A Beginner’s Guide to Above the Line Marketing

Above the line marketing refers to major traditional mass media promotions using broadcast and print channels. This includes mediums like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, direct mail, and more.

Above the line marketing casts a wide net to reach broad untargeted audiences through placement on high-profile channels. It aims to boost brand awareness, engagement, and recall on a large scale rather than targeting specific customer segments.

A Beginner’s Guide to Above the Line Marketing

Defining Characteristics of Above the Line Marketing

There are several key characteristics that set above the line marketing apart from other forms of marketing –

  • Utilises mainstream traditional media like TV, radio, and print for mass outreach.
  • Involves high expenses and large budgets for production and distribution.
  • Focuses on brand building, awareness and reach over direct sales.
  • Reaches wide general audiences with a scattergun approach rather than targeted segments.
  • Conveys messages unilaterally from brand to consumers versus two-way engagement.
  • Success is quantifiable in terms of impressions and awareness rather than direct sales.
  • Creative messaging tends to have mass appeal rather than personalised resonance.

Examples of Above the Line Marketing in Action

Some recognisable examples of above the line marketing include:

  • Flashy TV commercials during major sporting events.
  • Catchy radio jingles played frequently to drill brand names into listener memory.
  • Glossy print ads in mainstream newspapers and magazines.
  • Towering billboards along highways and busy urban areas.
  • Direct mail catalogues showcasing products and offers.
  • Movie theatre promos before the previews to capture captive audiences.
  • Clever transit advertising on buses, trains and stations.

When To Use Above the Line Marketing

Above the line marketing is ideal for:

  • Building awareness about a new brand, product or service launching in the market.
  • Promoting limited-time sales, offers and events to drive consumer action.
  • Kicking off a new large-scale advertising campaign or brand slogan.
  • Increasing engagement around new product features or brand initiatives.
  • Delivering high-impact campaigns with a big budget to make a splash.
  • Communicating brand stories vividly to a diverse mass audience.
  • Generating excitement and buzz around upcoming initiatives and rebranding.
  • Sustaining top-of-mind brand awareness and messaging reinforcement.

UK Companies Leveraging Above the Line Marketing

Many top brands in the UK have leveraged above the line marketing successfully here are some examples –

British Airways – Their high-impact TV ads conveying inspirational themes of reuniting families and experiencing new places.

John Lewis – Their much-anticipated Christmas ads aired on TV and radio annually.

Samsung – Placing dynamic billboards showcasing new phone cameras and features.

Tesco – Running magazine and newspaper inserts promoting weekly specials.

DFS – Blanketing the UK with direct mail catalogues for sofa sales.

Coca Cola – Iconic Christmas truck TV commercials linking Coca Cola to the holidays.

EasyJet – Prominent orange branded planes flying across Europe act as aerial billboards.

Should Small Businesses use Above The Line Marketing?

Should Small Businesses use Above The Line Marketing

Here are some key considerations for small businesses on whether to use above-the-line marketing.

Pros of Using Above The Line Marketing –

  • Broad reach – Television, radio, print ads etc. can rapidly increase brand awareness and visibility.
  • Establishes credibility – Major media presence can boost perceived credibility and trust.
  • Engages mass audiences – ATL allows communicating with a large diverse audience cost-effectively.
  • Emotional storytelling – Creative ATL campaigns spark engagement through emotive storytelling and visuals/audio.

Cons of Using Above The Line Marketing –

  • Expensive production costs – Creating quality ATL content like commercials often requires big budgets and agencies.
  • Higher media costs – Buying ATL media slots and print space incurs high fixed costs.
  • Waste from poor targeting – ATL lacks the hyper-targeting of digital channels leading to partial waste impressions.
  • Difficulty measuring ROI – Unlike digital, tracking leads and sales from ATL can be ambiguous.
  • More suited to big brands – ATL tends to work better for established brands versus unknown small companies.

Recommendation for Above the Line Marketing for Small Businesses

Smaller businesses on tight budgets may be better off prioritising niche digital marketing channels for more targeted, measurable, and budget-friendly exposure. Above the line’s high costs and lower tracking can carry more risk. However, exploring very localised above the line opportunities like local radio, print, and out-of-home may offer advantages.

Should local Businesses use Above The Line Marketing?

Here are some key factors for local businesses to consider when evaluating above the line marketing:

Potential Benefits:

  • Build local awareness – Local TV, radio, print ads can efficiently increase visibility in the region.
  • Establish credibility – Having a major media presence as a local brand can boost trust and reputation.
  • Emotional storytelling – Creative above the line campaigns allow conveying brand values through compelling narratives.
  • Access local audiences – Channels like local cable TV, drive-time radio, and community print publications allow reaching local customers.

Potential Drawbacks:

  • Higher production costs – Producing quality above the line ads often requires bigger budgets and creative agencies.
  • Expensive media buys – Purchasing slots on local broadcast and publications costs large, fixed sums.
  • Difficulty tracking ROI – Unlike digital, directly measuring leads and sales from above the line spend can be ambiguous.
  • Risk of ineffective targeting – Above the line lacks the hyper-targeting capability of digital marketing.
  • Competition from bigger brands – Cutting through the noise as a small business on mass channels can be challenging.

Recommendation for Above the Line Marketing for Local Businesses

The high cost and difficulty measuring returns may outweigh potential benefits for most local small businesses with limited resources. While above the line should not be ruled out entirely, focusing on targeted digital marketing and other below-the-line tactics may provide better optimisation and ROI accountability.

The Strategic Role of Above the Line Marketing

Used strategically as part of an omnichannel mix, above the line marketing helps cement brands firmly into audience consciousness on a national scale. It sets the stage for more targeted online and offline marketing tailored to specific segments. Above the line builds the brand so that below the line marketing can focus on conversions.

For major brands, maintaining an above the line presence boosts visibility and familiarity with new consumers. While digital enables precise targeting, classic above the line marketing remains impactful when planned and budgeted smartly. Combining traditional above the line with modern below the line marketing allows brands to capitalise on the best of both worlds.

Use Piece of Cake Marketing to Create a Marketing Strategy for your Business

At Piece of Cake Marketing, we’ve seen time and again how developing the right marketing strategy unlocks success for small businesses. It provides a playbook for executing high-impact marketing tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Before you dive into launching new campaigns and adopting flashy tactics, take the time to craft a strategic foundation. Let us guide you through the process, from market research and positioning to tactical roadmaps and measurement planning.

When executed with strategy, your marketing budget goes further, brand messaging gains traction, and teams work in alignment. Results amplify across the board.

Ready to put strategy first in your marketing plans? Contact us today at hello@pieceofcakemarketing.co.uk or call 07799626332.