Marketing communication involves sharing of meaning, information and concepts by the source and the receiver about products and services and about the firm selling them.

Marketing communication is undertaken by marketer through the devices of promotion. We have different types of communication to accelerate the spreading over of marketing communication.

Learn about:-

1. Introduction and Meaning to Marketing Communication 2. Definitions of Marketing Communication 3. Nature and Element 4. Importance 5. Objectives 6. Role


7. Functions 8. Process 9. Steps 10. Diffusion Theory 11. Applications 12. Types of Communication Channels

13. Planning and Communication Process 14. Problems of Advertiser in Communication 15. Challenges and Inherent Problems 16. How to Plan for Effective Marketing Communication?

Marketing Communication: Definitions, Nature, Importance, Objectives, Role, Functions, Process, Problems and Challenges

Marketing Communication – Introduction and Meaning

The word ‘Communication’ is derived from the Latin communis which means ‘common’ we attempt to communicate, that is, establish a ‘commonness’ with another person. There are three essential parts of ‘communications’, viz. the source, message and receiver. True communication takes place only when the message means the same thing to both the parties i.e., the sender of the message and its receiver.

Marketing communication involves sharing of meaning, information and concepts by the source and the receiver about products and services and about the firm selling them. Marketing communication is undertaken by marketer through the devices of promotion. We have different types of communication to accelerate the spreading over of marketing communication.


The effective communication occurs when a sender sends a message and a receiver responds to the message in a manner which satisfies the sender. Both must have identical meaning of the message.

Effective communication is equal to receipt of the message plus understanding plus acceptance plus action. In marketing, action means decision to purchase.

Companies and organisations have come to recognise the importance of communications as a means to achieving and making known their corpo­rate objectives. Indeed, without good communications, both internally and externally, no organisation would be able to operate effectively.

In reality, therefore, practically everything a company does will communicate something to its marketplace and its stakeholders. In turn, certain stakeholders such as distributors, contractors and service agents will need to be brought in as collaborators within a company’s marketing communications activities.


A company’s reputation and market standing may well be expressed through account­ing convention as a ‘goodwill’ item within financial statements. In practice, the true worth of its reputation and image will be the outcome of how the company relates to and communicates with its various publics.

A company’s communications strategy is therefore of major significance to its survival and prosperity. Ideally, it should be reflected in a coordinated programme of activities that presents a consistent picture to the world at large, while still accommodating the par­ticular or local communication requirements of certain specialist groups or market sectors.

Marketing communications is an attempt of marketers to inform, educate, develop favorable attitude and persuade consumers about the market offering of the company. It is one of the four major elements of the company’s marketing mix. Marketing communication is mouthpiece of company that speaks and orient consumers in the way company wants.

It is one of the most powerful weapon in the hands of marketers, if used wisely can demolish competitors bastion and strengthen company’s brand equity. Marketing communication plays important role at every stage of product life cycle. It can make consumers try and experience products for first time as well as reinforce loyal customers about their patronage.


Communication between the manufacturer and the consumers is indirect either through the middlemen, sales force or impersonal methods like advertising, publicity and public relations. These all methods of communication — advertising, personal selling, publicity and sales promotion techniques are invariably used by almost all the manufacturer. A promotion strategy involves the coordination of all communicated efforts aimed at specific audience — consumer, wholesalers, retailers, government shareholders and So on.

The main problem before the marketing or advertising manager is to coordinate and use all these communication methods in a compact manner and mixes them in such a way as to product the best results taking market and product conditions, competitive situations, behavioural characteristics of target audience and the size of budget.

Different communication mix will be required in different stages of product life cycle — introduction, growth, maturity, saturation and decline. In introduction stage, all promotional methods including advertising and personal stages, are necessary whereas in decline or obsolescence stage, many efforts will remain fruitless.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of marketing or advertising manager to arrange an ideal promotion mix to achieve the objectives.

Marketing Communication – Definitions

Following are the main definitions of communication:


According to the American Society of Training Directors – “Communication is the interchange of thought or information to bring about mutual understanding or confidence or good human relations.”

According to Edwin Brown Flippo – “Communication is the act of inducing thereto interpret an idea in the manner intended by the speaker or the writer.”

According to C. G. Brown – “Communication is the transfer of information from one person to another whether or not in elicit confidence or an exchange or interchange. But the information transcended must be understandable to its receiver.”


According to Eliot Jacques – “Communication is a combination of feelings, concepts and desires directly or indirectly, deliberately or unknowingly expressed.”

According to Fred G. Meyer – “Intercourse by words, letters or messages, interchange of thoughts or opinions.”

According to Newman and Summer – “Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions or emotions by two or more persons.”

Meaning of Communication Process in Marketing:

Communication process in advertisement is purported to an art to convey, understand and know the concepts, commodities and ideas from one person to another whose aim is to propagate and publicize the information.

Communication process in business is performed through other means apart from the advertisement. Sales promotion, personal selling propagation etc., act as communication.

Sales Promotion:

Meaning of sales promotion covers all activities which are performed in order to increase the sale. The advertisement, personal sale, innovation in production of commodities, improvement in the marketing systems etc., are included under sales promotion. A number of scholars consider the sales promotion as advertisement related to the business.

Selling, Promotion and Sales Promotion:

Often, same is construed from the three terms i.e., ‘selling’, ‘promotion’ and ‘sales promotion’.

However, there is a difference between them as under:

i. Meaning of Selling – It is meant by change in the title of commodity. Advertisement of any mean for increasing the demand is not included with it.

ii. Selling/Promotion – Customers are attracted for the commodities or services, they are informed about and brought in their memory repeatedly the product under selling/promotion.

iii. Advertisement – Personal sale and sales promotion is included in the meaning of promotion. A number of other sales devices are also included with it.

The above analysis makes it clear that there is difference in sales promotion and promotion. Sales promotion is only a part of promotion activity.

Marketing Communication – Nature and Elements

The definition of communication suggests that communication is the process of passing on the information, exchange of ideas or thought between sender and receiver. The definition also suggests that there has to be common thinking between two parties and information should be passed from one person to another.

Another part of the nature of communication is that it is very complex. The success of communication depends on the nature of message, interpretation, and the environment in which it is received. The receiver’s perception of the source and the medium used to transmit also affect the ability to communicate.

Communication has a major challenge which is ‘Language’. There are different languages and dialects within’ a single country, and more subtle problems of linguistive nuances and veruacular. This is very challenging to companies marketing their products in many countries.

Growth of bilingual, multicultural ethnic markets in the globe today is creating more difficulties even for domestic markets. Advertisements have to be so creatively made that they are able to reach the masses from all cultures and ethnic background.

The Response Process:

The most important aspect of developing good communication programs is to understand the response process the receiver may go through in moving towards a specific behavior and how the promotional campaign of the marketer influences the customer responses.

In many cases, the marketer wants to create awareness of the company or brand name to influence the customer. In same situation on the other hand, he may want to give detailed information to change the consumer’s knowledge about the product and his attitude towards the brand and finally change their behavior.


1. The Source – A marketing company, a sender of message.

2. The Message – The commercial idea, sales story, the copy theme.

3. The Channel – The vehicle carrying the message; a sales man, an advertising medium, sales literature sent through the mail, telephone, post card, radio or television, newspaper etc. can also act as the channel of communication.

4. The Receiver – A person or a group of persons, the receiver is a potential customer’ purchase influencer or a reseller.

5. The Feed Back – A response, a reaction or message sent back by a customer to the marketer. The feedback improves the effectiveness of communication.

6. The Noise – Noise creates many obstacles reducing effectiveness of the communication process.

Marketing Communication – Importance

The importance or significance cannot be described in a few words. According to the Ex-President of American Management Association, “Communication is the most critical problem of management in present times.”

Bernard is of the view that, “Communication is the basis of all industrial activities.”

The importance or significance of communication is as under:

1. Communication is Essential for Management:

Commu­nication is an important function of management. With the help of communication, a manager is able to give practical shape to many of his plans and projects like giving information to others regarding the firm’s objectives, planning and co-ordinating, etc.

According to Koontz and O’Donnell, “Effective planning exists where every responsible person possesses requisite information pertaining to his own field and as far as possible, these information should be specific and detailed ones.”

2. Basis of Planning:

The primary function of management is planning and its sure success depends upon effective communication. Efficient communication is needed to implement the planned programmes successfully.

3. Basis of Decision-Making:

Communication helps the top-management take quick decisions. Authorities do not reach any worthwhile decision in the absence of communication. Crucial decisions are to be taken at every step in a business organization and at different levels of management.

Solutions are to be formal. Business activities are lifeless without effective communication in the same manner as the human body is a mere corpse in the absence of soul. In short, it can be said that managerial decisions are put into practice with effective communication.

Successful communication is the basis of direction and leadership. An organisation remains active with the help of pre-determined objectives through communication which ensures their successful implementation.

4. Successful Operation of Business:

A well-developed communication system is necessary for the successful and smooth working of an organisation. Communication plays a very useful role in any business enterprise, whether it is large or small.

5. Quick Decisions and its Implementation:

Effective communication helps managers to take prompt decisions. Different types of information, facts, data, complaints, suggestions, etc. are first collected through communication and then disseminated among different groups of workers in the organization with the help of communication media.

6. Increase in the Employee’s Morale:

The objectives of the organisation are easily transmitted to employees through effective communication. The organization explains to every worker his area of operations, his responsibility and way to do the work efficiently. Thus, the organisation’s chart acquaints every worker with what work he has to do, as well as when and how to perform.

What are his rights? Towards whom is he accountable? Therefore, workers are motivated automatically to have proper interest in their jobs. Employees get greatly attached to the enterprise when there is continuous exchange of ideas and information between managers and employees. This also raises their morale and they strive hard for the implementation of programmes with vigour and zeal.

7. Promotion of Industrial Peace:

Peace is necessary in the organization so as to achieve more production. Long strikes and lock­outs bring the firm at the verge of insolvency. Employees should get proper information about the organization at a regular interval to avoid misunderstanding. Effective communication helps manage information between employees and the top management.

8. Basis for Leadership:

Effective communication is the basis of leadership. The role of a leader is passive in the absence of communication, because the leader will not be able to communicate his ideas, sentiments, suggestions and decisions to his subordinates.

So, with the aid of effective communication the leader and his followers can create mutual understanding, trust and harmony.

9. Incentive to Democratic Feelings:

All the major decisions are taken by the top-management, but are implemented by employees at lower levels. Sometimes, suggestions from employees can do wonders and meritorious employees are rewarded accordingly.

This creates a feeling among workers that work is being done on democratic principles in the organization. This feeling maintains good and harmonious relations between labour and management.

Here it can be concluded that effective communication is a life-giving element which activates an organization in the right direction. This is needed more in underdeveloped/developing countries like India because Indian labourers are still illiterate and conservative in their attitudes.

They migrate to cities from villages to work in factories. They come from different areas having different dress-codes and languages. It is necessary that communication system should be such that everyone concerned should be able to understand. They should also be in a position to express their own ideas to the management with perfect ease.

Only then will business enterprises be in a better position to have maximum production of the highest quality at the lowest cost of production. Undoubtedly, effective communication is the basis of modern business and management. Its importance is being accepted by one and all.

Marketing Communication – 4 Important Objectives

In general the objectives of communication will be derived from one of the three cate­gories below:

i. Informing – Giving information, building awareness that a product/service exists, what the product does, where it can be obtained.

ii. Persuading – Creating a favourable attitude, providing a stimulus to favour one brand over another, or one point of view against another.

iii. Reinforcing – Dispelling doubts about an action already taken, building support/loyalty to a point of view or purchase, ensuring a good climate for future sales.

The equation must be followed through before the implementation of communication plans are decided. The overall objectives can cover any of the main categories of inform­ing, persuading or reassuring. The gap is the perceived difference with the actual situation. It is only by setting clear goals in this area, as in all parts of business, that suc­cessful execution can be assessed.

One of the key studies in covering both objectives and assessment is the DAGMAR work by Russell Colley. This study was undertaken for the Advertising Research Foundation and an obvious but key conclusion was that in order to know how successful your advertising is you must first understand clearly the objectives you want to achieve.

This may seem very basic, but it is surprising how often it is forgotten. There is a feeling that all advertising must be good, maybe akin to the show business dictum that it does not matter what critics write about you as long as they write something. DAGMAR stands for Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results. However, in Colley’s study he lists over 50 possible advertising objectives.

Marketing Communication has several objectives.

These objectives are:

1. Lead to Behaviour Modification:

Promotion aims to modify the behaviour of the consumer. For e.g., if the consumer regularly buys a particular brand of detergent say Surf, then to try and induce him to buy another brand such as – Ariel. By using promotion the marketer hopes to create a favourable image in the consumer’s mind that will motivate him to purchase the product.

2. Objective to Inform:

In the early stages of the product, it is necessary to create awareness about the product in the target market. For this informing the target market about the product, its usage and benefits is required. Promotion is used for this purpose.

3. Objective to Persuade:

In the growth stage of a product the marketer seeks to persuade consumers to buy the product repeatedly and in larger quantities. Here promotion is used to persuade the consumers.

4. Objective to Remind:

The marketer has this objective in mind when the product reaches the maturity stage of the product life cycle. Here the marketer tries to ensure that consumers remembers the product and are not carried away by competing products in the market.

Marketing Communication – Role (With the Measures to Remove the Barriers of Communication)

Communicating with your customers enables you to deliver your message to them so that they will react to it. Communication reaches the consumer. Think of it this way – communication is the message that is delivered to the client; marketing is the means of getting it there. Therefore communication is not just part of the marketing mix but also should be integrated into your customer service process.

Marketing Communications also known as promotion is one of the elements of the marketing mix or the 4 P’s.

It is defined as all the personal and impersonal efforts by a seller, or the seller’s representative, to inform, persuade or remind the target audience about the product or the firm.

Promotion helps marketers to communicate information to potential customers. This information could be about the Product existence (awareness), value and benefits offered by the product (utility). A well- designed promotion mix is extremely crucial for brand building and positioning. In fact communication or promotional mix is at the centre stage in brand positioning and brand building activities. Promotional mix help marketers to attract, persuade, urge and remind customers of the companies’ brand. Effective promotion proves helpful in product differentiation and also helps to counter competition.

Marketing communication or Promotion serves various purposes.

It helps the marketer to communicate with the customer for the following purposes:

i. To provide information to customers;

ii. To differentiate the product from that of the competitors’ products;

iii. To generate more demand for the company’s products;

iv. To make a product more attractive to an organisation’s prospective buyers;

v. To position a product, that is, to create a positive image of the product/firm.

Measures to Remove the Barriers of Communication:

In order to remove the barriers of communications, following steps may be adopted-

(1) An open door communication policy must be prepared and followed by the managers in the organisation.

(2) They should also create an atmosphere of trust and confidence in the organisation so as to fill up the capability gap.

(3) No managers can acquire a passport of creditability unless the facts communicated by him are well understood and accepted by the people concerned.

Marketing Communication – Functions

Some important functions of marketing communication for consumers could be listed as follows:

1. It creates awareness among consumer about the brand and their promoters.

2. Inform consumers about ways, timing and situation of usage.

3. Consumers get aware of various alternatives to fulfill their wants.

4. Consumers get exposure about new lifestyles and better living.

5. Consumers also learn about benefits and incentives of first time usage and regular usage.

Marketing communication also performs important functions for company, such as:

1. Launch product and services either new or improved.

2. Develop image in mind of consumers as per company’s positioning policy.

3. Build and sustain brand equity.

4. Liquidate inventory during slow sales season.

5. Support and motivate sales force and other stake holders.

There is a host of tools available in the hands of marketing people to reach and communicate target market about the market offering and support demand management. Usually advertising is understood as synonyms to marketing communication or at least its most important tool but this is not true.

Marketers use host of other tools and success of marketing communication depends on how well these tools are integrated. As such there are seven major tools of marketing communication. Each of these tools play prominent role to achieve marketing communication objectives. Consider how Toyota has used various tools of marketing communication to launch its sedan Etios.

An integrated approach towards using various marketing communication tools is called as marketing communication mix.

The seven tools of marketing communication mix that offers a unique proposition for marketing communication are as follows:

1. Advertising – Advertising is any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of goods, ides and services through an identified sponsor.

2. Sales Promotion – Short term incentives offered to consumers to purchase and try out products to boost sales.

3. Publicity & Public Relations – Disseminating message among public through various sources usually unpaid to build and defend image of the company and its market offerings.

4. Personal Selling/ Direct Selling – Making direct face to face approach to prospective buyers to present product/service information, solve queries and procure orders by company personnel or its agents and message communicated is believed to the originated from the company.

5. Direct Marketing – Getting in touch with prospects through personal or direct communication mediums such telephone, e-mails, catalogue mails, or fax to engage consumers and generate sales.

6. Events and Experiences – Engaging consumers and providing brand interaction to elicit response by organizing, sponsoring or participating events such as consumer fairs, trade shows, road shows, celebrity shows, talent shows etc. or making consumers use and experience product/service at place of public convenience

7. Viral Marketing/Word of Mouse & Word of Mouth – Disseminating information about product/service experience exponentially through brand advocates or product champions. This is like an infection that spreads from one person to other person.

Internet based consumers groups, social networking sites; mass e-mailing has made ‘word of mouse’ an important marketing communication tool that goes well with modern age consumers who are well versed with internet. Associating with public causes also help to trigger word of mouth and word of mouse communication.

Marketers must know well to use elements of marketing communication mix viz. advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, public relations, events and experience, interactive marketing and personal selling to communicate the product’s existence and value proposition to the target customers.

Marketing communication messages from different mediums must be integrated so as to deliver consistent message to consumers.

Marketing Communication – Process: 4 Main Elements

Central to good communications is the need to be able to transmit messages accurately. This is not an easy task. There is so much room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding to occur in. any communications situation. Even in personal, face-to-face communications it can be difficult to convey precise factual messages accurately.

It can be imagined, therefore, that the difficulties involved in communicating a convincing, persuasive, unambiguous promotional message in a thirty second television advertising slot are immense.

The communications processes are typically illustrated as consisting of four main elements:

1. The source (the sender) – encoding

2. The message (which is subject to noise)

3. The media selected to transmit the message, and

4. The recipient – decoding.

1. The Source:

The starting point is the source – the person or organisation sending the message. The source must have a very clear idea of the objective of the communication, i.e., what is the desired outcome of sending this message. If this is not clear at the outset then the communications process is already in danger of breaking down.


The source encodes the message by putting it into words, supported by images and pictures which will enhance the effectiveness of the message. Even simple direct communications go through this process of encoding; the right words have to be chosen carefully to avoid any misunderstanding. Essentially, the encoding process translates the thought and objectives of the sender into a message which will make sense to the intended recipient or audience.

2. The Message:

The message has now been encoded and may be in the form of a letter, a spoken announcement or a television or radio advertisement. In reviewing the message, the sender must be certain that it accurately conveys what they originally intended.

3. The Media Selected to Transmit the Message:

To transmit the message to the recipient some form of media must be selected. The most appropriate medium for getting the message across to the target audience will depend on several factors. The choice of medium itself can affect the way the message is received and interpreted.

An announcement about organisation policy may carry more weight if it is published in the Financial Times rather than the News of the World. On the other hand, if the intended audience is more likely to read a popular tabloid newspaper than the Financial Times, then this will dictate the choice of media.


The whole communications process is affected by noise. Noise, in this context, means anything which can detract from the message in any way by distracting the recipient. In the case of television advertisements, for example, noise can occur in the form of family conversations, the option of reading a book or a newspaper instead of watching television, and so on.

Similarly, in newspaper advertising, noise arises from exciting editorials, interesting photographs, other advertising offers or sports reports which compete for the reader’s attention. The reader may be introducing noise by listening to the radio as well as reading the paper.

Noise occurs in many ways, most of which are beyond the control of the sender. Direct mail is increasingly used as a more direct medium of communication for organisations to use in contacting their target customers to avoid the noise associated with other media forms.

The sheer volume of direct mail now received by many consumers is in itself a form of noise, distracting the recipient from the intended message. For this reason, in using different media, it is essential to make the message as interesting or eye-catching as possible, in order to overcome such distractions.

4. The Recipient:

The receiver of the message can themselves affect the accuracy of the message. Their personal beliefs, attitudes and preconceptions will influence how they interpret the message. The anti-nuclear campaigner is unlikely to be anything but skeptical of messages sent out by the nuclear industry to raise its public image. Other recipients may find such messages reassuring, however.

Previous experience of the organisation will colour the recipient’s interpretation of the message, as may cultural influences. Some famous advertising mistakes have been in the international arena, where the use of particular colours or symbols has led to rejection of the advertising (and the relevant products) because the connotations attached to those colours and symbols have been unpleasant or made the advertisement socially unacceptable.

The communications process ends with some form of feedback. Sometimes this is direct feedback, as in a personal sales negotiation, for example, while at other times it may be harder and take longer to measure the effectiveness of the communication, by monitoring increases in sales, for instance, or responses to sales promotions.

One-way communications are the most difficult to monitor, especially as marketing communications compete with so many other messages and distractions in the crowded marketplace and there may be no direct form of feedback.

Ensuring the most effective communications for marketing and promotion is a complex task. External communications form a key part of the promotional mix-, and internal communications are vital for effective marketing management. Internal marketing programmes encourage good communications within organisations.


Decoding is the act of interpreting the message and forming an impression of what it is intended to convey in the light of the recipient’s own understanding. Noise can have an effect on the message as not all the intended audience will pay full attention to the message, and of those who do, each will place their own interpretation on its meaning. The more complex the message, the more likely it is that distortion will occur.

The Recipient:

The receiver of the message can themselves affect the accuracy of the message. Their personal beliefs, attitudes and preconceptions will influence how they interpret the message. The anti-nuclear campaigner is unlikely to be anything but skeptical of messages sent out by the nuclear industry to raise its public image. Other recipients may find such message reassuring, however.

Previous experience of the organisation will colour the recipient’s interpretation of the message, as may cultural influences. Some famous advertising mistakes have been in the international arena, where the use of particular colours or symbols has led to rejection of the advertising (and the relevant products) because the connotations attached to those colours and symbols have been unpleasant or made the advertisement socially unacceptable.

The communications process ends with some form of feedback. Sometimes this is direct feedback, as in a personal sales negotiation, for example, while at other times it may be harder and take longer to measure the effectiveness of the communication, by monitoring increases in sales, for instance, or responses to sales promotions.

One-way communications are the most difficult to monitor, especially as marketing communications compete with so many other messages and distractions in the crowded marketplace and there may be no direct form of feedback.

Ensuring the most effective communications for marketing and promotion is a complex task. External communications form a key part of the promotional mix and internal communications are vital for effective marketing management. Internal marketing programmes encourage good communications within organisations.

Marketing Communication – 6 Important Steps in Developing Effective Marketing Communication

There are six most important steps in developing effective marketing communication.

These six steps are as follows:

1. Purpose,

2. Audience,

3. Information,

4. Benefits,

5. Objections and

6. Context

Step # 1. Purpose:

The first step in developing effective marketing communication is to determine purpose. What is the purpose of marketing communication? What must this marketing communication do to solve the firm’s problem? First of all, a firm should make a list of its all purposes, major or minor and specify exactly what a firm wants its customers to know, understand or feel.

Step # 2. Audience:

The second step in developing effective marketing communication is to know about audience(s). Firms must know about their audience(s). They must know how the members of their audience(s) differ from others. They should anticipate how the audience members will respond to the firms’ messages.

Step # 3. Information:

The third step in developing effective marketing communication is concerned with the information which a firm wants to include in its message. So a firm must be aware about the information which is given by it to its customers.

Step # 4. Benefits:

The fourth step in developing effective marketing communication is to tell the benefits of products and services by the firms to its existing and prospective customers.

Step # 5. Objections:

The fifth step in developing effective marketing communication is to make arrangements for the clearance of objections which are expected by a firm about its products and services from customers. At this step, a firm determines what negative elements of its message must be eliminated or overcome.

Step # 6. Context:

Last but not least, the firm is to prepare the context of the message. At this step, by preparing effective context about its products and services, a firm wants to influence its existing and prospective customers.

Marketing Communication – Diffusion Theory of Communication

The diffusion process refers to this acceptance of new products and services by the members of a community or a social system. In an age of changing technology and rapid obsolescence, the growth, profitability and stability of many companies are increasingly depen­dent on consumer acceptance or rejection of their new products.

For a marketer, it would be obviously beneficial to have an understanding of the process by which people learn about new products, try them, and eventually accept or reject them.

The diffusion theory, a body of knowledge that has evolved from sociology, provides this kind of understanding. Central to the theory is the concept that there is a process of diffusion by which an innovation spreads from its source of invention or creation to its ultimate users or adopters.

Four elements are required for this process to take place:

(i) An innovation, which is an idea or a product that is perceived as new. The innovation need only be new in the eyes of its beholder, and may actually be quite well- known to others.

(ii) Its communication from one individual to another.

(iii) Its permeation in a social system.

(iv) Its use over a period of time.

Ultimately, the extent to which an innovation permeates a social system depends upon the number of people who adopt it. The term adoption refers to the decision by an individual to accept or use an innovation. In a sense, this is merely a particular kind of consumer buying decision.

Fig 8.5 shows the diffusion process following the normal distri­bution which a few people adopt at first. The innovators make up only 2 ½ per cent of the total population; yet they are the key elements in the success of new products.

They are the first to try out a new product. If the innovation is successful, they will pass it on to a large group (13 ½ per cent), the early adopters, for the value of the innova­tion is apparent.

The early adopters pass it on to the early majority, the late majority and the laggards respectively. The rate finally diminishes, for few potential consumers remain in the non-adopter category. Since the categories are based on normal distribution, stan­dard deviations are used to partition each category.

The innovators are defined as the first 2 ½ per cent of the individuals to adopt the new products; the laggards are the final 16 per cent to adopt them. Excluded from the figure are the non-adopters, who never adopt the innovation.

The possibility of locating the first buyers of the new products is a most enticing thought for the marketing manager. If these first buyers can be reached early in the product’s development or introduction, they would serve as a test market. They would evaluate the products and possibly make suggestions for modifications.

Since the early purcha­sers are frequently the opinion leaders from whom others seek advice, their attitudes to new products are communicated to others in their neighbourhood.

The acceptance or rejection of the innovations might serve as a kind of warning signal for the marketing manager, indicating the expected success of the new product. Unfortunately, persons who are the first adopters of one new product may not necessarily be innovators for other products or services.

The characteristics of innovators vary from one product to another, and tend to vary between geographic areas and cultures.

A large number of research studies have established some general characteristics of most of the first adopters. In general, the first adopters are younger, have a higher social status, are better educated, and enjoy a higher income.

They are more mobile than later adopters and change both their jobs and home addresses more often. They are more likely to rely upon impersonal information sources than later adopters.

In the main, innovators receive product information in print media and from other impersonal sources. They do not rely heavily upon personal sources, such as friends, associates and salesmen. Innovators are not to be confused with opinion leaders. The latter are not necessarily the first to adopt a new product. In fact, they may be sources of resistance to new product adoption.

Early adopters are responsible for the diffusions of innovations. If they do not accept the new idea and pass it on to the early majority, it dies without further chance of acceptance. The early adopters tend to be opinion leaders.

This being the case, some marketers of new pro­ducts attempt to identify the innovators and early adopters and to direct their advertising efforts at them, rather than at the target consumers at large.

Since some persons are innovators or early adopters for some product classes but not for others, the marketer of new products cannot safely rely upon generalized characteristics, such as “innovators are mobile.”

He should rather conduct research designed to locate the innovators and early adopters of the specific product in question.

Once the early adopters have accepted the new idea, they pass it on to the early majority, a group that prefers to wait for others to try the innovation before becoming involved with it.

Another group, the late majority, is very slow to accept the new concept, preferring to wait until it has achieved substantial popularity. Finally, the laggards adopt an innovation only when it has become firmly entrenched in the ranks of the other four groups.

The innovation process may take place in a very short time, perhaps over several weeks, or the process may take a very long time, may be many years.

The adoption rate is influenced by the five characteristics of the innovation:

(i) Relative Advantage:

This refers to the superiority of the innovation over existing offers. The innovation might perform better, have a lower price, have an improved appearance or provide more convenience than other products or services. The adoption rate of black and white TV in India has been more rapid than of colour TV.

One reason for this difference is that relative advantage of black and white TV has been greater. It provides new benefits of convenience, comfort and low cost entertainment in the home; the only new benefit of coloured TV is that it gives coloured pictures.

(ii) Compatibility:

Innovation has compatibility if it fits with the values and life-styles of the group in question. T-shirts, when introduced in India, were quite successful because the design of the dress was quite compatible with the tropi­cal climate of the country.

(iii) Complexity:

It means the degree of difficulty that consu­mers experience in understanding how it works and in using it. Very complex ideas spread very slowly. Most customers, for instance, find even the very basic types of LIC’s life insurance policies hard to understand. Under­standably, consumers are slow in adopting the new form of life insurance policies.

(iv) Divisibility:

It is the extent to which the innovation may be used on a limited basis. Consumers tend to accept divisible innovations faster than those that are not divisible. Thus, they may try out a new detergent by purchasing a small package and using it to clean the clothes.

But they cannot purchase and try a small unit portion of a new car, except to the extent of sampling the product on test drives, and must purchase and try this commodity as a complete unit.

(v) Communicability:

Innovation is communicable, if one is able to describe the product or service and its accompany­ing benefits effectively. TV salesmen, for example, can graphically describe a new TV model and demonstrate the quality of the reception.

A life insurance salesman often experiences difficulty in relaying the features of a new type of policy to consumers. His product is intangible and not easy to communicate.

The Trickle down Thesis of Diffusion:

Another important aspect of the time of adoption research relates to the manner in which opinions are diffused in the general population. This word diffusion, as we employ it here, may be defined as a process of the transmission of ideas, points of view, or preferen­ces of the population.

If we whispered an idea in the ear of one person in an auditorium full of people and asked that person to spread the idea, and also ask those he thus contacted to likewise further spread the idea, we would create a kind of miniature diffusion sequence. The specific kind of diffusion process in which we are most interested is not forced in the sense that the members of group are acting under instructions to spread an idea.

We are more immediately concerned with a natural diffusion process, one in which the pass- along procedure is entirely voluntary.

A natural diffusion process is amplified by the transmission of the awareness of new products, political issued, information about books and movies, and so forth. But we should further recognise and distinguish between the diffusion that is occasioned by commer­cial sponsorship and diffusion that is occasioned by the informal word-of-mouth process.

An advertisement that extals the virtues of a particular car certainly effects a “transmittal of ideas, points of view or preferences.” But a man’s word of praise about his new scooter directed to his neighbours in a casual conversation is also an element in an important kind of diffusion.

Indeed, a classic study of influence suggests that this informal word-of-mouth transmittal is extremely potent. Word-of-mouth influence is the single most important medium of influence and has the highest incidence of effective influence.

We are mainly concerned with improving our understanding of natural diffusion processes; both those that are commercially spon­sored and those that are informal word-of-mouth processes.

How does this diffusion process work? Perhaps the most frequently encountered theory of diffusion assumes that new ideas flow in an essentially vertical direction in a social system. The notion is suggested by the term trickle-down thesis, which presumes a stratified, or layered, social system.

The trickle-down thesis suggests that innovation in a social system normally begins at the upper levels of the social structure. The basic notion is that subordinate social strata look to the levels above them for guidance in matters of taste.

There are several reasons why this trickle-down argument seems plausible. First, hundreds of years ago, royalty did act as style innovators; the nobility copied royalty, and some of the middle classes copied the nobility.

Moreover, we still witness some trickle- down influence in matters of dress. We still witness the phenomenon of new styles appearing first at the level of exclusive high fashion shops, then at high quality ready-to-wear outlets, and finally at mass appeal stores.

To the extent that each of these types of retail outlets caters to a clientele of a descending social class, a kind of trickle- down phenomenon is observed.

Although the trickle-down thesis is logical and seems operative in some contexts, there are many critics of the theory. These critics argue that the trickle-down description of diffusion is of limited applicability today and that it errs because it assumes that opinion leadership necessarily originates at the top of the social hierarchy.

A view often encountered is that such leadership may, and in fact does, originate at virtually all levels of the social system. In a now classic study, it was found that opinion leadership was not concentrated in any particular social stratum.

An opposing theory of the diffusion process is suggested by the phrase horizontal influence thesis. This motive of the diffusion process is not as tidy as the trickle-down thesis, which assumes that opinion leaders, or influential, reside at every social and economic stratum, and that such opinion leaders tend to specialize in terms of their realms of expertise; that is, there is very little overlap of leadership.

A leader in one sphere is not likely to be influential in another unrelated sphere as well. Although all the evidence is not in, there is some suggestion that there is a slightly greater concentration of opinion leaders among the more educated people at each socio-economic level.

The central thrust of the horizontal influence thesis is that influence moves essentially further to other socio-economic classes. Clearly, from the advertising point of view, the notion that opinion leadership resides throughout the social structure of the system is a complicating fact.

The notion that opinion leaders are also specia­lists (rather than generally influential) tends to complicate matters further. For if something like the trickle-down thesis were an accurate portrayal of the diffusion process, a new concept of products or services would first have to be sold only to the elite classes, and we may then stand back and wait for the “trickle”.

If “trickle” is less than desired, the mass media may be used to hasten the adoption process. But with potential opinion leaders virtually everywhere, each having a different field of competence, the task of harnessing the force of this inter-personal word-of-mouth influence is, at the very best, complex.

The Booster Station Theory of Influence:

Despite these complexities, it is possible to use the force of word-of-mouth influence in an intelligent way. It has been suggested that a commercial massage may have a kind of pass-along value that it may be part of a two-flow influence. To be more specific, a particular message may move from the commercial sponsor of the message to some listener/viewer/reader/to some other person.

This two-step flow of influence is of the greatest value when the second step of the communication process is an extremely persuasive or influential personage.

Case A depicts a “normal” one-step flow of influence from the commercial sponsor to the prospect. Case B depicts a two-step system of influence from the manufacturer to the influential and from the influential to the prospect. It should be emphasized here that there may be distinct economic advantage in concentrating sales efforts on persons who act in a pass-along capacity.

Thus, the influential, if properly persuaded, may sell, in turn, whatever the manufacturer sells to him. But to designate the process “the two-step flow” of communi­cation results in a watering down the emphasis of an extremely important part of the process. Something happens in the second step of this process that makes it vastly superior to a direct, or one step, type of communication.

To be of the greatest value, the message that is transmitted must have a greater impact on the prospects when it comes from the influ­ential than when it comes directly from the sponsor. Were this not true, there would be substantially less reason to use a two-step com­munication system.

The heart of the two-step flow of influence lies in the relatively greater persuasiveness of the influential. This fact seems to argue for what is a better descriptive term, the booster station theory of influence.

The two-step flow model emphasizes that certain individuals, called opinion leaders, tend to receive the information first, and that they influence others in the population by disseminating it-

The central concept of this model opinion leadership has been extensively studied in marketing applications. One issue is whether opinion leadership in general or specific. A general leader exerts influence across product categories or interest areas. A specific leader is specific to particular product.

It is doubtful whether either genera­lization applies to all product and market situations. Another issue is whether opinion leaders serve as gatekeepers of information are they likely to the exposed more often to mass media information? This appears to occur at the time of exposure to relevant media but not to mass media as a whole.

The two-step flow model is extended by elaborating the other steps involved in it, and the roles of mass communication and personal influence at various stages in the adop­tion process.

In the adoption process, mass communication exerts a stronger influence during the early stages of the process, and personal influences during the later stages. The marketing-mix variables may also affect the adoption rates. Price, distribution, advertising and the product itself all exert some influence.

An advertiser should determine the degree to which personal influence and opinion leadership are important forces in so far as his product is concerned. In some cases, opinion leaders may be singled out and treated as market targets, at which the initial phases of the advertising programme may be directed.

Copy tactics may be deve­loped and evaluated to enhance the diffusion and personal influential process. Advertisements may show a personal influence process operating and stimulate receivers to seek out the opinions of other people.

It is important to monitor the nature and degree of personal influence during the life of a campaign, and, in some cases, to retard the flow of personal influence and diffusion.

An understanding of the processes at work in diffusion may lead to a more efficient advertising for a new product. Advertisers empha­size those product attributes which are most likely to appeal to consu­mers. If the product has a strong relative advantage, this should be featured in the advertisement.

The availability of small-size samples is also important, as is the opportunity to experience a service on a trial basis. If a product requires a major adaptation on the consumer’s part, the advertisement should lay emphasis on explanation and education.

Marketing research can also establish a profile of the consumer who is most likely to adopt the new product. Advertising can then be aimed at first reaching this influential segment of the market.

Later, strategies may be changed to concentrate influence on late adopters. If a special effort is made to reach and convince the opinion leaders, the adoption rate may be accelerated throughout the social system.

This effect will, however, depend on how conspicuous the product is and how susceptible it is to word-of-mouth communi­cation. The advertisement also relate to the socio-cultural characteri­stics of the target area.

Further, the place of innovation diffusion in advertising is related to an understanding of the dynamics of the product life cycle, especially the early stages of a new product.

Marketing Communication – Applications of Communication Process in Marketing

After learning the meaning of Communication Process and Marketing, the application of communication process in marketing can be understood very easily.

So, the application of communication process in marketing is as below:

1. Firm as a Sender:

In marketing communication a firm is the sender of messages and ideas to its existing and prospective customers. In order to communicate with its customers, the firm must be quite clear about what it wants to communicate. Messages and ideas about its products and services offered to customers should be clearly formulated in its policies and guidelines.

2. Message:

The message, consists of words, symbols, diagrams, views, opinions, etc. that are conveyed by a firm. The message is the subject-matter or content of marketing communication.

3. Encoding:

After deciding what to communicate, a firm must develop messages and ideas into words, symbols, diagrams or some other understandable form to receiver. The process of expressing ideas into words or symbols is known as encoding.

When a person expresses so many concepts enshrined in his mind, language becomes an important communication system. Body language can also be used while encoding any message. Body language can have different forms such as facial expressions, nodding, winking, raising hand, etc.

In marketing communication, today, many business messages are encoded in computer language. Many factors influence the encoder like communication-skills, knowledge, experience, environmental, social and cultural elements, etc.

4. Media Channels:

The function of the formation of the message and the selection of the medium are done collectively. The type of message very much depends upon the medium used for conveying it. In marketing communication various media channels like advertising, personal selling, publicity, public relations, etc. are used. These different media channels have different respective effects.

5. Customers as Receivers:

In marketing communication, customers (either existing or prospective) are receivers who receive information from communicators, i.e., firms. Marketing communication process is completed when customers get messages and ideas from firms through a proper channel.

6. Decoding or Interpretation:

In marketing communication, as we know, customers are the receivers of messages. After receiving messages, customers decode them and try to know the meaning of the messages received. This make the messages clear with the help of words, symbols, charts, etc. Sometimes, help is sought of the other person to translate messages which are in typical or secret terminology.

7. Response:

After understanding the message, the receiver is likely to give some response. For instance, when a customer sends any reply to the firm or performs certain activity on the basis of the message or sends any indication to the firm then it is known as response.

8. Feedback:

After sending a message, the sender wants to know the reaction or response of the receiver. For this, he makes arrangement for a system of feedback. The system of feedback makes the sender aware of the extent of the success or failure of his message.

In marketing communication, if customers’ attitudes, beliefs, lifestyles values and preferences are influenced towards a firm and its products by personal selling, advertising, sales promotion and public relations then it will be known as feedback.

Marketing Communication – 2 Main Types of Communication Channels: Personal and Non-Personal

The communicator must select effective channels of communication to carry out the message.

Communication channels are of two types:

1. Personal, and

2. Non-personal.

1. Personal Communications Channels:

Personal influences have a direct role in the rural markets. Here buyers are less exposed to media, and more community bonded. They seek opinions before making final decisions.

Advocate Channels consists of company salespeople who contact buyers in the target market. Dalmia Consumer Care has assembled a team of rural sales promotion (RSPs) to promote their non- tobacco Vardaan bidi in rural areas. RSPs also targeted consumers directly in the haats and explained them the benefits of Vardaan bidi compare to other normal tobacco bidis, harmful for their health.

Expert Channels consists of independent experts who make statements to target buyers. Aagan wadi ladies for advising on health products are more credible expert sources than any other persons.

Social Channels consists of family members, friends etc., who talk to target buyers. In the rural context, social channel is the first channel to which potential consumers automatically turn, before they solicit views and opinions from the outside world.

2. Non-Personnel Communications Channels:

Non-personal communication channels carry messages without personal contact or interaction. Most messages come through paid media. Advertisements in newspapers, magazines have limited value in rural areas. More than radio, TV can impact rural audience by its audio-visual effects. Live demonstrations, storytelling programs like- Harikatha, Burrakatha etc., or skits will be more powerful.

Stalls at fairs that combine games with the brand are preferred routes of brand communication. For example –

Brook Bond Lipton India-Tiger Brand:

Tiger brand. Brook bond Lipton India Ltd. often creates Sherdil jawano ka adda within its stalls. The adda offers the local men a chance to test their strength at the grip machine. To increase the traffic to the stalls the decor is changed regularly. Company hires announcers to lure villagers by offering special price-off, discounts and free gifts.

Integration of Communications Channels:

Although personal communication is often more effective than mass communication, but a marketer should utilize to integrate the personal channels, non-personal channels to reach out to target consumers in an effective manner.

Marketing Communication – Planning and Communication Process in Marketing

Planning and communication processes within a firm run parallel to each other. This enables the firm to continuously update itself with the growth in knowledge and use this knowledge to devise its own competitive strategy. In the last few decades growth of knowledge has had a tremendous impact on the efficacy of communication methods. Technology is continuously making communication simpler.

Growth of knowledge has enabled the fast exchange and flow of ideas. It has shaped and reshaped product and service offerings, changed channels of distribution of customer access and enabled customer to get the same or added values at lower cost. Information about the growth of knowledge is therefore critical to firms responses.

Today, video conferencing allows people from all the world to “meet” without stepping in an airplane. This enables quick transmission of information and exchange of ideas. Therefore new possibilities of adding values can emerge faster. Similarly growth of knowledge has improved delivery of information and services. Internet is revolutionizing the delivery of banking services.

Personal banking and investing can now be done from personal computers. Growth of knowledge has also made execution of tasks simpler. Mini computers strapped to inventory clerks wrists greatly increase warehousing and distribution efficiency. Wearable computers guided by voice navigation can now be used for inventory and maintenance of industrial machines. Computers can transmit to the firm, data of movement of stocks as soon as they are lifted from store shelves.

This data can be immediately transferred to suppliers enabling minimising of inventory costs and keeping track of changes in customer tastes. The availability and transmission of information has a direct impact on a firm’s planning process. These processes may need to be re-engineered to meet the quick supply of information inputs. The key question the firms face is what can facilitate the growth of knowledge within a firm, how to do it and how to process and deliver this addition to knowledge in a way that the customer perceives as value added.

Growth of knowledge depends on the availability of information. Information needs to be sourced. This requires co-operation with those who possess it and building channels for its inward flow. The firms planning processes increasingly depends on the ability to process this information with discrimination. The firms output or response to this inflow and its processing can be called as the firm’s competitive response.

The planning process and communication tasks have a parallel flow.

The planning process highlights this through the depiction of 3 Sub-processes:

1. Inflow:

Information from many sources is available to a firm. How to choose the right sources that can help the value addition process of the firm is the first task. These sources could generally be suppliers, related industries, scientific community, new customers, present customers, trade association etc.

How to develop channels of information-sharing with these sources is the next task.

2. Processing:

The firm needs to evolve a discrimination process that first sifts the clutter from the information flow. Next it needs to build with its human capital the systems, processes, skills etc., that can process this information inflow in a manner that can identify where value addition can be done by the firm. The nature of internal processes of the firm is important here.

3. Value Added Outflow:

Finally the firm needs to deliver value added to both customers and society. If the firms outflow also helps build value added for its suppliers or related industries, or even its competitors it can start a mutually supportive process of value addition helping create competitive advantage for the nation.

Marketing Communication – 3 Special Problems of Advertiser in Communication

Special Problems of Advertiser in Communication:

The elementary communication model message-receiver analysis is quite inadequate because the advertiser has to face certain basic problems, in this model that are of particular significance to him.

1. Reception of Message:

The characteristics of an effective communication are – (i) the message must be so designed and delivered as to gain attraction of the receiver and (ii) it must use signals and words that are understood by the receiver in the same sense in which they are transmitted by the source.

Obviously, there will be little or no communication if the receiver does not follow the message in the same sense in which they are transmitted by the source. Obviously, there will be little or no communication if the receiver does not follow the message by the receiver but it must be received by him psychologically as well as physically. The receiver must perceive and be able to understand what is seen or heard.

To follow the message, a field of experience and understanding common to both sender and receiver is a must, otherwise the message may be misunderstood or misinterpreted and may create confusion. Thus, common field of experience assures understanding of the message. As because of a close relationship between the advertiser and the consumer, does not exist, one of the primary problems in the creation of advertising is the translation of news and information (message) about the product to the language of the consumer.

2. Interference or Noise:

Interference is another problem, the advertiser must cope with. To a degree the noise or disturbance is present in almost all forms of communication, i.e., radio, TV or Newspapers. This consists of factors that affect or distort the message received from the source. In other words, noise or interference refers to conditions that distort the communication process or interfere with the transmission of the message.

Noise or interference may inhabit at any point in the process. It includes poor message planning, inappropriate media selection, the competition message, busy audience members and careless measurement of results. The phone rings while we are reading the newspaper or viewing the television or the baby cries for milk and mother leaves the TV set are some of the illustrations where the interference affects the right delivery of the message.

These all are external interference but the greatest danger to the advertiser is not due to external interference. Internal interference, i.e., the other message competing the attention of the reader, the listener or the viewer – not only the news and entertainment, but advertising messages being transmitted by other competitors. Such transmissions, obviously, draw the attention of the receiver and more perhaps change the attitude of the consumer.

3. Lack of Feedback:

Another problem faced by the advertiser is lack of feedback. Feedback is, getting the results by the communicator or source about what the audience has learned or gained from the communication message or how he behaves in response to the appeal. It provides answers as to when and how the message should be altered or modified to be most effective. It is the last step in the communication process and helps the communicator in planning the further messages.

This feedback is not inherent in all types of communication. When we talk face-to-face with a person or even when we address a group, there is no problem of feedback because it can be known immediately how effectively our message is being delivered, indicated by the behaviour of the audience.

The receivers or the audience may ask questions about points which are not clear to them and even though they do not talk back, their actions and expressions can indicate whether message is being received correctly or not. A yawn, for example, from the audience may be a sufficient indication that the message is not getting through. Thus, interpersonal communication is a two way communication and feedback is no problem.

But advertising is an impersonal and one-way communication. The prospect or the receiver of the message has no chance to ask the questions or even indicate to the advertiser whether he has got the message. Instead of feeding back the reactions, the receiver changes the channel. The advertiser subsequently finds through research or sales reports that only a few received the message.

This fact cannot be known by the advertiser when he transmits the message and therefore, he cannot alter the message timely. It, thus, becomes a hurdle in a two way communication. To overcome the obstacle, the advertiser must attempt to anticipate the audience’s reactions when exposed to the message.

Thus, these are the special problems or noise factors or interferences that an advertiser has to face. These factors are present almost in every form of mass communication and the advertiser must be aware of them.

Broadly speaking marketing communication is “the continuing dialogue between buyers and sellers in a market-place. However, looking from marketers perspective, the marketing communication is the process of presenting an integrated set of stimuli to a target market with the intent of evoking a desired set of responses within that target market and setting up channels to receive, interpret, and act upon messages and indemnifying new communication opportunities.”

This definition is quite relevant to an individual firm. It recognizes that the firm is both a sender and a receiver of market-related messages. As a sender it first approaches customers to buy its products/brands in a competitive environment. As a receiver, it seeks to attune itself to its target market in order to realign its messages, to adopt messages to its changing marketing condition and to spot new communication opportunities. The firm must be a sensitive receiver of market’s needs, if it is to survive and grow.

Marketing Communication – Challenges and Inherent Problems

Now that you have been exposed to the communication goal method, some communication control challenges and inherent problems that make this method only a start to the process of arriving at overall marketing communication goals and allocating awareness and attitude requirements for the specific tactical tools.

There is much you can control in the communication of your product and/or service, such as your advertising message, publicity releases, brand name development, packaging, type of promotion and events, company direct service to customers, and point-of-purchase message.

However, there is much communication that you cannot control. The sheer noise level in your particular marketplace can exceed your control. This noise level includes the communication of your message and that of your competition, as well as all of the messages your target market is receiving, both within a particular category and on a geographic basis, in their everyday lives. For example, it is estimated that the average adult is exposed to 200 to 300 ad messages every day.

There are also many other forms of communication that you cannot, or believe you cannot, control, such as your competitors’ sales forces, promotion, and advertising; the retailer’s/ distributor’s service level; and independent, third-party communications. For example, a magazine reporter might use your product incorrectly because he did not read the instructions, have a bad usage experience, and then write a negative feature on your product.

Many times you have partial control over what may appear to be uncontrollable communication. In the case of a magazine reporter, perhaps the “facts” sheet sent along with the product and instructions was not enough to properly “prep” the reporter. But a phone call highlighting the instructions could have preceded and followed the sending of the material. Further, some believe that the manufacturer has no control over the retailer’s displays.

However, having a company representative call the retail contact with examples of how to build a retail display, with corresponding manufacturer’s incentive, may provide some control over the retailer’s communication of the manufacturer’s product. The point is that a well-designed and well- executed marketing plan with detailed follow through can provide some control over what might originally be considered uncontrollable communication and give your product a better chance to succeed.

Addressing the communication control challenges is critical to determining what overall marketing communication is required to move the target person to action and what is required by each tactical tool to deliver the overall communication for the plan. Yes, there is only so much communication you can control, and yes, because of the control challenge, your communication goals and values are only directional. However, the key is to be aware of what you truly cannot control and to make every effort to control as much as you can.

Marketing Communication – How to Plan for Effective Marketing Communication?

Planning for marketing communication starts with the selection of target audience and determination of communication objectives for the select target. Communication objectives provide guidance to media and message decisions which are, however, subjected to availability of funds for a particular communication program.

Various decisions which form a part of communication planning are evaluated to provide the feedback on communication effectiveness against its objectives:

1. Identifying Target Audience:

Potential buyer, current user, the decision-maker or the one who has an influence alone or together constitute the target audience for the communication programme. For potential buyers, one needs further clarification such as which of the five potential buyer groups belong to the target audience.

The five categories of the potential buyers are:

a. New category users (NCU),

b. Brand loyals (BL),

c. Favourable brand switchers (FBS),

d. Other brand switchers (OBS), and,

e. Other brand loyals (OBL).

To identify the target audience, marketers select one or more of the buyer group on the basis of its feasibility for the marketing programme. Geographic, demographic and psychographic are the other possible and in fact useful descriptors of the potential buyers. The further delineation of the buyer groups for these descriptors refines the process of target selection. The overlapped area, as constitutes the target audience and, thus, gives a much focused view of buyers.

2. Determining Communication Objectives:

The target audience response to a communication programme can occur at the three stages in the response hierarchy – cognitive, affective and conative level. Each stage represents the dependent variable to be attained through an appropriate communication programme. The dependent variable serves as an objective of communication process which will change as the target audience move from one stage to the other stage.

A marketer needs to identify the factors leading to the variation in information response behaviour of the target audience. Here, the knowledge of the level of consumer involvement and degree of product differentiation and the response stage of the target audience will provide an insight into the target audience response behaviour.

3. Decision on Total Promotion Budget:

How much to spend on product promotion? The answer to this question lies in knowing the two facts-first, the role of promotion in achieving overall marketing objectives, and secondly, the basis used to determine the amount of promotion budget. There are alternative avenues which can contribute to brand’s profit, sales and market share.

Marketers need to decide about the role of product promotion in relation to alternative avenues such as product innovation, lowering of price or better accessibility to resources. The role of promotion in overall marketing mix also depends on other factors such as stages in product life cycle and nature of the product.

The four methods to decide about the amount of promotional budget are affordable method, percentage of sales method, competitive parity method and objective and task method. Marketers decide about a particular method according to the feeling of ease with a given method and the expertise available with them to use the one for their purpose.

Affordable method is based on the proposition of what one can afford. The method has no reference to the role of promotion in achieving marketing objectives and promotion budget is merely considered as an item of expenditure which may vary from year to year. For a production oriented firm, the one following push strategy in the market, promotion could merely be the matter of affordability.

Percentage of sales method considers promotion budget as linked to the selling price and/or profit per unit product. The amount of promotion budget is a certain percentage of sales and the percentage is usually derived from the past experiences or on the basis of competitors’ promotion budget. This method encourages the stability in the market as competing firms are likely to spend the same amount on product promotion.

But this is only a supposition which has no logical basis. The percentage of sales method has a circular reasoning as sales determine the budget which in turn affects future sales and so on. It implies that in the case of lower sales there will be lesser budgetary allocations for product promotion which could have unnecessary suppressing effects on the product sale in future. On the contrary, the situation of excessive unnecessary expenditure is also possible as an increase in sales would be followed by an increased budget, and so on.

Competitive parity method is used with the purpose of achieving share of voice in the market as a firm’s promotion budget is matched with the competitors budget. This method, however, totally discounts the differences between a firms’ capabilities, opportunities and reputation. Matching expenditure on product promotion is, therefore, unlikely to result into matching response in the market and the possibility of having a promotion-based competition in the market gets reduced to minimal.

Objective and task method provides a logical basis to budget determination. Marketers define specific communication objectives and determine the tasks and the promotion tools to achieve those objectives. The estimated cost of performing these tasks constitutes the promotion budget. In the process of determining advertising budget, marketers need to spell out each specific detail on communication tasks as decision parameters and their relationships with each other like exposure level and trial rate.

4. Message Decision:

The decision on – what to say, how to say and who should say forms the part of message decision. The answer to these questions lies in AIDA model to provide the desirable qualities for designing of a message. Accordingly, a message should gain attention (A), hold interest (I), arouse desire (D) and elicit desired action (A).

What to say is – a decision on message content which involves decisions on message appeal, message theme and the unique selling proposition. Generally, message appeals are either rational or emotional. Moral appeals are the other type of message appeals which are used most often for advertising in non-business environment.

For example, a social appeal to persuade the people to save environment is a kind of moral appeal. The decision on how to say requires working out great details concerning the use of language, words, colours, settings, illustrations, expressions and so on. Finally, the message source can be an individual, a group, or an organization – a corporate entity.

The idea of choosing a particular message source is to enhance the audience believability in the message and also to attract their attention.

5. Deciding about Communication Channel:

A Message is transmitted through channels of marketing communication. These are either personal or non-personal type. Advocate channels, expert channels or social channels are the personal channels and are found more effective as they provide opportunities for individualizing the promotion.

In personal channels the sales person talks to prospective customer face to face, or through telephone or internet. Although, all marketing situations involve some personal contact but when the product is expensive, risky, and bulky, infrequently purchased or is suggestive about buyer’s status, a personal channel is primarily used because the buyer is supposed to be an active information seeker in such buying situations.

Non-personal communication channels include media, atmosphere and events where each one of them has its respective communication platforms. As against personal communication channel, the non-personal channels involve two-step flow of information where information reaches to the media and from media it reaches to the target audience.

6. Decision on Promotion Mix:

Advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, public relation, publicity and direct marketing are the various promotion tools. Marketers seek the careful blending of these promotion tools in order to provide for an optimum utilization of resources as well as for achievement of communication objectives.

Advertising is a pervasive form of marketing communication which is used across various products, organizations and situations. The differences are found in the weightage of advertising in the promotion mix for different products or for the same product but at different points of time. Advertising is defined as the paid non-personal form of mass communication involving use of mass media to transmit the message from an identified sponsor to the target audience.

Due to the use of mass media, an advertising message is capable of reaching to the masses at one time and keeps cost per audience reached lower as compared to other forms of communications. Being a non-personal form of communication, the immediate feedback on advertising effects is not possible.

Personal Selling involves personal communication as the message is transmitted through a face-to-face contact between the sales people and the target audience. Personal selling may take place in various forms. Over the counter is the most common form of personal selling where sales person’s job is simply to take orders at the counter from a customer.

In its complex form, personal selling involves a number of activities including prospecting, pre-approach, approach, presentation, objection handling and, finally, closing of sale. These activities constitute the stages of personal selling process, where each of the personal selling activity requires the use of creative skills to finally close the sale.

In another form, sales persons selling high value products like vacuum cleaners carry out a missionary kind of selling. The sales person here aims for making an effective presentation with a view to build goodwill or image for the product or to educate the actual or potential customer. For higher end advertising objectives requiring formation or change in belief structure, attitude and purchase intentions, personal selling is likely to work more effectively than advertising.

Sales Promotion tools such as coupons, contests, premium, discounts and the like are used to provide inducement for immediate sale or trial of the product to facilitate the introduction of a new product or to respond to competitive pressures. Various sales promotion tools are either price based or non-price based. These are used for target customers, sales person and middlemen. Sales promotion tools are used on a short-term basis and, as the situation requires, advertising or some other promotion techniques are combined to implement sales promotion tools.

Public Relations & Publicity involves product promotion through some events, conferences, grand openings, or news. The public relation department of an organization arranges for some public relation activity where product promotion takes place as a part of activity and not like a simple advertisement or some kind of personal selling for the product.

Public relations are considered as credible and more authentic source of information than ads. Therefore, the well thought out public relations and publicity program coordinated with the other promotion-mix elements can be extremely effective.

It is, however, important to recognize the difference between public relations and publicity. Public relation is the systematic plan to disseminate information to manage and control an organization’s image. Publicity, on the other hand, is the non-paid form of promotion without any identified sponsor. Media coverage of a story or news about an organization becomes the source of publicity for the product.

Direct Marketing occurs through door-to-door selling, direct mail, direct response ads, telemarketing, and data based marketing where message is normally addressed to a specific person to generate a response and/or transaction. Being customized in nature, direct marketing easily adapts itself to the changed situation.

The increase in two-income households and changed lifestyles has made people to have more discretionary income but less time. People seek convenience and prefer shopping through catalogues, on company’s websites, or placing orders by mail or by phone. All this has contributed tremendously towards the growth of direct marketing over the last few years.

Different promotion tools as discussed above have their unique characteristics and their careful blending is required to accomplish promotional objectives. The blending, however, does not imply merely combining of various tools. It is rather the use of various tools in a coordinated and well integrated manner that the marketer attempts for to have an efficient and effective marketing communication for the product.

The basic question here is-how to decide about the required blend of promotional tools? There are a number of factors such as type of product, type of market, and buyer’s readiness stage, which a marketer needs to consider for creating the required blend of various promotion tools.

7. Type of Product Market:

The market for a product is either consumer market or industrial market or both. The two types of markets differ in terms of their respective market size, lot size purchased, buying considerations, buying styles and participants in decision making. In view of these differences, consumer markets usually have a dominant use of advertising and in industrial market personal selling constitutes a major component of promotion mix (see Table 2.4).

8. Push v/s Pull Strategy:

These are the two distribution strategies and depending upon the situation a marketer decides about one of them to make the product available in the market. The push strategy works appropriately when there is low brand loyalty and the purchase is mainly of impulse type and decision-making takes place within the store.

In such a situation, a marketer can decide to push the product through intermediaries down the distribution channel to its target markets. They use their sales force and trade promotions to induce the intermediaries to deal in the product category and to sell it to the end users. Pull strategy, on the contrary, involves the use of inducements in the form of consumer promotions and creative advertising to create a demand for the product in the market.

Due to the pull factor, intermediaries are thus expected to place the order for the product. Pull strategy works more appropriately where consumers are likely to show brand loyalty, perceive more differences between the brands, or have a higher level of product involvement. Pull strategy mainly requires heavy dependence on advertising.

9. Buyers’ Readiness Stage:

Buyers pass through various stages of information processing before they finally decide to purchase the product. Since different promotional techniques are differently capable in terms of their effectiveness and efficiency to bring about the desired change, each stage differs for the promotional tools required to make the buyer move to the next stage (see Table 2.5). The knowledge of buyer readiness stage in a given situation, thus, helps the marketer in deciding about the extent of use of a type of promotional tool.

10. Product Life Cycle:

Knowledge about the stage of product life cycle is another important insight required for communication planning. At each of the product life cycle stages, a marketer is required to decide about different promotional tools either to sustain or to avoid that particular stage. Product introduction, for example, require more awareness for the product and the use of advertising here is more suitable.

11. Company’s Market Rank:

This is also one of the deciding factors for developing promotion mix. The large dominant companies usually employ heavy advertising and sales promotion to achieve increase in the product sale and also their market share. Small companies, on the other hand, depend more on personal selling or direct marketing as against advertising and sales promotion. Obviously, lower budget and lower market size of these companies does not call for using much of advertising.

Promotional objectives, promotional budget and characteristics of target audience, their needs and expectations are the other important considerations which may affect the decision on promotion mix for the brand.