By: Manindra Shrestha

Do you know about ATL and BTL? What about TTL? These questions are usually followed by another question: what do you prefer between ATL and BTL? There is now an additional question too: what about DIGITAL?

Hmm…. I am very sure that my fellows from Brand Marketing are quite familiar with these questions. These questions perhaps hit closer to home for those who have gone through multiple job interviews. These seem to be some of the favorite questions for people on the other side for an interview.

During my Brand Marketing career, I have been asked these questions too; I am no exception. These are easily the top five questions in any interview. Honestly, in the beginning I was not quite familiar with the terms. I did my research and all but, what I learned was only the definition, examples, process and tackling strategies. Beyond that, I never understood their effectiveness.

What I now know is that when it comes to practically applying Marketing Communication Strategy or allocating Marketing Budget, it is not about your preference between ATL, BTL and Digital. We cannot prefer one over the other. Rather the effectiveness comes with a process of integration and harmony like the symphony of an orchestra.

Below, I will aim to walk you through the three marketing activities based on my experience and knowledge, which hopefully, my fellow friends will agree with.

ATL (Above the Line)

In general ATL is a marketing activity that is deployed around a wider target audience, usually through television, radio, or hoarding boards. ATL is most applicable when a product is directed for a broader reach. For example, a soft drink company almost always develops ATL communications to target a broad audience.

In my experiential understanding, in applying ATL, regardless of the communication media, the end consumer will only receive the brand message, be it through advertisement on TVC, via Radio Jingle, or hoarding boards. When using ATL a brand can only TELL consumers about its message and cannot make them buy it instantly. To put it in simple words, I would say that ATL tells the story or message of Brand to its consumer through advertisement.

BTL (Below the Line)

BTL implies that the advertising is going to be targeted towards potential consumers, where they are. BTL advertising communication is an adaptation of ATL communication ads and promotion strategies but with a specific target audience and tools to reach the target group, such as direct product demonstrations, sample give away and events etc.

In my understanding, with BTL the Brand has the power to reach out to its potential consumers and interact with them to help generate sales. It helps to convert potential consumers which is not only limited to product trials but goes beyond by pursuing consumers to switch instantly from a competitor’s product. In a word, BTL means to SELL.

DIGITAL

In simple terms, Digital Communication is an extended version in addition to ATL and BTL which meets the changing needs of marketing in the digital age. By and large, it connects Brands with consumers around the website with tools such as apps, SEM, SEO, social media marketing, content creation, online lead generation, online brand development and management, media campaigns, video, email marketing, mobile campaigns and ROI assessments.

Here, I would give the example of Social Media marketing, wherein the Brand’s focus should not be to create alternatives of ATL or BTL but to contribute for additional role to ATL and BTL in order to ENGAGE with the core target audience.

In simple words, the marketing communication tools

ATL = Tell

BTL = Sell

and, DIGITAL = Engage

What one needs to keep in mind is that while ATL, BTL and Digital work perfectly okay on their own, they work better together if and when they are used strategically for the betterment of the Brand. Look at it like different instruments coming together to create your favorite melody.

Manindra Shrestha

Founder & CEO, M.A.D Consultant Pvt. Ltd

The author is a professional Brand Consultant who wants to extract the brand from his experiential knowledge 

Credit: This article is based on my learning from my guru “Mr.Praveen Mukhia” which absolutely blew my mind. The whole complex approach can be simplified if you have understood it completely.

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