Defining Interactive Marketing Communication
Interaction can be defined simply as straightforward communication between two parties. Presently we are in danger of losing the real meaning of interaction, as we tend to focus discussions on the emerging technologies and neglect the communication process itself.
With an understanding of the real meaning of Interactive Communication, existing media can be made interactive, and subsequently far more cost effective.
Goodbye to the halcyon days of the TV advertisement of old?
A new wave of technology is promising to transform the obsolete analogue technology of television into a two-way medium which allows the viewer to determine what is to be watched, and when.
This could well create a situation where the consumers solicit information from the advertiser, rather than the advertiser soliciting the attention of the consumer.
Viewers are becoming impatient with television’s linear flow and are increasingly using the limited opportunities available to them to avoid the intentions of advertisers and programme makers. Even though too many the remote control is a fairly recent development, 44% habitually use it to avoid advertisements.
Television is an advertising medium, not a communications medium and, as television declines in the face of competition from the new media, conventional advertising will decline with it.
In many ways, ‘advertising’ is an outmoded concept, since media advertising is simply one means of communication with customers. In an environment in which the balance of power is shifting in favour of the consumer rather than the advertiser, manufacturers and service providers need to look at ways of replacing the monologue of advertising with a dialogue which can utilise a range of different ‘relationship’ marketing techniques.
Advertising has to modernise & change.
The market place has changed. Newspapers and television have lost their exclusive hold on the advertiser, the number of print and electronic advertising channels has substantially increased, such as pre-printed booklets pushed through letterboxes, or hung on doorknobs, local cable TV and Direct Mail.
Recent events have given advertising a permanently diminished role in the selling of goods and services. At the same time cynical consumers are wearying of the constant barrage of marketing messages. They’re becoming less receptive of the blandishments of advertisements, and their loyalties to brands erode as they see more products as commodities distinguished only by price.
Advertising ignores communication theory.
As the mass media have matured, the behavioural dynamics of perception and interaction, which were not address by Advertising Agencies in the 70s and 80s, during the explosive growth of advertising have become critical to the redefinition of media and its role in marketing communication. With passive, one way, forms of advertising such as media displays or television advertising, there is a certainty of a degree of non-response.
Lack of communication competence.
Most Advertising Agencies lack the skills of communication, advertising messages are more carefully prepared than interpersonal communication and yet ‘message’ comprehension tends to be lower. Advertisements are more carefully prepared because gatekeepers (those who prepare and send out messages) are more cautious about what they say to large audiences than they are to audiences of one or a few, they check their facts more carefully and they prepare their syntax and vocabulary more precisely. And yet, because their audience contributes much less feedback, the source cannot correct for any lapse or understanding, so people are more likely to misinterpret what they hear or read over the mass media.
It is also important to note, of course that just because mediated messages are more carefully prepared, they are not necessarily more accurate. Gatekeepers have a way of looking at the world based on personal beliefs or motivations. This ‘world view’ sometimes tends to make media messages inaccurate.
Interactive Communication leads to a commitment to participate.
However, with interactive marketing communication, there is a commitment to participate, which in turn leads to a set of possibilities, which are significantly different in how they affect the communication process, itself.
The need for product information.
Image advertising doesn’t give the information needed to buy knowledge-driven products. Moreover communication results from an interaction in which two parties expect to give and take. Audience members must be able to give feedback. Media practitioners must be sensitive to the information contained in the feedback. This give and take can result on real understanding or real feedback.
The need for Interactive Marketing Communication.
Put simply, because there is a human desire for interaction. We have created a media society during the past 40 or 50 years where there is an extraordinary reduction in interaction because of the one-way and more passive form of information retrieval that exists.
People desire to be taken account of, to affect change, learn and personalise their relationships with their environment. There are a phenomenal number of reasons, which cause people to interact, which go far beyond just giving them things.
When people participate in interactive marketing communication they are told that their efforts and feedback are of positive help to the advertisers. Moreover, by participating, they then learn and understand the message from the advertiser, personalise their relationship with the advertiser and their products (or services).
Consumers tend to filter out information they do not want to hear and this alters the effectiveness of advertising in quite a dramatic way. The purchaser’s decision is invariably a compromise and this leads to a certain amount of anxiety. The worry that perhaps the purchase decision was not the best or right one. In order to minimise this anxiety the purchaser seeks to reinforce his choice and begins to take more notice of his chosen product’s advertising. And, at the same time, the purchaser deliberately suppresses data, which might challenge his decision by ignoring the advertising of competitive brands.
People are often loyal to a brand simply because they do not want to readdress a decision. The opportunity to screen out undesired data always exists when media advertisements have to stand on their own and fight for attention.
Interactive Communication takes the consumer through the barrier of not wanting to address change; and this is the ultimate market the advertiser is after – the people who use his competitors’ products.
Now the consumer can say ‘Yes, I will change my behaviour and I have a very good reason or series of reasons why”, and have a well-informed opinion or image in mind.
If someone goes into a product purchase decision with a very specific image of the product and its reason to exist and why they have decided those reasons are worth its purchase, the test in reality, the use of the product, will tend to confirm that premise, and therefore conversion will be enormously enhanced.
Interactive Marketing Communication turns passive advertising into active advertising and actually alters behaviour during the communication and learning process.
Interactive Marketing Communication increases sale.
And there’s more!
It enhances relationships and dramatically improves consumer knowledge, understanding and loyalty.
1. Strong Company or Brand Values.
To be effective communication has to be single minded in choosing a specific proposition which by definition cannot appeal to all. Yet every product, service or retail outlet can offer several attractive benefits and in some cases these can be numerous. Interactive Communication presents consumers with a ‘menu’ of powerful benefits, both rational and emotional, and asks them to choose the one which they find most relevant and appealing to them.
This allows them: –
a) Personalise their relationship with the communicator.
b. To absorb and retain the majority – or even all – of those extra benefits while making their choice.
c. Not one, but several, good reasons for buying the product or service.
Equally it puts these benefits into context, educating consumers to understand just how important those benefits are to them, and positions the product or service as unique in satisfying all those needs.
2. The emotional relationship.
By asking consumers for their opinions rather than telling them, the company makes them feel special and involved in an unprecedented way. A company prepared to listen! This disarms consumers and produces a feeling of trust and thereby an emotional commitment to the company and its products, which cannot be, generated any other way.
That emotional commitment enhances the more rational understanding of the Company or Brand Values discussed above and establishes an unprecedented, personal, relationship with the manufacturer/brand/retailer – even amongst those who may have had no previous experience.
3. Consumer Feedback.
Allowing consumers to interact with the brand by offering their opinions and views does more than create an emotional commitment; it allows large numbers of real people to express ideas in a way they have not had the facility to do before, to a company evidently prepared to listen and act.
Consumers are seduced and this generates genuinely expressed observations on the strengths of the company – as well as areas of opportunity for improvement or exploitation. It is, in effect, an enormous piece of qualitative research, but without consumers’ ability to vouchsafe real opinions being inhibited or guided by a researcher.
Thus the combination of all these elements produces a deep understanding of the company and its brands – and its role and value to the consumer; a greater level of involvement in an emotional commitment to the brand and an enhanced desire to buy it.
Understanding Interactive Marketing Communication.
With a better understanding of the nature of Interaction allows us then to give a more precise definition of the process, that is:
“With Interactive Marketing Communication:
the reader/viewer is actively encouraged to
take careful note of what is being taught him,
learn rather than be taught the message, and
then give tangible evidence that the lesson, in
this case the advertising/marketing message,
has been learnt.
Interactive Marketing Communication ensures
that the initial message receiver anticipates
and then subsequently evidences a response
using a predetermined mechanism.