Communication field guide: what is marketing communication?
We come to the huge area of marketing communication, often abbreviated ‘marcomm’. It’s a combination of two concepts: marketing, and communication. Let’s look at marketing first. The classical approach to marketing is about creating and selling products and services with the customer in mind, for the purpose of meeting a need or filling a gap in a market. ‘Customer is King’ is a commonly used phrase in marketing circles: emphasising the primacy of responding to customers’ needs.
Sales was often considered the proof that marketing was working — for example, if sales of a particular product went up after an ad was placed in the newspaper, it would be considered effective use of marketing. This classical approach is based on what’s called the Marketing Mix or 4Ps. The four Ps of the Marketing Mix are: product, price, promotion, and place.
The product aspect of marketing is about figuring out (generally through market research) what the gaps and needs in a market are, and developing products that address customers’ needs. For example, a commercial property developer may realise that nice nursing rooms are important to parents in shopping malls, and ensure that they design nursing rooms with care and attention to detail when building a new mall. Packaging is a part of product design as well; many cosmetics manufacturers put a lot of effort into designing attractive packaging because they’ve realised that their (mostly female) customers care about the visual aesthetics of the product. It’s the same reason that restaurants create Instagrammable dishes: responding to the market need for food which looks pretty, appealing, and shareable.
The price aspect of the marketing mix is about setting prices that makes financial sense in terms of costs and profit margins, but also about ensuring that the pricing says something about the product itself. Prices can be set higher or lower based on how the business wants people to perceive its products. Brands like Poundland or Daiso deliberately set low prices as part of the way they’ve positioned themselves. A brand like Chanel deliberately avoids any promotions and packages for things like perfume and makeup, and it’s hard to find a Chanel counter that gives you 20% off a bundle of stuff, or a free gift bag. Imagine Apple manufacturing a low-cost $100 phone; even if it made financial sense for the company to make a product like this, it wouldn’t fit in to how we see Apple as a brand, and might erode the perceived value of its other products.
Promotion is about how businesses talk about themselves and express themselves. This is basically where a lot of the communication part comes into it: creating advertisements, building websites, developing brochures, etc.
Place is about where the products meet the customers: are they sold online? Are they sold on the company’s own website or through another website like Amazon or eBay? Is there an e-commerce link on Instagram? Is the product only sold in an exclusive boutique or can you find it in upmarket department stores as well? Or can you find it in an everyday department store? Think about which brands of olive oil you are likely to find in supermarkets in Singapore such as Giant, Sheng Siong, Fairprice, Fairprice Finest, Cold Storage, Marketplace, Jasons, an online gourmet store, a charming little restaurant, or a specialist food store. Each place creates a different impression, so certain businesses may choose to sell their products in specific places to reach a certain market, or to even to justify a certain price.