Heard the term but have no idea what it means? Chances are, you have been mass-marketed to…many times! If you are connected to your world through radio, tv, or newspapers, many of the ads you see are examples of mass marketing.
Mass marketing is a strategy of marketing to a large group of people at once. Products are typically those that appeal to a broad market, and the aim is to increase sales through increased exposure to the product.
It makes sense, but you need some concrete examples of how mass marketing is done, when, and whom? We’ll have a look at all that, and some of the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy, as well as some of the alternative strategies that could be used instead.
How does mass marketing work?
Mass marketing is a strategy that really describes the audience that something is being marketed to – the masses. Instead of dividing the market up (called segmenting) or specifically marketing to specific subgroups, the marketers decide to aim their campaign at as many people as possible.
This strategy is usually selected for products or services with a broad appeal or that many people use. An example of such things includes food or popular electronics, such as kettles or televisions. These are items that a large portion of a population or users of a specific media channel will purchase; almost everyone needs to buy bread or milk or a toaster.
By targeting such a wide group of people, the same strategy can be used – milk is drunk in most households. It does not need to be marketed differently to different ethnic or income groups, for example, because everyone will buy it regardless!
A mass marketing strategy is typically used by large corporations or brands owned by umbrella organizations, such as Unilever. The logic assumes that maximized exposure equals maximized sales. Having more people see and hear about the brand or product means that more people will buy it. The aim is to increase brand awareness, through which sales are increased. In doing so, prices can be kept lower.
Channels of communication
Traditionally, mass marketing is through newspapers, radio, or tv. These are the traditional channels that most of the population has access to, which will reach the most people. Full-page ads, voice ads before or after the news on the radio or TV during prime time are how organizations achieved high reach.
However, today, mass marketing is also happening through social media. Not only does social media allow companies to reach a large customer base, but they can also interact with their customers, improving customer engagement, which makes people feel like they are heard by their favorite brands. Engagement is a highly effective way of utilizing customer sentiment to improve product offerings and drive sales revenues.
Examples of mass marketing
While this may make sense in theory, let’s discuss a few examples of mass marketing, both types of products and specific brands that you may be familiar with that employ this strategy. You’ll find that even if you didn’t know precisely what mass marketing is, it’ll become more evident to you as you can relate to familiar examples of products you likely have in your own house.
- Personal hygiene products such as toothpaste or deodorant are commonly mass marketed. Think about a brand such as Colgate toothpaste or Axe deodorant for men. Colgate is aimed at everyone in a family, from the youngest to the oldest. They have different products, such as for kids or those with sensitive teeth, but by creating an association with toothpaste and oral hygiene, they will have a variety of users who then think of Colgate when they go to buy toothpaste.
- Similarly, a product such as bread or milk can be mass marketed. While these examples or more local than global, if you think of bread or milk, there are likely certain brand names that come to mind that you associate with those products. If you go to the shops looking for chips, you are likely to be drawn towards Lays or Pringles because you know those brands. How do you know them better than others? This is likely not the only brand your supermarket stocks. But because of advertising on a large scale, those brands are most familiar to you.
- Cars, furniture, food, and cleaning products are all examples of industries in which mass marketing is typically used. Whether it be online or via more traditional channels, these are products that everybody needs and are relatively homogenous in character, allowing for purchasing decisions to be determined mainly by brand associations and price. The products are fairly similar, necessities for most people and mass marketing provides a window for companies to develop emotional attachments with customers.
Let’s look at a couple of brands:
- Coca-Cola is one that most people will be familiar with. This soft drink has very general advertising campaigns. Their adverts can be seen on a number of different media channels and generally appeal to everyone from kids to young adults and older consumers, not aligning themselves obviously with one subgroup. Again, this can be seen over winter, with general winter holiday-themed adverts not specific to certain religions or cultural holidays.
- Nike is another example of a company that uses mass marketing with standardized worldwide advertising campaigns. These are inclusive of different ethnic groups, sports, and genders and promote the brand more than the product itself.
Familiarity with the brand and the message that they stand for, transmitted through these mass advertising campaigns, then bring Nike to mind when people are looking for sports-related items, which is how the company sells its goods. This way, creating an association with the brand, rather than creating campaigns to sell a specific T-shirt style, is how they create mass appeal to anyone interested in sports!
Pros and cons of mass marketing
There are always two sides to a coin. While mass marketing is a deliberate strategy used to market a product or service and hopefully considered the best strategy for that particular item, it does not mean that it comes without downsides. We’ll have a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages are of using this strategy. If considering using mass marketing, it is important to consider both the ups and downsides.
Pros of mass marketing
One of the most noticeable pros of mass marketing is the reach that it has. By aiming the advertising at such a wide audience, the brand message reaches many people. This is an excellent strategy for increasing brand recognition. Supposedly, this high level of brand awareness translates into a high volume of sales. This, in turn, leads to higher economies of scale (when companies obtain a cost advantage due to their scale of production), which helps to keep production costs lower. Lower costs of production would lead to a lower price for the product or service.
Mass marketing creates a sense of familiarity with the brand and is about building a positive brand image. In often saturated markets, the aim is to create an affinity with the brand to motivate a customer to choose one brand over another. It helps create a powerful brand image in the market and allows a company to control the associations customers have with the brand. Psychologically, both brands and industries can send strong and impactful messages to the public through mass marketing.
Cons of mass marketing
While a lower price point may sound like a good thing, there are some downsides to this marketing strategy too. It can be expensive! Advertising through multiple media channels and at such a scale can be costly and form a large portion of a company that employs this strategy’s marketing budget. The campaigns rely on reaching many people, so they need to appear in multiple places and be repeated over a period of time.
There is also the thinking that mass marketing is dead these days, as there is no such thing as a mass-market anymore. Proponents of this school of thought would argue that the market is more nuanced these days; people are more informed and more influenced by social media than mainstream advertising. The argument is that mass marketing is longer considered effective because people are different and motivated by different factors, so it can’t be said that there is just one market for a product.
Globalization and the internet
An interesting development in mass marketing is the influence of the internet and globalization, which is both a pro and a con for this strategy. With a more global market and the increased knowledge that consumers have of their alternatives, largely thanks to the internet, the market, in general, is more competitive. The same products and brands can be accessed in numerous markets globally.
This can somewhat decrease the efficacy of mass marketing strategies. There will always be alternative goods produced at lower prices locally, and the chances are that consumers will be aware of this. In addition to this, the younger generation is increasingly proud of differences, and there is a desire to be unique. This includes using different or specialized products.
On the flip side, this new, larger market can create the space for mass marketing, allowing global companies to expand their reach into new markets and produce standardized global ad campaigns. This can allow mass marketing to be taken to a new, global scale, with global business enterprises utilizing a centralized marketing function that produces one campaign for multiple markets.
There is not just one blanket approach in mass marketing, but rather, different subsets within it. Two of these include shotgun and guerilla marketing techniques. Shotgun marketing is mostly what we have described – a non-exclusive message for a large group of people transmitted over radio, tv, or the internet; traditional mass media channels. This tactic is what is generally referred to as mass marketing. It increases the odds of hitting a target (gaining a customer) in a situation when it is more challenging to narrow focus on smaller groups.
Guerilla marketing is based on guerilla warfare, a tactic used in which the critical element is surprising. This tactic in mass marketing refers to capturing the attention of a large group of people with an exciting or memorable message. This tactic engages consumers and uses online distribution methods, which helps keep the cost of the campaign down. In short, it aims to leave a strong message with a large group at a minimal cost.
What is target marketing, and when would you use it?
The other main marketing strategy, the antithesis of mass marketing, is niche or target marketing. This is when the marketer subdivides the market for the product or service they are selling and specifically aims to sell to one of these. A large group of people (the market) is segmented according to specific criteria that the marketer deems relevant to their target group.
Companies can segment markets along with various factors that range in simplicity from age, gender, culture, or geographic location to those more complex, such as income level, aspirational identity, cultural subgroups, and other less tangible factors.
An example of target marketing would be a Barbie doll. The general market for Barbie dolls would be parents of children, who are likely to buys toys. Barbie then narrows down this group to parents of girls (mostly) and girls in a specific age range.
While a more generic toy, such as colored pens for drawing, could be mass-marketed at parents with children of most ages, Barbie is specifically marketing to parents who have younger girls who like to play with dolls. So they are essentially not competing directly with colored pens or other such toys, but more specifically, with other doll manufacturers. This is a smaller, more niche market.
Now that you have an idea of the difference, you may be wondering how you would distinguish between using the two and using targeted versus mass marketing. While there are some situations where there may be exceptions, as a general rule, target marketing is used when you have a product that will not appeal to a large cross-section of the population or where there is a specific element of the product that is unique and likely to appeal to a specific group of people.
- For example, you produce deodorant, which does appeal to a large group of people, as it is something most adults with good personal hygiene practices use. However, your deodorant is aluminum-free, has only natural products, and is not an antiperspirant. This means that it will appeal to a smaller subset of people who perhaps have allergies or skin issues or want to use a natural deodorant. Because it is a smaller subset from the mass deodorant market, you would use target marketing.
- Similarly, while the market for cars is large, there are sub-categories of drivers that different car manufacturers will try to appeal to through their marketing. One manufacturer might even target different segments of people for different models of car it produces, electing for a targeted rather than mass marketing strategy.
For instance, Toyota is associated with being a more family style of car. Mercedes, a more luxury brand, and Land Rover, a more adventurous brand. These are the messages that the mass marketing campaigns of these companies have portrayed and the image that they have created in the mind of the consumer.
Mass marketing is all about scale and trying to increase brand awareness and customer engagement, assuming that this will translate into high sales, thereby enabling costs of production to be kept lower. This is an effective strategy for companies trying to reach a large market or where the product is relatively homogenous. With the online channels providing the opportunity for an even larger market, possibilities are endless.
Now that you know what mass marketing is, spot how many examples of it you can find in your day-to-day consumption of media. It’s everywhere and so effective you might not even be aware of it!