Push and Pull Strategies
Push and pull strategies have two distinct strategic focuses. Pull strategies focus on building a demand in consumer markets and trying to pull this demand from the markets to places of consumption, while push strategies focus on pushing the product out to the distribution channel members so that they can pass it to the consumers. Each promotion-mix element has a different level of impact on distribution channel members and consumers as regards push and pull effects.
If a manufacturer uses personal selling and sales promotions to create product awareness and encourage channel members to stock the product, that strategy can be defined as push. Distribution channel members are at the center of push strategies, whereas it is consumers who are at the center of pull strategies such as media advertising and public relations which are designed to develop consumer awareness. In a pull strategy, the manufacturer’s goal is to generate market demand so that consumers enter retail stores with some level of product/brand awareness already in mind, whereas in push strategy the goal is to change consumers’ previously generated preferences within the retail store (see Fig. 6.14).
As discussed in the previous chapter, top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) can be created through major media advertising campaigns. By creating TOMA in the minds of consumers, companies hope to change their preferences before they enter the retail outlet. The objective is to create awareness of the manufacturer’s brand even though the consumer is not planning to purchase the advertised item at any particular point in time. If TOMA opens the door to the advertised product, the next stage is, then, to develop a brand preference and loyalty so that the consumer continues to come to the store or buy the product whenever it is available. Successful pull strategies therefore depend on the ability to create TOMA and later preferred habitual behaviors through media advertising and public relations campaigns.
Fig. 6.14 Push and pull
Although consumers generally make decisions before entering retail stores and have some level of TOMA, their preferences can be changed inside the retail store under the influence of available brands where instore merchandising support has already been achieved through intensive personal selling and sales promotion efforts focusing on distribution channel members (mostly retailers). Thus, the brand awareness is created through PBA (push-based awareness) strategies (see Chapter 5). For consumers who have never seen or heard of the product before the point of purchase, the sheer availability of unknown products supported by in-store merchandising might create PBA and stimulate brandswitching decisions (Kucuk 2008). The most effective strategy can be to synchronize push and pull strategies so that both TOMA and PBA reach their highest level of effectiveness.
Whether brand awareness is created through TOMA or PBA, companies need to focus on how to convert it into brand preference and then loyalty. Brand awareness is the first building block of brand preference, brand loyalty, and finally brand equity. TOMA and PBA are the major antecedents and components of brand preference, as not every consumer that will eventually prefer the brand in the long run is already aware of it. Conventionally, it is assumed that there is a linear (or one-on-one) relationship between brand awareness and brand preference. If a company has
Fig. 6.15 Brand awareness and preference model
Source: Wirthwein (2008) x amount of brand awareness in the market, it should have the same amount of consumer preferences. This notion is perhaps more realistic for frequently purchased products or impulse buys. However, recent updated models indicate that awareness and preference relationship should follow an S-curve, as shown on the right in Fig. 6.15. The updated model indicates that companies need to maximize their awareness so that they can achieve the desired level of brand preferences.
Wirthwein (2008) argues that the brand must, at least initially, reach a fair level of brand awareness in order eventually to achieve a modest level of preference. According to the author, a company needs to reach 70% awareness before preference reaches 25% (Wirthwein 2008: 73). He believes that this is the point where preference can really take off. Figure 6.15 shows that above 90% awareness level, preference reaches even higher levels.