How to make the marketing budget difference irrelevant

Of course, it is always easier to increase the notoriety of the brand by spending big amounts of money, just as it is always easier to “sell” for free or to report higher profitability by eliminating all the costs and keeping the income.  Unfortunately, none of the situations above is possible that often.

A lot of time, marketing directors invoke the lack of resources comparing the promotion budget with that of the highest competitor. The budget difference may be neutralized by efficiently choosing a promotion method and the promotion mediums.


The biggest part of the marketing budget is spent on the ATL promotion: TV, paneling, radio, written press.  The general perception is that the commercial will reach a large number of persons, that the television generates brands and facilitates the “first meeting” between the product and the consumer. In order to ensure that the ATL investment is efficient, what we firstly need is not to choose the channel or the budget decision, but an analysis of the notoriety of the brand in relation with the competitors.


In case of ATL, we generally have one of the following situations: 


On any market, there is a single company about which you can say that it has the biggest promotion budget and there is a good change you are not part of this category. This means that you have an aggressive competition, with a superior budget.


Thus, you have three solutions available:


  1. you abandon the hope of increasing the notoriety of the brand;
  2. you find through an unprecedented miracle an enormous ATL budget;
  3. you communicate efficiently, choosing your own battles;


If you opted for solution no 3, you certainly understood that using the entire marketing budget, already small, for ATL, will highlight in the eyes of the potential clients the image of the “mouse” in front of the “elephant”, which represents the big competitor. In this situation, it is time to become creative!


Replacing ATL with BTL became a successful practice for two reasons:

The emotional impact may be a lot bigger than in ATL, and as a consequence, the connection with the brands lasts more. A well-done BTL campaign leads to the “word-to-mouth” effect. Thanks to the social media networks, the number of persons exposed to the campaign is comparable to the ATL.

My favorite BTL examples which also have an enormous emotional impact and which spread extremely fast are:


Briefly: Heineken, being a sponsor for Champions League, has organized a fake event in Milan, in which it combined the classical music with poetry. Of course, the “subjects” had no idea that this was a Heineken event. The event had the same date and time as the big Real Madrid - AC Milan game. "Accomplices”, made up of husbands, bosses, coworkers and friends of the “subjects”, passionate supporters of AC Milan, teamed up in order to bring these to the event under different pretexts, being mainly forced to do so. A few minutes after the start of the concert, this came to an end, thus starting the projection of the game and this way, exceeding the expectations of the audience.


This campaign was initially received as a profound disappointment, showing men how much football and their favorite team mean to them, then making them associate the Heineken name with an incredible and memorable experience.


It is an expensive solution, a combination of ATL - for reach (number of clients exposed to the commercial) and BTL - for the impact, but the result is extraordinary. At the end of the movie, you will also see a few statistics.



The idea, briefly: A number of supposed prostitutes, in the window of a building in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, suddenly starting a spontaneous dance. Passersby stop and start to enjoy the show, applauding. When everybody is having a good time, the shocking message comes as well.


It is enough to see the change on the faces of the people to understand the emotional impact.



In the middle of a quiet market, a big red button is placed. Once pushed, a fast succession of very short scenes is unleashed and the “life as a movie” is shown to the public. An expensive BTL campaign, but the reach is enormous:  44 million views on YouTube. How much would this cost in the TV media?!



A Coca-Cola vending machine from the cafeteria of a university is transformed into the “Happiness Machine”. The name given to this campaign says everything about its purpose: bringing happiness to the clients. The vending machine starts by giving away products of the company for free and finishes by serving pizza and a huge sandwich, thing that, besides the increased effect, proves to the clients that this is not a technical issue. The campaign was repeated in different places and in different ways, there were the “Happiness Trucks”, and a lot of clients that have heard of this campaign on social media networks started trying out different vending machines hoping to have the same experience. Probably the cheapest one of the above, high emotional impact, high reach, a true success.


What do these successful BTL stories have in common is that in none of the cases those companies did not try to sell something, but to create a strong emotional experience.


It is a very big difference between this way of doing BTL and the frequent “promoters with fliers at subway stations” method. Even if the promoters are dressed in “cute” animal costumes, even if using attractive young ladies, in 5 seconds, the people understand that something is being sold to them, and in 30 seconds, best case scenario, they will completely forget what happened, and in the worst case scenario, they will remember they were disturbed.


Another method to efficiently reach clients is the association with other brands, more precisely sponsorship, by which we target to reach the clients we have in common with the sponsored brand.


Here as well, there is the tendency to imitate the strongest competitor, even if we do not have a comparable budget and we fight with unequal forces.


Let’s take a look at a short example:


Let’s say that our biggest competitor sponsors a big football team, Steaua, for example, because football is the favorite sport among Romanian men. We will decide that we should as well sponsor a football team. Not having enough money, we will unfortunately sponsor FC Botosani and we will only highlight in the eyes of the consumer the image of the “mouse against the elephant”.


Which would be the proper choice in this case?


The correct strategy is to think about where else could we find the targeted segment of consumers, in other words, “what do men do between games?”


It is possible that we discover that they are waiting in the shoe shops for their wives. Then, sponsoring a shoe brand for women may be a solution, if accompanied by a creative message.


The size of the marketing budget is important, will make life easier or harder, but in any situation you may find yourself, the notoriety of the brand and the emotional attachment are built in the first place with creativity.

Andrei Albu

Consultant cu peste 15 de experienta in dezvoltarea strategiilor de marketing si management financiar atat pentru mari corporatii cat si pentru IMMuri pe trei continente (Europa, Asia si Australia). Absolvent al programului MBA al Grenoble Graduate School of Business.