Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Critical Evaluation of the Marketing Communication Strategy of the Panel Debate "Value of MBA to Employers"

By: Vera Ndrecaj BA (Hons). MBA


The purpose of this paper is to discuss and critically evaluate marketing communication strategy of the panel debate “Value of MBA to Employers”. Compare and contrast traditional marketing communication approach implemented for the event with integrated marketing communication (IMC) concept, which we failed to implement. This approach will enable us to integrate and co-ordinate the event’s communication channels such as public relation, direct marketing, packaging, and also to deliver a clear consistent and compelling message about the panel debate (product).  Academic theories of marketing communication and examples from the above experience will be used to support arguments put forward.

The critical evaluation will be developed based on the events’ marketing communication strategy, its success and failure.  As highlighted in the above report our marketing communication strategy was indistinct, we did not have clear strategic planning. This approach is criticised by (Pearce and Robinson, 2005; Pitt and Lei, 2006; Jones et al., 2007; and Grant 2009) they highlight the importance of having strategic planning in order to facilitate organisation towards its vision and mission. But on the other hand, Johnson and Scholes (2001) described strategic planning as conclusive rather as directional in nature.  Jones (2007) argued that planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do nothing (Allen et al., 2011). Although, lack of planning can persuade distraction. This is supported by (Focussed Performance 2006) the ‘nicest’ thing about not planning is that failure comes as a compliment. Nevertheless, Pitts and Lei (2006) enhanced the impotence of flexibility of strategic planning in order to respond quickly and effectively to changes. Hill et al (2007) clarified that; occasionally successful strategies might emerge without prior planning. For a small scale community event rational planning and formal structure are not appropriate   (Baker, 1992; Berridge, 2007), especially when the event has short life – cycle.

However, the mission and vision of the event was not well defined that leaded to distraction and misunderstandings of the aims and objectives of the event. Mission and vision are conditioned by the needs of various stakeholders group, and also are a starting point of any strategic marketing planning (Allen et al., 2011), therefore the impacts were unenviable. Johnson et al., (2005, p. 13) defined mission as a “...the overall purpose of the organisation, which in line with the values and expectations of major stakeholders, and concerned with scope and boundaries of the organisation” (2005:13).

However, Pearce and Robinson, (2005) suggested that, vision statement can be separated from an event’s mission, or the two may be combined. Viljoen and Dan, (2003) described the role of the vision statement as the answer of the following question; what event organizers are seeking to achieve in long term through the conduct of the event. However, Allen et al., (2011) clarified that, vision statements do not necessarily need to be written down, the most important point is to share it and make sure this vision is understood from all team members.

To meet our customers’ needs and expectation, by exchanging the product (debate) for something of value, we intended to implement strategic marketing planning. Miller and Layton (2000) suggested that marketing conceits all activities that designed to generate and facilitate any exchange intended to satisfy human needs and wants. However, Gez, (2007) and Hoyle (2009) do not attempt to define the term of event strategic marketing planning.   
Marketing is a business philosophy (Hall et al., 2006). It is not just a series of activities, such as advertising or selling, but more way of thinking how to satisfy customers’ needs (Kotler et al., 1999). However, marketing and marketing communication mix are changing, new insights, new tools, new opportunities, and new challenges are emerging (Allen et al., 2011). Marketing communication is becoming more integrated (Smith and Taylor, 2004). The more integrated marketing communication, the more effective it will be in achieving an event’s marketing objectives because potential customers see and hear uniform and consistent message (Allen et al., 2011).  In this context the role of communication manager is becoming strategically very important (Johansson and Ottestig, 2009)

 We failed to adapt the concept of IMC due to functional silos, timescale, lack of management, and budget restriction. We were not able of integrate and co-ordinate between all communication channels, and also we did not manage to deliver uniform, consistent massage because of linguistic problems and confusion. This leaded to semantic noise and cognitive dissonances, and also could have negative impacts and consequences of UOG brand and image. We comprised marketing communication by looking at targeted audience, medium and message diversity, and designed the communication system in order to include internal and external stakeholders as suggested by (Kotler et al., 2000; Little and Marandi 2003; Smith and Tylor, 2004;and Allen et al., 2011).  Marketing communication has traditional focused on planed promotional activities such as advertising public relation, and direct marketing Little and Marandi, 2003). Clearly these channels are important but (Murray, 1991) suggested that, in the early stages of the relationship at least, stakeholders put more in messages from personal or independent sources. However, one of our objectives was to build networking with professional people from various areas of the businesses across Wales, so we focused on relationship marketing (RM) rather than transactional marketing (TM) in order to enable us to achieve the objective.

However Linton and Morley (1995) claimed that the advantages of integrated IMC are consistency of message, more effective use of media, improve marketing accuracy, cost saving, creative integrity and operational efficiency.  However, Duncan and Moriarty (1998) argued that trust and commitment are products of IMC therefore relationship is impossible without effective communication approach.  However, we approach the combination between traditional marketing communication mix and IMC. IMC strategy was based on knowledge we gained through research about customers and potential customers that was target market. The concern was that, how the event managed its relationships with target market groups which drive its brand value (Duncan, 2002).  IMC is about relationship (Madhavaram et al., 2005) than ethnography in IMC can be as understanding of those relationships (Mendez, 2009). However, Little and Marandi (2003) clarified that, the key to successful relationship marketing (RM) communication is the integration of the various messages transmitted and resided by the organisation. This is share values that provide the bases for such integration Gronroos, 2000).

Kliatchko, (2008) described IMC as a strategic process.  The idea of IMC concept initially was adapted on the events field by McDonnell (1999). The variety of definitions has since emerged from an IMC concept each with their own emphases and possible meanings.  Shimp, (2003) explained that, IMC  concept integrates  all sources of the communication costumers have as potential delivery channels for messages and makes use of all communication methods that are relevant to customers. However, Institute for Integrated Marketing Communication (IIMC, 2006) highlight the coordination of promotional elements and other activities that communicate with customers. IMC focuses on the synergistic role of advertising, direct marketing, internet and interactive marketing public relation and personal selling in the communications program. However, both definitions failed to mention the various methods as using internet as a promotional medium such as social networking, registration, and ticket distribution which we managed successfully. But on the other hand, we did not utilise all elements of communication mix suggested by (Duncan 2002; Smith and Taylor, 2004). We used personal selling – by approaching friends and family,  sale promotion- promoting the product not only through channels but also we used open day to promote the product, word of mouth- we did spread the world last minute , packaging- refreshment, venue, and also we used corporate identity - UOG brand to promote the event. We did not use advertising,   sponsorship, exhibition, merchandising publicity.  However, Nowak and Phelps (2005) argued that, the boundaries between types of promotion are vanishing. But, on the other hand, Drobis (2003) criticised advertising as term of high cost and controlling from third-party. This is not the best way to build relationship. Advertising and other forms of marketing communication also do not match public relations on flexibility (ibid).         

The improvement in computer technology are speeding the movement towards segmented marketing rather than mass marketing. We used segmented marketing, by choosing social networking as a successful and trendy communication channels to promote IMC is key factor for the success of events (Getz, 2005; Masterman and Wood, 2005). In developing an IMC strategy, we considered four sources of marketing communication such as planned messages; unplanned message, product message, service message, but we used successfully only plan and unplanned message.  From traditional communication mix each type of the promotion has separated function; fragmentation of messages and imagery therefore the brand image occur (Masterman and Wood (2006) but on the other hand integrated marketing communication mix all types integrated in to one strategy; synergy occur between various type (Kotler et al., (2000; Smith and Taylor 2002; and Masterman and Wood, 2006). However, we started the project with the event and its production rather than starting with event customer needs and how the event can satisfy these which is suggested from IMC (Kotler, 2004). The MBA team intended to use unified consistent message, rather than fragment communication programs this is suggested from TMC (Masterman and Wood, 2006).  We aimed to build a relationship with our customer and add value to the brand instead of short-term objectives for each promotion campaign that is function of TMC.  We did not target mass audience   

Nevertheless, it is important for marketers to understand how communication works. A variety of definitions have since merged for communication. Smith and Taylor (2004) referred to dictionary to define communication “as a science of transmitting information” (2004:71) but this view is criticised by (LittleJohn and Foss, 2008) because information is transmitted but it is not necessary ‘received’ or ‘Understood’. However to communicate effectively marketers need to understand how communication work (Kotler et al., 2000) The targeted audience was mainly composed from those who already knows and prefer UOG brand. However, Kotler (2010) argued that, this strategy is not effective because communication to this group of people is not productive and useless.

Kotler (2010) developed the communication model based on Schramm’s (1955) model, as shown in figure 1.2 with nine elements. Two of them represent the major parties in a communication –sender and receiver, message and media representing communication tools, and four represent communication function- encoding, decoding, response and feedback, and last element is noise in the system (ibid).  The communication model must answer following question; who? says what? in what channel? To whom?  With what effect?
However, Smith and Taylor (2004) argued that no single model can reflect the complexity of communication process. However, IMC required careful integrations and co-ordinations between various communication channels to deliver a clear consistent message about the organisation and its products (Kotler et al., 2003). IMC also increase profit through effectiveness (Smith and Taylor, (2004).
There is ongoing debate in marketing field between traditional and integrated marketing communications views. But on the other hand, there is an agreement about unified and integrated message.   Two major factors are changing today’s marketing communication. The mass marketing is fragmented; marketers are shifting away from mass marketing. Secondly, vast improvement in computer and information technology are speeding the movement toward segmented marketing. Today’s information technology helps marketers to keep close track to customers needs. New technology also provide new communication avenues for reaching small customer segmentation with more tailored message. The shift from mass marketing to segmented marketing has had a dramatic impact on marketing communication. Mass-media communication shifted to one-to-one marketing is spawning a new generation of more specialised and highly targeted communicated effort. However, marketing communications adapt richer but more fragmented media and promotion mix to reach their diversity markets, they prevent the dangers of creating a semantic noise for customers by adapted integrated marketing communication. This calls for careful integrating all communication sources to deliver clear and consistent message to target markets. But to integrate external communication effectively it is important first to integrate internal communication activities, and also carefully co-ordinated the promotional activities and the timing. Finally, to help to implement integrated marketing strategy, the company appoints a marketing communication manager (Kotler et al., 2000) who has overall responsibility for the communication efforts. The table below summarise both communication mix used for this project.        


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