The Key To Successful Marketing Communications - Beyond Philosophy Blog - Colin Shaw CX Consultant

The Fundamentals Of Effective Marketing Communications

by Colin Shaw on October 4, 2019

Some people confuse marketing and advertising. Many people think they are the same thing. They are not, but advertising and its related communication is a crucial part of what marketing does.

Advertising is where your organization communicates with the customer. It is where you make your brand promise, aka your value proposition. It is also where you begin to set customers’ expectations for your Customer Experience.

We talked about advertising and communication in a recent podcast. We discussed the fundamental principles for making advertising and communication work and what makes them useful. We also discuss how you can get it wrong—or at least wrong for your bottom line.

I spent several years working in marketing. When you compare advertising, or what an organization promises you, with the Customer Experience, I learned that they could often be quite different—and not in a good way. In the UK, we say it can be the difference between chalk and cheese.

David Packard, the co-founder of Hewlett Packard, had a different take on the issue. He said,

Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.

I love this quote because it’s true. Marketing should infuse everything you do as an organization because, at its core, marketing is about understanding the customer and what they want. In our global Customer Experience consultancy, we believe these principles should guide all of your significant business decisions. Your strategy should be designed to talk to people and what you want those people to do. However, so you don’t serve the customer chalk when they were expecting cheese, your communication should set up reasonable expectations, too.

A Blinding Flash of the Bloody Obvious

Advertising or communication is useful when you have a goal for your conversation. Now, I realize that this statement is a brilliant example of what I call the ‘blinding flash of the bloody obvious.” However, you might be surprised how often that is not the case with an advertising campaign.

There are several ways you see that an organization does not have a goal for communication:

  • When you hand over social media to an intern with the only direction being, “Post things so our feed is active.”
  • When you choose a digital campaign because it gets a lot of views without regard for whether it attracts the proper audience for your product or service
  • When the website design looks cool and trendy but doesn’t have a connection to the other parts of the business or is a separate entity from other customer channels

Now, none of these actions would be a problem for specific communication conditions or if they are part of a broader strategy. However, what usually is the case is that the marketing department has a lot of balls in the air. In the course of juggling their responsibilities, they forget to tie back the social media feed/campaign/website to get specific people to do a particular thing.

As global Customer Experience consultants, we have asked our clients these high-level questions, like, “What do you want to get out of this?” and they can’t answer. It can be awkward, frankly, because everyone knows as soon as you ask that they should know. We can see our clients realize they haven’t spent enough time on the “big picture.”


Three Types of Goals for Advertising Communication

You must have a goal for any communication action that you take, whether it’s posting something on Twitter or a Super Bowl ad. Moreover, that goal should also roll up then into the broader marketing strategy goal.

There are three general classes of goals that companies might have to try to address when communicating with customers: awareness, understanding, and attractiveness.

  1.  Awareness: Sometimes, your goal is to make people aware of your product, especially if it is new, and you’re introducing it to the market. Another aspect of awareness is to keep your product or service top of mind.
  2. Understanding: This goal is straightforward; you need to educate people on what it is you do.
  3. Attractiveness: Attractiveness describes when you want to convince people you are better than rival products or the next best opportunity.

The question is, which is the right goal for your brand? Determining which of these goals is the right one for your customers starts with two details about your audience. First, who they are, and second, what they already know.

Once you know these, then you establish how complicated your product is, and even how complex the problem is that it solves. For example, if your product or service is straightforward and easy to understand, it doesn’t require a ton of education.

Finally, you decide if you are in competition with other brands that do the same thing. If so, then you need to be sure that you are the brand they think of when they have that particular set of needs your product or service solves.

There was an advert for Ronseal, a wood stain, that I liked in England back in the day. The tag line was: “It does exactly what it says on the tin.”

It was basic and communicative. Essentially, the Ronseal ad said if you want to do what it says on the label, then you have the right one. It wasn’t a hidden meaning or a sexy version of the activity. It was straightforward, and it made sense for what it was.

Ronseal wasn’t talking to everyone. They were only talking to customers who needed to stain a door. They didn’t need to educate customers about staining doors either. However, they did need to establish that they were the most attractive product for the job so that customers would remember them when staining a door. (And if they forgot, well, it says what it does right on the tin.)

Another excellent example of this type of communication is Apple (naturally). Apple has been proficient at identifying new features and then communicating them to their audience. Like this one for facial recognition:

Anytime Apple is advertising, they have an awareness angle because they want to keep their brand top of mind. However, that is not their only goal. As an existing brand, they often hit all three goals, the hat trick of advertising communications.

For example, the facial recognition ad for the newest iPhone at the time communicated there were a lot of new features in the latest iPhone. The message not only raised my awareness but also helped me understand how they worked. Plus, I found the new features attractive. (I mean, naps are pretty great, don’t you think?)

However, not everyone with a new technology product does a good job communicating what their new features do. Take TiVo, for instance.

TiVo’s initial ads were all awareness. They show people doing things their way. The announcement explains that TiVo lets you watch TV your way.

However, there was no explanation of what TiVo was, and so you didn’t understand the features. Now, we all use DVR, and so we know them, but, back then, it was a new and different way of watching TV. The technology required education, and TiVo didn’t provide it.

TiVo was around for a long time but failed in the marketplace. By the time we started using TiVo as a verb, we were often TiVo-ing stuff, but not on TiVo.

The Apple and the TiVo ads were similar in that they both demonstrated people using the products. The difference is Apple is outstanding at persuasion. They convince people that Apple products are better than the alternatives, from better design to better esthetics to being more chill than the competition.

Ask Yourself, “What Would Apple Do?”

Advertising and Communications need to make your product attractive to other people. However, it needs to fall within the context of your marketing strategy. You should know what problems you are addressing as opposed to ensuring you’ve got something out on your Facebook or Twitter feed to fill the space.

Effective marketing departments can model their message to whatever goal is most vital to the product line. Determining the best target for your product line begins by deciding what, if anything, is impeding purchase. So, why are people currently not buying it?

  •  Is it because consumers don’t know that you exist, or because they’ve forgotten you and they’re thinking of somebody else at the time of purchase? If so, then awareness is the issue.
  • Is it that people don’t understand what you are offering? Then understanding is your goal.
  • Do potential customers get what it does, but they aren’t that interested? Your job then is to make it more attractive.

Some of these answers depend upon what your competition are doing, too. For example, let’s say you have a new pain reliever coming to market. You must determine if people are unhappy with the current pain relievers on the market. If so, then awareness that your product exists might be enough of a goal for your marketing (i.e., Awareness = Goal).

Maybe you have a new feature that is part of your new product, like you only have to take one tablet every 24-hours. Then, you might have to build a brand and communicate a benefit (i.e., Awareness + Understanding = Goal).

However, if people are happy with what is currently available, you might have to communicate a specific benefit that your pain reliever provides (i.e., Awareness + Understanding+Attractiveness = Goal). It can be tricky to do all three goals at once, but if that is where that opportunity is, then you must rise to the challenge.

In many ways, it comes back to understanding your customers, what they want, and what drives their behavior. Then, you should be clear about what you wish to achieve and deliberate about what you do to get what you want.

It also starts with knowing what you want to achieve as an organization. Then, you can act on it.

When it comes to communications, a key takeaway is that you need to know who you are communicating to and what they want. You also need to understand the market well enough to know what is impeding sales to that target group. Finally, you should have a definite plan in place with specific actions and messages that address that obstacle.

Start by asking, why are we doing this [marketing product]? In other words, every brochure, radio ad, digital campaign, and web page should have a deliberate goal and a specific strategy to achieve that goal. Moreover, these individual marketing channel goals should roll up to an overall marketing strategy for consistency’s sake.

What drives value for the organization should be the foundation for your marketing strategy. It should not be a theory, either. It needs hard and fast specifics, that break down into short and long-term goals. Everything else is a waste of your time and marketing budget.

What would you add? I’m sure we’d all love to hear your insight in the comments below.

To hear more about The Key to Successful Marketing Communications in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here. 

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Colin Shaw, global leader in Customer Experience and conference speaker, can inform and entertain your next conference audience. Colin helps the audience understand how an organization can improve their Customer Experience and become a customer-centric organization. His interactive style and down-to-earth attitude engages audiences with humor and practical examples. To learn more about booking Colin as your conference speaker, please click here.



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Hear the rest of the conversation on The Key to Successful Marketing Communications on The Intuitive Customer Podcast. These informative podcasts are designed to expand on the psychological ideas behind understanding customer behavior. To listen in, please click here.




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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

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