What Is the Definition of Promotional Advertising?

The definition of promotional advertising is marketing that gives customers incentives to buy. All advertising is about encouraging purchases, but promotional advertising urges people to do it now, before this special discount/BOGO/free shipping offer expires at midnight! Fat Guy Media says the mix of incentives with a ticking clock distinguishes promotional advertising examples from other advertising approaches.


Promotional advertising comes with a deadline: Buy this week while prices are slashed, buy while we're offering free shipping, win an iPad if you enter our contest this weekend. Done right, it's highly effective.

Promotional Advertising Examples

Promotional advertising can use the same media as other forms of ads. If you take out a newspaper ad, you can include coupons offering 10 percent off your landscaping service for first-time customers. You can also work it into TV and radio pitches; if your store is having a special sale this weekend, you'll probably want to reference that in your drive-time radio ads.

In the 21st century, digital media play a role in some types of sales promotion. Hootsuite says, for example, that you can pay to place ads in people's Instagram feeds, just as you can on Facebook or Twitter. Instagram is a visual medium, so you can use it to highlight, say, the home remodel you just completed or your store's fall collection of Italian shoes. Then you couple that with a sales promotion to encourage prompt responses. Email and text messages are among your other options.

These types of sales promotion require careful planning. Instagram ads and TV time aren't cheap, so you need to maximize the return on your investment. If you're a small, local business, for instance, local radio or a billboard might be more cost-effective than television. You have to think about your target audience and where you can reach them.

For instance, if only a fraction of your potential customers read the hard-copy newspaper, it may not be worth spending money for a print promotion. Instagram works great for promoting something with cool visuals, but not every product or service has eye-catching elements.

Types of Sales Promotion

Discounts are one of the most popular types of sales promotion, AmeriCommerce says. The promotional discount definition is that it's a price cut designed to encourage immediate purchases; Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are classic examples. Calculating the right discount can be a challenge. It has to be large enough that it draws customers but not so large it hurts your bottom line.

Free shipping and free returns are another effective tactic, particularly for Internet companies. Some businesses offering free shipping with a minimum purchase amount combine it with discounting: This week only, shipping is free at ​$20​ instead of ​$40​! Loyalty programs are a promotion targeting loyal customers: For every nine burgers you buy, you get a tenth free, or the like.

Competitions have been a promotional advertising tool for years. You announce that five of the customers who shop in your store in July will be picked at random to win a new refrigerator or a trip to an amusement park. If this sales promotion works, it should bring in lots of business, possibly more than enough to make up for the cost of the big prize.