The marketing communications process

Identifying target audience

The first step is to know the target audience or in this case target customer group. Here the marketer has to know the following before evolving a communication mix or strategy.

Demographic and Psychographic Profile

The target audience demographic and psychographic characteristics are important in deciding the message. For example, education of the target audience will influence the content of the message. To further illustrate this, it has been observed that customers who are low on education need to be told the full story with the conclusion drawn for them. But the same is not true when the marketer is communicating to a more literate and educated customer. Thus, while it is important to explain fully the benefits of agricultural chemicals to an uneducated farmer, the same is not true when the same marketer has to deal with the farmer’s son who may have taken a degree in agriculture.

Likewise, the age of the receiver affects his or her learning ability. A child needs to be told the full story in a more appealing manner, full with emotion, joy and fun, but an adult viewer may be given just the cold facts.

Similarly, target audience’s life style, personality and geographic location will affect the choice of the message as also the media. For example, it has been found that a new media like Video-on-Wheels has been effective in taking a marketer’s messages to the rural areas. This is reflected by the size of the audience that sees its programs and the number of companies supporting.

Media Habits

The next characteristic to be studied is the media habits of target audience .It is not just important to know the most popular media with the target audience .Equally important is to note the frequency with which a media is being patronized by them and the comparative effectiveness of different mediums. For example, it is important to study whether the target audience watches TV, listens to radio, or reads the daily newspapers and magazines .It is also important to study the frequency with which these are being watched or listened to or subscribed. For example, does the target audience see the TV programs daily, every alternate day, weekends, or as and when the individual gets the time. When does the individual watch the programs? Which channels does he or she watch? For what length of time each channel is watched? Which programs are watched? Likewise, does the individual read the newspaper daily or twice a week or during the weekend; which newspaper does he or she subscribe to; whether he or she just reads the headlines, or scans through the paper or reads some sections in depth; which are these sections and how much time does the target customer spend on the newspaper.

An analysis of media habits can help in selecting the right medium and also placing the message at an appropriate slot in it.

Level of Awareness

Another characteristic to be studied is the level of target audience’s awareness of the product and the organization. A corollary to this is to assess the image of the organization and its product. A target market, that is unaware of the product or brand or the organization, will require an extensive and intensive communication. In manufactured product, or new product concept like the microwave oven, the marketer has to have a long sustained communication programs aimed at creating awareness about microwave cooking. Like wise, if the target audience has a negative image of the product or brand and the organization, then the firm has to invest substantial resources over a fairly long time to change this perception. Japanese products had an inferior image in 1960s and early1970s.the image was so low and negative that they were the benchmarks of inferiority .It is not so today. In about two decades, Japanese firms have been able to change their image and have swung the pendulum completely to the other end where they represent the best in quality.

For the purpose of assessing the image, an organization may carry out consumer research and assess its image using the semantic differential scale .For assessing the level of awareness once again the organization may use either the Likerts five point scale or measure it on the seven point scale where the extreme points on the scale represent not at all aware or completely aware or know very well.

It may so happen that the firm’s or organization’s perceived image may not be the same as the desired image. As was mentioned with Japanese example it takes a long time and a lot of resources to correct customers‘perceptions. The organization has to be prepared for such an investment.