Communication and Theories of Effective Communication

Communication and Theories of Effective Communication


Published 18, July 2010

The feature of a commodity that distinguishes it is known as a brand (Healey, 2008). Davis and Baldwin (2006) extend this definition of brand to being a marker of what the good or service signifies in the form of a comprehensive set of signs, elements and meaning. An effective brand name is distinctive, easy recognisable, attractive to the mind of the target consumer base and distinguishes the commodity from those peddled by competing brands (Heding, Knudtzen and Bjerre, 2009). As Wreden (2007) points out, the potency of a brand lies in its ability to set itself apart from its rivals. Davis and Baldwin (2006) bring our attention to the brand’s function as a vehicle to disseminate any information about the commodity in question, which enables instant identification and approval of the customer base.
According to Davis (2009), the brand can be seen as an assurance given by a company to its audience, and in the bid to live up to these promises, it uses its brand portfolio to strengthen itself. In this, the brand becomes a means for a company to inform its intended consumers about the range of goods and services available. A successful brand is also one that helps build enduring connections between the company and its customers (Davis and Baldwin, 2006). The growing familiarity of consumers with commodities of particular brands contributes toward a feeling of good faith and emotional investment, which in turn herald sales. As Clifton (2009) points out, such a relationship evidently results in a higher purchase potential and a more favourable corporate position. There are many other benefits of brands (Parameswaran, 2006). Armed with an effective brand name, a company could effectively overcome existing adverse opinions about it. In addition, companies can, by utilising effective brand names, distinguish themselves by creating and projecting a favourable corporate image, which would also prevent the need for valuable communication tools. In order to understand how such brands are communicated, it is vital to understand the term communication itself, and look at the basic concepts.

Definition of Communication and Theories of Effective Communication

In a simplistic form, communication is defined as dissemination of information from the mind of one individual to another (Smith, Berry and Pulford, 1997). The term has been defined by Churchill Jr. and Peter (1998) as a process that ensures that information sent by a sender to a receiver is not only delivered but grasped with the same meaning as intended. In their definition, McShane and Glinow (2000) state that communication helps transmitting information between two or more individuals while ensuring it is interpreted in the same manner.
Definitions made in above section indicate that communication is a transmission when a sender sends a message to a receiver. To define this transmission, it is vital that the receiver understand the meaning conveyed by the message. Looking at communication from this perspective takes the debate about the effectiveness of communication to a different level.
According to the classical approach which was put forward by Lasswell (1948), the elements of communication are a sender (or a communication source), the message, a channel of communication and receiver for the message. This model was expanded by Dubrin (1997) by adding feedback or response from the receiver and the environment to the classical model.
According to the advocators of classical approach, the effectiveness of communications depends on the message as the sender’s success in this transmission lies on the extent the receiver decodes the message (Danaher and Rossiter, 2011).
However, McLuhan (1964) criticised this approach and underlined the importance of the medium in successful deliver of the message. It is argued that effectiveness of communication is reliant on finding the most appropriate medium which appeals to the preferences of the receiver (Danaher and Rossiter, 2011). This is supported by the model offered by Jobber (2007) where the scholar defines the process of communication as transmitting the idea of a sender or communicator by converting it into a symbol made up of images, words and numbers. According to Jobber (2007) communication process continuous with disseminating this idea with the utilisation of various media such as television or posters that are capable of reaching a large target audience.
It is believed that the framework developed by Smith, Berry and Pulford (1997) brings a more comprehensive approach in conceptualisation communication. The scholars asserted that necessary elements for transmitting ideas from one entity to the other are the sender of a message, the message itself and the receiver of the message.
According to Smith, Berry and Pulford (1997)’s model, the receiver must know that the message is being sent and also who the message is coming from. The amount of attention the message gets from the receiver is highly associated with the trust he/she has in the sender. A sender with a high credibility will, naturally, gain more attention and confidence from the receiver.
As it is evident from the above discussion, the effectiveness of communication depends on various factors including the message, the medium and the credibility of the medium for the receiver. Having identified this, it is now possible to discuss communications in business and marketing context.

Marketing Communications

Vecchio and Appelbaum (1995) define communication as a mix of verbal and non-verbal signs and characters used to create understanding.

From a marketing perspective, activities such as advertising campaigns and promotions amongst others use communication to raise the market profile of corporate brands. Burnett and Moriarty (1998) argue that from this perspective an appropriate definition of marketing communications refers to it as an effective process for the conveyance of information and ideas about products and services to target audiences. The primary focus of marketing communication is the communication of the right message using the right channels to the right target audience.

Rowley (1998) claims ensuring target audiences have access to the right information concerning an organisations product and service portfolio is the purpose of the marketing communications function. Rowley (1998) states this puts the focus on certain marketing communication objectives and suggests it may be the intention of an organisation to accomplish one or more of the objectives.

Rowley (1998) argues such objectives encompass activities designed to improve sales revenues, develop sustainable market share, raise corporate brand profile, laying foundations for future sales revenues, informing target audiences about the organisation’s product and service portfolio, development of competitive advantage and improving effectiveness of implementation of advertising initiatives.

Marketing Communications Tools

Most marketing communications tools generally comprise six modes which are advertising, sales promotions, personal selling, direct marketing, publicity and public relations and sponsorship through events and experiences (Kotler and Keller, 2009). Some scholars add on more modes to this list but these six are common to most lists. The importance given to one mode over the other varies in different organisations, depending on what aspect is more suited to their requirement. The current study emphasises the six modes listed here.


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Advertising is a dissemination of non-personal ideas, services or products by an identifiable organisation (Kotler and Armstrong, 2010). Advertising is the mode that is visible everywhere and is used most often by organisations. It is one of the integral parts of the marketing promotion strategy of companies due to its reach that comes from its visibility, much more than other modes in the marketing mix.
Advertising creates awareness at a rapid pace. Furthermore, assists sales efforts by giving credence to the company and its products. The innate quality of repetition in advertising helps position the product in consumer mind; especially true for TV advertising (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).
Advertising is not helpful in actual sales though, and it is rather rigid and cannot resolve customer queries (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).
Advertising is commonly thought of as a method used by beauty brands for boosting sales and profits. However, there are many other objectives that it is expected to achieve. It can be used to create brand awareness in public mind. Advertising also helps to position the product that can lead to quick recall in consumer mind such as the often-repeated advertising slogan of L’Oréal ‘Because I’m worth it’. Ronseal’s slogan ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’ belongs to the same genre of effective recall advertising. Advertising can also be employed to generate new trials of products. It can also help clear misconceptions about a product/service in consumer mind, assist the sales personnel of the company in their efforts or used to remind consumers about any special offers/ sales by the company (Jain, 2008).
Advertising messages on television have to be strong and to-the-point. Most advertising slots on TV are short, say 30 seconds, and need to deliver the message within this span. Therefore, advertisers choose one aspect, termed the ‘single-minded proposition’, to be conveyed in this time-slot. This feature emphasises what the advertiser deems the product’s most differentiating character likely to encourage the consumer to buy. This message can be delivered through numerous creative treatments: humour, lifestyle, shock etc. Sex was often used by companies as a shock tactic to boost sales and it often worked, but now public attention on such messages is gradually declining and it is not considered as effective. Renowned cosmetic brand Estée Lauder employed the lifestyle approach to advertise its products. However, with the change in attitudes, they too have opted for known names in the field of modelling and other celebrities to promote their products.
Television advertising conveys messages to the consumer about a brand/product; this is called brand personality. Brand personalities are used by consumers to express themselves. According to Lannon, some product categories are termed ‘self-expressive’ and include lifestyle products such as perfumes, clothing, alcohol and cigarettes. These products impart a status to the consumer who displays a different aspect of personality by its usage. For instance, a consumer using Tommy Hilfiger apparel buys it to show a side of his personality that is defined by the brand personality (Jain, 2008). A special documentary series, Luxury Unveiled, with many hour-long episodes, was produced specifically for television keeping in mind emerging markets for luxury brands such as Russia and China. This series featured renowned luxury brands such as Cartier and Chanel, hoping to generate a new class of customers in these countries.

Sales Promotion

Sales promotions are conducted by companies to encourage customers to buy their products. This helps organisations to not only increase their sales, even though temporarily (Blythe, 2006), but may also translate into a large number of new loyal customers. These temporary activities are expected to generate interest in the products and are likely to encourage consumers to try out and eventually buy them. Sales promotions are geared towards not only consumers but product retailers, wholesalers and organisational customers as well.
Promotions can be either price-oriented or non-price oriented. Price-oriented promotions include price discounts, coupons and rebates whereas non-price-oriented promotions are based on distribution of free samples, organisations of contests, premiums or frequent user programmes. As for other products and services, promotions can be used to communicate with customers or attracting them through incentives for purchase of products of a particular brand. Promotions are also used by fashion and beauty products in order to encourage consumers to switch brands and inducing them to try new products. These are assured by incentive-based promotions however, with non-incentive promotions, the aim is to improve brand-image, increase brand loyalty and embed brand associations into the minds of consumers (Lee, 2002).
However, it should be noted that although incentives to consumers can obviously boost sales, extreme use of incentives such as discounts may lower brand image. Moreover, results of sales promotions may last for a short time (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).

Publicity and Public Relations

Publicity spreads information about an organisation to the public in general through personal or public means. The media is involved in this endeavour even though the company may not pay for it directly. The information too is more objective since the source is not the organisation itself. Advertising is paid promotion by the company whereas publicity comes in the form of free write-ups in the media about the products or services offered by the company (Grasby et al., 2000). As is evident from this, the reach of publicity from advertising depends on the money spent on it whereas publicity in the media is based on the quality of the products; the better the quality of the information about the product or service, the more it is likely to persuade people to buy.
Publicity assures more readership than advertising in trade and technical media. Consumers have then more faith in the message as it is being disseminated by a third party (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).
A weakness of publicity is that a press release may be manipulated or not be used, thus it gives little control (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).
Public relations (PR) are linked with publicity but are a more comprehensive aspect of marketing. They enable an organisation to create awareness of its products, issues, individuals or services in public mind. This mode of marketing is more subtle and plays the role of enhancing good relations between the organisation and public at large (Shimp, 2000).Marketing of fashion and beauty products is not solely concerned with informing individuals about the changes in trends but also is to increase their awareness and to create intention to buy. However, informing consumers through advertising cannot be achieved all times. This is because the message created by the marketers for a particular brand has to be communicated regular intervals. This is achieved through public relations and publicity. Mainly public relations and publicity are used to reflect positive aspect of a firm or a brand in the public domain through creating stories or feature on relevant topics in order to create and maintain a positive image in the eyes of consumers (Lea-Greenwood, 2012).

Personal Selling

Most tools of marketing are employed for consumers in general and not on an individual basis. Marketing by personal selling, however, occurs through individual interaction with a consumer (Jobber, 2007). Kotler and Keller (2006) agrees with this definition and adds to it when he states that personal selling involves one-to-one contact with buyers for making presentations to explain the product, respond to their questions and eventually taking orders. The benefit of this kind of communication is that the seller is able to know what the buyer requires specifically, apart from identifying the problems the buyer may have. Such immediate interaction aids the seller to modify the presentation in such a way that it addresses the buyer’s needs.
Flexibility is one of the strength of marketing tool. Content can be changed depending on customer requirements. Moreover, personal interaction resolves complex and intricate issues. Customer queries can be answered, thus clearing doubts is provided immediately. Finally, personal interaction builds a relationship between the buyer and seller (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004). A weakness of this kind of communication is that expenses incurred on sales calls can be rather high (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).
Personal selling is one of the oldest forms of marketing communication technique that is used for beauty products (Basnet, 2010). In fact, some companies such as Mary Kay Cosmetics still uses direct marketing to reach its customers. Although the company utilises online marketing for selling its products, the main marketing challenge used by the company is the independent consultants working nationwide. In fact, Mary Kay Cosmetics are not sold in department stores. Through consultants, the firm advertises its products to customers. They act as representatives of the firm and communicate with consumers directly, listen to them and gather their opinions. This direct two-way communication established with the firm and its customers through representatives are used to improve the existing products to best fit their needs and wants.


Events and experience or sponsorship is another tool that is used for effective marketing. With advertising and other customary media becoming more expensive, companies are turning more and more to sponsorship for its cost-effectiveness (Lee et al., 1997).
Sponsorship helps a company create a brand identity for itself. Through this mode, a company can develop daily or periodic interactions with prospective customers. Sponsorship can be defined as involvement of a company by investing funds in causes or events that can help it gain a positive image among the public along with an enhanced awareness of its products (Palmer, 2005). Sponsorship can be in cash or kind for a certain property that may have potential that the company can possibly exploit for its own products. These properties can be sports events, non-profit events or entertainment experiences (Arens, 1999).
Sponsorship creates and sustains a brand. It displays then the support and concern of the company to society in general or the local community. Furthermore, it can be utilised to entertain business partners (Kitchen, Pelsmacker, 2004).
Like for other products and services, sponsorship enables fashion and beauty firms in developing competitive advantage against their rivals. This is because sponsorship is referred as an important tool in developing relationship marketing since sponsorship allows the sponsored firm to benefit from the image of a popular entity through the association established with sponsorship (Groza, Cobbs and Schaefers, 2012).
It is believed that exposing consumers to constant sponsorship association would their increase cognitive processing load and therefore would create strong memories in favour of sponsored firm. As a result, it is expected that corporate sponsorship would enhance brand image of firms (Groza, Cobbs and Schaefers, 2012).

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing does not make use of mass media for promotions and prefers to send the message directly to consumers. This enhances the association that exists between a company and customers of its products. It can create a more personal relationship between the two that can be of considerable benefit to the company.
Basically, direct marketing means using various media such as email, fax, post or the internet to communicate with consumers to seek information or provide it to them (Kotler and Keller, 2006; Kotler and Armstrong, 2010; Okyere, Agyapong and Nyarku, 2011). According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), direct marketing helps a company interact with customers and thus gain a measurable response to their products or/and generate business as well.
These techniques share a common objective of keeping target audiences informed of relevant information regarding products and services in an effort to stimulate a purchase decision. The variability in suitability of each technique in different situations influences the effectiveness of a particular technique if certain situations. Burnett and Moriarty (1998) argue it is imperative that those responsible for developing marketing strategy have an in-depth understanding of the channels best suited to different situations to ensure selection of an effective marketing mix.
De Pelsmacker et al. (2001) assign different functions to different techniques maintaining that it is the function of advertising to manage the message, public relations is responsible for direction of dialogue and relationship marketing is responsible for assisting with constituencies. Hutton (1996) states this suggests that advertising, public relations and relationship marketing work independent of each other.
Direct marketing creates a long-term association between the buyer and seller because of ongoing occasional exchange. Personal interaction with the consumer is more likely to convert into a sale and sales communication can be modified to suit the consumer (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).
Moreover, rival companies are not aware of sales activities and the efficacy of marketing activity then can be adjudged quicker. There is a low response rate from consumers though, and designed and ineptly targeted marketing activities can be a cause of annoyance to the consumer (Kitchen and Pelsmacker, 2004).
Direct selling is another marketing communication tool used by fashion and beauty firms. Nowadays, fashion and beauty firms utilises catalogs and other direct selling tools such as direct response TV (Ortiz, 2008). According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), in 2008, 3.5 million consumers purchased beauty products over the phone or by mail. The importance of direct selling is evident from firms’ direct marketing expenditure. For instance, Drug and Toiletries firms spared $351 million for short form direct response television. Similarly, Proactiv Solutions spent almost $48 million and Nutrisystem that spent about $43 million for direct marketing initiatives (, 2010). Given facts acknowledge the importance of direct selling for particularly beauty and cosmetic products.


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