Implications of the communications process - Marketing Management

communication starts with the sender having a message or meaning to send or share with an intended audience and to do this the communicator requires encoding of these into signs and symbols that incorporate the message or meaning. These can be visual (words and pictures) or oral (speech and other sounds). There are many ways in which the message or meaning can be encoded, but to be effective, the encoding process needs to be done such that the target audience can readily interpret (decode) the intended meaning. In other words, the encoding process must take into account, and be consistent with, the target audience. An example of its importance is where a company is communicating through advertising across international and cultural boundaries.

What may be readily understood in one culture may be interpreted in different ways in another. when we consider global marketing. Suffice to say that international marketers have encountered problems because they have not encoded meanings in a way that allows for accurate understanding of the target audience e.g. the brand name ‘Nova’, a Vauxhall car that was marketed in the UK, would not have been appropriate in the Spanish market, where the name translates as ‘no go’. Even in domestic markets, communication is most effective where symbols used are consistent with the target audience, e.g. advertisements aimed at the ‘Yuppie’ market segments so prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s would now be perceived as being brash and inappropriate to the softer, less up-front current lifestyles. Symbols of financially successful young city traders in costly designer wear and driving expensive sports cars are less appropriate now, so encoded messages are being delivered through a variety of media channels to appeal to these segments.

Conventionally, we think of media channels as including television, the Internet, commercial radio, newspapers, magazines and posters. In addition, messages are delivered via a company’s sales force. A key planning area in marketing communication is media planning. Not only are media one of the major costs in promotional budgets, but a plethora of choice of media, their scheduling and their coverage makes the choice of channels for communicating messages a key one.

The receiver is the intended target audience at whom communication is aimed. This audience may be actual or potential customers. However, organizations may wish to communicate with publics like financial institutions, shareholders, the local community or government. Irrespective of the target audience, communication requires that the encoded message be decoded by the intended recipient and this decoding process needs to result in the target audience accurately receiving and interpreting the message that the sender intended. A number of factors serve to detract from the accuracy of the decoding process.

Receivers often have pre-determined attitudes that influence how they perceive messages e.g. a confirmed left-wing voter will, because of strong attitudes, tend to have expectations about what they will receive in a party political broadcast on behalf of a right-wing party. Because of this, the left-wing receiver will tend only to hear what they ‘expect’ to hear, and will subconsciously add to or remove important meanings when decoding the message. In communication terms, this process is referred to as selective perception and distortion. Only by understanding the decoding process, and factors that affect it, can the sender ensure that messages are received and interpreted as intended.

Model of elements and process of communication

Model of elements and process of communication

To ascertain that messages have been received and interpreted accurately and have had the intended effect, another important element is feedback that may occur in a conversation between two individuals. The sender might receive feedback through verbal or non-verbal affirmation. In much marketing communication there is no direct personal contact between sender and receiver, so it is more difficult to gauge the effect of how the communication has been received. In managing the process, accurate feedback is important in ascertaining its effectiveness. By measuring this we can determine whether promotional budgets are well spent and if the communication needs to be improved.

Noise is anything that serves to reduce the quality of communication that occurs in any part of the system. Selective perception and distortion in the decoding process is an example of noise. A major source of noise in marketing communications is that introduced by other senders of messages. We are constantly bombarded with messages from marketers vying for our attention and spending power. As well as noise, there are other factors that serve to distract, e.g. television advertisers are concerned about viewers ‘zapping’ to another channel with their remote control when advertisements appear during the commercial break. Noise may also appear in the feedback process when, for example, interviewer bias creeps into a market research exercise designed to evaluate the effectiveness of communications.

For successful marketing communications, the marketer needs to understand the process of communication. A simplification and is not a communications planning tool. However, it illustrates that for effective communication the sender needs to know the target audience and the purpose of the communication. Messages need to be sent in a way the target audience can interpret as intended. The communicator must send these messages through appropriate media to reach the intended audience with the use of feedback to monitor audience response and so reduce or counteract noise in the system.


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