The Internet is rapidly overtaking traditional communications media as the primary, if not sole, source of information for the cohorts in Generation X and Generation Y. What are the implications for marketing-communications strategies if these trends continue? Owen notes that very little scholarly literature or research is available on this topic, partially because it is so new. The existing models concepts and theories in the subject or discipline of marketing or created around promotional media or modes of service delivery, ethical considerations and implication issues that were common before the Internet existed.
The commonplace use of the Internet social media and other electronic delivery systems for communications, news and advertising are changing what we currently know about integrated marketing communications (IMC) Many traditional marketing tactics such as press releases to print media outlets, formal focus groups, direct mail advertising, television commercials and other vehicles are proving less and less effective in today’s consumer marketplace.
Our traditional marketing models are no longer helpful in formulating corporate communication strategies in an era when a competitor or a single upset customer can post negative comments on websites, or blogs that become indexed on search engines. (Owen 2009) Another area where the Internet has changed communications is the news. Receiving your news and updates via the Internet through blogs or news related websites or electronic newspaper outlets has become very popular. In fact, Internet news may be sought even more when and if government restriction prohibits users from getting the news they want, resulting in internet news supplementing or even replacing traditional mass media news sources in these environments. The rise of The Internet has impacted and changed our communication models as well. ” (Christie 2009) The communication model formed by the Internet and its corresponding technology has served as a way to circumvent the historic one-way mass media communication model and is also providing new communication options to consumers as well as marketers.
As these additional communication options open up to consumers, the challenge for the consumer is the ability to judge the source of information than that, news or promotional offers confidently. The Internet, by its nature both proliferates communication and dilutes its integrity. This creates a challenge for those involved in integrated marketing communications.
It may be possible or even simple to get information to people via the Internet or the blogosphere or Facebook or other electronic media and social networking platforms; however, it is a different challenge to convince those receiving the communication of its importance or even its authenticity. (Cheng 2009) “Traditional attempts to build communication awareness outside of traditional media are labeled word-of-mouth, creating a buzz, leveraging the media, or network marketing. On the internet, marketers the label is viral marketing and social networks can be the conduit to transmit a marketing “virus”.
Pitta describes the virus as a part of viral marketing, which describes “any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others. ” The virus model is apt. In medicine, viruses grow and replicate by finding a susceptible host, and quietly copying themselves until they reach a critical mass to overwhelm the healthy host. A single virus cell can replicate to double with each generation and grows very quickly. The critical element to understand is that a virus does not provide its own resources for growth. They use the resources of the host to multiply and they can grow exponentially.
Viruses replicate repeatedly with geometrically increasing power, doubling in numbers with each successive iteration. For our purposes in the marketing world, the viral model takes the form of using a host platform and its resources to create the opportunity and potential for exponential growth in the exposure to a message and to its influence. Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to transmit a message to thousands or even millions. ” (Pitta 2008) Social networks, like MySpace and Facebook, have attracted countless members who share pictures and information with anyone who will visit.
These members represent a network of potential word-of-mouth advertisers and their advertising reach is considerable. Each individual may be at the center of a network consisting of numerous friends, with whom they can share opinions. These personal networks are highly specialized and very specific. Members identify themselves with other members by sharing the same interests in sports, entertainment, politics, hobbies or other activities. , In addition, these sites demonstrate a high potential for affinity behaviors, i. e. the actions of consumers to identify with favored groups or celebrities. The affinity helps fosters word of mouth communication. Combining specificity, reach, and involvement increases the communication value of these sites to marketers. The challenge for marketers is to energize these potential networks with discussion about their products by making these products interesting and “sticky”. “(Pitta 2008) The concept of stickiness or of having a message or product that is sticky was introduced by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point. It refers, as its name implies, to the ability of an idea or product to stick with the customer or to have a lasting impression on the consumer once it is introduced.
Gladwell also discussed the idea of word-of-mouth epidemics in marketing and in other areas of our lives in his book. He certainly might have added a significant amount of information about social networking to his topic if it had existed at the time that his book was written. (Gladwell 2000) Christie indicates that thanks to the decentralized nature of the Internet, methods for communication have become infinite and accessible to everyone. In addition, it is growing increasingly difficult for security agencies to exercise any control over these communications.
In effect, the Internet is increasingly used to circumvent government control. For this reason some have characterized the Internet as a medium of mass communication with particular reference to the democratic values. Some even envision a utopian virtual state in which citizens hold discussions communicate their needs and their demands to the representatives and vote on various referenda or issues before the public using communication by computer. They can center the idea that modern communication technologies could help to create a Greek polis style participatory democracy. Christie 2009) Whether this utopian political condition is achievable or not, clearly where marketing communications strategy is concerned the proliferation of Internet communications and social media interactions must be taken into account when attempting to reach the consumers of a particular product or the representatives of a specific segment of the market. “Given the popularity of the Internet as a promotional medium and a means of communications as well as a social networking forum, it is important to examine the effects on Internet marketing communications.
Looking at how people process Internet marketing communications, we see three brand communication sources online: advertisements (including banner and pop-up ads), web sites, and viral messaging. The three tools differ in their level of “marketer control” over message content and placement. ” (Micu 2010) Previous research studies have found that banner ads increase brand recognition and intention to purchase, even when the user does not click on the banner to access the brand’s web site.
Unlike banner ads, pop-up ads occur less frequently online due to blocking software. So, banner ads are a more effective brand communication tool under more complete advertiser control in terms of both message and placement. (Micu 2010) Given the obvious difficulty of reaching people affectively through the Internet and other electronic communication media, what can marketers do to effectively market their products, offer promotions, launch new products or innovations for existing products and reach their target market segments?
Viral marketing strategies and 121 marketing through the use of social networks and other devices appear to be the current answer. Pitta points out that an effective viral marketing strategy or campaign must contain six elements. This are: “give something away; make it effortless to transfer to others; make it scalable from small to very large without difficulty; foster deeply held motivations; use the existing communication alternatives; and exploit the resources of others. ” (Pitta 2008)
Micu, A. (2010). Telling the brand story: including news articles and online promotional strategies. Management & Marketing, 5(2), 67-84. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2127417341). Cheng, W.. (2009). A Study of the Development of Networks, Media and Society. International Journal of Organizational Innovation (Online), 1(3), 48-65. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1949115301). Christie, T.. (2009). Using the internet for news and perceptions of news organization bias. Competitiveness Review, 19(1), 17-25.
Retrieved December 9, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1650446221). Owen, R. , & Humphrey, P.. (2009). The structure of online marketing communication channels. Journal of Management and Marketing Research, 2, 1-10. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 2172821341). Pitta, D. (2008). Providing the tools to build brand share of heart: Gydget. com. The Journal of Product and Brand Management, 17(4), 280-284. Retrieved December 9, 2010, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1528447251).