A couple of weeks ago, I watched a BBC4 documentary on the history of the electric guitar and effects pedals in rock music. Included in the programme was a short interview with Uli Jon Roth, the former lead guitarist with the German heavy rock band, Scorpions.
Two of Roth’s comments in the interview stood out. The first was that he felt restricted with the five note pentatonic scale often used in rock music. He wanted to use the seven note chromatic scale more often seen in classical music. He wanted to spread licks over two or more octaves rather than one.
Secondly Roth commented that he saw musical notes as colours. he experiences aural synaesthesia.
Roth is known as the ‘King of Shred’. The man who created a monster that would dominate rock music in the 1980s; shredding. Roth, like Baron Frankenstein despaired of his creation. He feels that guitar solos became an exercise in technical proficiency and fitting as many notes in a stave as possible. Rock music began to forget melody and metre.
So what has an interview with a Euro-rock guitarist got to do with Marketing Strategy?
Let’s take the second point. Roth’s synaesthesia is a clear indication that people process information in different ways and they react differently to communication triggers. Some people prefer and will react to visual stimuli, others to aural stimuli. Some people prioritise touch, others prefer smell. So if you are limiting your communications triggers to one of the ‘five’ senses, your message may not be getting through to those consumers who prioritise the other senses. Much of the internet is a visual medium; like this blog; therefore when designing marketing communications, consider the other senses, use sound, smell and touch to get your message into media.
Well, Roth has a point about limiting your options. Why limit your marketing and communications activities to a few expected promotional channels when there is a wider palette of channels available?
I see lots of tweets on social media praising the use of digital promotional channels as a panacea; a magic pill to all your promotional needs; it is nothing of the sort.
I regularly get criticised that I don’t understand how digital marketing works. Well I do. I just believe that digital is one channel amongst many and by restricting yourself to that channel you are ignoring communications options which may provide better return on investment to your business.
Clearly it would be unwise to totally ignore digital marketing channels and social media in your promotional mix. However, these channels must be used with a strategic purpose which matches the expectations of your target market. Clearly, if you are selling high street fashion to teenagers, you will need to have digital as a prominent part of your promotional mix. However, what if you are selling mobility scooters to pensioners? Wouldn’t more traditional promotional channels make more sense?
Digital channels are not a cheap option. To get equivalent returns to that of traditional media, you may have to spend more on digital. Before choosing communication channels you need to carefully examine costs and press providers to the level of return on the potential investment.
For SMEs operating locally, it may well be the case that traditional communications channels are a more effective way to get your message across.
Marketing academics are still not convinced of social media as a sales promotion channel. However, they do see it as useful for customer retention and developing ‘electronic word of mouth’. It is also good for developing advocacy.
When it comes to digital, you also have to remember Zipf’s law; P(x)≈1/x. You can optimise your position on search engines to your heart’s content but if you’re not within the top four links on a page your chances of picking up significant numbers of clicks are dramatically reduced. Firms like Amazon can put huge resources into securing the top links on a search engine page, irrespective of the alterations ISPs make to search engine algorithms to compete head on against those resources may a highly inefficient use of promotional budgets.
So when developing a promotional mix do not put all your eggs into one basket. Don’t do what is ‘expected’ in your chosen segment; do something different to your competitors.
Marketing as a science is a fairly young discipline. Academic rigour only began to be applied to it in the 1950s. It is a developing field where theory and models are continually evolving.
For many years the presumption was that different promotional channels had to be dealt with by separate professional consultants. You went to a direct marketing agency for printed matter, you went to an advertising agency for TV and radio advertising (in fact there were/are specific agencies for radio advertising). If you wanted press attention, you used a PR agency and exhibitions were often the remit of your sales department.
In the 1980s, academics began to promote integrated marketing communications. This was the delivery of a single consistent group of messages across media channels. Prior to IMC, different communications media were used to deliver different parts of the promotional mnemonic DRIP. Advertising was used differentiate your products from those of competitors; sales promotion was used to persuade customers to purchase. PR was used to remind customers of your existence and print media was used to inform customers of your products attributes.
Under IMC, a single message was used to deliver all the aspects of DRIP.
IMC was seen as having significant drivers:
- it increased the efficiency of promotional activities
- it increased the accountability of marketing managers
- it promoted the need for ‘cross-border’ marketing and changing communications structures
- It coordinated brand development and the creation of competitive advantage
- it allowed for more efficient use of management time
- It provided direction and a sense of purpose for employees
- It anticipated greater levels of audience communication literacy
- It foresaw media and audience fragmentation
- It allowed for stakeholders increasing needs for diversity of information
- it reduced message clutter and allowed for media cost inflation
- It accounted for competitor activity and low levels of brand diversification
- It allowed for the creation of relationship marketing as opposed to transactional marketing
- It allowed for network development, collaborative marketing and the creation of alliances
- It allowed for technological advances and new communication channels e.g. social media.
- It aimed to increase message effectiveness through consistency and the enforcement of core messages
- It allowed for the development of more effective consumer triggers and recall of both messages and the brand identity
- It aimed to develop consistent and less confusing brand images
- It developed a need to build brand reputations and to provide clear identity cues.
IMC sounds wonderful doesn’t it. Most importantly it was seen as a way to create a customer-centred promotional strategy.
IMC was seen as having the following advantages:
- Efficient use of promotional budgets
- A synergy to communications
- Competitive advantage through clear positioning
- Coordinated brand development
- Employee participation and motivation
- It allows for the review of communications activities
- fewer agencies were needed to support a brand.
However, there were some downsides to the creation of integrated marketing communications strategies:
- It was a strategy that promoted centralisation of activities and the development of bureaucracy.
- It promoted the uniformity of a single message (difficult if your aim to target two or more distinct market segments)
- It leads to ‘Mediocrity’ as all communications activities are in the hands of a single agency.
So like Uli Jon Roth’s approach to the rock solo, IMC became a bit of a monster. Some marketing academics felt that it lost the ‘melody and metre’ of promotional activities.
Today, most marketing academics promote a nuanced form of IMC. Yes messages should be used to promote all aspects of DRIP and promotion is a role for all the stakeholders in an organisation, not just the advertising department.
Today it is advocated that promotional strategies is the creation of a promotional mix using tools which best fit the expectations of your target customers.