Last Updated: November 25, 2020

In 2008, a clothing company called Fabriko wanted to expand the number of online retailers who carried their products. The company specialized in eco-friendly clothing in a time when terms like “green” and “sustainable” were just gaining steam in the public consciousness. Fabriko had a challenge: How can an eco-friendly clothing company make a name for itself in the crowded Internet marketplace?

Fabriko decided to target customers who, like many sustainability-minded people, are less likely to buy products that have too much disposable packaging that would create litter and waste.

The company made a special offer to retailers, shipping their products in a tote bag that could easily be converted into a lightweight sling bag for everyday use. This unique shipping method demonstrated Fabriko’s ingenuity as well as its dedication to sustainability. After only one month of this promotional campaign, Fabriko received 28 inquiries from potential clients and acquired two additional online retailers.

What is promotional marketing?

Promotional marketing is the use of any special offer intended to raise a customer’s interest and influence a purchase, and to make a particular product or company stand out among its competitors.

People Remember Promotions

Promotional marketing not only encourages sales of a particular product, it also increases the likelihood that customers will remember specific details about the company. Recent data from the Promotional Products Association found that 76% of people who own promotional materials remember details about the promotion itself, the company it promoted, and even special contact info like phone numbers and email addresses tied to the promotional campaign.

Promotional materials can exist as a part of direct marketing, like mail or email materials that include coupons (See also Direct Marketing). They can also include contests that encourage participation with a company, or product samples that offer something free to customers to generate their interest in the product. Promotions are also common during live interactions between customers and salespeople, encouraging the purchase of additional products.

Ultimately, the goal of any promotional marketing campaign is to raise awareness about a product or increase its appeal. Promotional marketing has the advantage of being valuable to both new customers and existing customers — it offers new customers a reason to try the product for the first time, while building loyalty in existing customers.

Who uses promotional marketing?

Any company that can offer its customers some additional benefit on top of their normal purchase can use promotional marketing techniques.

Retail and service providers that operate out of storefronts use promotional marketing strategies to increase the amount of business they receive. Consider a TV commercial for a pizza restaurant that advertises a lunch deal offering a free drink with the purchase of two slices of pizza. The promotion calls attention to the “extra” element of the free drink, which the restaurant owners hope will encourage people to visit their restaurant who otherwise wouldn’t.

Other businesses that want to increase sales of products that are harder to sell individually use what is known as point-of-sale promotions to make other products more appealing to customers who have already purchased something (See also Point of Sale Marketing). If, for instance, a cell phone store wanted to make peripheral items like headsets and car chargers more appealing, the store could offer a promotion that gives customers a discount if they purchase those peripherals on the same day when they purchase their phones. Since the store’s customers have already committed to a larger purchase (the phone), they are more likely than other potential customers to be interested in buying phone-related peripherals. The discount forces the phone-buying customers to imagine having to pay full price at a later time for the same product.

Companies that market to other businesses also benefit from promotional marketing. As in the previously mentioned case of Fabriko and its eco-friendly shipping methods, the company made itself stand out among other clothing manufacturers by providing something extra and memorable to its clients. A business-to-business promotion can also be as simple as offering a discount to clients to build brand loyalty, encourage a sale, or give the client the opportunity to pass the savings on to their own customers.

Now Board(gaming) Your Disney Cruise

Disney is already famous for its luxurious but family-friendly cruises. To stay on top of this market in a world where customers are increasingly interested in online, interactive experiences, Disney worked with a company called Prizelogic to create a promotional game that tied into a cruise-related contest. The boardgame-style promotion, part of the Magical Cruise Adventure Sweepstakes (link:, not only offered players the chance to win a cruise, it also encouraged repeat visits to the cruise line website and increased awareness about the amenities on Disney’s ships. Players could win in-game upgrades that corresponded with real amenities on Disney cruise lines. This campaign brought eight times as many participants to the Magical Cruise Adventure Sweepstakes and increased site traffic by 300 percent.

Using promotional marketing strategies

Promotional marketing campaigns should always keep a particular purpose in mind. Some promotions exist to bring new customers to a company, while others focus on ensuring repeat business from existing customers. Regardless of who the target is, a company should have a clear goal that it can measure before starting a new promotional campaign.

Companies must first determine their target customers and how best to reach them. Different kinds of customers respond well to different kinds of promotions. Perhaps a company’s average customer is likely to use a coupon, or maybe an in-store promotion would be more effective.

Keeping Your Promotion Legal

There are several state and federal laws governing what constitutes a legal promotion. Any company interested in promotional marketing should know the following.

  • It is illegal in the United States to increase the price of a product to compensate for the cost of a promotional item referred to as “free.”
  • It is illegal in the United States to charge a fee to enter a contest or sweepstakes, which is why we often hear the phrase “no purchase necessary.”
  • Some states have laws limiting or prohibiting promotions that involve alcohol, tobacco, or any other controlled substance.

In the example we explored about the pizza restaurant, they decided to begin an in-store promotion for a lunch special. The campaign has two major components: first, the restaurant offers a promotion in the form of a free product (a drink) contingent on the purchase of something else (two slices of pizza). The restaurant chose this promotion because it believes that customers are concerned with getting the most for their money.

A promotion isn’t effective if the public does not know about it, so the restaurant must also include information about the special offer in advertising materials. The ad materials, whether displayed in TV commercials or direct mail items, increase awareness about the deal. At the same time, the promotion makes the ad’s content more interesting, convincing more viewers to engage in the advertisment.

At the end of the promotion, the company should evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign. Did it increase the customer base? If so, by how much? Was the cost of the campaign worth the business it generated? With the data gathered during the promotional campaign, the company can learn more about what its customers want and how to improve the use of promotions in future campaigns.

Careers in promotional marketing

Promotional marketing intersects with many different careers, including those that center around creative work, sales, public relations, and many others.

Sales Associate

What do they do?

Promotional Marketing Salaries

  • Salesperson
    Starting: $44,000
    Median: $47,500
    Top Earners: $64,600
  • Public Relations Representative
    Starting: $34,000
    Median: $46,000
    Top Earners: $55,000
  • Copywriter
    Junior: $28,000
    Senior: $55,200
    Top Earners: $109,000


People who work in the sales department of a company often have the opportunity to offer promotional specials to customers. This can mean informing customers of promotions at the time of a sale, or reaching out to customers and clients to encourage a new purchase. Sales associates need to be very comfortable communicating with many different kinds of people, and they need to be able to understand what makes the products they sell appealing to others. Salespeople work closely with other marketing professionals to learn the message behind a product and who its customers are.

Education and Skills

Sales associates should have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, or psychology. It is also very helpful to have a background in retail, the service industry, or any other position that requires frequent interaction with customers.

Public Relations Representative

What do they do?

Promotional marketing isn’t just about products and revenue streams; it’s about connecting a company with customers. Promotional campaigns can benefit from a public relations professional who understands how to talk to people and knows how to maintain the best image of the company. Public relations experts can help sales staff improve their communication skills with customers, aid a marketing team in promoting a brand, and make sure a company is sharing the right information with customers.

Education and Skills

Public relations representatives should have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, public relations, psychology, or business. For this career, it is important to cultivate strong written and verbal communication skills, as well as the ability to teach skills to other professionals. Past work in sales or any job that involved a lot of interaction with people is valuable.


What do they do?

Copywriters are responsible for the creation of a company’s advertising materials, which includes promotional information. A copywriter will craft the wording of any coupons, commercials, direct mail, or any other items meant to share information with customers. This position naturally requires excellent writing skills, but it also benefits from a good understanding of a company’s customers to create effective communication materials.

Education and Skills

Copywriters should have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, English, communications, or psychology. There are many entry-level opportunities for copywriters, but any position is likely to require a portfolio of work samples to demonstrate writing ability.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Promotional strategies are a major aspect of most marketing education programs. Marketing classes create professionals who have firm foundations in finance, design, branding, and customer relations that are vital to any successful promotional campaign.

Many marketing programs are based around a set of core classes that explore fundamental principles of business. This includes classes in corporate finance, business analytics, and customer relations. Students will learn to work with important business software like Adobe InDesign for visual presentations, SalesForce customer management tools, and advanced applications of Microsoft Office Suite programs.

Marketing courses at higher levels will include an array of hands-on experiences and case studies that bring the principles of the core classes into real-world settings. Students interested in promotional strategies will examine examples of successful promotional campaigns from real companies and even develop their own simulated marketing plans, including original promotional materials.

The graduates of good marketing programs emerge into the field with valuable experience and credentials that make them more attractive to employers. It is not only an excellent item to have on a resume, it’s an education that teaches aspiring marketing professionals how to excel in the positions that will fill that resume in the years to come.