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Optimizing Your Client’s Messaging Strategy (pt 1)

Medium and messaging theme

Optimizing Your Client’s Messaging Strategy (pt 1)

Ian Roberts
Posted on 26 November 2014 in Email Management
by Ian Roberts
4 min
Promotional messaging is a complex science that, ideally, synthesizes elements from divergent disciplines, including sociology, psychology, and complex statistical analysis. Essentially, however, “messaging” may be considered to have four basic components:
  • The medium (or multiple media) through which the promotional message is conveyed;
  • The theme of the message, or its main idea;
  • The content of the message, or how the content is expressed; and
  • The behavior and demographics of the target audience receiving the message.
  • All four of these components should be considered when conducting “messaging research” for your clients; the omission of any of the four from your research can result in misleading or erroneous research findings that needlessly deplete your client’s marketing ROI and negatively impact bottom-line revenue.

Medium: “The Medium is the Message”

Message_in_a_bottle

A 30-second commercial on network television, or a 60-minute infomercial? A sponsored post on Facebook, or a sponsored spot on Hulu? Pop-up ad on Google, or email blast? Magazine spread, promotional card in a physician’s office, or direct mail flier? These options represent only a small handful of the range of media that are available to today’s marketers. Depending upon the product or service, the client’s budget, and the target audience, the laundry list of potential advertising media may be quite a long one! Preeminent twentieth century media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously opined that “the medium is the message”. Stated plainly: The specific medium itself – the means through which a message is conveyed – plays a key role in shaping the way we think. McLuhan’s work, a fixture in 1960s media discourse, has resurfaced with the expansion of the Internet Age and the proliferation of new messaging media.

Modern marketing media – a wealth of divergent options to consider.

Messaging “conduits” – which 30 years ago primarily included television, radio, print media (newspapers, magazines, direct mail), outdoor advertising (such as roadside boardings), and radio – have now been exponentially expanded to include newer electronic media (e.g., tablets, “smart” phones, and “phablets”), as well as applications (e.g., social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and “end-product”-sharing sites, such as Instagram and Pinterest).

“You complete me”: Media selection and content must complement one another.

But if the medium is, indeed, the message, how can your clients be assured that, out of all of the possibilities available, they are selecting the best medium, or best combination of various media, to most effectively maximise their messaging strategy? How can they be sure that the media they select will most effectively disseminate these messages to their target audiences – wherever within the “global village” those audience may be found? After all, if the objective of marketing efforts is to positively affect marketplace behavior and perceptions so that the target audience is positively predisposed to purchasing your product or service, then it’s critical to “marry” the proper combination of message and media; if the “right” message is paired with the “right” media, credibility, recall, and persuasiveness are all maximized. Therefore, as a market researcher, you will need to design message testing studies to explore media use and preferences in tandem with the messages being tested.

Messaging Theme: Determining the over-arching premise of the marketing effort

Before the specific marketing message is determined, it’s necessary for the client to first decide what the theme of the marketing effort will be. For example, the messaging theme of a marketing campaign for a non-prescription cough medicine might be that the drug is extremely effective at suppressing coughs, or it might be the fact that one dose lasts for 12 hours, with no sedation; the theme of a marketing campaign for a luxury car might be its well-appointed interior, its surprisingly-high mileage, or the fact that it offers a smooth, quiet ride.

Each potential messaging theme being considered by the client should be tested amongst members of the client’s target audience by the market research team; a theme that the client believes will be a surefire “win” within its target audience is often not the theme that winds up being the one that is most strongly preferred by the target audience, most memorable, or most effective.Ideally, proposed content of a marketing campaign should not be evaluated by the target audience until after the client has evaluated several potential themes through a market research effort and selected the theme of the marketing initiative based on the research results. However, in reality clients often definitively know from the “get-go” that they wish to focus on a particular theme in their marketing efforts. While confirmatory research pertaining to the selected theme may be conducted in this instance, it’s likely that the target audience will be asked to evaluate only the theme that the client has already selected, rather than being asked to review several different themes.

The two remaining components of promotional messaging – message content and target audience - is discussed in our next blog post.

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