Risa Crandall, VP–Strategy and Sales of CPG at Aki Technologies
Each and every day, I sit in meetings with clients where the discussion inevitably turns to ATL (above-the-line) and BTL (below-the-line) tactics. This distinction has been bandied about so frequently and for so long—especially in the CPG space—that it’s come to define the reality of marketing within many organizations.
Unfortunately, the divide between ATL and BTL tactics is doing a tremendous disservice to many of today’s leading brands, both in terms of forging deeper relationships with consumers and driving bottom-line impact.
The ATL and BTL distinction came about in a pre-digital world where the separation of tactics and mentalities made immensely more sense. Above-the-line mass-market branding tactics across TV, radio, and billboards served a specific awareness-building function, and below-the-line targeted marketing through direct channels was all about making the sale. But in recent years, things have gotten infinitely more complicated.
It’s time to stop talking ATL and BTL and turn our attention to a much more useful acronym: FF (full funnel). Some in the industry have proposed this concept as through-the-line (TTL), which does a nice job of highlighting the insufficiency of the previous terms.
But ultimately, what marketers really need to do is dismiss the notion of their “lines” at all and start thinking more about the true customer journey as it exists today in our digital world.
A true FF marketing plan acknowledges that the consumer is the one who is in the driver’s seat—not the brand. The consumer is engaging with content, be it mobile, social, or video. The format is incidental. What’s important for a brand is to ensure that its message is strategically placed within the right environment, with the right information, when consumers indicate they’re ready to receive it.
( Also Read: Digital Advertising 101 )
A full-funnel marketing approach is all about giving consumers options. When they engage with a brand’s message, they might be ready to “buy it now” with a click. Or they might want to add it to their shopping list and head to a physical store. More often and at a minimum, interested consumers want a way to remember a given brand when they are ready to purchase.
By developing marketing plans through a classic ATL and BTL lens, we disconnect the message to the consumer. We show them a brand story and then don’t allow the consumer to take action. Meanwhile, a true BTL plan can be too concise by superficially showcasing a brand and retailer and then ordering the shopper to “shop!”
By adopting a full-funnel approach, marketers can ensure that they brand their products while also letting ready consumers take action by buying it now or adding to a cart, calendar, or shopping list. This is how companies can truly market their brands for conversion.
A full-funnel approach enables brands to still tell beautiful brand stories, all while enabling consumers to do what they want with a frictionless, convenient, and forward-leaning approach.
It’s time to change the vernacular from ATL and BTL to FF. Each and every marketing plan today should communicate the power of a brand and then give the consumer the next step to purchase. By delivering the immediacy and convenience consumers demand, we can in turn power more efficient and successful marketing plans that deliver tremendous sales impact.