What is Above the Line and Below the Line Marketing?

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As the influential power of marketing over modern consumers continues to grow, it is vital for you, as a business owner, to carefully and progressively evaluate the components and composition of your promotion and communication plans.

Indeed, an overwhelming number of marketing techniques are available for your company to leverage in your quest to expand your customer base, grow your sales, and fulfil your business objectives.

These strategies can predominantly be separated into two distinctive categories: above the line, and below the line marketing.

What is Above the Line Marketing?

This term refers to marketing methods and activities that broadly raise awareness of a business to a wide-reaching, non-targeted audience.

The main objective of above the line (ATL) is to promote your enterprise to mass audiences, thereby recruiting new consumers, as well as building valuable brand recognition among the relevant market.

You can gain this vast visibility through ATL offline tactics such as television advertisements, radio promotions, billboard advertisements, and print media advertisements, either placed in newspapers and magazines or distributed through promotional flyers.

To complement these delivery methods, the content utilised in these marketing campaigns should focus on sharing your organisation’s mission statement, brand values, competitive differentiation and product portfolio.

Why Choose ATL?

The implementation of well-planned ATL marketing offers many unique benefits that you should take into consideration. 

For example, ATL is instrumental in driving lasting awareness and developing strong brand recognition among consumers due to the prominent delivery and placement of the marketing content. Such a result will undoubtedly be valuable to any new business, seeking to cement its introduction to the market in the mind of potential buyers, as well as an existing organisation that aims to broaden the awareness of, and demand for, its products, services, and customer experience.

Furthermore, ATL promotion brings about high market penetration rates, meaning that many of the consumers exposed to your promotional material will go on to make buying decisions as a result of that interaction. Indeed, penetration rates from ATL tend to be higher compared to those obtained through other forms of advertising, due mainly to the broad reach of this mass marketing. This outcome – to successfully sell products to shoppers – is, after all, the ultimate goal of any promotion strategy.

This proves the strength and value of ATL marketing, which endures even in the current digital age, and which sees most novice marketers and small business owners turn their attention solely to developing and executing targeted online marketing tactics.

Disadvantages of Mass Marketing ATL

Despite the many benefits of investing in ATL promotion, there are also several drawbacks to this marketing model. 

For a start, offline mass marketing tends to be significantly more expensive than online promotion, with a single advert on a popular mass medium such as television potentially costing millions. This puts restrictions on your advert placement and duration and requires the use of tactics that will fit into your available budget.

The nature of this form of marketing also means that data regarding consumer actions taken following advertisement encounters is somewhat limited. Reports regarding the potential viewership of a television or cinema advert, estimated civilian footfall around an outdoor billboard, and print ad publication readership is available; however, these do not reveal any insight into consumer behaviour and preferences.

These limitations can also make it challenging for you to assess the direct ROI of the ad spend and, therefore, make decisions regarding marketing budget re-investment and long-term strategies ill-informed.

What is Below the Line Marketing?

In contrast to ATL, below the line (BTL) marketing is defined as the highly targeted promotion strategy that is personalised to particular, pre-determined audience groups, through nontraditional channels.

This form of marketing aims to foster close relationships with existing and prospective consumers and forge emotional connections that can more directly drive buyer perceptions and decisions.

BTL tactics include direct email marketing, telemarketing, search engine marketing, and industry trade shows. 

To further support these methods, you and your marketing team should identify your key buyer personas and create content customised to appeal to these consumer groups. Relevant data is of great use here, allowing your business to understand better the types of content that will garner the most significant interest from your chosen audiences.

Advantages of BTL Promotion

BTL offers many advantages that ATL simply does not. The targeted nature of these tactics is known to succeed in creating stronger bonds between brands and their consumers, due primarily to the audience engagement with marketing campaigns and activities executed through BTL. The emotional response of buyers lends itself to ongoing customer loyalty and the development of a positive community around a business, which is known to hold great value for any company.

These delivery methods are also far more economical than ATL marketing. While radio and billboard ads can cost thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – digitally based BTL strategies can be funded with much smaller budgets. The campaigns’ cost, duration, placement and details can also be promptly altered or terminated at any point during their execution – yet another benefit exclusive to BTL.

In addition, BTL marketing methods allow for highly detailed metrics to be captured and reviewed, making it simple to assess the success of the campaigns. For instance, email marketing and promoted search engine optimisation clearly indicate a viewer’s engagement to, and actions following, that content. 

This precise measure of ROI then supports your decision-making process in allocating future marketing budgets and improving long-term strategies.

Disadvantages of Targeted BTL

The planning and implementation of BTL marketing can often be more involved than ATL, requiring particular data to support customer targeting, as well as a dedicated team to launch and monitor these campaigns. 

You must have an existing understanding of the platforms and tools used to launch BTL activities – or undergo further training – as well as possess in-depth knowledge of your company’s customer base to support content creation and advert positioning.

Should your in-house marketing team be unable to tackle these details, you may need to hire a marketing agency to handle them instead, adding a further cost to the initially planned ad spend.

Through the Line Marketing

Several marketing and advertising approaches do not fall entirely into the categories of ATL or BLT. Often referred to as through the line (TTL), these integrated techniques aim to achieve both broad brand awareness, as well as specific conversions from audiences. 

Falling within both marketing groups, these strategies are also important for business owners to consider, and to evaluate the impact they may have on achieving your wider marketing objectives.

TTL marketing can include integrated digital marketing campaigns, social media marketing, and broad, mass email marketing.

Which is Best?

Equipped with the knowledge of the impact of, and opportunities around, these three marketing approaches, you should undertake a thorough evaluation of your goals, and decide how to distribute your budget among them. 

Rather than focusing on one approach alone, you can gain spectacular results by combining all three, accomplishing particular engagement objectives while also reaching a larger audience, and periodically targeting consumer groups for more specific results.

Factors that play a role in deciding the correct weight to place on ATL, BTL and TTL marketing include the size of your budget – particularly if you are a small business with limited funding – as well as in-house marketing headcounts, available resources, and business objectives.

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Your organisation should leverage a combination of above, below and through the line marketing to fulfil your promotion strategies, and ultimately achieve your goals. After all, leveraging offline, mass marketing techniques for broad awareness and demand generation, alongside more targeted, engaging digital communication and consumer event activities can certainly yield impressive ROI results for any company.

What are your thoughts on ATL, BTL and TTL marketing? Was this article helpful? Let us know your views in the comment section below.