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Caught between TiVo and the 500+ digital cable channels that are weakening their mass advertising strategy, marketers are turning more and more to sales promotions to get their sales message across.

In the last few years, the percentage of ad budgets earmarked for this sector has increased and there has been a proliferation of sales promotion companies ready to aid big-budget advertisers for an often steep, though deserved, fee.

But if you don't have the budget to hire yet another agency or would like to see your present agency or marketing team come up with cash-register-ringing promotions themselves, because no one knows the business better, where do you and your team turn?

Also, what about the countless promotional proposals that come across your desk? How do you determine which are right for you and your brand?

And most important, how do you ensure the integrity and proper targeting of your brand when developing and executing promotions?

Integration has become a key concept in marketing of late, and for good reason. How do you make sure your sales promotions communicate every aspect of your brand or product, all the time, without causing harm to either?

Too often promotions come about because a vendor, TV station, network or distributor submits a less-than-perfect promotional concept to you. You may choose to go ahead with the promotion, but only because you have nothing better in your arsenal. Sometimes, a marketing team at another company thinks their brand is a “good-fit” with yours, but no one knows how best to exploit the relationship. Other times, you get your team together for an impromptu brainstorming session that may lead to some good ideas. But are they the best?

A Matrix

I've recently developed what I call the BrandFit Matrix, a methodology that requires nothing more than a pencil and a pad of paper (or a flip chart and color marker, if you prefer). This strategy also requires at least one brain, though the more brains you can bring to the exercise the better the resulting ideas are apt to be.

Like a positioning map or SWOT Analysis, the BrandFit Matrix isn't something you buy; rather, it is a technique that helps you and your team conceptualize on-strategy sales promotion ideas.

How can the BrandFit Matrix help you and your team? Well, for starters ,the BrandFit Matrix will hopefully allow you to do the following:

  • Quickly brainstorm on-target consumer and trade promotions

  • Identify which of these promotions best meet your needs

  • Ensure that your collective promotions communicate all pertinent information

  • Delegate the task of determining whether a promotion is a win-win or a pass

  • Strengthen a weak promotion or proposal

  • Build the most strategically integrated promotion to serve your brand

Getting Started

We start with something every product and brand should have in today's marketplace: the positioning statement, or what is sometimes referred to as the unique selling proposition (USP).

Once we have the positioning statement or USP, we can quickly create winning promotions by following eight steps.

Step 1: Pinpoint the key words in the brand or product positioning statement

We'll call these the keys of the positioning statement or USP. For example: Brand X is mom's best choice in laundry detergent because it is a tougher and more powerful cleaner.

Step 2: Order and group the keys in terms of importance and likeness

          mom     laundry/clean     powerful     tough

Step 3: Identify additional meanings and double entendres

Often, the antonym of a key word can be helpful.

Here we want to make sure that we are covering all the meanings of the keys (e.g., value can mean low price, more volume, quality ingredients—or all three). This is the most important step in building our matrix, so we need to spend a lot of our time here. However, if you wrote the positioning statement to begin with, this step will likely be second nature to you.

In our example, we add only one word, an antonym:

          mom     laundry/clean     powerful     tough

Step 4: Construct a matrix and plug in the keys across the top row

Promotional concept/ideas Mom


Powerful Tough

Step 5: Brainstorm

Anyone working on the marketing of the brand or product should be involved in this step. Your mission: Concept promotions, which include all or most of the keys within the confines of the promotion.

In this step, your team has a clear objective and a tool to work with. Using standard brainstorming rules (there are no bad ideas, one idea builds off of another, etc.) you will be able to concept very targeted promotions. Don't worry about execution; that will come later. At this stage, just let the ideas flow.

Step 6: Plug in your ideas and check off each key that the idea incorporates

In this example, we will also plug in a typical major brand promotion.

Promotional Concept/ideal Mom

Laundry/clean dirty

Powerful Tough
Racecar sponsorship





County Fair Mud Wrestling Contest










We see from the example that maybe a detergent sponsoring a racecar is not the best fit. Perhaps we should leave that opportunity to a pizza delivery chain that would like to emphasize speed. On the other hand, we see the County Fair Mud Wrestling Contest hits more of our keys, but we can probably still do better.

Also, we must consider the unthinkable: What if the racecar is a directive from the CEO? We shudder at the thought, but we've all encountered this before. How do we tweak it to make it more on strategy?

Let's see what we can do.

Promotional Concepts/Ideas Mom

Laundry/clean dirty

Powerful Tough
Race car/Pit Crew Sponsorship  




County Fair Mud Wrestling





Soap Opera Dirty Villain Write-in Contest





In this example, we have made the first promotion more targeted by adding a greasy, dirty racecar pit crew to the mix. (The crew is dirty and greasy only by connotation. Most pit crews are rather clean and tidy, perhaps because they use our product).

Additionally, we've identified a contest that is fully integrated with our positioning statement. The Soap Opera Dirty Villain Write-in Contest hits all the keys of our BrandFit Matrix, thus communicating all aspects of our positioning statement within the confines of the promotion.

Step 7: Promote all keys of the positioning statement at least once a quarter

Every promotion does not have to include every key. Our forced racecar sponsorship certainly didn't. However, if we are going to move forward with the racecar, we had better design a promotion for the same quarter that incorporates our missing key, in this case something for mom. We want to make sure we communicate every key all the time.

Step 8: Refine and define your new promotions

The BrandFit Matrix has painted only the broadest brush strokes. Now you need to give your soon-to-be-award-winning targeted promotion the wings it needs to fly. You'll do this by refining the promotion and adding all its respective elements.

That's where we work out the specifics or delegate the details, make the calls, contract for the actors' guest appearances or photo shoots, secure a trip to the daytime Emmys, inquire about any pertinent insurance policies for fulfillment, and so on.

And we've only scratched the surface of the Matrix's capabilities!

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Gary Shaffer is a 15-year-plus veteran of advertising and marketing firms, including J. Walter Thompson and D’Arcy Advertising. He recently received his Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California, where he taught at the Marshall School of Business. Contact him through his Web site:

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