Yes, We Can Control the Message
Recently, I’ve been having some very interesting discussions about whether marketing can control its messages.
Seemingly reasonably, it’s been pointed out that:
The only time marketing truly controls the message is when it is created and delivered.
The customer’s/prospect’s interpretation of the message determines how he will react to it.
And the true risk for the marketer is whether the message is perceived as relevant.
These propositions seem self-evident and form an interesting syllogism. But let’s examine them a little more closely:
The true risk for the marketer is whether the message is perceived as relevant.
Then wouldn’t it make sense to actually test the message before we put it out there?
This can be done through social media. But before there were social media outlets, there was market research. To not test the message, and then expect the social media dialogues to tell you whether the message works is a risky strategy at best. If we do our homework, the risk of the message not being perceived as relevant is minimized. Certainly, we may need to tweak the message. But if it is not seen as relevant, shame on us.
The customer’s interpretation of the message determines how he will react to it.
Isn’t it our job to shape that interpretation, that perception? Our job is to describe how our product or service offers a value to the person we want to buy it. And to do it in a way that engages his interest – and makes him want to take action.
If we don’t do that, we have failed. Period.
The only time marketers truly control the message is when it is created and delivered.
Right. Which has always been the situation for marketing, PR, and advertising since there has been marketing, PR, and advertising.
Which is why messages need to be crafted, carefully blending the strengths and value of the product and/or service with the perceived and, often, subliminal needs and wants of the customer.
Which is why the messages need to be tested (either formally or informally) before they are promulgated widely.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The job of marketing has always been to engage the customer and prospect. We simply have more mechanisms now with which to do that.
To me, the true risk for the marketer is not whether his message is perceived as relevant. That shouldn’t be an issue if we do our jobs right. The true risk is that we are so busy using all the mechanisms at our disposal, we forget to keep the messages consistent, that we send mixed messages into the marketplace, defusing our focus – and the customer’s attention.