Role Of The Marketing Communication Mix Marketing Essay

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1st Jan 1970 Marketing Reference this


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Nowadays, Marketing entitles more that just the emergent of a product, pricing it appealingly, and making it accessible to target customers. In addition, companies must communicate with customers, and what they communicate should not be missing to chance.

According to Nelson (2003), marketing communications are “all activities and messages inform, persuade, and influence the consumer in making a purchase decision”.

Thus, this report will address the role and characteristics of each of the primary tools of the communication mix, which are mainly: advertising, sales promotion, public relations (non- personal communication tools) and personal selling and direct marketing (personal communication tools). We will also discuss the criteria that should be used to select the right communication mix and investigate the changes that are happening in the media and communication landscape. For example, thanks to information communication technologies, people can communicate through traditional media and also through newer type of media or digital media (fax machines, mobile phones, and computers).

The newer technologies have motivated more organisations to shift from mass communication to a more targeted communication and one-to-one dialogue. For example, the BBC broadcasts its news programmes on TV, Internet and now on mobile phones to reach diverse and spread out audiences even when they are moving from one destination to another one.

The role of the marketing communications

Marketing communications are means by which firms’ attempt to inform, persuade, and remind consumers (directly or indirectly) about the products and brands that they sell. In addition, marketing communications also can act as a differentiator; particularly in markets where there is little to separate competing products and brands.

For example, mineral water products, such as Perrier and Highland Spring, are largely similar (Bowersox and Morash 1989). Thus, in a sense, it is the marketing communications surrounding the products that represent the “voice” of the brand and are a means by which it can establish dialogue and build relationships with consumers.

Therefore, the DRIP elements of marketing communications help in diassociating one brand from another and position them so that consumers’ purchasing confidence and positive attitudes are develop.

Table 1: drip elements of marketing communications; Source: Chris Fill (2006)

DRIP Element



Burger King differentates itself from market leader McDonald’s by stating that its burgers are flame grilled for a better taste.


Specsavers Opticians work to bring people back into the eyecare market.

Inform/ make aware

The Environment Agency and Flood Action Week-to inform various organisations, such as Met Office, Local Media and general publc of the new flood warning codes.


So Good milk is better for us than ordinary milk

The marketing communication mix

The marketing communication mix also known as the promotion mix consists of set of tools that can be used in various combinations and different degrees of intensity inorder to communicate with the target audience. In addition, to these tools or methods of communication, there is a media, or a means by which marketing communications messages are conveyed. Tools and media should not be confused as they have different characteristics and seek to acheive different goals. The Primary Tools are: advertising, sales promotions, personal selling, direct marketing and public relations; Media: television, radio, press, the Internet etc.

Role and characteristics of primary tools of communication mix

Each communication tool has its own role, unique characteristics and costs. For instance Packard Bell trusts on promotion and advertising to retailers, whereas Dell relies on further direct marketing. Thus, organisations should be able to choose the right ones or even to choose a combination of the right ones to acheive their marketing goals and objectives.

Examples of marketing communications: using three tools of the promotion mix and how TV advertising fails to provide a positive feedback to customers by choosing the wrong tools and media.

Figure 1: Examples of marketing communications with some tools of the promotion mix, source: Nelson (2003)

Advertising: a non-personal mass promotion tool

Advertising has been defined by Wong et al… (2005) as “Any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor.” The key difference between advertising and other forms of promotion mix is that it is impersonal and communicates with large number of people through paid media channels.

Figure 2: profiles of major media forms; source: Saunders et al. (2005)

Role of advertising

Advertising is a good way to inform and persuade, whether the purpose is to sell Nokia mobile phones worldwide or to encourage smokers to give up the habit. Avertising is used in order to stimulate a response from the target audience.









Purchase The response may be perceptual in nature: for example, the consumer develops specific views or opinions about the product, service or brand, or these feeling are altered by the ad. The response could be behavioural: for instance, the consumer buys the product or increasing the amount that he or she buys.

Figure 3: Stages of Convictional Model (Levidge, R.G and Steiner-1961)

Furthermore, Advertising objective can be classified by primary purpose- whether to inform, persuade or remind target audiences about the products, services or even the brand of the organisations.

Figure 4: possible advertising objective, source: kotler et al (2005)

Characteristics of advertising

Advertising can be used to build up a long-term image for the product (coca- cola ads; Mercedes-Benz car ads) or trigger quick sales (a Sears’s ad or when department stores like Debenhams and Selfridges advertise for a weekend sales).

Advertising agencies also use celebrities to target the right people about their products and services. For example, Christiano Ronaldo is the brand ambassador of Clavin Klein. Just the presence of advertising might have an effect on sales: Consumers might believe that a heavily advertised brand must offer ‘good value’.

Certain forms of advertising (TV) can require a large budget, whereas other forms (newspaper) do not (See picture below).

Figure 5: coca cola advertising spending: Source: and

Because of the many forms and uses of advertising, it is difficult to make generalisations.

The strong theories of advertising

Advertising is highly flexible as it offers the options of reaching an extremely large audience or focusing on a small, precisely defined segment of the population. For example, Mcdonald’s advertising focuses on a large audience of potential fast-food consumers, ranging from children to adults, whereas advertising for DeBeers’ diamonds focuses on a much smaller and specialise target market. For instance, the practices of ‘ambush’ advertising during televised sporting events as rivals compete for the same audience.

Pervasiveness- advertising permits the seller to go over a message several times. It also enables the buyer to obtain and contrast the messages of different competitors. “Large-scale advertising says something positive about the seller’s size, popularity, and success” Saunders & Armstrong (2005)

For example, Unilever advertises many of its products (cleaning products, foods, cosmetics) on TV, in magazines, and through outdoor television.

Amplified expressiveness- Advertising provides opportunities for dramatising the business and its products through the clever exercise of print, sound, and colour. For instance, all of us recognise virgin advertisements due to its brand colour, “red”.

Impersonality- the viewers does not feel compelled to pay attention or react to advertising. Advertising is a ‘monologue’ in face of, not a ‘dialogue’with, the viewers.

Advertising can attain lots of geographically scattered buyers at a low cost coverage. For example, the cost of a four-colour, one page advertisement in the Sunday Telegraph magazine is £7000. Because the magazine reaches 700, 000 readers, the cost of reaching 1,000 subscribers is only £10.

The weak theories of advertising

Even through the cost per person reached may be low; the absolute monetary outlay can be extremely high, especially for commercials shown during popular television programmes. For example during American Idol, Sunday Night Football, Apprentice TV program, ad cost approximately ($342,000, $16,000, $125,000) just for .30 second which might not be affordable for other companies. These high cost can limit, sometimes prevent, the use of advertising in a promotional mix.

Although advertising reaches many people quickly, advertising is impersonal, measuring its effect on sales is difficult, and it ordinarily has less persuasive impact on customers than personal selling. Meaning, advertising is only capable to hold on a one-way communication with the public, and the public does not believe that it has to pay attention or react.

Sales promotion: a non-personal communication tool

Sales promotion is the “short term incentives to encourage the purchase or sale of a product or service” Wong et al. (2005).

Role of sales promotion

Organisations plan sales promotion to stimulate faster response from consumers and business customers, channel members (sometimes called trade) and the sales force. Companies use sales promotion tools for short-run effects such as to highlight product offers and boost sagging sales. In addition, some marketers use them as a part of a longer term strategy to strengthen relationships with members of the target audience.

Sellers use incentive-type promotions to attract new triers, to reward loyal customers, and to increase the repurchase rates of occasional users. Sales promotions, for example, free sampling can often attract brand switchers, who are primarily looking for low price, good value, or premiums.

Characteristics of sales promotion

Sales promotion includes an ample range of tools and techniques

Table 2: new media techniques of sales promotion, source:

Figure 6: sales promotion techniques

Strong theories of sales promotion

Communication- They attract customer attention and provide information that may lead to purchase, For example, Avon targets women, and normally they do free samples of the product, which increase awareness and enhance understanding of the product, thus lead to purchase.

Incentive – they offer strong incentitives to purchase by providing inducements or contributions that give additional value to consumers, for example, the major brewers such as Allied, Grand Metropolitan, and whitbread use a continuous programme of variety of sales promotion techniques to boost sales in highly competitive beer and lager market: free drinks and prize competitions, scratch cards and trade incentitives.

Invitation- Moreover, sales promotions encourage and recompense quick response. While advertising says ‘buy our product’, sales promotion offers incentives to consumers to ‘buy it now’.

Weak theories of sales promotions

Sales promotions are usually short-lived, thus, are regularly not as useful as advertising or personal selling in establishing a long run brand preference. Thus, is more effective if use together with personal selling and advertising

Heavy use of sales promotion has been blamed for decreasing brand loyalty, increasing consumer price sensivity, brand -equity image dilution, and a focus on short- run marketing planning. This may be because, sales promotion, with its incessant prices off, coupons, deals, and premiums, may devalue the product offering in buyer’s minds.

Personal selling: Personal Communication tool

Clemnete (1992) defined Personal selling or direct selling as “a sales approach characterised by personal product explanations and demonstrations, often in the consumer’s home or retailer’s establishment”.

Role of Personal Selling

Personal selling involves two-way personal communication between sales people and individual customers- whether face to face, by telephone, through video conferences or by other means.

In personal selling, the individual or group activity (e.g. sales agent or group force), conducted with the purpose of providing information (cognitive) who develop positive feeling (attitudinal) and stimulating purchase (behavioural). In addition, they provide customer service and carry out market research and intelligence work, for example, Avon trained an effective salesforce to boost up its sales revenue as well as in building customer relationship management.

Characteristics of personal selling

“Personal selling is the most effective tool at certain stages of the buying process, particularly in building up buyers’ preferences, convinctions and actions” Wong et al., (2005).

Strong theories of personal selling

Personal interaction- personal selling involves an instant and interactive rapport between two or more people. Everyone can scrutinise the other’s requirements and characteristics and make quick adjustments.

Cultivation- personal selling allows all sorts of relationships to grow up, depending from a transactional selling to a loyal customer relationship.

Reaction- personal selling enables the buyer feel under some compulsion for having listened to the sales talk.

Interpersonal communication- it includes diffrent forms of communication to close the sales and build relationship, such as, kinesic; proxemic or tactile communication.

Weak theories of personal selling

Companies often sell their product through separate sales force, each working independently to close sales the example of Mary Kay. Their technical people may not be willing to lend time to educate a customer. They may also have the attitude that “it’s our job to make the products and the sales persons’ to sell the customers”.

Furthermore, if the personal selling process is not followed correctly for instance, due to bias in your recruitment and selection process, you may have an uneffective salesforce, which could be detrimental to the company.

Pubic relations: non-personal communication tool

“Public relations is the building of good relations with the company’s various publics by obtaining favourable publicity, building up a good ‘corporate image ‘, and handling or heading off unfavourable rumours, stories and events”, Saunders & Armstrong (2004).

Its purpose is to develop a dialogue with prospects (e.g. placing email address, web address, 0800 tel. numbers, contact names and organisational addresses prominently in all forms of external communications)

Role of public relations

Figure 7: role of Public relations, source: Chris Fill (2006)

Characteristics of Public relations (PR)

Marketers tend to underuse public relations; so far a good program synchronized with other communications mix elements can be extremely effective.

Strong theories of Public relations

High credibility: New stories and features are more real and convincing to readers than advertising. For example, they are broadcast by journalists, editors, etc. That is non-paid media, for example, press releases, news conferences, sponsorship. For instance, the press conference of Tiger woods to rebuild his reputation (use of celebrities) has attracted pool of audiences.

Ability to catch buyers off guard- PR can reach prospects that prefer to avoid salespeople and advertisement.

Dramatization- like, advertising PR can dramatise a company or product. The Body Shop is one of the few international companies that have used the public relations as an effective alternative to mass TV advertising

Weak theories of Public relations

Public relations are often described as a marketing stepchild because of its limited and scattered use. The public relations department is usually located at coporate headquarters. Their staffs are so busy dealing with various publics that public relations programmes to support the product may be ignored.

Publicity part of public relations cannot always be controlled to the extent that other elements of the promotional mix can be. For example, just as Perrier’s contamination problems appeared to be easing, a BBC television programme showed that “bottled at source” packaging was misleading. Sainsbury’s then refused for months to re-stock Perrier until the wording on the packaging was altered.

Forms of Public Relations

Development; sponsorship used to establish new associations (e.g. Official Sponsor of the Beijing Olympics

Direct marketing: A personal communication tool

“Direct marketing are the direct connections with carefully targeted individual consumers both to obtain an immediate response and to cultivate lasting customer relationships” Sauders &Armstrong (2004), the use of some tools like, telephone, mail, fax, to communicate with specific consumers.

Role and characteristics of Direct Marketing

The role of direct marketing is using detailed databases to tailor their offers and communications to the needs of narrowly defined segments or even individual buyers in order to provoke a change in the audience’s behaviour. There are no intermediaries in direct marketing.

The main forms of direct marketing

Advantages of direct marketing

Customised- the message can be prepared to appeal to the addressed individual, for example, receiving mails from your bank offering new deals which is suitable for you

Up-to-date: messages can be arranged in less time; use of emails

Interactive- a message can be changed depending on the person’s response allowing a dialogue between the customer and the communicator.

Limitations of direct marketing

Direct marketers have to address a variety of public policy and ethical issues. It remains a potential for customer abuse, ranging from irritation and unfair practices to deception and fraud. There is also the growing concern of invasion of privacy, for example, companies selling huge customer databases to other companies without their consent.

Criteria to select the right communication mix

Inorder to select the right communication mix, we need to know the strenghts and weaknesses of ecah primary tools (which we did in the first part of the paper). The trick is to make them work together as an interactive unit (IMC).

According to Nelson (2003), Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is “a comprehensive marketing communications plan that takes into consideration all the tools of the communication mix being used and combines them to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact”. For example, Avon does a lot of personal selling as well as sales promotions, for instance, free sample given for customers to try the products.

The table below shows the strenghths of the communication tools based on the selection criteria, level of control, cost, credibility etc. Furthermore, this will help companies to choose the right mix, or a combination of the right mix according to their identified target audience.

Selection criteria


Sales promotions

Public relations

Direct marketing

Personal selling

Level of control






Level of cost






Level of credibility






Level of dispersion







Primary tasks







Persuading Table 3: strengths of communication tools, source: (Remco Prince & Peter C. Verhoef- 2007)

Strategy selected (Push or Pull) depend on type of product/ market as well as product life cycle as well as the company’s policy and objectives. However, most marketing situations in fact involve combinations of push and pulling strategies, for example, Wrigley’s chewing gum


Retailers and Wholesalers



Retailers and Wholesalers


Push Strategy

Pull Strategy



Figure 9: Push versus Pull Promotional Strategy (Philip and Cotler-2007)

Type of product/ market

Communication mix allocations vary between consumer and business markets. Consumer marketers tend to spend comparatively more on sales promotion and advertising; business markets tend to spend comparatively more on personal selling. In general, personal selling is used more “complex, costly, and risky goods and in markets with fewer and larger sales” Kotler et al., (2006), (hence, business market).

The size, geographic distribution, and social- economic characteristics of an organisation’s target market also help dictate the ingredients to be included in the product promotional mix.

Ansoff matrix can also be used as a tool that helps businesses decide their product and market growth strategy as well as selecting the primary tools of the communication mix. For example at the market penetration, being in a current market and current product, a combination of advertising and sales promotion can be used.

New current





Figure 10: Ansoff Matrix

Product life cycle stage

Communication tools also vary in cost-effectiveness at different stages of the production life cycle. In the introduction stage, advertising, public relations have the maximum cost effectiveness, pursued by personal selling to achieve distribution coverage and sales promotion and direct marketing to induce trial. In the growth stage, demand has its own force through word of mouth. In the maturity stage, advertising, personal selling, special promotion all grow more important. In the decline stage, sales promotion increases, other communication tools are reduced.

Buyer- Readiness stage

Communication tools vary in cost-effectiveness at different stages of buyer readiness stage. Advertising is the most important tool in the awareness buying stage; customer comprehension is primary affected by advertsing and personal selling. Customer convinction is influenced mostly by personal selling. Closing the sale and reordering are influenced mainly by personal selling and sales promotion.

Cost effectiveness of three communication tools at different buyer readiness stage

Stages of buyer readiness


Cost of effectiveness

Source: kotler and Keller (2006)

Cost and Availability of promotional Methods

Advertising and sales promotion necessitate huge expenditures. For example, In the Uk television transmission charges for advertising in 1989 were £1,990 million and production costs were £296 million. However, these efforts are effective in reaching a large number of people, the cost per person reach may be quite small, possibly few pennies per person. However, not all forms of advertising is expensive, for example, local businesses advertise their products through local newspapers.

Futhermore, Budget is also an important factor to use in order to select the promotion mix. There are four common methods of on how company can decide on the promotion budget, which are mainly: Affordable method, percentage-sales method, competitive parity method and objective-task method. If a business promotional budget is exceedingly limited, the firm is liable to depend on personal selling as it is easier to calculate a salesperson’s contribution to sales than to calculate the effect of advertising.

Despite of the tremendous number of media vehicles, a firm may find that no available advertising medium to reach a certain market. For example, a personal healthcare product may be banned from being advertised on television. The problem of media availability becomes even more pronounced when marketers try to advertise in other countries. In America, some states laws prohibit the use of certain types of sales promotion activities such as contests. Such prohibited techniques are thus “unavailable”.

Changes happening in the media and communication landscape

Improvements in information communication technology have led to media fragmentation (expansion of media; the splintering of a few mainstream media channels into a multitude of media and channel formats) and to a more one to one and interactive marketing, Wong (2005). Therefore, it leads to an audience fragmentation: the expansion of media choice has caused a disintegration of large media audiences into smaller audiences.

This means that there is a shift away from broadcasting (aimed at large audiences) toward narrowcasting (directed at small audiences). For example, Unilever’s Comfort Refresh, a clothing and fabric deodorant spray, is advertised in the women’s lavatories of clubs and pubs, because its target audience of young females, who use it to remove the smell of cigarette from their clothing during party times. Refresh also sponsors a TV series that appeals to young females.

Traditional versus Digital Media

Traditional media

Digital media


Greater monologue

Active provision

Mass marketing

General need



One-to-one and many-to-many (e.g. banner ads)

Greater dialogue (e.g. Instant Messaging, chatting tools)

Passive provision (e.g. banner ad on the web)

Individualised (e.g. chatting facilities)

Personalised (e.g. customised web sites)

Information (i.e. building awareness and knowledge)

Communities (e.g. Internet communities)

Table 4: traditional versus new media: source Remco Prince & Peter C. Verhoef- 2007)

New types of media -mainly digital media

Many companies have reduced the use of traditional media to increased use of new, highly targeted media, ranging from highly focused speciality magazines and cable or satellite television channels to CD catalogues, mobile text messages of cheap flights available from your preferred airline, and websites on the internet, to airport kiosks and floor decals in supermarket aisles. Moreover, the use of networking sites such as Facebook, MSN, and Twitter etc. to develop greater dialogue. For example, Twitter is use to place product or service advertisements to promote their brand for free, now, it has been challenged that twitter may “charge brands for commercial use”. . Besides, Marmite was the first FMCG brand to use Facebook, the networking site advertisements units. Now, Marmite has a shop open in London, thus operating online and offline.

In addition, supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s used seamlessly integrated offline and online communications to promote its ‘Sainsbury’s To You’. Due to development in ICT Many companies promote their service or product only online such as E-bay; Amazon and so, thus enhancing e-commerce/ e-marketing.

“Research conducted for Marketing by Nielsen shows that some of the UK’s top telecoms, technology and gambling brands increased their investment in online advertising in 2008″‘ for example, Online gaming company Gamesys delivered a 300% increase in on line ads spend, while William Hill upped its investment by nearly 30% to £4.7m.

However, marketers trying to use Web alone to build brands face many challenges. For instance, the internet does not build brand awareness. The web simply cannot match the impact of world Cups, Olympic Games or Six Nations Rugby.


The overall report is based on the importance of integreted marketing communications, which calls carefully integrated all sources of communication to deliver clear and consistent message to target customers. Not only is it cost effective. As marketing communications environment is changing, moving from mass marketing (broadcasting) to targeted or one-on-one marketing (narrowcasting), marketing communicators adopt richer but fragmented media and promotion mixes to their reach diverse markets. Thus, they risk creating a communication hodgepodge for consumers. To prevent this, more companies are adopting the concept of integreted marketing communications (ICT).

Moreover, to integate its external communications effectively, the company must first integrate its internal communication activities. Thus, the company has to work out the role and characteristics (advantages and limitations) of each primary tool of the communication mix: Advertising, Sales Promotions, Public Relations (non personal communication tools) and Personal Selling and Direct Marketing (personal communication tools).

In addition, we have dicussed the criteria to select the right communication mix, which are: the nature of the product/ market, the product life cycle, the budget available; cost and availability of promotional methods, promotional resources, objectives, and policies and the use of pull or push strategy or a combination of both.

The last part of the report has investigated on the new types of media- digital media available for companies due to media fragmentation. However, despite new channels are available (both online and offline), it depends on the selection criteria of the communication mix and the responsibility of the companies to choose the right ones or even combine the right ones (IMC). An important point to be noted is even if promotion mix is the organisation’s primary communication activity, the enitre marketing mix- promotion, product, price, place, process, people and physical evidence must be coordinated for greatest communication impact.

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