Communication implies the process of transmitting a message to the receiver in order to obtain a response. The communication process consists of all of the elements that go into the creation, transmission, reception, and interpretation of meaning from one party to another.
The communication process is a part of any advertising or marketing program. When the marketer wants to communicate to the audience that he has a good or service which can be sold, he will construct the message and send it to the prospective customer or customers.
The steps involved in the marketing communication process are:- 1. Source 2. Encoding 3. Message 4. Media 5. Decoding 6. Receiver 7. Response 8. Feedback.
Marketing Communication Process
Marketing Communication Process – 8 Fundamental Elements
The marketer needs to understand the fundamental elements for effective communication. Two parties in a communication process are sender and receiver; message and media are communication tools, whereas major communication functions are – encoding, decoding, response & feedback.
i. Source or sender or communicator
ii. Encoding (putting the thought or idea in symbolic form)
iii. Message (the set of symbols for transmission)
iv. Media (the path through which the message moves) from Sender to Receiver.
v. Decoding (assigning meanings to the symbols transmitted by the sender).
vi. Receiver or audience or destination.
vii. Response (the set of reactions that the receiver has after having been exposed to the message).
Marketing Communication Process – 8 Essentials Concerned in the Communication Process
The procedure by which one person or a group of persons obtain an increment of information which has some significance for either sender or receiver either by way of knowledge adding or amusement or acquirement of energy to act or influence to buy or act as required by the sender is the process of communication.
All the essentials concerned in communication which compose the communication process are:
Two imperative stages of communication are – (a) encoding and (b) decoding. Encoding is conversion or alteration of the idea or intent or message into words or signals so that receiver would reconvert the same as intended by the sender.
Decoding is what the receiver does to reconvert the acknowledged words or signals into the idea or intent or message as originally intended by the sender. The problems associated with encoding or decoding are due to the fact that words or signals have several meanings and thus there is an option of either use of wrong words or wrong signals or considerate them in a way different from what is originally intended.
The following brief discussion explains the process of communication:
i. Source – As the source of the message, marketer needs to be clear about why he is communicating, and what does he wants to communicate. He also needs to be confident that the information he is communicating, is useful and accurate.
ii. Message – The message is the information that marketer wants to communicate.
iii. Encoding – This is the process of transferring the information marketer needs to communicate into an outline that can be sent and properly decoded at the other end. The success in encoding relay partly on his ability to convey information clearly and simply, and also on his ability to foresee and purge sources of mystification (for example, cultural issues, mistaken assumptions, and missing information). A key part of this, to know his audience. Failure to understand whom is he communicating with, will result in delivering messages that are misunderstood.
iv. Channel – Messages are conveyed through channels, with verbal channels including face-to-face meetings, telephone and written channels including letters, brochures, posters etc. Different channels have different strengths and weaknesses.
v. Decoding – Just as flourishing encoding is a skill, so is thriving decoding (involving, for example, taking the time to read a message cautiously, or pay attention enthusiastically to it). Just as misunderstanding can arise from errors in encoding, it can also arise from decoding errors. This is particularly the case if the decoder doesn’t have enough knowledge to recognize the message.
vi. Receiver – Message is delivered to individual members of audience. No doubt, marketer has in mind the actions or reactions he hopes his message will get from this audience. Keep in mind, though, that each of these individuals enters into the communication process with ideas and feelings that will undoubtedly influence their understanding of marketer’s message, and their response. To be a successful communicator, marketer should consider these before delivering his message, and act appropriately.
vii. Feedback – Audience will provide feedback, as verbal and non-verbal reactions to the communicated message. Pay close attention to the feedback. It is the only thing that can give a marketer confidence that his audience have understood his message.
viii. Context – The situation, in which the message is delivered, is known as context. This may include the surrounding environment or broader culture (corporate culture, international cultures, and so on).
It is possible that the receiver may not receive the intended message for any one of the following reason at this point:
a. Selective attention where the consumer may not notice the stimulus provided due to the bombarded messages every day. Clutter plays a major obstacle in gaining attention.
b. Selective distortion where the message is twisted to hear what the consumer wants to hear. Here receiver will hear what fits into their belief system. The task is to strive for simplicity, clarity, interest and repetition to get the main points across.
c. Selective recall where the consumer retains only a small fraction of the message that reaches him/her due to his/her initial attitude towards the object. If the attitude is positive then the recall is high otherwise low because of negative attitude towards the object.
This model helps in understanding some of the issues that need attention in media and message decisions. The information-seeking and processing behaviour of rural consumers influence the choice of media and the message.
The comprehension of a message is very challenging in the Indian rural market. This is shown in a study that tested the responses of rural and urban consumers to TV advertising. The distortion in the study indicates the gravity of the problem.
A study was carried out jointly by MART – Anugrah Madison surveying regular T.V viewers among men and women in the age group of 18 to 50 years. The parameters to test are comprehension, believability association with characters featured in the commercials attraction and acceptability and emotional involvement with the commercials taking two product categories (consumer goods and durable goods).
Among the consumer goods two product namely, Babool Toothpaste and Navaratna Hair oil both commercials appealing urban and rural consumers. And among durable goods Samsung Piano Digital flat TV and Asian Paints. The study was conducted in Chennai and New Delhi taking 40 rural and 20 urban respondents.
The study revealed the difference in urban and rural comprehension – often advertised are two sleek, consumer goods and perceived very differently by the rural viewer as shown below –
Finding of the survey conducted by MART and Anugrah Madison FMCG Category Advertisements.
For illustration in the case of Babool advertising several rural audiences articulated confusion incomprehension and did not associate with the young couple, child and dog in the story board. One of the frequently asked questions is why a dog was being shown for toothpaste advertising.
The Navratna Hair Oil advertising generated disbelief, “if you have a headache or bodyache and are to use navratna thailam to remove it, you would not be dancing”, was a view expressed both by urban as well as rural audience. In fact, the presence of Govinda (noted cine actor) as the main dance was lost on the rural viewers. Consumer durable goods.
The Samsung bio ray ads too suffer from the believability factor among both rural and urban viewers. While urban viewer liked this feel of the rose petals emerging from the Samsung TV screen, they felt that the advertiser should state clearly what they were trying to say. Rural viewer felt totally left out. “The ad is for people in Chennai”, “it’s only meant for the rich and educated” were some of the south Indian rural response. The north Indian rural viewer showed even less interest, “pata nahi kis cheez ka hai” said some (I don’t understand what the thing for).
The Asian Paints advertisement depicting a house that does not look run down with time, while the owner’s car does and the family enlarges has a comprehension crisis in terms of product identity, but it appealed to both audiences. The advertisement was easily recalled, but there was no recall on the sub brand. In rural context, the storyline remained with viewers, but they could not make out the product. Some thought that the house was being advertised.
The study gives us insight into several aspects of marketing as it can be sent that, the urban audiences have a good comprehension of the commercials which they see on the Television, the same cannot be said of the rural viewers. A cross section of the rural audience did not relate to the spots and even if they had, there was doubt, fear or even strong views on the right and wrongs of what was being shown.
It is very clear that the rural folk find fast paced films going over their head. They cannot be reduced by quirkier gimmicks or slick advertising. Similarly, they refuse to accept unrealistic situations or characters which are very often used by advertisers as a ‘creative license’ to enhance the impact of spot. In fact, they also get confused if unrelated characters appear in a film.
While the rural viewers like good entertaining films, they expect it to be also rational. Similarly, they do not relate to icons, who are not from their region.
Another highlight coming from the study is that what works in the north may not work in the south. This reinforces the need for region specific communication while dealing with the rural audiences.
Marketing Communication Process – 8 Main Steps (With Example)
The communication process itself consists of nine elements – sender, receiver, encoding, decoding, message, media, response, feedback, and noise. Marketers must know how to get through to the target audience in the face of the audience’s tendencies toward selective attention, distortion, and recall marketing messages.
Let us try to understand the communication process with the help of a real world example of Tata Nano. The jingle an important part of Tata Nano brand element is ‘Khushiyon Ki Chaabi” meaning Key to Happiness.
1. Sender is the company or marketing firm that intends to communicate with consumers and any other stakeholder. In our example Tata Motors Ltd. is the sender of message.
2. Encoding is the process of converting the message idea into deliverable form by giving it shape and structure. Tata has got the advertisement designed by blending video, sound, graphics, jingle etc. to give the advertisement a deliverable form.
3. Media is the specific mediums through the message travels to reach target audience. In this case Tata has used electronic medium to disseminate the message by booking air time on selected T.V. channels.
4. Decoding is about how consumer interprets and attach meaning to the message sent while going through the various elements of advertisement. In this example it is interpretation and meaning that consumer associate while going through the advertisement of Nano and its contents. The jingle ‘Khushiyon Ki Chaabi” may be interpreted by receivers as harbinger of good time and prosperity.
5. Receiver is the member of target market for whom the message is sent. In this case all people who are prospects of Tata Nano and watch the advertisement are receiver.
6. Response is the behavior that receivers of message exhibit. Different receivers could behave differently; few may go to the Tata Motors showroom and enquire about the Nano, some others may check the Nano through internet while others may call for a test drive. It is quite possible some of them do not react at all.
7. Feedback is the flow of information about receiver’s reaction and response on message sent to them back to the sender. What viewers of Nano advertisement feel and speak to dealers, to others consumers about the car, the media reports all goes back to the company as valuable input and helps the company to improve and connect in a better manner to market.
8. Noise in entire communication process, in spite of being disliked because it distorts the message, is well integrated. Noise is disturbance that naturally occurs in the process resulting in receiver getting different message then that originally intended by the company. For example showing village backdrop in Nano advertisement could distract consumers making them feel Nano as low quality car having no buyers in cities.
Developing the communication program is systematic process in itself.
Following steps are involved in this process:
1. Communicator must first identify the target audience and its characteristics, including the image it carries of the product.
2. Next step is deciding the available promotion budget. Four common methods are the affordable method, the percentage-of-sales method, the competitive-parity method, and the objective- and task method. The promotion budget should be divided among the main promotional tools that company finds important to address market requirements. Usually factors such as product life stage, distribution strategy, relative position of company, branding objectives play crucial role in budgetary decisions, allocation and disbursement.
3. The communicator has to define the communication objective, whether it is to create awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, or purchase. A message must be designed containing an effective content, structure, format, and source.
4. Designing and developing Message – At this stage company thinks of a concept or appeal that it believes will deliver the intended message to target market in best possible manner. Usually help of outside agencies is taken for imbibing more creativity.
Marketing communication could of two types:
(a) Informational communication has appeal that is rational and focuses on benefits that consumers could derive by using the market offering. For example Colgate sensitive advertisement tells that using this toothpaste could eliminate tooth sensitivity quickly.
(b) Transformational communication appeal is emotional or moral. Emotional appeal could arouse positive or negative feelings among receivers. For example an ad showing a man gets attracted towards other woman who uses a particular brand of soap making his wife insecure, thus indirectly telling all women to use that soap brand to keep their spouse faithful.
Moral appeal is about making consumers connect with the market offering through raising social causes and educating them what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for a better living. Recently Aircel telecommunication has released ads educating people about protecting tigers and Idea Telecom is regularly raising social issues to connect morally with consumers.
5. Selection of communication channels is next task. Both personal and non-personal channel must be evaluated and selected as per their suitability. Another important aspect that marketers must take care is message source. The impact of message is strongly influenced by the people who present message to the audience.
A doctor telling the worthiness of anti-acidity product is received very favorably than an ordinary man telling same message. The message source should be likable, credible and believable.
6. The marketer should then monitor through feedback and evaluation techniques to see how much of the market becomes aware of the product, makes purchase, and is satisfied in the process.
7. Finally, all of the communications effort must be managed and coordinated for consistency, good timing, and cost effectiveness.
Marketing Communication Process
The communication process is a part of any advertising or marketing program. When the marketer wants to communicate to the audience that he has a good or service which can be sold, he will construct the message and send it to the prospective customer or customers.
The sender here are companies that manufacture and sell the product e.g., sports shoes. Reebok, Adidas, Power, Puma and other brands will all try to gain attention of customers. Most of these firms hire advertising agencies or may have their own marketing division which will create the message.
Encoding the message is the second step in the communication process. A creative group in the company or an outside agency takes the idea and designs such a message for customers which will attract them. This message is flown in various media like television, radio, magazines, websites etc. Messages travel to audience through transmission device.
The third step in the process of communication occurs when channel or medium delivers the message. The channel may be television, a newspaper, a billboard, a coupon in Sunday newspaper, a letter to the agent of a large store, a magazine or a display of the shoe in some store.
Decoding is the next step in communication process. It occurs when the messages reaches one or more of the receiver’s senses. People get the message when they hear it, read it, see it or even smell it. A well-placed perfume sample may entice the buyer to purchase both the magazine containing the sample and the perfume being advertised. People who are interested in buying sports shoes study the sports shoe advertisements thoroughly and see which ones suit them comfort wise, budget wise, style wise etc.
Sometimes, advertisements are interpreted differently by some members of the target group. This means that the message has not been decoded in the same way. Good marketing communication occurs when the receivers decode or understand the messages as it was intended by the sender. In case of the sports shoes advertisement, effective marketing communication depends upon receivers getting the right message and responding in the desired fashion such as buying the shoe, telling their friends about the quality of the shoes being advertised by the marketer.
An obstacle that prevents marketing messages from being efficient and effective is called Noise. Noise is anything that distorts the message or disrupts the message. It can occur at any stage in the communication process as shown in the figure. The most common form of noise affecting marketing communication is clutter.
A clutter includes – a lot of advertisements in newspapers with advertising supplements, six minutes of commercials per twenty minutes of radio or television programs, endless barrage of bill boards on important streets, websites and servers loaded with commercials. They are all noise creators and create obstacles in the smooth functioning of communication process.
The final step of communication is feedback. We can understand feedback by seeing the purchase of the product advertised being inquired about, questioned, visits to the store and hits on a website. Each indicates that the message has reached the receiver and that receiver is now responding to the communication.
The marketing managers, brand managers, the creative heads/persons and others involved in the marketing process should pay attention to every step of the communication process. They should make sure that the proper audiences receive the messages. The message should cut through all the noise and clutter. In case of sports shoes, increases in market share, sales and brand loyalty are common outcomes that the marketing team should try to achieve.
It should be always kept in mind that communicating with customers and other businesses requires more than simply creating attractive advertisements. An effective integrated marketing process which integrates numerous marketing activities into a single package is required.
Marketing Communication Process – Stages involved in the Communication Process
Companies communicate primarily with three major stakeholders – (i) members of the trade channel and their various intermediaries; (ii) consumers, both current and prospective; and (iii) the public. Members of the trade channel communicate with their consumers, while consumers also communicate between themselves by WOM communication.
Consumer communication is defined as transmission of information from the marketer to the consumer through media.
The basic objective behind consumer communication is to:
(i) Inform consumers (both actual and prospective), and to make them aware about the product and service offering and the mix;
(ii) Build a favourable attitude towards the offering; and
(iii) Encourage a purchase.
Through consumer communication, the target segment is provided knowledge about a product category and/or a brand, about its features, advantages, and benefits (FAB), its uses, how it is used, and where, when, and by what kind of people.
The consumer communication process is an ongoing activity and involves a series of steps that must be followed in a particular sequence to achieve the desired goal. The process is illustrative of a flow of information across the interdependent elements, and through the interrelated stages aimed towards effective communication. As with any communication process, the message is encoded by the sender, transmitted via a media, and decoded by the receiver, who then provides a feedback.
Of the various elements of the communication process, the source, message, and the media choice are components that are regarded as controllable, as they can be strategically considered by the marketer to develop a persuasive communication programme.
Let us elaborate on the communication process, and more specifically on marketing or consumer communication:
The communication process is initiated by the sender, who is also referred to as the source or the message initiator. The sender has ideas, information, feelings, emotions, and opinions that he/she wants to share with the audience, which takes the form of a message and is encoded through words and sounds, symbols and pictures, numbers and colours, and even body language. The sender may be an individual, a group, or an organization that conveys a message directly or indirectly. In the context of marketing management and consumer behaviour, the sender may be formal or informal.
The formal source is any organization, public or private, working for-profit or not-for profit. This includes commercial organizations, government organizations, as well as nongovernmental organizations. The source can be a company, or even its dealers, salespersons, and representatives and other spokespersons. All these are defined as marketers.
On the other hand, the informal source is one that includes family, friends, peers, colleagues, and people in our reference group. The communication is informal in nature and occurs between consumers (actual and/or prospective or both), where they share information about companies, brands, price, shopkeepers, and any or all of the four Ps, as well as experiences with goods and services and/or brands. This is also termed as WOM communication, which is considered more credible than consumer communication, as the source is a separate non-commercial entity and is not identified with the marketer.
While designing a communication programme, marketers need to decide what to say, whom to say, when, and where. They must also decide on the spokesperson that they would use to deliver their message.
This necessitates a discussion on two major issues:
(i) Encoding, message, and media and
(ii) Credibility of the source.
(i) Encoding, Message, and Media:
Once a marketer has decided what he wants to say and how, he encodes his message into a symbolic form through words, pictures and images, and gestures. The message can be verbal, non-verbal, or a mix of the two. It could be encoded through words and sounds, symbols and pictures, numbers and colours, and even body language. It is during the encoding stage that the idea behind the communication is transformed into an advertisement. Advertising agencies have a major role to play in helping the marketers decode a message properly.
With respect to the design of a message, marketers must take decisions related to the message element (what is to be said or the content), structure (how it is to be said or the organization), and the overall presentation (how the message has be placed and presented).
Decisions with respect to the message structure and format depend not only on the message objective and the characteristics of the target audience, but also on the medium that is going to be used for communication. In most cases, marketers prefer using more than one medium to reach as large an audience as possible. While the message format across such channels would differ, the focus of the message generally remains the same.
The verbal message is best suited for factual/informational appeal, that is, for providing information about goods and services. It may be combined with an audio-visual demonstration/presentation and/or with symbolic, nonverbal means for creating a greater impact by generation of emotions and imagery within the customer. Non-verbal communication is often illustrative of emotional responses.
The two, verbal and non-verbal, go together to create a long-lasting impact, both rationally and emotionally. For a message to be effective, the sender must encode the message in a manner that matches the decoding by the receiver. The sender must make sure that the words and symbols that are used can be easily understood by the receiver.
The length of the message is an important determinant of effective communication. This relates to two elements, namely the total quantity of information to be sent across and the content that one actually desires to send. The quantity should not be too large, and the content should not be very complex, as this may cause difficulty in comprehension and assimilation within the receiver. It should not be too little, as this would mean that the receiver will miss the details or his/ her queries will remain unanswered.
The marketer also has to decide on a channel and on the message spokesperson. The message can be published in the print media or broadcast media through the audio visual. Nowadays, indoor and outdoor displays as well as the use of digital media are on the rise. Messages can be transmitted across geographical boundaries very quickly and with little cost involved.
In order to draw consumer attention, and to deal with the problem of clutter, marketers use spokespersons, celebrities, and models who can attract the attention of the target audience. However, they must make sure that there is some congruence between (a) the product and the spokesperson and (b) the message content and the spokesperson. This leads us to a discussion of the credibility of the source.
(ii) Credibility of the Source:
From the late 1940s through the 1960s, Carl Iver Hovland and his team from Hovland’s Yale University Research Group researched on the impact that the characteristics of the source could have on the persuasiveness of a message. They concluded that the credibility of a source (expertise) had an impact on the persuasiveness of a message.
Credibility of the source may be defined as the extent to which a receiver regards the source as possessing knowledge, skill, expertise, and experience with respect to a product category, and trusts him/her to provide honest, unbiased, and objective information. The credibility of the source (marketer/ spokesperson) affects the manner in which the target audience decodes the message.
When a source is credible, the believability and persuasiveness of the message is high. Credibility can be both objective and subjective; it is objective when it is based on logic, facts, and evidence; it is subjective when it is based on beliefs and feelings.
Expertise and trustworthiness are the two major components of credibility. It refers to the source having the relevant knowledge, skill and experience (i.e., expertise) with respect to a product and service category, and the ability and reputation to be honest and provide objective and unbiased information as well as make valid claims and statements (i.e., trustworthiness).
When the spokesperson is an expert in his/her field (holds some kind of expert power), or has some charisma (he possesses charismatic power), or holds legitimacy of position (holds legitimate power) and is in a position to give rewards and enforce punishments, the messages delivered by them are more persuasive, and the influence that he/she is able to generate on the receiver is much higher.
If the source’s qualification and experience are related to the product and/or brand that he/she advertises for or endorses, the credibility increases. Another element that adds to credibility is attractiveness. The source attractiveness, which includes similarity, familiarity, and likability also add to the persuasiveness of a message. Similarity refers to the semblance between the source and the receiver, as well as acquaintance or awareness about the source.
Familiarity is the awareness and knowledge of the source because of repeated exposure. Likeability is a feeling of fondness and affection for the source, which could develop due to physical appearance, other traits and characteristics, and the overall behaviour. It is noteworthy to mention here that while marketers may select a spokesperson who holds expertise and is trustworthy, it is the target audience’s perception that matters the most, in other words, it is the target audience that must perceive the source to hold expertise and be trustworthy.
The credibility of the message is cumulative of the past performance and reputation of the sender (the marketer and his company), the spokesperson (the celebrity, expert, company representative, or anyone who acts as an endorser), and the dealer/retailer who stocks the merchandise and sells it.
The reputation of the spokesperson in the advertisement adds to the credibility; this suggests the importance of testimonials. Testimonials can be made by different kinds of people, be it a celebrity, an expert, a top executive of the company, or even a consumer. Often, companies make use of experts such as nutritionists, doctors, and dentists to promote healthcare products.
Celebrities are often used in advertisements, as they are perceived to be credible due to their attractiveness, likeability, and perceived reputation. Popular celebrities and actors, as well as sportsmen are hired to act as brand endorsers. They grab attention and aid recall. In cases where the brand is lesser known and has no brand image, marketers feel that by hiring celebrities they can get the benefit of image spillover, referred to as prototypical bonding. However, the problem with celebrities is that many of them endorse too many products and/or brands.
This not only leads to overexposure but also confusion in the minds of the target audience as to who endorses what product and/or brand. Thus, one needs to exercise caution that the celebrity is not overexposed, and does not appear in a number of advertisements, as that would mean that he endorses any and all brands for monetary and other motives. The marketer must make sure that the celebrity does not overshadow the brand. Marketers must remember that the brand must always be perceived as the figure and not the ground.
The consumer’s own experience with the product or the retailer also affects the credibility of the message. The reputation of the retail outlet that carries the brand adds to the credibility of the marketer. Another factor that affects the credibility of the message is the medium through which it is expressed.
In the case of informal sources, people rely on their family, friends, peers, and colleagues for information and advice, and regard such sources to be credible. People prefer seeking advice from informal sources as they feel that such sources have nothing to gain, and have no hidden agenda or ulterior motive. They also feel that family and friends would speak of actual experiences and provide the right feedback about the product that they own or the service that they have experienced. Opinion leaders also have a big role to play, and they take keen interest in providing information to those who approach them.
However, opinion leaders need to be careful, because if they provide wrong information and advice, they may lose their position or status as opinion leaders in the eyes of the public. However, there are cases where the intentions of informal sources may not be what they seem to be, and the situation may backfire.
For example, there is evidence to prove that sometimes consumers try to reduce their post-purchase cognitive dissonance by convincing others to buy the same product or service offering that they have purchased. Thus, in spite of the fact, that the informal sources have nothing to gain, and there is no hidden agenda (to encourage a sale and earn profit), such sources may not always be proven to be very credible.
Credible sources are more persuasive taken sources that are non-credible or even low on credibility. In other words, when the source is credible, honest, well-respected, and held in esteem, the probability of the message being believed and assimilated by the target audience is much higher; the opposite holds good too. In case the credibility is low, the assimilation of the message and the belief in the message is low.
The credibility of the source matters most when consumers’ involvement with the product category and the purchase situation is low, they are less aware, and less informed about how to evaluate brands, or there is less differentiation between brands.
Credibility is important for both formal and informal sources. The issue of credibility assumes importance in formal sources, as the consumer rightly understands that the major objective of the source (marketer) is to encourage a purchase from the consumer, and earn profit. Thus, not-for-profit sources are perceived to be more credible than commercial sources. So the reputation of commercial sources assumes importance.
Research shows that the effect of both positive and negative credibility tends to disappear after six weeks. While a high-credible source is more persuasive and influential than a low credible one, the persuasiveness of a high-credibility source also decreases with time, and gradually fades away. Further, consumers tend to forget the source before they forget the message.
This has been termed as the sleeper effect (also called source amnesia). They begin to lose interest and forget the message, its source, and the spokesperson. This can happen because of monotony, boredom, and general loss of interest. Here, the marketer has to intervene, and reintroduce the message to grab attention and interest, and subsequent recall.
The message source adds to the persuasiveness of a message in four ways, namely internalization, identification, conditioning, and compliance. The process through which a consumer gets influenced by the message source, because the former believes the latter to be credible and believes whatever he says, is known as internalization. Once a belief or attitude is internalized, it becomes assimilated within a person, and would be retained even after the source is forgotten.
When a consumer begins to identify with the source’s attractiveness, seeks a relationship, adopts his thoughts, beliefs, opinions, ideas, habits, and behaviour, it is known as identification. Further, after a repeated association of the source with the brand, when the attractiveness of the source (often a celebrity or an expert), and his/her image translates and passes on to the brand, it is known as conditioning.
When a consumer is influenced by the source because he/she believes that it possesses some kind of a power such as expertise or charisma, it is known as compliance. The receiver begins to believe whatever the source says because he/she would want to comply with it.
Further, the similarity of the demographic characteristics of the source adds to the credibility of a message. For example, common-man appeals are used and slice-of-life commercials are played so that the common man can identify a relationship between the need-benefit out of the usage of the product. Further, the synergy between the spokesperson and the type of the product adds to the credibility. For example, when a toothpaste manufacturer uses a dentist to endorse a brand, or when a shampoo company uses a hair stylist to talk about the brand, the message is regarded as highly persuasive.
Consumers also base their judgement regarding credibility of the source on factors such as the (a) reputation of the company and its past performance; (b) quality of its product and service offerings based on self-experience and hearsay, WOM; (c) other lines of business that they carry; and (d) their corporate social responsibility. Once a company gains reputation with a product line, it carries forward the intangible benefits of the reputed brand (i.e., goodwill and popularity) to the other product lines that it intends to offer.
Thus, it adopts the concept of family branding, to get ready acceptance of new product offerings by consumers. Once a family brand is popular and successful, the marketer focuses on institutional advertising, which is aimed at creating and enhancing the company image rather than a specific product or service brand.
Medium refers to the means of communication, and is often used as a synonym for channel. The channel is the medium or a pathway through which the encoded message is relayed from the sender to the receiver, and information is transmitted. In the context of marketing, the medium is the channel of communication that exists between the marketer and the consumer, actual or prospective.
This communication channel could be:
(i) Personal or
(i) Personal Channels:
Personal channels include interpersonal communication that takes place between a dealer or a salesperson, and a customer, either face-to-face, on telephone, or by email/ online. A salesperson making a sales presentation also makes use of personal channels. Personal channels also include communication that takes place between friends (customers, actual and prospective) as WOM.
Personal channels can manifest in the form of advocacy, expertise, and social interactions. When a company salesperson communicates with a prospective or an actual customer, he represents the company and acts as an advocate of the brand, this is known as advocacy. When an expert or a professional such as a doctor, chef, or beauty expert gives a testimonial or when an opinion leader gives advice, it is known as expertise.
When communication takes place within friends who discuss a product category or a brand, it is known as a social interaction. Personal channels of communication are more interactive and feedback is immediate, thus making them very effective as modes of communication. Such channels are particularly effective in the case of high involvement products in the B2C scenario or technical and complex products in the B2B context, where consumers need to be persuaded to buy products and/or brands.
(ii) Non-Personal Channels:
Non-personal channels include communication that takes place between the company and the target segment without interpersonal contact via print (newspapers, magazines, and brochures), broadcast audio-visual means (TV, radio, websites, and videoconferencing), outdoor and display media (billboards, banners, hoardings, and signs placed inside and outside of buildings, shops and markets, roads and streets as well as buses and trains), and digital media through the Internet (websites, email, and search engine advertising; pop-ups and video ads; emails; social media and social networking sites – discussion forums, blogs, microblogs, and other posts; and mobile mass communication).
Non- personal channels constitute what is known as mass media as the messages transmitted through them are sent to people spread across geographically within a short period of time and with little effort.
However, the limitation with messages transmitted via mass media is that immediate audience feedback whether, verbal or non-verbal, is absent. However, such channels are effective in the case of low involvement products, and FMCG products that do not require efforts towards convincing and persuading the consumers to enter into a purchase. Unlike interpersonal channels, impersonal channels via print, broadcast, and digital media possess the property to reach out to a large audience across boundaries in a quick, speedy, and timely fashion. This is known as channel multiplicative power.
Today, consumers not only use the Internet to access company websites and gain information about a good and service category and/or brands, they also search for people’s comments (opinions, experiences, and reviews) about products and/or brands and compare the viewpoints regarding the various brand alternatives. This can be termed as electronic word of mouth (e-WOM), where people communicate via email, blogs, social networks, and online forums.
The various media channels and vehicles have their strengths and weaknesses, and vary in terms of cost-effectiveness. Choosing the right kind of communication channel is important for effective consumer communication.
This requires consideration of two major issues:
(i) Choice of the channel and
(ii) Credibility of the medium.
(i) Choice of the Channel:
Marketers may make use of personal or non-personal channels, or even both.
The key determinants of the kind of channel to be used are the:
(a) Communication objective (cognitive, affective, or behavioural) and purpose of communication (inform, persuade, and remind);
(b) Type of product market (B2B or B2C);
(c) Nature of the product and service offering (high/low involvement and stage in product life cycle);
(d) Type of decision-making (habitual and routine or complex);
(e) Characteristics of the target segment (nature of the target audience, buyer awareness, knowledge and preference, as well as the buyer’s purchase readiness stage);
(f) Stage of the buying decision process as well as pre- purchase, purchase, and post- purchase stages;
(g) Company’s marketing strategy (push or pull, profit, or revenue); and
(ii) Credibility of the Medium:
The target audience’s perception about the reputation of the medium or the channel and the vehicle that carries the message also affects the credibility of the message. The credibility of a medium refers to the expertise and trustworthiness of the channel. In the case of the personal channel, where communication takes place between a dealer or a salesperson and the customer, the honesty, integrity, sincerity, and reputation of the dealer and the salesperson adds to credibility.
In the case of non-personal communication, messages are channelled through print (newspapers, brochures) as well as audiovisual broadcast (TV, radio). However, messages channelled through neutral rating agencies, as well as articles in special interest magazines and trade magazines are regarded as more credible than advertisements in print and audio-visual. They are regarded as unbiased and objective.
The receiver is the target that the source wants to communicate with, and to whom the message is directed. An encoded message is received by the receiver or the target audience that interprets the message. In the marketing context, receivers would include consumers, both actual and prospective, dealers and distributors as well as other stakeholders and the public.
Based on who the target audience is, marketers would be able to decide on the message content and the message structure, so that the target audience can easily decode the message and identify with the message, the product and/or brand, and the marketer and/or the company.
The two major issues that require consideration are:
(i) Message and decoding and
(ii) Attention and comprehension.
While a marketer’s message is actually meant for the current and prospective consumers (the target audience), there are other elements that are exposed to the message (although the message is not meant for them). Such elements comprise the intermediary and unintended audiences. The intermediary audiences include channel members (wholesalers and retailers) and professionals (architects, doctors, and professors).
While the former are sent trade advertisements and persuaded to carry stocks of merchandise, the latter are provided with professional advertising and asked to recommend and prescribe goods and services to those who seek help and advice. The unintended audiences include shareholders, bankers, suppliers, employees, and the public.
(i) Message and Decoding:
Decoding is the process through which the receiver provides interpretations of the message that he has received through a channel. The extent to which proper decoding would take place depends on both the sender and the receiver. With respect to the sender (i.e., marketer), the message content and structure as well as the choice of the channel are important determinants of effective decoding.
With respect to the receivers (i.e., the consumers, both actual and prospective), the factors that affect decoding of a message are the receivers’ –
(a) Attention and receptivity of the message;
(b) Motivation and cognitive ability to process the same;
(c) Level of involvement and knowledge about the topic/subject;
(d) Personal skills, characteristics, and background;
(e) Prior experiences; and
(f) Psychological and sociological determinants.
Sociocultural similarity is also an important determinant for the sender and receiver to be able to communicate effectively. The greater the similarity between the sender and receiver, the better would be the encoding and decoding process, thus making the communication process more effective.
Receivers decode the message based on their personal characteristics and past experiences. There could be two kinds of errors that may take place here – (a) amplification and (b) levelling. Amplification occurs when a person adds to the message and exaggerates it. Amplification makes a message seem more important and often increases the persuasive effect. Levelling is the opposite of amplification, and occurs when the receiver deletes or erases a part or the whole message.
(ii) Attention and Comprehension:
Both attention and comprehension are important for proper decoding, understanding, and acceptance of the message. It is observed that a consumer exposes himself selectively to media as well as to the messages, and does not notice all the stimuli. Of the many stimuli that a person is exposed to, he pays attention only to that stimulus (here, message) which is relevant and related to his/her need or want, and is in congruence with his thoughts and beliefs, feelings, and opinions.
Selective exposure need not be restricted to the message alone. It can also relate to the media. People have a tendency to change any information that is contrary to their feelings or beliefs, and conflicts with them. They may also bend or twist the message to see what they want to see, or hear what they want to hear.
Consumers often add things to a message that are actually not a part of the message, and do not notice things in a message that are actually a part of the message. Further, they retain in their memory only a small fraction of the complete message and it is this that they are able to retrieve as and when required.
Another related concept is selective recall. People generally tend to remember information that supports their existing attitudes, feelings, values, and beliefs. Thus, during reception, processing, retention, and retrieval of a message, the concepts of selective attention, selective exposure, selective distortion, and selective recall may occur.
For example, people often surf the channels and use the TV remote to switch from one channel to another looking for a better programme, often triggered because of an advertisement. They wander across channels on the TV and the radio, thus missing various advertisements. They may mute the TV when ads are played (known as muting,), or may switch channels to see what is coming elsewhere (known as wandering).
They may also change a channel (TV or radio) during commercial breaks when an advertisement begins to be played to avoid watching the advertisement, and to see what programme is being played elsewhere, perhaps because it would be more interesting to watch and listen (known as surfing or channel hopping or zapping). They may also fast-forward the advertisements in a recorded programme (known as zipping).
The concepts of selective exposure and selective distortion can be related to the theory of cognitive dissonance. Consumers seek cognitive consonance (equilibrium) and will pay attention to messages that reaffirm their knowledge, opinion, beliefs, and feelings. In case they are exposed to something contrary, they would distort the same to restore themselves to a state of consonance (equilibrium). Thus, they would be either selective to information that is consonant to their already existing views, or distort the incoming information to maintain equilibrium.
Message acceptance may manifest in cognitive, affective, and behavioural responses. A cognitive response is when the receiver accepts the message as true. An effective response is when he/she not only accepts the message as true but also good and favourable. A behavioural response is when the receiver accepts the message as true and favourable, and takes suitable action. Marketers have control over the message content and the choice of the channel, and can take decisions with respect to these to gain consumer attention and aid comprehension.
However, they have hardly any control over the manner in which the consumer accepts the message at these various levels. Of course, the marketer’s ultimate objective is a behavioural response, translated to purchase. However this response may not always be direct and immediate.
Thus, a marketer may have to initially rely on the cognitive and affective responses, and in this context, it is important to mention that the message content must be congruent with already existing knowledge and beliefs, thoughts and opinions, and feelings, all of which constitute a frame of reference against which a consumer compares and assimilates or contrasts new information.
Consumers may experience monotony and information overload due to repetition of messages. Subverting and jolting can help in dealing with such challenges. Subverting means to ‘overthrow completely’. In the context of consumer communication, subverting refers to suddenly presenting something that is pleasant/charming or unpleasant/ ugly, to catch the consumer by surprise.
It may also relate to an unusual way of doing something (or even illustrating contrasting values and principles), to overturn the usual or the normal way of doing things. For example, the Lux soap brand was always endorsed by women actors. The audience was caught by surprise when actor Shahrukh Khan was seen in the Lux advertisement, along with four female actors.
Jolting may also be used as a tactic to overcome boredom. The literal meaning of jolting is ‘to make someone suddenly active’, or ‘causing surprise or shock’, or ‘shock someone into taking action or being alert’. In the context of consumer communication, jolting refers to introducing a ‘teaser’ element in the advertisement, to build curiosity and hold the interest of the consumer and create some excitement about a product and service offering and/or brand (e.g., 10 days left…., 9 days left…., and so on, releasing the final advertisement after 10 days, thus trying to hold the interest of the target).
For example, Apple created consumer interest and excitement before the launch of iPhone 7.
The communication process can be disturbed by noise. Noise can be internal as well as external. It is internal when it concerns the sender or the receiver and their emotional and psychological status, and where they are preoccupied with something else or overloaded with clutter while encoding or decoding, and not able to pay much attention, leading to erroneous communication.
Noise can also be external, when there is a physical disturbance in the environment (loud sound or a noisy environment), or when there is a problem with the media or with anything that interferes with the transmission process (a disturbance in the channel such as sound waves, snowy TV, and poor reception of signal, inaudible sound or loud sound, illegible script, people talking and cacophony, or even a clutter of advertisements to which a consumer is exposed). Noise can lead to a message either not being interpreted or interpreted in a faulty manner.
Feedback is an important component in the communication process. It is the receiver’s response to the sender, that is, the consumer’s response to the marketer’s message. It is an acid test to determine whether the communication has been effective or not, as it is through this feedback that the marketer becomes aware of whether the message has been correctly interpreted and understood by the consumer as intended.
It is also a means by which the sender becomes aware of the receivers’ reaction to his/her message, and may use it to repeat or modify his/her subsequent message. Feedback can be verbal or non-verbal, or a mix of both, and can be an oral or written message, an action or bodily gesture, or simply a silence. A lack of response may also constitute a form of feedback.
Marketing Communication Process – 9 Significant Elements of the Communication Process
In marketing, communication implies the process of transmitting a message to the receiver in order to obtain a response. The communication process consists of all of the elements that go into the creation, transmission, reception, and interpretation of meaning from one party to another.
Marketing managers must be aware of each element of the process, and how obstacles to effective communication with target customers can be overcome.
There are several elements involved in a transmission:
Sender refers to the originator of the message in the communication process. In marketing communication or promotion, the sender may be the marketing manager, advertising manager, or the advertising agency. When the message has been decided upon, the sender, as the one from where starts the process, needs to encode the message in mind.
Encoding is the process of putting thought into symbolic form. This is the process of transforming ideas and feelings into symbols-usually in the form of words or signs, and organizing them into a message. In encoding, the most important principle is not what the source says but what the receiver hears. Thus, concrete words and pictures are vital.
Message refers to the set of symbols that the sender transmits—what the marketers would like to inform the people with their advertisement. The marketing manager decides this after marketing research is done.
This is where the communication channels through which the message moves from sender to receiver. It consists of various types of media such as electronic media, e.g. TV, radio, Internet, mobile, etc. and printed media, e.g. magazine, newspaper, billboards, etc.
The process of transforming messages of another person back into one’s own ideas and feelings is called decoding. Receiver gets the message and decodes it. This is the process by which the receiver assigns meaning to the symbols encoded by the sender.
Receiver refers to the person who gets and interprets the message. In promotional strategy, the receivers are the customers, viewers/listeners, news media, or clients. The receiver interprets the language and symbols sent through a channel. The marketing manager must monitor the message to be conveyed and the target market’s attitudes and ideas in order to develop a common understanding in promotional strategy.
In the process of transmitting messages, the senders might face some ‘noise’ problems. Noise refers to anything that interferes with, distorts, or slows down the transmission of information. Noise is anything that interferes and slows down the transmission.
Noise can be visual distractions or sights, sounds, and other stimuli in the environment that draw people’s attention away from the sent messages, e.g. while the advertisement is on air or while a person is looking to an advertisement, his/her attention is drawn shortly to an attractive man or woman. Other form of noise can be thoughts and feelings that interfere with the process of message transmission. A different interpretation by the receiver which may not comply with what the sender intends to deliver.
Feedback refers to the receivers’ response to a message. Feedback may be verbal, such as saying, ‘I agree’—or non-verbal, such as nodding or smiling. Feedback is the final stage in the process of transmission. It is the response to a message. It reflects what meaning has been created and shared through the original message.
The receiver sends a feedback back to the sender. Feedback may also experience interference with noise that may distort the feedback. When the feedback has reached the sender of the original message, the process of message transmission has come to a full circle.
Marketers are both senders and receivers of messages. The marketers try to inform, persuade, and remind the target market about a product and lobby the people into buying the products. Thus, they are the senders. Marketers are also the receivers of messages when they analyze and understand the target market to search for a good market opportunity.
Example- The sender is the advertiser. The message is the printed advertisement or brochure of a TV commercial or a radio spot. The media used are newspapers, magazines, TV and outdoors. The receivers are the target audience of the product. The favorable response to a product is the feedback. The sales report also forms the feedback.
Both senders and receivers experience plays an important on the effectiveness of the entire communication process. Example- Children interpret advertisement messages at face value as compared to the adults with so much experience in life could determine whether an advertisement is exaggerated or otherwise. On the other hand, a sender’s experience on a topic will influence the quality of message delivered to the receiver.