL & BTL division was primarily based on the “way marketing reached to consumers”, which till date holds good. So, anything above the line is called ATL & anything below the line is called BTL. Later, companies found alone one is not enough, they need to do both together i.e. ATL & BTL keeping the message to the target audience same…hence came the concept of IMC (Integrated marketing communication) which is also called (but less used) TTL (through the line), as it’s a mix of both ATL & BTL. So, this broadly answers the first question, why the line is required…

    Line is required primarily to distinguish between the different “way marketing reached to consumers” & accordingly design the back-end of marketing campaigns & also accordingly pay the respective type of marketing agencies.

    Now comes the second question…. where is the line…well it gets a bit tricky here๐Ÿ˜ƒ? Let’s look @ the definition to understand it…ATL refers to addressing “mass-consumers”. Over a period “mass-marketing” has been termed as “mass-media” because you address “mass-consumers” by “mass-media”. This means all media vehicles which address mass becomes ATL, hence TV, Radio, print etc. etc. becomes ATL. This change of definition due to “convenience” has created the confusion.

    Let’s go back to the basic & ask the fundamental question is what is “mass-consumer”??...for a CPG (consumer packed goods), consumer durable business “mass-consumer” is everybody as anybody can buy a soap, fan etc.

    Let’s talk about a “female fashion” brand, here “mass-consumer” is all females… right (few males may also use, but we keep them away for the time being…๐Ÿ˜œ.
    For an auto ancillary/accessory brand (auto-ancillary category like lubricant, tire, battery, spare-parts, auto-accessory like seat/steering cover etc.) “mass-consumers” is anybody who owns an automobile...!!...for a plane-making company “mass-consumer” is primarily all airlines companies/few private buyers/governments. So, the definition of “mass-consumer” changes as per business as” mass-consumer” primarily refers to the all/most of one’s consumers/probable consumers”.

    What’s ATL for one business may/mayn’t be ATL for another ๐Ÿ˜€

    For example, an exhibition/seminar for an airline company where all their customers/probable customers visit (they are small hence possible) is an ATL whereas an exhibition for a CPG business is primarily a BTL (as number of consumers that is reaches to will be handful compared to the potential large base of consumers). Now continuing with the same exhibition, it’s a platform to direct-connect with consumers, so it’s also BTL...!!So is it an ATL or a BTL?? …or since it does both, we call it TTL...?? ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

    Let’s assume the same airline company makes a TV ad, now by definition it’s an ATL…right…. but it addresses the same group of consumers which it does by exhibition...!! Hence, the definition of ATL/TTL/BTL is highly “business-type” centric & not “media-centric”. The originator, P&G being primarily a consumer goods company, the definition of “mass-consumers” refers to people @ large, which may/mayn’t be the case for all business types.

    ATL/TTL/BTL are defined by business-types as “mass-consumer” definition is different for different business-type.

    Well, the above is for conceptual clarity & doesn’t much help in practical application except may be bucketing in into different expense header for A&P (advertising & promotion) expense.
    Ever since last 15/20 years, TTL (through-the-line) has been gaining more importance than either ATL or BTL, with more contribution from BTL as companies are finding longer-lasting relationship with direct-consumer contact where they are able to convey their point-of-view to consumers in a more captive way which gets higher consumer attention.

    Why BTL has to be always offline?

    Why BTL has to be Offline.. Its a source to connect to customer which may not be Offline always
    Why BTL has to be Offline.. Its a source to connect to customer which may not be Offline always

    BTL which is Direct-consumer contact is offline interaction with consumers. Here lies the catch…. why it must be offline…it must be direct interaction…. has direct got to be offline...??...this brings us to the topic of this article ๐Ÿ˜Š
    Let’s first try to understand BTL is detail to arrive @ the answer to the question…. does BTL necessarily need to be offline. The concept of BTL (Below-the-Line) has origin way before the concept of ATL. In fact, the concept of ATL happened primarily through “mass-marketing”/“mass-production”/“mass-distribution” in late 1860’s. BTL has been the source of connect with the customer way before ATL has arrived, probably as early as business started taking shape, although BTL in those day mayn’t be in the same form as today’s highly organized & professional BTL.

    Types of BTL?

    The BTL which companies/brands do, can be broadly divided into 2 types namely:

    • Regular Calendar BTL: Those are planned BTL’s which happen @ a regular frequency over the entire year for example, dealer/influencer/consumer meets etc.
    • Campaign BTL: Those are marketing/sales campaign specific & hence the scale & scope of the BTL completely depends on the objective & budget of the campaign.
    Let’s discuss both the categories separately

    Regular calendar BTL

    This is the core of BTL program for corporates. In-fact this was the one which defined BTL initially. The target groups for those BTL’s are generally the direct stake-holders with whom the company/brand need to interact on a periodic basis like trade partners, vendors, certain consumer groups, employees etc. etc. Since the interactions with those groups happen on a regular basis, hence the company/brand touch base with structured program whose name is coined generally based on the target group—for example if it’s trade partners it’s generally called distributor/dealer/influencer(like painter, electrician, architects, mechanics, interior-designers, fashion-designers etc) meet, if it’s consumers it’s generally called consumer meets etc. Bigger brands have made this entire “Regular BTL” as a part of their calendar, so it’s planned well in advance sometimes even for the entire year. Hence, budgets are also allocated accordingly for the entire year.

    More important point is something else ๐Ÿ˜ฏ …the objective with which the “Regular calendar BTL” was defined to what it is today is a complete different ball-game. Initial days, company/brand used to have those “Regular calendar BTL” to debrief important developments in the company to the stakeholders. Hence, product-launches, new technology updates, important policy changes etc. were the main agenda for the “Regular calendar BTL”.

    With time, company/brand found this route of “Regular calendar BTL” a highly effective tool to communicate the right point to important stakeholders. Furthermore, since it was direct face-to-face, hence chances of misinterpretations of message by the stakeholders were also very less. As competition intensified, started the rat-race…. now companies started to do more of the “Regular calendar BTL” to stay competitive.

    But, the updates/developments in the company/brand which was communicated through this medium, didn’t grow as rapidly as the number of BTL’s. Result, the company/brand had lesser-lesser-lesser things to communicate through those BTL’s…. but…. they kept on increasing the numbers of the “Regular calendar BTL” to stay ahead of the competition. Now, they had to find some reason apart from sharing updates/developments to keep going with the BTL….so they found one…” Relationship Building” ……few gave it some other name “Networking” ...๐Ÿ˜

    The prime objective of “Regular Calendar BTL”

    Prime Objective of Regular Calendar BTL was to share updates... But today it's only relationship building
    Prime Objective of Regular Calendar BTL was to share updates... But today it's only relationship building

    The prime objective of “Regular Calendar BTL”, based on which it was conceptualized, was for the company/brand to share important updates with the relevant stakeholder. Over a period “Relationship Building”/ “Networking” has gained more importance over the main objective.

    Why am I laughing???...because the 95% of the company representative who participate in those “Regular Calendar BTL” are the ones who interact the maximum with those stakeholders of the BTL throughout the year….I really don’t understand if I am not able to “Build Relationship” /“Network” with them through-out the year, how do I achieve the same in few Meets??๐Ÿ˜›๐Ÿ˜ฒ

    I am not saying “Relationship building” / “Networking” can’t be one of the objectives, I am only saying it can’t be the only/main objective.

    Challenges in Regular Calendar BTL for brands

    Understand it from the stakeholder’s perspective…say a dealer/retailer. Earlier, there were very few Dealer Meets, so he would wait for it to get updates from the company about new developments, prepare for it to clear his/her questions with the company/brand. Now, the same retailer receives 2/3 invitations for “Retailer Meet” in one month…sometimes it’s 7/8 also ๐Ÿ˜ฑ ...because all competing brand/company are calling him/her for the meet as he/she is a key retailer in the market.
    Every meet is the same old bla…bla….bla presentation by the company….with very little newness/new things to tell. To make it more fun-filled for the dealer…. brands…. again, to stay competitive…. have introduced other peripheral things like dj/dance/cocktails etc.

    For the retailer the “Regular Calendar BTL” is primarily an evening with music & drinks & few boring /monotonous presentations…with very little/no value-add in terms of business gains.

    Hence, now the retailer decides which meet to go & which ones to say no….so he/she smartly manages the entire situation so that he/she go to @least one meet of every big brand, to maintain his relationship with the company/brand…. the result….

    Companies/brands now must persuade/sometimes plead key retailers to attend the retailer meet, although the spends in those meets are continuously going up with each passing day.

    So, in a nut shell, the numbers of “Regular Calendar BTL” going up steadily and along with the cost to conduct such meets. The value it delivers is diminishing continuously with the target audience slowly but continuously loosing interest in those meets. Hence, it’s more of a retention strategy than a growth strategy

    “Regular Calendar BTL” are fast becoming a hygiene factor in the industry with less & less business value for its stakeholders. Hence “Regular Calendar BTL”as a tool is fast moving towards a “Retention Strategy” than a “Growth Strategy”.

    Ok, so what’s the solution...??.... should we stop doing it...!!No we shouldn’t. Why...???...because it still is a very effective tool to communicate with your stakeholder. Then what should we do??...We need to look @ adding other methods of BTL keeping the final objective same...!!๐Ÿ˜œ

    How to make BTL more effective tool to communicate?
    In any “Regular Calendar BTL” meet, the profile of stakeholders varies hugely, and hence their requirements/expectations from the business. For example, retailers of different sizes & profiles are present in a retailer meet even if we do separate meets for A grade retailers. (generally, A grade refers to the best-retailers among the overall dealers a company/brand deal with). One of the big reasons for the decreasing value-addition of the meets is company/brand does a “fit-for-all” meet, hence many participants lose their interest in those meets.

    Wait a sec…. are we trying to say that we do retailer meet as per individual retailer requirements? Yes, that’s what I am trying to say. @least if not individual retailer requirement, then meets catering to a group of retailers with similar requirements...!!.... How is it possible…how do we do it??

    Companies/ brands have already categorized retailers into A/B/C categories, I am just going a couple of steps deeper into it. For every category, for example A grade retailers, further sub-divide into smaller groups based on their profile & where the company wants to see them within a given time-period, may be within a year. Once the grouping is done, identify all those things that the retailer needs & enlist all that the company wants to share with them.

    Since the proposition is generally different, in terms of what the company expects from different sets of retailers based on the classification of A/B/C, hence accordingly device online modules which addresses that group. This digitization will ensure the following:

    • Retailer can access it based on their convenience……no it’s not endless time that the retailer gets to access…it’s well defined time-period by the company, with incentives to start off. If the content is something which the retailer relates to, it’s a matter of time it becomes a habit… ๐Ÿ˜ƒ. Keep it interactive, as ownership increases…&…most importantly plz plz plz plz…. incorporate the good inputs which comes from the retailer or any participant and give credits for the same to the concerned stakeholder. It’s just a matter of time when invaluable inputs start pouring in….as self-esteem is the biggest esteem of human-kind ๐Ÿ‘
    • This should be the part of the regular BTL calendar…. with face-to-face interactions only few times where senior management also participates and not just only those company representatives where 90% of the group deal maximum times with the retailer on a day-to-day basis.

    Digitization of Campaign BTL
    Digitization of Campaign BTL

    A large chunk of the regular BTL module can be digitized which will make the entire marketing and sales effort simple to implement and apt for the retailer, thus increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the regular BTL calendar output.

    An extrapolation of the same module can also be used for “new retailers” and “existing ones” to move up the categories of A/B/C, as all retailers would like to be in the grade A of the company. The pre-requisite for this is a clearly defined road-map…which is transparent….or @lest transparent to maximum extent….where the retailer knows how they move across the ladder to category A. Retailer here is just an example, it can be easily applied to any stakeholder like consumer, distributor etc who are the target audience for any regular BTL.

    Whatever we discussed till now can be extrapolated to maximum of the different types of stakeholders including consumers. The consumers in cases of regular calendar BTL are addressed through the trade only for example service camps for automobiles or wet tasting in case of product launches for fmcg. The point here to note is, cases like this has to be face-to-face hence needn’t be tempered. But in the case of Campaign BTL the story can be different.

    Certain cases of consumer regular BTL like service camps for automobiles and wet testing for product launches in case of FMCG need to continue with the offline mode as followed now.

    Campaign BTL

    In case of campaign BTL, current digitization is primarily in the case of campaign promotion, registration, feedback etc. A lot of the activities which are performed in the actual event can be digitized which the consumer or stakeholder needs to complete online. This helps two ways……1st more engaging things can be done offline and 2nd this action-oriented module pre-offline campaign acts as a good promotion tools which is more engaging as consumers must act on it instead of pain vanilla promotion ๐Ÿ˜Š. Let’s take a simple example of a product launch where the brand plans to do an RWA on a Sunday. Maximum of the games/ contests etc that are done offline in the BTL can be part of the registration process for the consumers to complete and come for the offline event. For example, in the offline case, you may like the consumers to have a look @ the product feature and performance. Move it online…. let them guess and start taking part in the campaign way before the campaign actually hit offline. This way the number of consumers will also increase and added features in the online part like incentive on getting one more consumer will only add to the overall numbers.  Then in the offline version, simulate the situation the consumer would go through in the actual purchase process. That will make the campaign BTL more effective and contribute directly to revenue. ๐Ÿ‘. Which part to be digitized needs deliberation form the team and there are no general rules for the same. The rule is, digitation will defiantly help in increasing the campaign BTL far more effective.

    Campaign BTL digitization can move from mere promotion, registration and feedback to interaction online. A lot of current offline engagement with consumers can be done online as pre-cursor to the offline part. The offline should ideally be left to a real time simulation of the actual buying process of the consumers.

    BTL will continue to stay as it’s an integral part of brand-stakeholder interaction. Like all components of business is changing rapidly, it’s high time for the brands to relook at their BTL strategy to stay relevant to their most important group…. the stakeholders of the brand. Hope to see you soon in any BTL…the new-age BTL.๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ‘

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