The gloomy economic outlook has seen many companies cut down their operating costs, with public relations, advertising and marketing budgets being the first casualties.
In Rwanda in addition to the economic slump, the culture of advertising is still low given the low level of competition in the various sectors in the economy though in the last one year there have been slight improvements in the banking, communication and construction sector in terms of competition.
The recent inclusion of Rwanda into the East African Community and the lifting of tariffs of goods produced in the region, means whether the local companies like it or not, they have to advertise their products in order for them not to be outcompeted by the emerging battle hardened companies from East Africa.
Due to heightened competition, companies must communicate to their customers to keep their brands visible or lose out to competitors.
This is why Rwandan companies have to rethink their marketing communication campaigns.
Cutting back a company’s communication program might hurt the visibility of its products or services. This could lead to negative customer perception.
While there is need cut costs, it does not mean that a company has to slow down on its brand building activities because there are cost effective strategies used to project a brand.
There are many vehicles to create strong brands, these include Below the line (BTL) advertising which uses little conventional methods to promote products and services. These include sales promotions, e-mail, text messages, fliers or branded merchandise.
These are cost effective compared to running advertisements on the traditional media, -broadcast and print- also referred as Above the Line Media.
Though BTL cannot reach a large audience compared to above-the-line media, an advertiser is able to engage target audiences at a more personal level. It downplays the need for communicating through the mass media and uses media that is close to target customers.
Apart from being cost effective, BTL media is a more direct means of communication often aimed at highly segmented audiences.
It is a preferred brand-building tool among manufacturers of fast moving consumer goods and other products where the buyers rely on immediate information. Below-the-line-media allows for more intimate interaction with the target audience.
Below-the-line advertising largely depends on the objective of the company, or the purpose of the campaign.
For example in the telecommunications sub-sector, a campaign to increase post-paid subscribers would be more effective using BTL media as they are few and can be effectively addressed face to face.
BTL techniques ensure high recall of the brand among consumers, especially its unique features. Companies can cut on marketing expenses like going slow on brand building and promotions some other brand positioning strategies cannot be completely avoided.
Public relations is another communication tool that companies can employ to project their brand in difficult times. To yield results however, PR has to be sustained over a long period of time.
Though an expensive and demanding affair, when well executed, PR can cost effectively help position a brand during tough times.