Marketing Communications Strategies.

Strategies can be thought of as ideas. They can be stale or fresh ideas. Our clients pay us for, and expect, fresh ideas.

Four marketing communications strategies define how we intend to accomplish our objectives:

  • Target strategies
  • Message strategies
  • Mix strategies
  • Metrics strategies

Our challenge is to develop and execute ideas about what we will say, to whom, when, where and how we will tell it. This is to achieve an objective of what we want our prospects to do. (Sample the product? Go to a store? Call an 800 number?, etc.)

  1. Target strategy: Whom are we talking to? If the proper research has been done, we'll know which targets should deliver the best return on our investment. This is called segmenting and prioritizing the targets.
  2. Message strategy: What are we telling them? What message do we communicate to each target – termed message segmentation. Continuing the example of Tahiti's advertising, we tell the leisure market, "Tahiti is closer than you think."
  3. Mix strategy: How are we reaching them? The optimum mix between the marketing communications tools of advertising (anything that requires paying for the delivery medium), non-paid (editorial) and promotions (offers) needs to be determined.
  4. Metrics strategy: How are we monitoring and measuring the targets' behavior? Are we tracking awareness, preference, behavior and/or sales?

Amplifying further on the three elements of the Mix Strategy:

Advertising tools are mediums that are purchased: Media advertising, events, collateral material and interactive devices such as a Web site or a kiosk. The buyer creates  the final message and, therefore, maintains control.

Non-paid communications are comprised mostly of media relations and employee relations. The result is editorial content and word of mouth. Therefore, placement and actual content cannot be guaranteed. Non-paid communications most often carry  more credibility than paid messages.

Sales promotions are offers to motivate trial or repeat purchases.

The mix of pure brand-building messages, more specific product features/benefits messages and the amount of promotions-based traffic generators will be determined by the objectives.

Pure brand building advertising is often referred to as "image" advertising. However, anything from a big smile from the cashier, to a follow-up “thank you” letter, to a special event can be part of the brand-building campaign.

Here are some general guides for selecting which device to use to achieve the objectives:
(Note: they are brief and not conclusive, but they add to the logic and completeness of this document.)

Public Relations: The nomenclature surrounding the various areas of responsibilities for  “public relations” can be confusing.

  • Media relations: Media relations puts editorial messages in the hands of a third party – journalists – whereby placement of the message cannot be controlled or guaranteed. Because positive editorial often indicates the endorsement of an unbiased journalist, it's the great credibility builder. It allows a small company with real news to get attention by spending less than an ad campaign would probably cost. It is a good method for delivering longer messages than could normally be handled in a print ad or 30-second TV commercial. However, if the priority is to create immediate sales, or if you must have tight message and timing control of your message, PR doesn't carry the guarantees that are available from the paid advertising disciplines.
  • Employee relations: Every employee is a representative of the company – and can be an ambassador. Many have more consumer contact than top management. So, it's important to keep them informed about company vision,  policies and communications strategies.
  • Industry relations: For the same reasons stated for employee relations, it's important to keep suppliers, dealers, retailers – all important links in the trade channels – informed.
  • Investor relations: Informs and educates investors, analysts, brokers and the financial press.
  • Community relations: Help build images in the company's own neighborhood.

Direct: If the target is identifiable and addressable, if there is an offer that will prompt response, and if the budget allows delivery of a series of packages or commercials, Direct may be appropriate. Direct response media is also excellent for generating a customer relations management (CRM) database.

Because of stockholder demand for ROI, and because technology is making the tracking and reporting of results more feasible, Direct is becoming an increasingly larger part of the marketing mix. The nomenclature can be confusing, so here are the main components of Direct:

  • Direct marketing:  The marketing and sales functions are one step. The manufacturer sells directly to the ultimate consumers. There are no wholesalers or retailers involved. Examples: infomercials, catalogs, print ads with an 800 number and e-commerce.
  • Direct response: These messages, whether print or electronic, contain a response mechanism. This response mechanism is usually more than just the mention of a toll-free number. The main purpose and emphasis of the communication is to spur a response action on the part of the audience. While an order is often the preferred response – depending on the distribution channels – other responses are valued for the information that can be used later.
  • Database marketing: This is the assembling and use of a list of potential and/or present customers to market products or services. It is not a single action. It's a series of actions, normally with the objective of building a relationship with the customer. It's commonly referred to as “relationship marketing” or as “1-to-1” marketing and is at the heart of any company's CRM (customer relationship management) program. Demographics; psychographics; and, most importantly, purchase behavior statistics, such as recency of last purchase, purchase frequency and average unit of sale, are collected into a database for analysis purposes.

Promotions: Promotions are offers. They're often referred to as sales promotions and are excellent for generating traffic, trial and repeat purchases. Promotions need to be timed and placed correctly. (No one cares about your offer if they don't already desire your product.) With offers, promotions tie in naturally with direct response. A program's ROI is improved by testing the variable of the offer, the target and the message – then by measuring, adjusting and expanding the promotion.

Alliance Marketing: When two or more companies combine funds to deliver messages to the same target, it's called alliance marketing or partnership marketing.  Alliance marketing works best when companies have similar targets and quality brand images and can result in significantly improved efficiencies. When these partner programs carry an offer, they're referred to as cross-promotions.

Advertising: When there is an identifiable target group, when efficient media is available to reach them, when budgets exist to advertise consistently, and when the message can be delivered in small space or in a short amount of air time, advertising will most likely be an important part of the mix. Paid advertising also allows the advertiser to maintain control of content and timing.

Point of Purchase: Referred to as POP or POS for point of sale. Howie Cohen refers to it as “The Closer.” It's the last and best chance to close the deal with your target. The other marketing efforts may have brought them to this moment – in the store – in the aisle – approaching your product. You may have excited them with editorial articles, romanced them with tantalizing ads and enticed them with compelling promotions. But if you don't seal the deal with a strong close at the point of purchase, you can lose them. POP is the most effective way to close the deal. When it's possible to get space on the retail sales floor, point of sale is almost always in the mix. It's extremely efficient because the targets are prospects who are in the store and able, at that moment, to purchase the product.

Events: When a group of targeted prospects or customers will be in one place or when it's economically feasible to bring them together, an event or series of events can be an effective tool. Face-to-face contact can be the most powerful marketing tool. Unsolicited, positive word-of-mouth testimonials from experts may be the most powerful sales tool, and the human contact that takes place at events can approach delivering that level of credibility. Samplings, demonstrations and celebrations are examples of marketing events. Events are also staged to generate publicity.

Product Placement: The use of products by celebrities is a powerful brand-building tool. And as consumers find ways to avoid commercials, as the lines between paid and non-paid marketing communications blur into documercials, infomercials and advertorials, products placed by marketing communications people in editorial and entertainment environments will become more commonplace. (I laugh as I write this because I'm reminded of Mike Meyers, smiling into the camera in Wayne's World, holding a bag of chips close to his face, parodying product placement in movies.)

We might wonder if the effort of placing products in an editorial or entertainment environment is to be considered advertising (paid) or public relations (non-paid). Our thinking is that if the producer is paid to include the product in the content – it's advertising. If no fee is paid, it's PR.