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CEO / CMO Best Practices

Designing Effective Marketing Communication Programs

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Alexandra Tkatch

Alexandra Tkatch

As many CMOs learned the hard way, even if the product objectively fulfills the needs of its consumer, the customer may purchase the less beneficial product of a competitor. The main reason for losing potential customers is ineffective communication of the product benefits. To design an effective marketing communication program it is important to understand customer perception. This is done by measuring the expectations of customers towards a product and determining the weight of each feature in the decision-making process.

According to cognitive psychology, past influencing factors are less important for understanding and shaping ones thinking patterns and behavior. Unlike psychoanalysis school, forming new mental concepts about a subject doesn’t require detailed analysis of how the current concepts were formed. Therefore a cognitive-based approach to perception understanding or modification saves time, effort and money by focusing on the actual mental processes rather than investigation of the past influencing factors.

The design of an effective marketing communication program should have one of three goals; demand creation, demand fulfillment, or demand reengineering.

Demand creation communication strategies are used for innovation marketing rather than for marketing of the existing products. For example, when Microsoft introduced its new Windows PC operating system, most companies had text based mainframes for accounting applications. There was no established demand for office applications and personal computing.
Microsoft’s marketing strategy for its new Windows PC operating system focused on demand creation through education. They offered free seminars to corporate users with demos focusing on factors such as: user friendliness and how the system can help save time, effort and money both in the learning curve and in day to day office operations. This created a new demand and even a new industry.

Demand fulfillment communication strategies are simply the aligning process of the product communication with the customers’ existing mental script that describes the perception and expectation towards the product or product category. This strategy is useful for communication of benefits of a mainstream product when customers have fixed mental concepts of weighted products’ criteria. For example by choosing from existing alternative mobile phone plans. For an effective communication of the mainstream products therefore, it is fundamental to measure the existing structure of product criteria in the mind of customers and to align the marketing communication design to it. In this way the objective benefits of the products match the mental concept of customers.

Demand reengineering communication strategies are used to reverse an existing mental script. It is the hardest and the most expensive of all three communication goals. The way to do it is to offer new mental scripts by disproving the unprofitable customers’ belief. This communication strategy is useful for reversing a negative image of an existing brand or product. For example, in order to reverse the perception of KIA’s cheap and unreliable cars, KIA used demand reengineering in their 10-year/100000-mile warranty program, which reverses existing perception of KIA as a car with bad quality to a new image of KIA as an inexpensive but reliable car. Additionally they rolled an advertising campaign associating Lexus and BMW as direct competitors to one of KIA’s car lines. This new campaign worked well on reversing of the unprofitable customers’ belief.

The goal of any marketing campaign is to influence the purchase decision criteria. Marketing communication programs are nothing more than mind programming campaigns, with a goal of establishing a new favorable mental script in the minds of customers about the product. The degree of success in such effort is the ability of the program to establish which criteria is more likely to influence the purchase decision.

About the Author
Research Associate - CEO Q
Alexandra researches and writes on psychology and marketing best practices. She holds a Master Degree from Elite LMU Munich University in Germany



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