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Advertising strategy is the set of decisions an organization takes with respect to the employment of advertising to reach one or more objectives among a specific target group. Each advertising strategy is based on the marketing strategy that encompasses the strategic decisions regarding all marketing activities, such as packaging, price, distribution, and promotion. Within this set of marketing activities, advertising is part of the promotion strategy. Besides defining target group and communication objectives, main parts of the advertising strategy are message strategy and media planning strategy. A further difference can be drawn between message strategy and creative execution strategy. The message strategy determines what communication objective is addressed by an advertisement; the creative execution defines how this objective is addressed. Though the ultimate goal of advertising is to maintain and increase the level of brand sales, most often advertising is employed to reach intermediate goals. Most important of these is communicating how a brand is positioned among its competitors. Other often-employed intermediate goals are brand awareness, generating a general positive feeling toward the brand, and purchase intention. An important question is how the most effective message strategy can be selected. Generally it is advised, besides maintaining and increasing brand awareness, that the advertising strategy should match the main purchase motives of consumers. Many overviews of message strategies have been published and there is no generally agreed-upon typology. Nevertheless, a central element of most typologies is the difference between informational advertising that appeals to the rational mind and emotional advertising that appeals to the feelings of consumers.
An example is the well-known FCB grid which consists of four quadrants, defined by two dimensions: level of involvement and a thinking–feeling dimension. In the thinking dimension, often an important consumer motive is to solve a practical problem. In the high-involvement/thinking quadrant, the purchase is important to consumers and they make a rational decision based on functional information. Therefore, in this situation an informational message strategy should be used. In the low-involvement/thinking quadrant, buying behavior is habitual and consumers want to spend as little time and brain activity as possible on purchasing products, often fast-moving consumer goods. The primary aim of advertising is to remind consumers of the existence of the brand. In the high-involvement/feeling quad-rant, the consumer motive is ego gratification, that is, the need to defend, enhance, and express one’s basic personality. The advice is to apply a message strategy that aims at relating the brand to the personality of the consumer. The low-involvement/feeling quadrant is reserved for products where involvement is low and the purchase decision is based on sensory gratification, that is, the desire to please one or more of the five senses. The message strategy should stress how the brand stimulates personal satisfaction, and advertising should induce product trial so people can experience the brand. Finally, social acceptance can be relevant in situations of both low and high involvement. The message strategy can address the need to be viewed favorably in the eyes of others.
Once the main message strategy is chosen, campaign developers can choose from a long list of creative execution strategies. How many product advantages should be mentioned, and should the best argument be mentioned first or last? Should the information be one-or two-sided? Should the conclusion be explicit or implicit? Should an endorser be employed and, if so, should this be a celebrity, expert, consumer, attractive or erotic model, or perhaps an animated character? Should the format be a testimonial, demonstration, product comparison, slice of life, or dramatization? Should humor be used, or fear? unfortunately, there are no easy answers to these and many other questions. A particular executional factor may be highly effective in one advertising campaign, but may cause detrimental results in another campaign. The effectiveness of each executional factor is dependent on many variables, primarily the chosen advertising objective, the product category, and the motives and personal characteristics of the target group.
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