This paper exclusively examines the statement “Half of my advertising budget is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” Considering the planning and decision making in the integrated marketing communication (IMC) process, the paper highlights the difficulty that the above statement addresses with specific reference to the decision making and planning. It also brings into focus the importance of measuring the effectiveness of marketing communications.
It is without any reasonable doubt that most marketing programs are not justified considering the return on investment measures. Advertisement, in particular, is a leap of faith since it is particularly very expensive and its benefits are difficult to quantify. The biggest challenge therefore is not the media rather the advertisement’s measurement and the accountability of the marketing programs. The issue of measurement and accountability has existed for over a century, yet a perfect solution has not been arrived at (Stuart, 2010).
In today’s business world, marketing communications suffer from the belief that success depends on the quantity of the publications, the advertising modules, the exhibitions and the budget targets met (McChesney, 2008). However, no consideration is given to the quality of these measurements as far as the organization’s specific activities or the target audience is concerned. Most of the companies believe that marketing communications steer the business along the right road; however, in reality, the road is full of twists and turns and only half of the advertisement budget is put into proper use. Most companies work with mass media, and almost all companies organize and attend exhibitions, however very few companies actually benefit (Phairor and Hanmer-Lloyd, 2002).
It is therefore important to note that even though some drivers at some companies happen to know the road fairly well, it does not mean that it is the right road for all companies. The quintessence of an organization’s existence lies somewhere at the heart of the organization. The main objective in any business is to make profit and this lies heavily on the marketing department. It is the department that helps in packaging, making the product attractive for consumers through the communication channels. Sales volume does not solely depend on the professionalism of the sales team. Even the most brilliant of sales managers fail to guarantee reasonable turnover without the intervention of marketing components (Phairor and Hanmer-Lloyd, 2002; Kotabe and Kristiaan, 2004).
Measuring the effectiveness of marketing communication has many advantages as it directly helps in elimination or avoidance of costly mistakes. In its entirely, advertising is very expensive. It therefore requires that organizations or companies invest large amounts of money in accomplishing effective advertising. This necessitates the importance of evaluating whether the advertisement objectives are met, lest the money is wasted.
Reason why the advertisement budget is wasted
The main dilemma with advertisements is that most of the advertisers are unable to determine the advertising and marketing mix that exactly worked and the one that failed. The problem therefore is the measurement. Marketers are unaware of the elements of the media mix that are the most effective for their target audience. Highlighted hereunder are the key factors that affect the effectiveness of the Integrated Marketing Communications (Sissors and Baron, 2002).
1. The message consistency
This is when the company’s actions reinforce what it says and what others say about it. An organization with consistent message is that which says, confirms, and acts. The organization makes promises through its planned messages or the “say” messages. It then accomplishes its promises through its products and services and the product and services messages or the “do” messages. The general community or the clients have a say about the organization’s products and services through the unplanned messages. This is relayed through the “confirm” messages, which contain both the positive and negative confirmations about the organization’s products and services. An effective advertisement should incorporate the three messages so that the consumers are made to recognize and trust the product or the service. Shall an advertisement fail to focus on the message consistency; it becomes difficult for customers to trust such products (Baker, 2000; Briggs and Greg, 2006). This is one of the reasons why some advertisements are ineffective, thus results into wastage of money.
2. The message structure
The effectiveness of an advertisement is largely influenced by the structure of the presented message. Before an advertisement is made, the order of presentation of the message must be put into account. Every advertisement has the strongest selling point whose presentation varies depending on the target audience. The strongest selling point can be presented late, in the middle or early in the message depending on the audience resistance. When the strong selling points are presented early in the message, then audience resistance can be reduced if the audience is not interested or opposed to the message. Shall the audience be interested in the product or the service or shall it have a predisposition to the conveyed message, then, the strongest selling point can be presented at the end of the message. However, it is not easy to determine whether the audience is interested or not, thus, it is important to present the key selling points and the brand name early in the message. Failure to do so may make the uninterested audience tune out of that particular advertisement thus wastage of the advertisement budget.
3. The message conclusions
When presenting the advertisement message, it is of utmost importance that the marketer decides whether the message clearly draws a firm conclusion regarding the marketed product or service. In some cases, it is also necessary to allow the target audience to draw their own message conclusion; however, such conclusions may impact negatively on the product.
4. The message impartiality
Every product or service has its advantages and disadvantages. When making an advertisement, it is important for the marketer to decide what to include in the message. In a highly educated, highly competitive, and a highly resistant target audience, the most effective message is two-sided as it presents both the positive and negative aspects of the product or service. On the other hand, a one-sided message presents only the positive attributes of the product or service and works best in a less educated, less competitive, and less resistant target audience. However, the consequences of partial or one-sided messages are more and unpredictable, thus advertisements should have impartial messages.
5. The Message originality and relevance
In an advertisement, the message conveyed should be original, unique, and contain appropriate ideas that connect the product’s benefits with the consumers’ needs. The message must therefore be relevant to the target audience. When the message is irrelevant or fails to link the products’ benefits with the consumers’ needs, then such an advertisement is useless and leads to wastage of advertisement budget.
Planning of the marketing strategy
A proper planning is necessary so that wastages can be avoided in advertising (Stuart, 2010). In order to implement a given marketing strategy and make a given advertisement successful, the advertiser must have complete control of the possible desirable outcomes. It is therefore important that the media plan be implemented so that the media and marketing objectives are met as the advertising message is controlled. The objectives must first be stated and then appropriate media strategy implemented. The competitor also plays an important role; however, it should be noted that the use of strategies with advantages over competitors’ does not always result into success as this depends as well on other factors like lower prices, better quality, and good distribution among other factors.
In order to gain substantial advantage over competitors, it is necessary that an organization use media strategies with better creative messages, and higher reaches and higher frequencies (Sissors and Baron, 2002). However, such strategies are more costly. Before a marketing/media strategy or an advertisement is made, it is important to identify the target group, the geographical location, and the time for the advert. Highlighted hereunder are some of the strategies that when properly employed, then, the advertisement budget must surely not be wasted.
1. Advertisement timing
It is always important to advertise at the right time. Marketers must know the right time to make an advertisement. For instance, making substantial sales for seasonal product like lawn mowers and Christmas trees when it is out of season is almost impossible. It is therefore important for an organization to have monthly records of sales so that it can determine the most advantageous advertising times. After identifying these optimum-selling times, the organization should capitalize and increase the media weight on this opportunity. Some products have steady selling rate throughout the year. Such products require continuous media scheduling and do not need capitalization on specific times. An organization should therefore decide appropriately on when to and when not to spend heavily on advertisement (Sissors and Baron, 2002).
2. Visibility in the media
Most organizations buy small portions of media so that they can spend less money on the advertisement. However, the smaller the portion, the less noticeable the advertisement. It should be noted that small bits of media do not accomplish much of the objectives. To achieve presence and to be noticed, large media units should be used. Being “big” in the media is advantageous; however, dominating the media or spending more money in the media more than other competitors doesn’t always guarantee success. The main idea is to have a noticeable presence and to be visible so that the advertisement has a chance of being seen. Such an advertisement must surely impact positively on the target audience.
3. Creative strategy
The starting point for every media planning is the creative strategy. Marketers should note that some media are more effective for some particular messages as compared to other media. It is therefore important that a proper choice of the most appropriate media be made.
Understanding the effectiveness of advertising
Before media planners or marketers plan for a large-scale media, it is important to understand how to sell the product or service to one customer. A marketer should be able to describe how he/she expects an advertising communication to work in influencing the behavior of a customer towards a given product or brand (Stuart, 2010; Sissors and Baron, 2002). However, unsuccessful strategies are commonly employed as no one is certainly sure about the most likely response of the customers towards the marketing efforts. This is another major reason why the advertisement budget is wasted. If the advertiser can’t perceive how an individual’s buying behavior changes, then, it is extremely difficult for such an advertiser to know what will happen when he/she is dealing with a large number of consumers.
Price reduction always has a positive influence on the amount of sales; however, the communication method and the media choice play the greatest role. By simply telling the audience that the price of a given product is reduced, the advertiser or the marketer should expect little or no effect. This is mostly caused by obtuse prices or when the advertisement only features the percentage discounts, making the consumers to work out the actual price. This can create doubt about the authenticity of the offer, thus customers fail to buy the product. In some cases, the reduction in price may be so insignificant that it lacks motivational impacts on customers.
Another significant factor that determines the success of the message is the manner in which the message is relayed or communicated. The advertisement may be dull, may lack audience appeal, and may be unnoticeable among other interesting advertisements. This results into direct failure of the advert. The presenter’s personality also has significant impact on the message perception. Shall the presenter lack personality; the advert is most likely to fail.
The media choice is highly significant in successful communication. If, say, television is chosen as the communication media, then the audience has the best chance of getting the message since TV provides both factual and emotional presentation tactics that can easily convince the audience. It is important to note that media choice alone cannot do much; however, much is achieved when a right choice of media is integrated with motivating forces like price reduction and appealing or attractive messages.
Considerations in budgeting so as to avoid wastages
In order to minimize resource wastage, marketing communication objectives need to be formulated. Such objectives also help in developing the integrated marketing communications plan for an organization. It is therefore important that the marketing and ICM objectives are specified and quantified as it allows them to be used as the scale for objectively determining the success or failure. It is important to have realistic and attainable marketing objectives, lest the more money is wasted on the same. The marketing objectives outline what the organization intends to achieve in its marketing program within a given period of time. One of the tools, whose importance cannot be doubted, is the budget.
The choice of both the media mix and the target market depends heavily on the budget for the ICM plan since it is the budget that restricts the number of targets that can effectively be aimed for. The size of the budget is one of the constraints that affect the planner’s decision. In most cases, marketing budget is set prior to media planning. This necessitates that the media objectives fall within the budget. Marketers should be in a position to determine what it will cost to achieve their goals; however, this must be within the budget limits. Over estimation may result into wastages in the same way as under estimation. It is however important that a series of media/marketing priorities are set so that the most important goals are set.
It is indeed true that half of the advertising budget is wasted. However, we cannot stop or completely eliminate the wastage as it is difficult to identify the exact half that is wasted. This means that the problem of advertisement measurement and accountability still lacks a perfect solution. However, some strategies have been put in place to minimize the advertisement wastages. The success of these strategies varies from organization to another and cannot be used as benchmarks for all organizations. When the effectiveness of marketing communication is properly measured, the organization directly avoids costly mistakes in advertising.
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