Exploration of trend in communication

On any given day, the average American is exposed to about 300 advertising messages - Exploration of trend in communication introduction. Obviously, consumers cannot attend to all the ads marketers bombard them with. However, it has been found that some types of commercials are more effective than others at attracting attention and ultimately persuading consumers to change brands, examples of which include candid camera testimonials, ads that offer solutions to problems, and product demonstrations. Humorous ads and celebrities are also appealing and memorable. It is without a doubt that marketing communication has had significant influence in the consumer behavior of Americans. Companies reach consumers through the process of communication and consumers are influenced by marketing strategies in the same way but a recent trend in marketing communication and consumer behavior have led to the diminished power of advertisements and product promotions.

Consumer Behavior

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            Reaching consumers and persuading them to buy product and services has been the goal of marketers for decades. The development of successful marketing communications program begins with an understanding why consumers behave as they do. Marketers give due consideration to identifying relevant markets and in analyzing the relationship between target consumers and the product/service brand. Consumer behavior can be defined as the process and activities that people engage in when searching for, selecting, purchasing, using, evaluating and disposing of products and services to satisfy their needs and desires.  For many products and services, purchase decisions are the result of a long and detailed process that might include extensive information search, brand comparisons and evaluations and other activities. Some purchases are more incidental and may result from little more than seeing a product prominently displayed at a discount price in a store. Think of how many times you have made impulse purchases in stores with deliberation. All of the activities involved in consumer behavior can be readily influenced by marketing communication strategies. When the consumer searches for information about a certain product what is available to him/her are the ads and commercials of the product or it may be a recommendation from friends or relatives, public sources including articles in magazines, newspapers or from personal experience. Consumers perceptions of this ads and commercials differ form one another but in the same process they are able to attach meanings to the perceived information. During perception, the consumer senses the advertisement, a package, a brand name or a point-of-purchase display. Marketers recognize the importance of this process and therefore they make sure that the ads are visually attractive, like when perfume marketers use scent strips to appeal to multiple senses and attract the attention of readers. After the experience of sensations, the consumer then focuses on the situational factors that are important to them, individuals are more likely to expose themselves  and attend to information that  are relevant to their needs and interests. For example, think about how much more attentive you might be to advertising for personal computers, tires or stereos if you are in the market for one of those products. Once the consumer selects and attends to a stimulus, the perceptual process focuses on organizing, categorizing and interpreting the incoming information.

The interpretation and meaning an individual assigns to an incoming message is dependent on the characteristics of that message. For example, most advertisements are very objective, and the message and meaning they attempt to communicate are very clear and straightforward. Some ads however are more ambiguous and their message and meaning will be strongly influenced by the consumer’s individual interpretation. After gathering information and perceiving it, the consumer then goes into evaluating the information and compares it to other brands that are already in the perceptual set of the consumer. Marketers must strive to at least have their products or services included in the perceptual set of the consumers. After evaluating the information the consumer makes the decision to purchase, it is in this step that marketers want to focus on and hopefully influence the consumer, like when watching a TV promotion of a product which asks people to call or to go out and try the said product. It can be seen that throughout the processes involved in consumer behavior, marketing communication is very much present. On the other hand, the process of communication itself is also rife with marketing ads and promotions that are strategically placed. The communication process is utilized by the companies and marketers to reach the consumers, at the same way it influences the consumers.

Communication Process

Communication has been variously defined as “the passing of information”, the exchange of ideas” or as the process of establishing a commonness or oneness of thought between a sender and a receiver (Schram, 1955). These definitions suggest that for communications to occur there must be some common thinking between two parties and this information must be passed from one person to another. The communication process is often very complex, with success depending on many factors such as the nature of the message, the audience’s interpretation of it, and the environment in which it is received. In addition, the receiver’s perception of the source and the medium used to transmit the message may also affect the ability to communicate, as will many other factors. Words, pictures, sounds and colors may have different meanings to different audiences and people will vary in their perceptions and interpretations of them. Companies reach the consumers in every step of the communication process. The communication process begins when the companies select words, symbols, pictures and the like to represent the message that will be delivered to the receivers. The encoding process puts thoughts, ideas, or information into symbolic form, the goal is to ensure that the message is understood by the target audience, like the universal symbols of the golden arches of McDonald’s and the Coca-Cola trademark. Thus, a hungry person going through the city would readily identify the golden arches with food, in the same way that a thirsty person who would see the Coca-Cola trademark on a shelf would know that it can quench his/her thirst. The encoding process leads to development of a message that contains the information or meaning the companies hopes to convey. The message may be verbal or nonverbal, an oral or written statement or a symbolic form or sign. For many products, it is not actually words contained n the message that determines the effectiveness of communication but rather the impression or images the advertisement creates. Take for example the image created by the ads of wearing Manolo Blahnik’s that moves you to buy a pair, or how the sexy and beautiful image of Jennifer Lopez would make you buy her perfume line. When a consumer is moved to consider products or services to purchase then the message has been processed.

The method or medium by which the communication travels from the sender to the receiver is called the channel. This may be personal channels which are direct interpersonal contact with target individuals like when companies have product demonstrations or beauty consultants at the counters of Maybeline that lets you take home a sample or even apply their make-up on you. Nonpersonal channels are those that carry a message without involving interpersonal contact, this is more or less in the form of mass media, where the message is sent to many individuals at one time. For example a television commercial broadcast on a prime-time show, or a brand endorsed in a show like when Oprah says she likes GAP jeans. The receiver is the person or persons with whom the sender shares thoughts or information. The consumers are generally the audience or market targeted by the company. When a product launches an advertising campaign, the end goal is to communicate to the consumer that the product or service is worth paying for and to do that is to inform the consumers of the advantages of the product.  Then consumers decode or transform and interpret the messages into thoughts and are influenced by the experiences, perceptions, attitudes and values carried into the communication situation. Here, the consumer may interpret the message as favorable or offensive, thus it would significantly play a role in the purchasing decision. Thus marketing communications must make sure that the message is appealing to the consumer. Brand loyalty of consumers, for example, means that consumers experience of the product or service dictates that they continuously buy the product. The set of reaction the receiver has after seeing, hearing or reading the message is known as a response. The responses of the receiver can range from nonobservable actions such as storing information on memory to taking immediate action such as dialing an 800 number to order a product advertised on television.

Impact of Marketing Communications

It has been said that marketing communications have profound impact on the values and lifestyles of consumers (Pollay, 1986). The proliferation of commercials and advertisements in all forms of media has encouraged materialism in our society. Consumers have become  preoccupied with material things rather than intellectual or spiritual concerns, an example is how our society seemingly acquire more clothes, more appliances and more gadgets etc, rather than being involved in intellectual pursuits or spiritual growth.  Marketing communication strategies often create needs rather than showing how a product or service fulfills them, it surrounds consumers with images of the good life and suggests the acquisition of material possessions leads to contentment and happiness, ads about most household cleaners and appliances sends the message that it makes life easier for the consumer. And those material possessions are symbols of status, success and accomplishment and or will lead to greater social acceptance, popularity and sexual appeal.  Owning a Ferrari is the ultimate status symbol for bachelors, diamonds are a girl’s best friend implying that every girl should have one.

Another influence of marketing promotions is that it encourages people to buy things they do not need. Through extensive advertising, promotions of products and portrayed as something that is a necessity manipulates consumers to buy this things and later find out that they don’t need it, like when you end up having a French fries cutter when you don’t even cook fries at home. Large advertisers use their power to limit consumer options to a few well-advertised brands, like when thinking of cars, it’s the BMW, Ford, or GM which are already embedded in our consciousness because of the massive ads of this products. Companies promote their products as unique or better than competitor’s and encourage brand loyalty which in effect enables large companies to gain control of the market usually at the expense of the smaller brands.

The Future of Marketing Communications

Recent developments in marketing communications and consumer behavior have shown that consumers are becoming empowered and that changes in the forms of media have made it difficult for marketers to maintain product following (Sutter, 2005). Moreover, consumers are becoming more intelligent, more knowledgeable, and more ethnically diverse and have less desire to conform and fit in. from the discussion of the communication process it can be deduced that although marketing communications want to influence the consumer, the consumer still has the power over the product. It is what consumers think about the products that matters. Thus, a change of consumer attitudes and personalities would mean that marketers must also be innovative in how they market their products. It would follow that companies and marketers must be a step ahead of the consumers so that they would understand what it is they need and prefer to buy.

An answer to this is the specialization of products like Levi’s limited co-brand alife which caters to young, forward thinking individuals, or the new packaging of old products that are more appealing to the younger population. The mass media is no longer limited to TV, magazines, newspapers and the radio; we have the internet, cable TV, websites etc.. Less people are watching TV or if they do, they often skip the ads and or tune into specialized channels on cable, thus making it difficult for marketers to reach a wider range of consumers. A response to this difficulty is the use of integrated marketing communications (IMC) wherein a product is communicated or advertised to the consumers in all forms of media (Stammerjohan et.al, 2005), but the impact of the use of different communication tools have largely been understudied.

Conclusion

 The communication process has basically stayed the same, what has been changing is the means or medium which we communicate, the information sent by the sender and how the receiver reacts to the messages. Therefore, a study of marketing communication must begin with an understanding of the consumers and their attitudes, feelings, experiences and personalities. This is the challenge for marketers at present, as well as how to make use of the technological developments in mass media. Nevertheless, marketing communication has influenced consumer behavior significantly and has even contributed to the materialistic culture of our society.

References

Pollay, R. (1986) The distorted mirror: Reflections on the unintended consequences of

advertising, Journal of Marketing, 50 p. 33

Schram, W. (1955) The Process and Effects of Mass Communication. Urbana; University of

Illinois Press

Stammerjohan, C., Wood, C., Chang, Y., & Thorson, E. (2005) An empirical investigation of the

interaction between publicity, advertising and previous brand attitudes and knowledge. Journal of Advertising, Winter, 2005

Sutter, S. (2005). 5 Big Trends, Marketing Magazine, Retrieved June 11, 2006 from

http://www.marketingmag.ca/magazine/current/feature/article.jsp?content=20050404_67681_67681

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