How do we communicate in the Marketing Communications Mix? How do customers process information? There are many models and theories. Let’s take a brief look at some of them.
Simple Marketing Communications Mix models show a sender sending a message to a receiver who receives and understands it. Real life is less simple – many messages are misunderstood, fail to arrive or, are simply ignored.
Thorough understanding of the audience’s needs, emotions, interests and activities is essential to ensure the accuracy and relevance of any message.
Instead of loud ‘buy now’ advertisements, many messages are often designed or ‘encoded’ so that the hard sell becomes a more subtle soft sell. The sender creates or encodes the message in a form that can be easily understood or decoded by the receiver.
Clever encoding also helps a message to cut through the clutter of other advertisements and distractions, what is called ‘noise’. If successful, the audience will spot the message and then decode or interpret it correctly. The marketer then looks for ‘feedback’ such as coupons returned from mailshots, to see if the audience has decoded the message correctly.
The single step model – with a receiver getting a message directly from a sender – is not a complete explanation.
Many messages are received indirectly through a friend or through an opinion leader.
Marketing Communications Mix is in fact multifaceted, multi-step and multi-directional. Opinion leaders talk to each other. Customers talk to opinion leaders and they talk to each other.
Add in ‘encode, decode, noise and feedback’ and the process appears more complex still.
Understanding multiphase communications helps marketers communicate directly through mass media and indirectly through targeting opinion leaders, opinion formers, style leaders, innovators, and other influential people.
How messages are selected and processed within the minds of the target market is a vast and complex question. Although it is over seventy years old, rather simplistic and too hierarchical, a message model, like AIDA, attempts to map the mental processes through which a buyer passes en route to making a purchase.
There are many other models that attempt to identify each stage. In reality the process is not always a linear sequence. Buyers often loop backwards at various stages perhaps for more information. There are other much more complex models that attempt to map the inner workings of the mind.
In reality, marketers have to select Marketing Communications Mix tools that are most suitable for the stage which the target audience has reached. For example, advertising may be very good at raising awareness or developing interest, while free samples and sales promotions may be the way to generate trial. This is just a glimpse into some of the theory. Serious marketers read a lot more.
Despite the many benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications (or Marketing Communications Mix); there are also many barriers. Here’s how you can ensure you become integrated and stay integrated – 10 Golden Rules of Integration.
(1) Get Senior Management Support for the initiative by ensuring they understand the benefitsof IMC.
(2) Integrate At Different Levels of management. Put ‘integration’ on the agenda for various types of management meetings – whether annual reviews or creative sessions. Horizontally – ensure that all managers, not just marketing managers understand the importance of a consistent message – whether on delivery trucks or product quality. Also ensure that Advertising, PR, Sales Promotions staff are integrating their messages. To do this you must have carefully planned internal communications, that is, good internal marketing.
(3) Ensure the Design Manual or even a Brand Book is used to maintain common visual standards for the use of logos, type faces, colours and so on.
(4) Focus on a clear Marketing Communications Mix strategy. Have crystal clear communications objectives; clear positioning statements. Link core values into every communication. Ensure all communications add value to (instead of dilute) the brand or organisation. Exploit areas of sustainable competitive advantage.
(5) Start with a Zero Budget. Start from scratch. Build a new communications plan. Specify what you need to do in order to achieve your objectives. In reality, the budget you get is often less than you ideally need, so you may have to prioritise communications activities accordingly.
(6) Think Customers First. Wrap communications around the customer’s buying process. Identify the stages they go through before, during and after a purchase. Select communication tools which are right for each stage. Develop a sequence of Marketing Communications Mix activities which help the customer to move easily through each stage.
(7) Build Relationships and Brand Values. All communications should help to develop stronger and stronger relationships with customers. Ask how each communication tool helps to do this. Remember: customer retention is as important as customer acquisition.
(8) Develop a Good Marketing Information System which defines who needs what information when. A customer database for example, can help the telesales, direct marketing and sales force. IMC can help to define, collect and share vital information.
(9) Share Artwork and Other Media. Consider how, say, advertising imagery can be used in mail shots, exhibition stands, Christmas cards, news releases and web sites.
(10) Be prepared to change it all. Learn from experience. Constantly search for the optimum communications mix. Test. Test. Test. Improve each year. ‘Kaizen’.
Just a few ways to beat the barriers and enjoy the benefits of integrated marketing communications and the Marketing Communications Mix.