Marketing communications are the means by which firms attempt to inform, persuade, and remind consumers— directly or indirectly—about the products and brands they sell. In a sense, they represent the voice of the company and its brands; they are a means by which the firm can establish a dialogue and build relationships with consumers. By strengthening customer loyalty, they can contribute to customer equity.
Marketing communications also work by showing consumers how and why a product is used, by whom, where, and when. Consumers can learn who makes the product and what the company and brand stand for, and they can become motivated to try or use it. Marketing communications allow companies to link their brands to other people, places, events, brands, experiences, feelings, and things. They can contribute to brand equity—by establishing the brand in memory and creating a brand image—as well as drive sales and even affect shareholder value.2
1. THE CHANGING MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT
Technology and other factors have profoundly changed the way consumers process communications, and even whether they choose to process them at all. The rapid diffusion of powerful smart phones, broadband and wireless Internet connections, and ad-skipping digital video recorders (DVRs) have eroded the effectiveness of the mass media. In 1960, a company could reach 80 percent of U.S. women with one 30-second commercial aired simultaneously on three TV networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Today, the same ad would have to run on 100 channels or more to achieve this marketing feat. “Marketing Insight: Don’t Touch That Remote” describes some developments in television advertising.
But even as some marketers flee traditional media, they still encounter challenges. Commercial clutter is rampant. The average city dweller is exposed to an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 ad messages a day. Short-form video content and ads appear at gas stations, grocery stores, doctors’ offices, and big-box retailers.
Marketing communications in almost every medium and form have been on the rise, and some consumers feel they are increasingly invasive. Marketers must be creative in using technology but not intrude in consumers’ lives. One agency that has proven to be a master at building brands and driving sales for its clients in this new digital era is AKQA.3
AKQA Established in 2001, AKQA (standing for “All Known Questions Answered”) has emerged as one of the premier digital ad agencies by virtue of its creative strategies for clients like Visa, Xbox, Clorox, and others. An online ad for Audi took the visual point of view of the dashboard of a car on Halloween night to show the value of the Audi A6’s “thermal imaging night vision assistant” as a safety feature that helped drivers avoid hard-to-see trick-or-treaters. The ad was so well received online that it also ran on prime-time network TV. For Heineken, AKQA created the award-winning Star Player game, which leveraged the brand’s UEFA Champions League soccer sponsorship. Using a smart phone or the brand’s Facebook page, soccer fans could simultaneously watch a televised match, play the game in real time to predict what would happen next in the match, and publish their results on Twitter and Facebook. For its long-time client Nike, AKQA has created a variety of apps and games, such as one to help launch Nike+ Kinect for home fitness training. The agency also produced an attention-getting online short featuring singer Ellie Golding and her song “Run into the Light” to promote the performance and social benefits of running with Nike+.
2. MARKETING INSIGHT Don’t Touch That Remote
That consumers have more power in the marketplace is perhaps nowhere more evident than in television broadcasting, where digital video recorders (DVRs) allow viewers to watch shows when they want and to skip past ads with a push of the fast-forward button. More than half the U.S. adults who subscribe to a multichannel video service have a DVR, and of viewers who use them, between 60 percent and 70 percent fast- forward through commercials (the others either like ads, don’t mind them, or can’t be bothered to skip them).
Is that all bad? Surprisingly, research shows that while focusing on an ad in order to fast-forward through it, consumers actually retain and recall a fair amount of information. The most successful ads in fast-forward mode were those consumers had already seen, that used familiar characters, and that didn’t have lots of scenes. It also helped to have brand-related information in the center of the screen, where viewers’ eyes focus while skipping through. Although consumers are still more likely to recall an ad the next day if they’ve watched it live, some brand recall occurs even after an ad is deliberately skipped.
Another challenge marketers have long faced is viewers’ tendency to switch channels during commercial breaks. Recently, however, Nielsen, which handles television program ratings, has begun to offer ratings for specific ads. Before, advertisers had to pay for air time based on the rating of the program, even if as many as 5 percent to 15 percent of consumers temporarily tuned away. Now they can pay based on the size of the actual audience available when their ad is shown. To increase viewership during commercial breaks, the major broadcast and cable networks are shortening breaks and delaying them until viewers are more likely to be engaged in a program.
A newer challenge for marketers is the time-shifted viewing DVRs permit as more consumers put themselves in charge of their TV schedule. Nielsen now includes Live+3 and Live+7 ratings to capture viewing that occurs three or seven days after initial airing. For some programs and time slots, adding in delayed viewership can make a big difference in the size of the audience.
Source: Kotler Philip T., Keller Kevin Lane (2015), Marketing Management, Pearson; 15th Edition.