Part Nine: Communication and Relationships
Promotion and advertising is the cornerstone of the marketing plan and marketing department, requiring a strategic plan to work out the best way to leverage marketing efforts to successfully promote a product.
The Promotion Mix
The promotion mix consists of advertising, personally selling, sales promotion, public relations and direct marketing, utilising the main elements of the original marketing mix. It depends on the product, industry and market as to which of the promotions mix to use, however usually a combination of two or more is the most effective way of communicating and sparking the interest of the target market.
Common trends have blurred the lines between which promotion method works well, and consumers today require very tailored messaging for them to actually pay attention to the marketing activity itself. “Same old” advertising is starting to get lost in the clutter, to be replaced by innovative and viral campaigns that engage consumers.
The IMC Approach
Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is the approach where all marketing efforts utilised by the organisation from the promotion mix communicate a clear, consistent and compelling message about the product or organisation themselves. Shifts in communication and message should be done slowly overtime, rather than confusing the customers by promoting inconsistent messages. IMC is a way that an organisation manages its entire portfolio of communication.
The Whole Communication Offering
An organisation is constantly communicating messages to the target market. These include:
(1) Planned and deliberate messaging: via the promotion mix
(2) Product messaging: via the marketing mix (such as price, distribution, etc)
(3) Service messaging: via interaction with the customers themselves
(4) Unplanned and uncontrollable messaging: via gossip, external publicity, reviews, rumours and other external environment buzz.
An IMC plan will ensure that an organisation presents a united, solid communication front to customers: this means the management of all contact points of an organisation and product (what is said in the promotional mix, confirmed by the unplanned messages, and performed via the product and service messages).
Elements in the Communication Process
All messages follow a process:
(1) The sender creates the message and encodes. By encoding, this means the process of creativity of the message.
(2) The message is then send out via the medium chosen. At this point is must also compete in amongst what is known as ‘noise’- these are all of the conflicting messages and all other interference that can distract the target receiver.
(3) Once the message is received via the medium, the receiver must decode the creativity of the sender, which is heavily biased by their own perceptions, judgements and past experiences, to finally receive the message.
(4) After this, a response action is triggered, whether it be dismissal, negative, positive, purchase, and so on.
(5) Concluding the action, feedback from the receiver to the sender is sent, which must also go through the ‘noise’ or interference factor before the sender can use the data.
Different elements of the promotional mix approach this cycle in different ways. For example, personally selling is effective because it completes the cycle entirely in almost one transaction, whereas Public Relations campaigns are slower and can experience high amounts of noise.
Developing Effective Communication
(1) Identify the target audience
(2) Determine the objectives and goals of the communication message
(3) Design or encode the message creatively, catered to what would spark the interest of the target audience.
(4) Select appropriate channels
(5) Establish a budget for this message so as to determine best use of resources
(6) Determine which elements of the promotional mix to utilise
(7) Measure results
(8) Manage the IMC system
(9) Collect data on this experience to improve the next message
Reach and Frequency
When it comes to marketing communication strategy, reach and frequency are the two main factors that must be decided upon.
The reach is all about the level of access to the target market. How many segments within the target market need to be accessed? What times? What demographics? Which media do they use?
The frequency is about how many messages through those reach channels, above. If, for example, a magazine is the selected medium, then how many issues is the communication present in? How many times does the advertisement run on television? And so on.
There tends to be an “S”-shaped response curve that occurs with frequency and effectiveness that all marketers must take into consideration. It is generally accepted that a low frequency of communications, such as between zero and three exposures, is not very effective at all. A medium frequency, above this, gains a high acceptance with the target market and thus is very effective (usually between three and ten rapid exposures). However a high frequency starts to lose its effectiveness and can even become negative if the target market becomes saturated and over-exposed to the content.