Multichannel Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications

In the introductory chapter of Principles and Practices of Marketing, the marketing text used by 99% of UK marketing undergraduates, David Jobber compares organisational efficiency against strategic effectiveness.  He describes four states:

  1.  Organisations with efficient procedures and effective strategies will likely thrive.
  2. Organisations with inefficient procedures and ineffective strategies will die quickly.
  3. Organisations with inefficient procedures and effective strategies will survive.
  4. Organisations with efficient procedures and ineffective strategies will die slowly.

Many small businesses will fit in one of the latter three categories.  For example, only around 20% of small business start-ups will be operational after five years.  Eighty percent of catering businesses; restaurants, takeaways, etc; go out of business within 12 months.

In the last blog entry we discussed digital marketing and the long-tail statistical distribution.  The search engine optimisation strategies of many small firms will fit into state four above.  The long tail distribution makes it highly unlikely that they will achieve the prominence required to achieve a sufficiently high Page ranking.  Their procedures for search engine optimisation may be efficient but as a promotional strategy SEO will be ineffective.

Small firms pursuing SEO as their primary communications strategy may be inefficient in the use of communications budgets and that money may be more effectively spent elsewhere.

I see lots of small businesses advertising for what I would describe as a marketing all-rounder.  Someone to develop marketing strategies whilst at the same time writing copy, building websites and doing graphic design.  I am surprised that they think such people exist as web design, graphic design and copywriting are distinct skill sets.  I also see lots of small firms who appear to be putting their eggs in one basket, social media.  In many cases these are small local businesses who may be better served with more traditional marketing communications tools.

When I have expressed these views, I am treated as a Luddite with something against digital marketing.  This is a false accusation.  Digital marketing should be part of a wider communications strategy.  What part it plays in your communications strategy will depend on the needs, wants and expectations of your target customer base.  For example, a young fashion brand, such as Ugg boots, will have to be all over digital channels including social media.  I saw an advertisement the other day for an industrial lubricants company wanting someone to manage their twitter account.  I suspect this company would be better placed using their social media budget on improving their direct marketing and sales force.

Digital marketing compliments traditional marketing channels, it does not replace them.  Even digital giants, such as Amazon and Ebay use traditional television and print advertising.  They do not limit themselves to digital channels alone.

Digital should not be treated as a cheap option.  Done properly, digital marketing will cost the same as traditional marketing for a similar return on investment. Digital is not cheap and it is not easy.  it is every bit as costly and complicated as other marketing channels.

Social media marketing often relies on the creation of viral content.  As there are no guarantees as to what type of content will ‘go viral’, this means it can be a very risky strategy.

Even experts in digital marketing communications such as Dave Chaffey advocate the use of a wider multichannel communications strategy.  You must develop an appropriate mix of traditional and digital communications channels; a multichannel marketing strategy.

Stone and Shan (2002) described the goal of marketing communications as, “to manage each channel profitably whilst optimising the attributes of each channel so that value is offered to each type of customer”.

Target customers should have access to products and services in the best way to match their lifestyle and behavioural needs.

When discussing the role of promotion in the marketing mix, many marketers use the acronym DRIP.  This relates to:

  • Differentiate – make your offer distinct and different to that of your competitors
  • Remind – existing and lapsed consumers of your offer
  • Inform – Consumers of the attributes of your offer
  • Persuade – New customers to purchase your offer or to switch from your competitors. Persuade existing customers to buy more or to move up to a more expensive option.

In his book Marketing Communications, Chris Fill goes further and describes the purpose of marketing communications as:

  1.  To create a need
  2. To create, build and maintain you brand image, brand awareness and corporate reputation
  3. To educate
  4. To inform
  5. To provide a response
  6. To reinforce competitive advantage
  7. To influence decision makers
  8. to build relationships
  9. To increase profits (turnover) through up-selling and cross-selling.

Traditional retailers have struggled with the introduction of digital giants such as Amazon and in some respects have been hamstrung with large, expensive property portfolios and limited product offerings.  As a reaction many are trying to develop multichannel marketing strategies.  They are adapting their offers to create greater value.  This could be through the creation of destination stores which are as much about offering entertainment as they are about selling goods.  Customers go for the experience as much as the product or service on offer.

Mercedes have taken this concept one step further.  There is a Mercedes owned café on the Champs-Elysée in Paris.  It doesn’t sell cars.  It offers meals and drinks like any other café.  The purpose of the café is to differentiate the Mercedes brand and to put the brand into people’s’ consciousness away from its traditional frame of reference.

Many traditional retailers now offer in store click and collect facilities.  This allows goods to be ordered over the internet and when consumers come to collect their items, there are opportunities for cross-selling other products.  Click and collect is as much about store footfall as it is about providing a product delivery option.

The idea that you can reach consumers through a single communications channel has long since been rejected.  You have to use a number of channels, a multichannel approach.

Markets and audiences are fragmenting.  Take television.  In the 1980s, and audience of under ten million was seen as poor for a prime time programme.  Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989 with an average audience of over seven million.  Today, with the multiplicity of channels on offer, an audience in the UK of 5 million for a particular show is seen as good.

Although this fragmentation of channels is seen as harming the advertising revenues of channel providers, it means that there are increased opportunities for a brand to touch the consciousness of consumers.  This has meant the restructuring of operations to facilitate the use of multiple channels and to target the preferred ‘touch points’ of your chosen market segments.

To make best use of multiple communication channels, you need to categorise your customer base in terms of account potential and the strength of the relationship you have with them:

  1. A customer with which you have a strong relationship and which offers high account potential should be a strategic investment using communications techniques such as social media, a personal account manager and access to an extranet.
  2. Where there is strong relationship but low account potential, you need to adjust and maintain the relationship accordingly.  This could be through the use of email, telesales or the use of sales representatives.
  3. Where there is a weak relationship but strong potential, you need to select accounts and build on the potential.  This could be through telephone contact or the use of direct mail.
  4. Where there is a weak relationship and low potential, communications should be minimised e.g. the use of email alone.

There are many barriers to effective communication:

  1. Variation of style or tone – for example, you advertising is friendly and informal but your written communications are officious or even threatening.
  2. There is a disconnection between word and deed – You do not do as promised.
  3. Distance – the further apart we are, the less we communicate.
  4. Stereotyping – making assumptions (usually negative).  This can include improperly segmenting a market e.g. categorising all millennials as a single undifferentiated mass.  The over-50s have often been treated in such a way.
  5. Information overload – Offering too much information or too many types of communication.
  6. Target consumers not listening – Being distracted by other topics so message is not heard.  This can also be caused by not listening to your customers.
  7. External ‘Noise’ – today we are bombarded by messages so you must be explicit and clear to catch consumers attention.
  8. Consumers internal filters – We all have prejudices and we filter information to suit those prejudices.

The existence of such barriers have led to many organisations following an integrated communications strategy.  With such a policy all communications an organisation makes with its customers are treated as marketing communications.  There is a consistent style and tone across all forms of communication and at all stages of the customer life cycle.

A failure to integrate communications can make your offer seem clunky and unsophisticated.  It can turn lapsed consumers into actively hostile consumers.

Integrated marketing communications strategies require a strategic focus across all parts of an organisation not just the marketing department.  You need to understand how all parts of your organisation communicate and the impact those communications have.  You must measure the effectiveness of your communications e.g. ROI for advertising or customer satisfaction for customer services.

Integrated marketing communications broadly include:

  1.  Culture and Behaviour – Brand personality, organisational values, how staff behave to each other, interpersonal skills, communication performance, integrity.
  2. Promotional tools and techniques – PR, advertising, other written communications.
  3. Personal selling – the activities of your sales force
  4. The product or service offered
  5. Customer service. (this includes the three additional Ps of the extended marketing mix, Process, people and physical evidence)

The risk of inconsistent integrated marketing communications is inconsistent promise delivery and an inconsistent customer experience.  This can lead to the loss of customers and poor word of mouth.

So, in a world where communications channels are fragmenting and where there is never-ending communications noise, You need to follow a multichannel communications strategy and integrate that strategy across your business activities.

 

Brand Placement

Advertisers are always looking for ways to provide difference and to cut through the noise created by competing brands.  To do this, they look for methods of promotion which provide additional resources and which are communications which can be integrated with the wider marketing mix.  They also want to ensure that brands are in the consumers field of vision right up to the point where they are ready to make decisions.

One such method is product (or more accurately, brand) placement.

Placement is the seeding of films and television programmes with branded goods.  One of the earliest forms of product placement was to provide branded goods as prizes on game shows.  Today, most major cinema blockbusters are filled with branded goods from cars and computers to drinks brands and clothes.

Brand placement is a highly competitive field and there are several specialist agencies who approach film producers to obtain contracts for brand placement.

Product placement provides income for the film or television programmes producers whilst brand owners gain increased prominence for their products.  Product placement is a commercial agreement and it is rare for goods to be placed in a film or show without commercial payment.

Placement can provide brand authenticity and it gives viewers relief from the strict formatting of traditional advertising.

Some brand placement becomes iconic.  A prime example is the James Bond film franchise.  If you ask any consumer what car Bond drives their reaction will be instantaneous.  Bond drives an Aston Martin.  This is a direct result of brand placement.

In the Bond novels, Ian Fleming had his super spy drive a Bentley, not an Aston Martin.  In fact the silver Aston Martin seen in several of the Bond films made its debut in the third film of the series, Goldfinger.

In fact Bond has driven a wide range of car models in the films as manufacturers competed to have their cars involved in the films.  For instance, in the late 1970s, Roger Moore’s Bond drove a Lotus Esprit and infamously, for GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, Eon productions, the company behind the Bond franchise did a deal with BMW to provide Bond’s car.

It has been shown that brand placement is most effective when products are associated with characters who exhibit positive traits.  If you are looking to place your brand within a film, you’re far better to have your products used by the hero as opposed the villain!

Often, Brand placement is tied into a wider advertising campaign featuring both the film and the placed product.  The lead actors in films are also signed up as brand advocates and asked to promote the products at events and in interviews.  Brand placement is often only part of a wider integrated promotional campaign.

There are too levels of brand placement, implicit and explicit.  Implicit placement is where the brand appears as background dressing.  For example on a billboard advertisement or as a product in the lead character’s home.  Explicit brand placement is where the brand plays an integral part in the storyline.  Explicit brand placement is seen as more powerful than implicit brand placement.

James Bond’s car is a clear example of explicit brand placement and it features prominently in the action of the film being driven through the exotic locations visited by 007 or in fast car chases.  However, the Bond films are filled with implicit brand placement, from the holiday locations and hotels bond visits, to the gin in his whisky and the airlines he flies with.  In Quantum of Solace, Virgin Atlantic paid a significant sum to be Bond’s airline (Prior to that he had always flown British Airways).  Richard Branson has a cameo in the film as a tourist being frisked at airport security.

Brand placement can be oral as well as visual.  In the film Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman’s character, and autistic savant, will only fly Qantas as the Australian flag carrier has never had a crash.  This is a critical plot point in the film.  Qantas do not provide internal flights within the USA.  The fact Hoffman’s character won’t fly with any other airline means his gambling brother, played by Tom Cruise, is forced to go on a road trip to Las Vegas and to get to know his brother.  A Qantas plane never appears in the film but the brand is repeatedly mentioned in the first act of the film.  Qantas then used the clip of Hoffman’s character extolling their safety record in their advertising.

Brand placement can build awareness with consumers in a way which improves source credibility.  It can reinforce brand images in the minds of consumers.  Being associated with Bond is to be associated with excitement and luxury.  The audience is assisted to associate itself with the brand through the environment depicted in the film or its association with the film’s star.  Brand placement carries social information and can feed into consumers’ self expression.

Brand placement in cinema has a high level of impact.  The large screen and surround sound of modern cinemas make the experience of viewing a film immersive.  Films are widely distributed over a long time period.  After its cinema run, a film will be widely available for download or for sale by DVD.  It will be shown on cable and satellite TV.  Every TV station also wants a blockbuster to be the highlight of its holiday entertainment.  A film will remain in circulation for years after its first showing.

Brand placement can be an integral part of international marketing campaigns and can lead to a brand gaining traction in new geographic markets.  Films are shown across cultural boundaries.  It is estimated that 80% of the world’s population has seen at least one James Bond film.  However, such use of brand placement ignores cultural differences and in some markets may breach cultural norms.  It is a one size fits all type of campaign and great care must be taken especially if you differentiate your marketing strategy for different international markets.

It is also shown that the majority of audiences approve of brand promotion as a form of advertising.  The feel it to be less intrusive than traditional advertising and that it makes a film’s storyline more realistic.  A natural depiction of a brand reinforces the integrity of fictional storylines and can reflect the real life experiences of the audience.

However, brand placement also has weaknesses.  There is no guarantee that your products will be noticed in a film by the audience, particularly if the placement is during high-tempo action such as a fight or car chase.  Although there is much talk of the subliminal effect of brand placement in entertainment, there is little proof that this has an effect on the buying behaviour of consumers.

Some consumers see brand placement as unethical or they may rail against the placement.  That is what happened when it was announced that Bond would drive a BMW saloon in Tomorrow Never Dies.  How can the quintessential British hero drive a German car?  How dare the film’s producers consider such a move?

As an aside, Tomorrow Never Dies is as film named by typo.  The original title was to be Tomorrow Never Lies (which makes sense as the plot concerns a media mogul who decides to make the news before he publishes it and who sees a nice little war in the South China Sea as a way of selling his newspapers).

The absolute cost of product placement can be high.  Film produces may expect to gain royalties from a brand placed in their movie every time the film is shown or downloaded.  For the latest Bond film, the Aston Martin used was a concept car which had not entered production.  Aston martin had to make a number of cars for the production and several of these were destroyed in the shooting of the film’s car chase.

Brand placement can also be superficial.  It is often impossible to provide product explanation or detailed information about product features in a brand placement.  The situation in Rain Man, where Qantas’s safety record was discussed in some detail, is a very rare occurrence.

The effectiveness of brand placement depends on a number of key variables, from the form of media used to the consumers attitude to the brand placement.  It exists on a spectrum of integration, from the brand as a passive presence to active integration where the brand is woven into the storyline (what is sometimes referred to as ‘branded entertainment’ e.g. the Transformers film franchise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  In fact those are two examples where the movies are derived directly from the product; in both cases toys; rather than a simple placement of goods in an otherwise unrelated film.

Brand placement will often depend on the products use in a film’s story, which characters use it and the way it is used.  For example, most alcoholic drink manufacturers would prefer their brand to be used by the film’s star in a plush nightclub than it being the favourite tipple of the down and out alcoholic in the alley outside.

 

What is Marketing?

In previous blog entries, I have discussed at length the modern definition of marketing.  However, I still feel that many SME’s still don’t get it.  They still see marketing as a subsidiary of sales or as only the management of promotional activity.  Worse, I still see many advertisements for marketing jobs which expect marketing professionals to be experts in graphic design or website management.

I decided to look at a few university websites to see the course content of their marketing courses.  What I saw on the university sites were course syllabuses containing marketing theory and management practice.  Not one course included modules or subject streams on graphic design or web management.

The conclusion is simple, if you need a professional graphic designer, advertise for a graphic designer.  If you need a website technician, advertise for a website technician.  Do not expect a marketing graduate to have such professional expertise.

Another common feature of marketing job advertisements is the prominence of social media management.

Now, social media is no doubt an important part of a firm’s promotional mix.  However, it seems that many businesses view it as a cheap option for their promotional activity.

social media is not a cheap option.  It is a promotional channel like any other and requires a similar amount of effort and resources.  In fact it could require additional resources to provide the same outcomes as other, more traditional marketing channels.

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of social media as a sales channel.  Some firms may feel they are getting good results but there has been little research done to measure social media’s effectiveness as a sales channel.  What marketers do know is that social media can help your website become ‘sticky’.  It can help as a signpost to your website, it can generate electronic word of mouth and it is a useful tool for developing brand advocates.  However, there is little evidence to show that it is a more effective channel than traditional promotional strategies.

One thing marketing is not is the generation of propaganda.  This week, the UK Conservative Party released three promotional messages.  One relating to the extension of the plastic bag levy to small shops; a second regarding the banning of charges for consumer credit; and a third relating to manufacturing output.

The first two messages passed off the policies as Conservative Party policy.  In truth they were the implementation of EU directives.

The third message stated, in a congratulatory manner that UK manufacturing output had passed 2008 levels.

For me this message caused significant cognitive dissonance.  In the normal run of things, UK manufacturing output in 2018 should be far higher than in 2008.  New technology alone should have meant an increase in manufacturing output compared to 2008.   There are indications that rather than investing in new equipment and additional capacity, UK firms are holding cash at bank: building a safety net to see them through post-Brexit turbulence. What the message actually indicated was that UK manufacturing had suffered a lost decade.

The Conservative message also took the manufacturing figures in isolation.  When you look at the UK economy in a wider perspective, there are still some worrying statistics.

The UK construction industry is effectively in recession and last year saw a 3.6% reduction in output.  Carillion, the UK’s largest civil engineering and public service outsourcing firm is in serious financial trouble.  There are rumours that it may enter administration tomorrow if a deal cannot be agreed with its pension fund and creditors.

Many UK retailers have reported poor trading figures over the Christmas period.  House of Fraser, for example, is talking to its landlords about reducing store rents.  Other firms such as Argos have struggled in what should be their strongest sales period.

Consumer debt is also rising.  Household debt has now passed pre-credit crunch levels and the Bank of England has told banks to tighten lending requirements.  Inflation is increasing whilst wages are stagnating.

UK exports have risen since the EU referendum predominantly due to the fall in the value of the pound.  However, the cost of raw materials has risen dramatically. At one point factory gate inflation was running at 18% where commodities were traded in US dollars.  Part of the reason CPI is rising is that many manufacturers are having to pass that factory gate inflation on to domestic UK consumers.

The UK government has been careful to prioritise statistics relating to the volume of exports not the level of earnings from those exports.  I strongly suspect that UK firms may be selling more abroad but that their earnings from those exports has not grown.

it will be interesting to see if the modest rise in the pounds value in recent weeks impacts export growth as British goods become more expensive abroad.

Many Brexit supporters point to the rise in the pound and the value of stock exchanges as signs that the impact of leaving the EU are being overstated.  However, there are other reasons that have caused these effects.

The first is that the US bond market is currently a bear market.  Investors are switching their strategy from government bonds to shares.  The second reason is that the dollar is lower than it should be and the cause of that is Donald Trump.

Trump has two major economic policies, the lowering of tax rates and vastly increased infrastructure spending.  These two policies conflict with one another.

Much of America’s infrastructure is in dire need of renovation or replacement.  For example, nearly all of America’s dams are long past their expected life span.  To increase infrastructure spending trump needs additional federal income.  Big tax cuts are not going to provide that additional income.  Trump will have to significantly increase the level of US government borrowing to carry out his proposed infrastructure projects.

Higher government borrowing means lower bond yields and as a result constrains the value of the dollar. Hence the bull market in shares.  There is a real risk that stock market levels are a bubble; and bubbles burst.  There is a real risk the bull may become a bear.

So, given the above factors, the promotional messages from the Conservative Party are political propaganda not marketing messages.

So if marketing is not the dissemination of ‘propaganda’, what is it?

Marketing is not advertising, it is not web or graphic design.  Marketing is the development of a consumer focus throughout all aspects of your business from product design to after-sales service.

In previous entries, I have shown how, over the last century, manufacturing has moved from a product focus, to a sales focus, to a consumer focus.  How business went from concentrating on manufacturing as many goods as possible; to a prominence on selling as many goods as possible; to a modern focus on satisfying the needs and desires of target customer groups.  Modern marketing is the last of these.  It is not a subset of sales or advertising; it is the development of corporate strategies and should be at the centre of your corporate planning.

Some academics have complained that putting marketing at the centre of business planning is little more than an ideology; that marketing constrains innovation and that it leads to dullness.  I suspect that such views come from studies of firms that aren’t doing it right.

Surely the aim of any business is to maximise income and to survive in the longer term.  If you are producing goods and services that people don’t want, neither of those goals will be achieved.  By putting the expectations of your consumers at the centre of your planning, you are more likely to meet those goals.

Look at the number of proposals on Dragon’s Den that are rejected because the entrepreneur has not considered the expectations of prospective customers?  How many are told the dragons will not invest as they see no market for the product.

Those stating that marketing is a source of dullness infer that the use of market research in planning leads to copycat products and dull marketing campaigns.  But that is marketing done badly.  Good marketing is looking for difference; not copying your competitors and attacking head on but finding strategic gaps and exploiting them.

Done properly, marketing should torment and tantalise the intended target segment and as a result create insatiable desire.

In response to those advocating consumer focus as producing dullness, the concept of retro marketing was developed.  This concentrates on four elements:

  1. Create exclusivity:  Hold product back and delay consumer gratification e.g. Apple watches exclusive deal with EE.
  2. Create secrecy:  Use teaser advertisements and hold back information e.g. The Harry Potter series of books held back titles and cover artwork until the day of launch.
  3. Amplification:  Get consumers talking about your product e.g. Cadbury’s drumming gorilla
  4. Entertainment:  Create a sense of fun
  5. Tricksterisation:  Use panache and audacity e.g.  Britvic used advertisements which looked like public information films.  Then a big orange man jumped out and slapped the subject of the film with the tag line, “You’ve been tangoed”.

Using such tactics, the motivation to use ‘Me Too’, copycat promotional strategies can be avoided.  That is true marketing.

 

 

 

Brand language and communications

Increasingly promotional activity and communicating brand messages is not a verbal medium; it is a visual medium.  The requirement to create visual messages; combined with the ever-shortening attention spans of viewers; makes promotional advertising and the communication of brand messages more difficult.  Consumers are bombarded with commercial messages.

This means that if you are to successfully communicate your brand message, you must carve out a distinct territory.  A unique and successful brand message does not appear out of thin air.

Creating brand territory is not as simple as just repeating the same phrases over and over again.  It is the development of a brand language which expresses your corporate ideology.  It is a favourite practice of politicians to come up with a single phrase which encapsulates their whole campaign; for example Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’, Theresa May’s ‘Strong and Stable’ or Tony Blair’s, ‘Education, Education, Education’.  Politicians are trying to create a shorthand which uses a single phase to draw the attention of the widest possible electorate.  However, for a commercial branding strategy, such shorthand leads to excessive repetition which can clog up the brand message.

Often there is such an urge to create an image of unity and common spirit in a brand message across different campaigns that brand messages become a code.  Code is artificial language.  it isn’t human or natural.  When creating a brand message you want to communicate personality, your culture and your brand values.  You want to announce products in a way which charms customers.  If you resort to a shorthand, impersonal code, these factors are missing.

Rather than creating a code, you need to build a glossary of terms which apply to your brand.  Such a glossary helps decentralise your message whilst keeping your chosen language within your identified brand prism.

The process is similar to the creation of the style guides used by newspapers and other publications.  The style guide for The Economist runs to over three hundred pages and the Yahoo style guide is even longer.  These documents specify the agreed spelling of certain words, page layout and appropriate punctuation.  They define how these publications look on the page.

A brand charter, or expression guide, the promotional equivalent of a journalistic style guide.  They will include agreed phrases and even where on a page the brand name and logo are located but they will also specify the dominant features of style such as colours used, text fonts and image requirements.  For internet and television promotions they will show agreed gestures and jingles.  Graphic layouts and narrative structure codes will be included.  Think of a Coca Cola television of cinema advert, they will nearly always show someone drinking from the traditional glass Coca-Cola bottle (the bottle shape is a registered trademark) even though the majority of Coca Cola sales are now either in metal cans or plastic bottles.

In mature markets advertising is a challenge. There are no guaranteed results and often defined goals are not easily measurable.  Such goals are not SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Time Bound).

As a result many brands are switching away from traditional advertising forms and mediums.  For example the wine brand Jacob’s Creek has stopped using traditional television advertising and instead has switched to the sponsorship of television programmes.  Jacob’s Creek was built on an award-winning product, in-store promotions, support to the retail and distribution trade and customer tasting sessions at the point of sale.  The switch from traditional television advertising to programme sponsorship is a better match top the brand image and ideology.  Another tactic being employed by Jacob’s Creek and other brands is the increased use of product placement in films.

For top of the range brands, a common branding tactic is an association with opinion leaders.  For example, eBay is arguably the most successful internet sales and auction site.  eBay’s position was not built on television advertising (although recently they have started to use that promotional channel).  EBay developed its brand position through the use of online referral and public relations.

There is an old maxim: “Half of my advertising budget is wasted but I don’t know which half”.  Statement is nonsense.  Wasted promotional activity is easy to identify.  It is advertising activity which:

  • Is not sufficiently creative and individual
  • Which misses its target audience
  • or which is shown where the promoted product is not on sale.

Of these three reasons, the first is the most important.

Often, the failure of promotional campaigns is blamed on the advertising agency.  However, the client employing the agency can be equally at fault.  often promotional campaigns fail because the specification provided to the agency is not clear in identifying the required brand message of the goals to be achieved.  Often the fault is the quality of the brief, not the quality of the agency.

Brand propositions must be incisive.  They cannot be bland.  it is unlikely that even the most creative advertising agencies can transform a bland brief. A promotional brief that is full of statistics and has a dearth of actionable ideas is likely to fail.

You must radicalise your advertising targets.  Your brief shouldn’t just describe your target customers, it should reflect them.  Your promotional messages should be given through radical characters not plain people.  For many years Cillit Bang was advertised using a fictional character ‘Barry Scott’.  Barry became as famous as the product.  Many thought him to be a real person and not an actor playing a part.  The Barry Scott character was carefully designed to reflect the ideal consumer of the brand and to exaggerate defined characteristics.

After using the character for many years, Barry was dropped from Cillit Bang’s advertising and there was a distinct fall in sales.  So much so, the character was brought back and once again fronts their advertising.

Creative and radicalised promotions are difficult for brands which consumers have known all their lives.  Oxo has recently reverted to having a OXO family, a promotional strategy it first used in the 1970s.  However some mature and established brands do manage to present radicalised messages.  One need only think of the Cadbury Dairy Milk promotion with the drumming gorilla.

If you are looking to promote a brand over the long-term or to reinvigorate a mature brand, it is important to present a radicalised message and the development of a comprehensive brand charter.

The psychology of marketing communications

Over the years, psychologists and researchers have carried out numerous studies into how advertising works.  All recognised that for a marketing message to work, it must be meaningful to its recipients.  Messages must be targeted at the right audience; be capable of gaining their attention; be understandable; be relevant; and be acceptable.

With this in mind, researchers set out to develop an agreed model of the advertising process.  Unfortunately, no single model has been agreed and there are a number of  theories which compete to have prominence.

Petty and Cacioppo (1983) developed the elaboration likelihood model which has helped to explain how cognitive processing, persuasion and attitude change occur when different levels of audience involvement are present.  Elaboration refers to the extent that the recipient has to develop and refine the information they receive for decision-making to occur.  If the message recipient is highly motivated or has a high level of ability to process the information, elaboration is said to be high.  If the recipient’s ability to process information is poor or their motivation is weak, elaboration is said to be low.

Thus the ELM model identifies two cognitive processes in the minds of recipients; a central route where the recipient is active and involved and a peripheral route where the recipient is passive and unengaged.

With the central route, a message will persuade using the quality of the argument proposed.  For example, when you buy a house or a car, you will be highly involved. In such a situation consumers would be expected to read brochures and reviews prior to purchase.  They may want an opportunity to try out the product e.g. a test drive of a car.

Under the peripheral route, the recipient should not be expected to process complicated information or to engage in significant cognitive processing.  Communications using the peripheral route should use cues to attract the attention of recipients.

Peripheral cues could involve the use of a celebrity to advertise products.  For example, Walker’s use of Gary Lineker to sell their crisps or Nespresso using George Clooney to advertise their coffee machines.  The aim is that when consumers see Lineker, they think crisps; they see Clooney, they think coffee.

In high involvement transactions the presence of a celebrity is at best of minor significance to the consumer’s decision to purchase.

So the first decision of an advertiser is to choose a form of promotion which matches the level of cognitive processing expected of consumers.

An advertisement which seemed to break the rules of the ELM model was Jaguar’s use of Tom Huddleston, Sir Ben Kingsley and Mark Strong to advertise their cars.  Purchasing a car is a highly involved process, clearly using these celebrities would have little impact in the consumer’s decision to purchase a Jag.

Competing with the ELM model are eclectic models of advertising.  Four eclectic models have been developed each of which has a digital and an analogue component.  These four models represent the four key ways in which advertising works.

  1.  The Persuasive Framework – Analogue – this framework assumes that advertising works rationally and that a ‘brand works harder for you’.  This framework assumes that consumers purchase items using a rational sequential decision-making process such as AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action).  Consumers are persuaded to purchase through the development of unique selling propositions (USPs).  The persuasive framework is used heavily in the promotion of blockbuster movies.  Studios raise awareness of coming releases by using press interviews, film festivals and conventions.  They create interest by releasing videos of stars on location filming and through releasing teaser trailers.  They create desire through the release of longer trailers, star-studded premieres and star interviews.  Finally they issue a call to action through television advertising which encourages consumers to book cinema seats in the weeks before a film is released.  The onset of digital media has added a further element to the persuasive framework; that of encouraging consumers to search for further information e.g. the use of scanning codes in advertisements, e.g. Shazam, so that if the consumer scans the advertisement with their mobile phone, they are directed to the products website.
  2. The Involvement Framework – Analogue – Involvement-based advertisements work by drawing the audience into the product by eliciting emotional forms of engagement. A consumer’s passage to the brand occurs because ‘it means more to them’.  This could involve the use of shared values, aspirational values or by personalisation the brand e.g. the use of celebrities.  The digital element of the involvement framework encourages people to play.  This is about content creation and giving the impression that consumers are helping to control the brand.  So Brompton Bikes allow consumers to effectively design their own folding bicycle by offering 1200 different product options which can be combined to individualise their cycles.  The involvement digital framework also includes opportunities such as blogs, social media and crowd-sourcing.
  3. The Salience Framework – Analogue – This part of the model relies on advertisements being different and therefore standing out from that of competitors. There is a danger that being too different can actually put consumers off.  For example, some consumers are put off by the Go Compare advertisements (with the fat tenor) because they find them annoying. The Digital element of the salience framework is to attempt to create viral content which is shared and discussed by consumers.
  4. The Sales Promotion Framework – This element only has an Analogue element and works in that consumers believe that they will be rewarded by their purchase. Advertisements are aimed at generating sales and shifting product.  Sales promotion advertisements are invitations to consumers to engage in price promotions or to get additional benefits (e.g. free servicing on a car).

Jones, Macdonald and Ehrenberg (1991) advocate a strong and weak theory of advertising.

The strong theory of advertising assumes that messages work in that they are capable of affecting a degree of change in the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of consumers.  This theory argues that advertising can persuade a consumer to buy a product which they have never previously purchased and that long-run purchasing behaviour can be developed.  The strong theory operates through the use of psychological techniques which alter the behaviour of passive consumers.  Often this involves a hierarchy of effects model.

Increasingly, academics looking at the psychological effects of advertising are finding that the strong theory of advertising does not reflect consumer practice – despite the fact that it is so prevalent in modern advertising practice.  Ehrenberg (1997) argues that consumer purchasing works on the basis of an Awareness – Trial – Reinforcement framework.  That for a consumer to purchase, they must be aware of he product, to repeat purchase they must have tried the product and that to get them to continually purchase you must reinforce the consumer’s decision to purchase.  In recent years, a further step has been added to this model: Nudge.  This is the use of cues to nudge consumers into a certain form of activity.  One nudge example is the promotion of Five a Day, the government programme to encourage consumers to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to increase the amount of roughage they consume.  Therefore for nudge to work, advertisements should increase the level of reinforcement to get habitual consumers to increase their consumption.

This is the Weak Theory of Advertising.  it agrees with the strong theory that advertising is capable of improving people’s knowledge of products.  However the weak theory argues that consumers are not passive and only respond to advertisements where they have some prior knowledge of the product.  Consumers need to have some awareness of a products characteristics before they respond to advertising.  Therefore that amount of information which is actually communicated is limited.  There simply isn’t enough time in the standard television advertisement (lasting roughly 30 seconds) to impart lots of information.  For example, who actually reads the statutory small print in a television advertisement for unsecured loans?

As the time allotted to such advertising is short; and because consumers can switch off their cognitive ability to import information; advertising should be used to reinforce existing attitudes.

Those advocating the weak theory of advertising argue that the strong theory is wrong to assume that consumers are passive.  Under the weak theory, consumers should be treated as active participants in the message and that they are capable of high levels of cognitive processing.  They argue that the strong theory of advertising assumes consumers are unintelligent and apathetic.

As you can see, there are a number of competing psychological theories as to how advertising works in the minds of consumers.  I think the most prominent thing to take out of this research is that you must match your promotional activity to the type of product you are trying to sell.  If you are selling cars of mortgages, a focus on technical specifications may be appropriate, the use of a film star to promote them may be a waste of time and money.  If you are selling snack foods or leisure goods, you need advertising which is either fun or glamorous.