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Brand and marketing communication: When consumers seek control

22-August-2007
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Brand and marketing communication: When consumers seek control

Don E Schultz, President Agora Inc, gave his views on the contemporary communication market where the consumers reign supreme at a seminar organised by MICA, in collaboration with Brand-Finance. Schultz emphasised on the need of a transit from a ‘push’ to a ‘pull’ model of marketing communication.

Schultz began his presentation by recalling how simple marketing communication was earlier, when companies did all the talking and the consumers accepted whatever they said and offered. However, with the rise in competition and emergence of technology, consumers had more access to information, which made it difficult for the traditional communication model to survive he added.

“We still have the traditional system in place. In fact, most companies the world over have been using the traditional model for several years, and many of them have still not changed their communication model. Today, consumers have access to information, technology and word of mouth, and it is true that we marketers have put information technology in their hands,” Schultz noted.

Explaining the linearity of communication models, Schultz said that marketers needed to re-think on the existing linear models as consumers were not linear in their behaviour patterns. “Interactive and inter-related networks are the future of marketing communication, and linear formats should not be used in the consumer driven approach of communication,” he said.

Many companies are product driven and sell whatever they produce. Talking on this front, Schultz explained that marketers had to take the consumer approach and provide products, services and solutions that sufficed the needs of the consumers.

According to Schultz, in the age of consumerism it was important to have a mix of both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ communication model, and it was a challenge to utilise the right mix of resources. “Consumer engagement is crucial in the pull model, and content becomes the king when it comes to consumer engagement,” he said. Further explaining on consumer engagement, Schultz stressed on the need to have a sophisticated media planning approach by engaging consumers through such media platforms that would show impressive results for the marketers.

On the media planning front he said that it was important to know why consumers viewed or read a particular medium, and added that it was equally important to gauge consumers’ level of engagement with that medium.

Schultz also emphasised on how to improve audience understanding of an effective communication model. “Develop consumer insights, use techniques like ethnography, laddering, brain scans, etc., to improve your knowledge of your consumers’ behaviour. On most occasions, brand fit in the subconscious mind of the consumer accounts for 90 per cent of the total memory,” he explained.

Predicting the possibilities of change in the communication model, Schultz said that neural concepts would continue to develop while demographics would decline in importance. “Demographics would be replaced by market place behaviour, while social networks and word of mouth will grow in importance over a period of time,” he pointed out.

Talking about synergies between various brands in the portfolio of a company, Schultz explained that umbrella advertising of the company created goodwill based on advertising effectiveness, while product advertising influenced sales by spillovers from corporate or divisional goodwill.

After fixing a perfect a communication model, brand synergies and other issues, it was important to measure its effectiveness of the communication model. On the measurement front, Schultz emphasised on the need to understand both push and pull communication forms, measure and relate short term returns on marketing, and identify long term values for shareholders.

He concluded by taking a clear stance on the need to have consumer driven approach, a non-linear communication model, and on improving the understanding of a company’s prospective consumers.

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