Insights into the evolutionary marketing communication
The strategic importance of marketing communication is to help shorten the sales cycle by nudging customers to make purchase decisions.
Marketing communication is a strategic function every organisation has to undertake to sustain long-term relationship with its customers. Marketing communication, or MarCom for short, encompasses above-theline (ATL) and below-the-line (BTL) marketing. The objectives of MarCom involves gaining market share and sustaining demand. It entails the use of various communication tools to help position a brand.
ATL marketing focuses on the mass audience and is often for the purpose of brand awareness. It involves using television, radio, print, out-of-home advertising, among others. BTL marketing essentially targets individual customers to drive individual responses and brand trust. It involves the use of handbills, stickers, search engine marketing, social media, et al. Given the multiplicity of communication channels, organisations have to efficiently use their resources by deciding where to allocate their limited marketing budgets to optimise results.
Various schools of thought abound on the effectiveness of each medium with regard to brand communication. Advocates for the utilisation of any particular medium identify metrics such as reach, coverage, listenership, readership, circulation, traffic count, traffic density, cost-effectiveness, accessibility, etc. to justify their preferred medium. Media planners and buyers are at the fore-front of ascertaining the right mix of communication channels. But before that, marketing communication professionals have to determine compelling messages to be deployed across the variety of traditional and new media channels to create brand awareness and generate brand equity. They also have to define the target audience through a well thought out market segmentation, targeting and positioning (STP) strategy.
Professionals who are involved in these processes have to draw from data and insightful knowledge of the media landscape to ensure seamless execution and implementation of their strategies. Advertising agencies are the creative engines of the entire MarCom ecosystem. Briefs, ideas, concepts and copy-writing are tested and handled by these agencies. Clients, who are the brand owners, have to sign-off on the campaign messages and the strategies to be deployed to ensure the integrity of the campaigns align with their corporate objectives.
Those who provide the planning and buying strategies to operationalise the advertising campaign messages across various media vehicles are the independent media agencies. A subset of these are the digital marketing agencies who specialize in optimizing digital media such as social media, online advertising, search engine optimisation, mobile app advertising, etc. They help position the brand across the various digital and social media platforms.
Providing the media infrastructures needed to communicate advertising campaign messages to the target audience are the media owners. Media owners in Nigeria are organized along stakeholder groups such as Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON), Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), and Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria, (OAAN). Of course there are other supporting institutions in the marketing communications value chain. Some of these institutions include marketing research agencies, modelling agencies, tracking and compliance agencies, data enabling agencies, etc.
The industry cannot function without an efficient regulatory environment, whose most important function is consumer protection. The regulatory environment is driven on a collaborative basis among various government agencies with responsibilities across various sectors of the Nigerian economy. The regulators include the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC), Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and Consumer Protection Council (CPC).
There are also self-regulatory bodies created to provide their members with relevant resources and capacities to offer professional services to their clients. The Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Electronic Media Content Owners Association of Nigeria (EMCOAN), Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), and National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN), OAAN, NPAN, and BON are some associations of practitioners that exist in the industry.
With the exception of the electronic broadcast media, all other service providers in the industry have predominantly private sector ownerships. Growth in the Nigerian media industry will continue as more entrepreneurs explore opportunities in the emerging digital advertising sector, which is poised to be the next frontier of advertising, thanks to the mobile
revolution. It is expected that the older generation of advertising practitioners will begin to give way to the younger generation with the attendant innovations that will bring about global best practices in service delivery.
Recent developments in the Nigerian marketing communications industry include affiliation deals, acquisitions and direct investments by global marketing companies. Nigeria's fast-growing communications agency, Noah's Ark, broke the news of its affiliation deal with Dentsu Aegis Network Sub-Saharan Africa, a subsidiary of the global media group that specialises in media, digital and creative communications. This deal with Noah's Ark, as well as the existing relationship of Dentsu Aegis Network with Media Fuse, has positioned the global media company firmly as a player in the local and sub-regional markets. Publicis, the Paris-based global marketing communications network has gained a foothold in the local MarCom industry with its investment in Insight Group.
It is expected that more of these strategic deals will take place across the industry. Among the major advantages are knowledge transfer and the enhanced capacity of Nigeria-based media companies to become globally competitive. Lending his voice to these developments, Nigeria's advertising czar, Biodun Shobanjo, said at the last Poster Awards organized by OAAN that out-of-home advertising practitioners need to consider mergers and acquisitions as a strategy to their growth.
With the proliferation of technology, the marketing and advertising landscape is fast-changing. The internet has increased competition since customers have a potent tool to evaluate alternatives. The strategic importance of effective marketing communication is to help shorten the sales cycle by nudging customers to make purchase decisions. MarCom also provides a platform for brands to engage with their customers.
Brands have to synergise with marketing communication experts to leverage some of the trends in the industry. One of such trends is co-creation. Companies like Coca-Cola are engaging customers through co-creation, to create marketing content. A lot of successful marketing innovations the world over are now customer-driven. Such collaboration is expected to deepen and broaden the application of marketing communication channels in campaign management.
Programmatic marketing (PM) is also a marketing and advertising trend – which Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) says will soon account for the largest share of digital advertising. IAB estimates that by 2018, programmatic spend will have grown from 28 per cent in 2013 to over 80 per cent of marketing spend. According to Smart Insights, "Programmatic marketing is automated bidding on advertising inventory in real time, for the opportunity to show an ad to a specific customer, in a specific context." Simply put, PM is an automated process of executing advertising transactions. Programmatic marketing helps to drive efficiencies in advertising spend.
My thoughts in this piece are not provided as a guide but as industry insights to draw attention to the strategic importance of marketing communication, facilitate understanding of the marketing communication process in Nigeria as well as highlight the emerging game-changers.
Marketing communication is a strategic function every organisation has to undertake to sustain long-term relationship with its customers.
Nigerian advertising czar, Biodun Shobanjo