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Marketing communication involves the ongoing process of relationship building with target audiences on all matters that affect marketing and business performance. Targeted are those groups of people an organization needs to communicate with in order to meet goals and objectives.
A number of marketing communications options are available that help companies build and maintain audience, increase market share and market awareness, acquire new business, and build more fruitful relationships with existing clients. Advertising is a planned communication activity that utilizes controlled messages carried by the media to persuade audiences. Any form of nonpersonal one-way communication about products, ideas, goods, or services paid for by an identified sponsor can be grouped under the advertising umbrella. Research indicates that consumers tend to perceive advertised goods as more legitimate. Another key advantage is that advertising typically reaches large, geographically dispersed audiences, often with high frequency.
Public relations is most associated with maintaining good relationships with the company’s various publics by promoting a good ‘corporate image.’ Since public relations appears in many forms (as news reports, sponsored events, etc.), it tends to be highly credible with audiences and reaches many prospects missed via other forms of promotion. Despite being cost-effective, public relations is often the most underused element in the promotional mix. Publicity messages are conveyed to the public through the mass media and are a component of public relations linked to press agentry.
Any communication to carefully targeted individual consumers designed to generate an immediate commercial response is direct marketing (i.e., an order, request for information, or sales visit). All direct-response advertising is structured around three basic elements: (1) the message communicates a definite offer; (2) the recipient is given the information necessary to make a decision; and (3) the ad makes it easy to say ‘yes’ immediately by including one or more response devices (e.g., a coupon). Sponsorships are defined as payment (in fees, goods, or services) in return for the rights to a public association with another organization and/or event (naming rights, onsite banners, cross-advertising, etc.).
Most businesses have a sales force whose members make personal presentations to persuade a prospective customer to commit to buying a good, a service, or even an idea. The seller generally interprets brand features in terms of buyer benefits, and the salesperson can be critical when the number of potential customers is limited and the product is technical and/or expensive. Promotional products comprise an advertising, sales-promotion, publicity, and motivational communication medium that displays the sponsoring organization’s name, logo, or message on useful articles of merchandise.
Sales promotions are defined as those activities other than personal selling, advertising, and publicity that stimulate consumer purchasing. Sales promotions are typically short-term field marketing and merchandising incentives to encourage purchase or sale of a product or service. Examples of point-of-sale and business sales promotion vehicles include contests, coupons, rebates, refund offers, and sweepstakes. The potentially huge number of viewers who can take action (‘word-of-mouth marketing’) is one attraction of Internet campaigning. A well-placed link on a popular website, or passed from friend to friend, may generate millions of page hits very quickly. The impact of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media has caught the attention of major marketers. By tapping into these ‘virtual communities,’ i.e., individuals who share common identification, companies are finding they can mobilize interest through ‘viral-marketing’ techniques. By identifying opinion leaders in a market segment and providing them with special incentives, sponsors are also creating ‘buzz’ within target groups. Also, rich email (graphically designed email that is forward-able and track-able) is among the new Internet-based technologies for e-commerce.
The accelerating changes we see in communication technologies are evidence of a fundamental shift in society as a whole. Many commentators argue that we are at a historical turning point similar to that which marked the introduction of movable type in Europe and the rise of industrialism. No one is yet sure what ‘globalism’ really means in terms of the way we live or how we conduct business. Shifts that give consumers greater control over messages they pay attention to are definitely changing the notion of the marketplace. Combined with the erosion of older models of how media deliver audiences, these developments are temporarily causing consternation among many marketers who are still groping to find what works. Given past performance, they are likely to be successful.
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