Marketing Push vs. Pull Strategies (the Difference)

If you have ever wanted to know the difference between a marketing push and a marketing pull strategy, you are at the right place!

In this article we will explain the precise difference between marketing push and marketing pull strategies with some examples.

Marketing push strategies focus advertising on sellers who have an incentive to sell products and services. Alternatively, marketing pull strategies focus advertising directly on customers who encourage retailers to fulfill their request for the products and services. 

Push and pull marketing strategies can be used in combination or as standalone strategies depending on your business model and objectives. 

The effectiveness of either of these two strategies in a specific market depends on the existence (or lack thereof) of demand.

To better understand what this means, we must first look at push and pull marketing strategies separately.

Let’s get started.

What is a Push Marketing Strategy?

The push marketing strategy revolves around the generation of demand, particularly where there is very little or none. 

This is achieved through various methods, including:

  • Incentivizing distribution with increased profit margins, free products or bonuses 
  • Spreading awareness through brand advertising and marketing campaigns, and
  • Offering unbeatable value in the form of discounts, bundles or extra products.

A push marketing strategy can be very efficient in selling new products that have no track record of success. Since a push marketing strategy pushes out the sales messages and creates its own demand, push marketing can be sustainable in the long term because it is up to the marketing team to continually push out messaging that most resonates with the marketplace. 

For example, this strategy is very common for a new supplement brand that has no awareness and no customers. In this case, the demand for the product is basically zero, so the company needs to push out communications to the intended marketplace. If you are in this scenario and would like to discover how to write a marketing plan for a new product, go here:

How to Write a Marketing Plan for a New Product (Free template)

Products with high value thrive the longest, while those that have lower value than what can easily be found in the market often fail quickly.

For helpful guidance on how to do create more value in the marketplace, see these three  resources:

What is a Pull Marketing Strategy?

The pull marketing strategy entails satisfying existing demand. In this scenario, there is an existing demand for a product or service, which leaves advertisers with the task of “pulling” customers to the product.

Pull marketing relies heavily on quality marketing materials to educate the customer on why they should choose a particular brand over another, within a highly competitive environment. 

Even though consumers want the product, they’re not necessarily out of options, so the marketer must educate, inform, and persuade them to pick their product.

The clear benefit enjoyed by this type of marketing is the widespread awareness of similar products or services. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. All you need is a unique selling proposition good enough to earn your customers’ loyalty.

On the downside, the fact that there is plenty of existing demand means that there is stiff competition. With pull marketing, your success relies on how far you set yourself from the standard.

For helpful guidance on how to do create more value in the marketplace, see these four  resources:

Push Marketing Strategies vs. Pull Marketing Strategies Examples

Push Marketing Example – How the Producer Creates Demand with Direct Marketing Strategies

In a standard supply chain, the hierarchy looks something like this:

Producer > Wholesaler > Retailer > Consumer

As in the example of the supplement brand, the producer creates a product and wants people to buy it. There are several ways they can achieve this:

  • The producer can lower the cost of bulk purchases to attract wholesalers, who, in turn, will push more products to retailers, who then push them to consumers.
  • The producer can create and distribute comprehensive product marketing materials to give to the wholesalers and the resellers who ultimately educate and inspire customer sales.
  • The producer can issue buyback guarantees to retailers as an incentive to stock their products more frequently or in larger quantities.

All these strategies aim to get the product to the consumers, via wholesalers and resellers. As is evident, it can work for any product, provided the producer is ready to market it and incentivize suppliers to sell it.

To achieve this, businesses may elect to use various forms of push marketing:

  • Direct mail advertising: A common method of push marketing is for a producer to sell their product via direct mail to a defined target market of wholesalers or resellers. This form of direct marketing develops a compelling offer with an incentive to the buyer to purchase the producer’s product so they can resell it, ultimately to the consumer.
  • PPC Advertising: Resellers regularly do Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in order to sell a producer’s product as a push marketing strategy.  For example, this marketing tactic allows Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) resellers to place digital ads across several platforms, including search engines and websites. As the name suggests, the reseller only has to pay if their ads get clicked on.
  • Newspaper advertising: While newspaper advertising is a fraction of what it used to be, newspaper ads can still drive sales when pushing messages to the right target market.  Resellers in the window replacement and sliding glass door industry regularly push sales messages to newspaper readers who are older homeowners.

Pull Marketing Example – How a Brand Creates Demand

Pfizer is a master of pull marketing strategies. Regardless of how you feel about the pharmaceutical industry and Pfizer specifically, there is no arguing with the success of their pull marketing strategies.

In fact, Pfizer is famous for advertising directly to the customer as they directly state in their 2021 Form 10-K on page 6 in their Sales and Marketing section. They point  consumers to “Ask your doctor” in order to encourage the doctors to write prescriptions and move the product through the “pull” marketing strategy pipeline. This combined with carefully developed advertising materials in medical offices makes Pfizer the logical choice for so many of their products.

Pfizer uses these strategies in order to implement their pull marketing strategy:

  • Mass media advertising: Pfizer uses their immense advertising budget to advertise direct to consumers to inspire them to speak with their doctors in order to pull their product through the pipeline.
  • Alliances: Generating an alliance with organizations that already have a relationship with the customer is one of the most effective way to pull products through the sales channel.  In this context, for many businesses, making an alliance does not have to be expensive if you offer a lot of value. For Pfizer, they have invested years into positioning themselves alongside health care professionals in order to communicate their customer value proposition and unique selling proposition so that their alliances know how to sell their product lines.
  • Political lobbying and use of the media: Social media, political lobbying and getting the media involved to support your message can move mountains. And Pfizer has done just that, again, in a master way.  By educating the political system on their value proposition and relentlessly communicating their message, this is creating a cascade of communications focused on the use of their products.
  • Social media and customer reviews: Customer reviews help businesses build solid credibility for their products. They come from unaffiliated sources that have directly experienced your product or service, so most people consider them trustworthy. Pfizer is masterful at communicating their customer’s positive stories in order to further educate their alliances, their lobbying efforts and ultimately educate their customers on the possibilities in order to get them to ask for their products.

All excellent marketing strategies tie their marketing back to the performance. How has this strategy worked for Pfizer? 

Fantastically well.

In fact, their 2021 Annual Performance Review revealed that their sales revenue almost doubled (95% increase) in 2021 vs 2020. And their net income more than doubled in this same time frame. This is considerable because sales revenue only increased 2% in 2020 vs 2019 ($41 billion in 2019 vs $41.7 billion in 2020).

While this was certainly a unique scenario in an even more unique environment, what Pfizer did is a case of a breakthrough marketing strategy.  Whether this can be duplicated or not for Pfizer, and whether this is a long term product for Pfizer is another conversation that we won’t be having here anytime soon.

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