Oxford Learning Lab - Marketing Communications: The Marketing Communications Mix

The Marketing Communications Mix

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This lecture serves to clarify ideas about the principles of marketing communications. After exploring the scope, role and tasks of marketing communications, ideas concerning the reconfiguration of the marketing communications mix are presented. This includes explanations about the individual tools, media, including the impact of digital media, and the many ways content is generated today.

Course expert

Chris Fill

Author & Consultant - Marketing Communications


This chapter will cover topics such as the scope and role of marketing communications and will finish with the tasks of marketing communications. These elements represent the marketing communications mix. Theoretical support and practical applications will be offered to help us understand how effective marketing communications work and how contextual issues influence the nature and form of marketing communications.

Marketing communications activities focus on the audience experience. This broad term encompasses customers, shareholders, trade unions, local communities, suppliers and members of the distribution channel. Marketing communications can take a planned or unplanned form such as word of mouth; also communication can be based on the product or the service. All these activities are not isolated but interconnected. So the main questions refers to how are we going to influence our target audience. Traditional tools can be used such as advertising, public relations, direct marketing, sales promotion and personal selling. Another important element is the media which represents a popular communication channel with customers. We also need to be familiar with the messages we transmit to our audiences. People, processes and technology systems also enhance the speed and efficiency of marketing communication activities. All these directly impact on the audience and their understanding of the messages we are trying to communicate and create interaction and dialogue.

One of the roles of marketing communications is creating brand value and provoking behavior changes in order to generate engagement of audiences. Provoking behavior is very important because it can be measured and thus justifies the investments in marketing communications. The blend of these two elements enables audiences to understand the structure of the brand and develop a long term relationship with it.

Marketing communication is used to influence audiences in four main ways. First of all, it should differentiate a certain brand from competitors. We want to position the brand in a distinctive, clear way that represents a value to the target segment. Secondly, it informs audiences about what the brand is, how it should be used, what its benefits are and how their lives can be improved through the engagement with the brand. Marketing communication also reinforces the ideas and beliefs about the brand values and persuades audiences to behave and think in a particular way, emphasizing the strengths of the brand. If the brand is strong and has a high level of awareness we can focus more on differentiation, reinforcement and persuasion.

The traditional view of the marketing communication mix includes five elements such as advertising, direct marketing, personal selling, public relations and sales promotions and although marketing underwent a great transformation, these traditional elements are still in use today. One important element brought by change is the media. We have many more choices now in terms of media fragmentation so we need to use different media channels to communicate with different segments of audience. Content is also an important part of the mix. We originally had informational and emotional content but now this has radically changed because it is no longer produced just by organizations but also by the audience. All the three elements: media, content and tools must be used in an integrated way in order to generate engagement with the brand.

This chapter focuses on a broader description of the five tools of the marketing communication mix. We start with advertising which concerns non personal communication designed by an identified sponsor to endorse ideas, goods or services and which is delivered through paid for media. Sales promotion activities are incentives for buying now rather than later presenting benefits such as reduced prices or free gifts. Usually underestimated, the value of sales promotion can be immense in terms of competitive activity and defending market share. Public relations concern both the image of the organization and the brand and also the development of relationships. Direct marketing seeks to engage individual customers with the intention of delivering personalized messages to build a relationship based on their response. Personal selling concerns interpersonal communication trying to influence individuals or groups to adopt a certain type of behavior and to make favorable decisions regarding a specific organization.

Media can be classified in 6 broad classes and each class can be broke down into types. Therefore printed media contains newspapers and magazines, broadcast media-television and radio, outdoor media- posters and signage on vehicles, digital media-internet and mobile, in store media refers to packaging and other classes include cinema and ambient media. All these types of media have certain types of vehicles like specific newspapers, TV shows or websites.

Media can be bought or used and a lot of activities are focused on buying particular types of media or specific media vehicles in order to reach target audiences. There are free direct media channels such as personal selling, public relations where each interaction with an individual is an opportunity to communicate and deliver a particular message and there are also rental media channels like outdoor media, printed media, telemarketing or product placement when we have to buy or rent time and space to communicate with our target audiences

The final component of the mix is the content. This is represented by the message that we communicate to the target. There are four constituent forms of content in the mix. Traditionally we have the informational content because the rational purpose of communication is to inform audiences. On the other hand, there is also an emotional content which determines audiences to think and feel differently about the brand. Additionally, we find branding messages which articulate the brand’s promise, characteristics and value and therefore can be used in a variety of contexts not just formal ones. The most important type of contents though, is the user generated content. In this case, content is not just the responsibility of brands but it is created by users and consumers and one of the challenges of brand managers is to reach this area.

After presenting the types of contents, we shall focus on some strategies we can use to manage this content from a rational, emotional and traditional perspective. Rational appeals provoke a cognitive response in terms of product attributes, information provision and benefit claims. This usually appears in a high involvement situation when the customer is uncertain regarding the outcome of a certain purchase decision or a high financial risk is involved. A cognitive response usually reduces the level of uncertainty and therefore it is important. It encapsulates the response referring to the product but also to the source of that particular communication and the advertisement. As an alternative approach we have the emotional appeal which provokes an emotional response, triggering connections between psychological components such as social image, ego and hedonic orientation and the benefits brought by the brand. The emotional response relies on associations, likeability and creativity for attention. Message likeability represents that capacity of awakening deep feelings relevant to the individual at that point in their lives so they can create meaningfulness. We can thus notice that cognitive and emotional responses are used to shape attitudes towards the product and the advertisement, so the choice of message style is important in order to create engagement with the brand.

By focusing on audiences, on what they think and feel, we can achieve engagement more effectively. Tools are important but we should pay more attention to the choice and range of media which is available and think more of the content, who is creating it, what form does it take and how can we be part of the content associated with our brand in the future. The questions and answers session will also cover issues such as integrated marketing communication or the role of corporate culture in marketing communications.

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