View of the Communication Process

Too often, marketing communications focus on overcoming immediate awareness, image or preference problems in the target market. This approach to communication has limitations: It is too short term and costly, and most messages of this nature fall on deaf ears. Today, marketers are moving towards viewing communications as the management of the customer buying process over time - that is, from pre-selling through selling, to consuming and post-consumption stages. Eiecause customers differ, the firm's communications programmes need to be developed for specific segments, niches and even individuals. Importantly, given the new interactive communications technologies, companies must ask not only 'How can we reach our customers?', but also 'How can we find ways to let our customers reach us?'

Thus, the communication process should start with an audit of all the potential interactions that target customers may have with the product and company. For example, someone buying a new computer may talk to others, see television commercials, read articles and advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and try out computers in the store. The marketer needs to assess the influence that each of these communications experiences will have at different stages of tht buying process. This understanding will help marketers to allocate their communication budget more effectively and efficiently.

To communicate effectively, marketers need to understand how communication works. Communication involves the nine elements shown in Figure 18.2. Two of these elements are the major parties in a communication — the sender and the receiver. Another two are the essential communication tools - the message and the media. Four more are primary communication functions - encoding, decoding, respri7i.se mid feedback. The latest element is noise in the system. We will explain each of these elements using an ad far Hewlett Packard colour copiers.

• Sender. The party sending the message to another party - in this case, Hewlett Packard..

• Encoding. The process of putting the intended message or thought into symbolic form - Hewlett Packard's advertising agency assembles words and illustrations into an advertisement that will convey the intended message.

• Message. The set of'words, pictures or symbols that the sender transmits -the actual HP copier ad.

• Media. The communication channels through which the message moves from sender to receiver - in this ease, the specific magazines that Hewlett Packard selects.

• Decoding. The process by which the receiver assigns meaning to the symbols encoded by the sender - a consumer reads the HP copier ad and interprets the words and illustrations it contains.

• Receiver. The party receiving the message sent by another party - the home office or business customer who reads die HP copier ad.

• Response. The reactions of the receiver after being exposed to the message -any of hundreds of possible responses, such as the customer is more aware of the attributes of HP copiers, actually buys an IIP copier or does nothing.

• Feedback. The part of the receiver's response communicated back to the sender - Hewlett Packard's research shows that consumers like and remember the ad, or consumers write or call HP praising or criticizing the ad or HP's products.

Figure 18.2

Elements in the communication process

» Noise. The unplanned static i>r distortion during the communication process, which results in the receiver getting a different message than the one the sender sent - for example, the customer is distracted while reading the magazine and misses the IIP copier ad or its key points.

For a message to be effective, the sender's encoding process must mesh with the receiver's decoding process. Thus, the best messages consist of words and other symbols that are familiar to the receiver. The more the sender's field of experience overlaps with that of the receiver, the more effective the message is likely to be. Marketing communicators may not always sliare their consumers' field of experience. For example, an advertising copywriter from one social stratum might create an ad for consumers from another stratum - say, blue-collar workers or wealthy business executives. However, to communicate effectively, the marketing communicator must understand the consumer's field of experience.

This model points out the key factors in good communication. Senders need to know what audiences they want to reach and what responses they want. They must be good at encoding messages that take into account how the target audience decodes them. They must send messages through media that reach target auclienees and they must develop feedback channels so that they can assess the audience's response to the message.

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