The advertisement selected was from Auto Dealers Magazine and is of a vehicle brand (Mercedes Benz 2004 C-class model), June 2010 edition. The advertisement is a testimony to the different type of brand associations that a consumer has of a Mercedes Benz product brand. It is aimed at European classic car fans. It also provides basic information that a prospective buyer should carry in mind its condition. This may enable the buyer to make informed decision in budgeting so as to avoid spending more money on a second hand or faulty product. The marketing communicator responsible for this advertisement has, therefore, put in ethical considerations in designing the advertisement since there is a clear indication that the product is used despite its sleek characteristics.
Answer to Question 8 on page 51.
(b). The aim of marketing communications is to enable brand equity as a way of moving customers to favorable action toward the brand or simply put, enhancing brand loyalty. This loyalty is achieved when consumers become aware of a particular brand. This calls for special marcom decisions and strategies by marketing communicators. The two fundamental decisions taken by marketing communicators include brand targeting and positioning. The two are interdependent because positioning decisions are made with regards to the intended targets while targeting decisions are based on a precise idea of the way brands are to positioned and differentiated from those of the competitors.
Answer to Question 8 on page 76
(c). Brand awareness is an important component of marketing. It is based on the fact that a brand’s equity is enhanced if the brand can evoke an instant recognition to consumers when they think of a particular product category, say sportswear. Enhancing a brand equity goes beyond a simple recognition to include the brand’s image. Brand image are the sort of associations evoked in a consumer’s mind when they come to think of a particular brand. These associations are concepts like the type of brand, its favorability, strength and uniqueness. Taking the example of a vehicle brand like Mercedes Benz, there are a number of associations that click in a consumer’s mind. The first of these will be class and elegance. Others will term the model as sleek. One easily links this with the few people who own this model of vehicles and the social status they have. As such, the overall attitudes towards the brand are held strong and favorable. The brand is also unique in the essence that it is extremely luxurious compared to other auto brands.
(a) Summary for Chapter Three
Just like other chapters in the book, the chapter opens with a marketing and communications challenge. The issue being addressed here is that of Trans Fat labeling. The author challenges consumers to consider the fat contents of a food product before making a hasty decision of buying it. He notes that the custom of labeling the number of Trans fats contained in a particular food product is a recent phenomenon as it began in 2006 when the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) ordered all food manufacturers to conform to this new rule (Shimp, 2007). This opens debate on several Marcom issues concerning ethics and regulation in the field of advertising and marketing. In a nut shell, these are issues tackled in the chapter.
The chapter entitled ‘ethical, regulatory and environmental issues in marketing communications’, is divided into ten sections as shall be discussed in this summary. The first objective that the learner should achieve after going through the chapter is to appreciate the ethical issues in the field of marketing communications. The author addresses ethics in a number of activities. These include the targeting of marketing communication efforts, advertising, public relations, packaging communications, sales promotions and online marketing communications.
Under the targeting of marketing communications efforts, Shimp notes that firms should direct their offerings at specific sections of customers instead of ‘blanket’ marketing. However, he regrets that despite an adherence to this rule, there still exist ethical dilemmas when special products and corresponding Marcom efforts are directed towards particular segments. To be precise, he samples two groups that have been vulnerable to marketing communications. These are children and teens, and economically disadvantaged groups.
About targeting to children, Shimp presents several case studies on companies that have frequently targeted their products to children. In particular, he samples out Gatorade advertisement and enlists the criticism surrounding the advertisement. The advertisement argues that the product a ‘healthy alternative for thirsty kids’ (p.83). The author, however, notes the cries from nutritionist who perceived the product as unnecessary for children since it is no better than water given that it has no added benefits or harms. Apart from this advertisement, Shimp also identifies other marketing communications targeting children that have elicited criticism. These include the Subway advertisements on their sandwiches, as well as the Campbell soup company.
The chapter also offers another aspect of children-directed marketing communications based on posters, book covers, free magazines and the so-called learning tools. The author argues that these communications, are disguised as educational materials yet they do nothing more than persuade children to buy the promoted products and brands. Such methods are, therefore, held by critics as unethical. This is because they make use of the child’s trust in learning materials as illusory means of hawking products. In addition to these strategies, Shimp notes that product placement in movies and TV programs also pose an unethical challenge to marketing communicators. Further, the author holds that marketers have been in the spotlight for targeting adult products to teens and children. In particular, he cites the Miller Brewing Company due to its Molson Ice brand. He urges marketing practitioners to do their business in a way that elevates the human spirit instead of appealing to the human’s gullible nature. In order to achieve this, he challenges the market practitioners to consider the lasting effect which their marketing or advertising messages will have on the audience (p.95).
The second part of the chapter deals with the regulation of marketing communications. The author acknowledges that in general, marcom practitioners face different regulations and restrictions which impact on their decision-making process (p.95). He describes regulation in the perspective of the government and that of the industrial itself. Under government regulation, marketing regulation (In the US) occurs at the federal level through agencies such as the FTC and FDA. Under self-regulation, regulation is performed by peers who create and implement rules of behavior. An example of such a system of self-regulation cited in this chapter is that of the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) (p.101).
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The chapter also discusses the benefits of marketing regulation which are pinpointed as three-fold. One, the author holds that consumer choice is ameliorated due to being informed. Secondly, regulation leads to an improvement in product quality. This necessitated by a change in consumers’ needs as well as preferences. The last benefit that the author attributes to marketing regulation is that it leads to a fall in prices (p.96). To elaborate this, he identifies a classical example of used cars whereby due to adequate information, customers will not purchase a faulty second hand vehicle at high price. Despite these benefits, the chapter also details some costs that are incurred in the process. These costs exist in form of cost of complying and enforcement costs.
The final section of the chapter deals with environmental or green marketing as it is popularly known. Under this, the author holds that marketing practitioners have been responsive to the environment interests of the society through the advocacy for and development of environmental friendly means of packaging as well as other Marcom endeavors (p.102). The chapter offers a number of guidelines to marketing practitioners to help them in authenticating their green marketing claims. First of all, their claims are supposed to be specific. Secondly, they should exhibit the current disposal alternatives and thirdly, the claims should be substantial and be supportable (p.106). Similar to other chapters in this book, it is characterized by interludes of integrated marketing communication focus (imc focus) offering a case study of a concept elaborated in the chapter.
(b). Summary for Chapter Four
This chapter falls in the second part of the book. This part provides a fundamental knowledge of the nature and role of marketing communications through the provision of practical and theoretical overviews of the four crucial Marcom decisions which include targeting, positioning, objective setting and budgeting. The chapter is entitled ‘Marcom targeting’ and is relatively shorter compared to its predecessor. Being no exception to the format adapted by the author, a Marcom challenge concerning Espirit and Gap curtain raises the major issues to be discussed in the chapter. The chapter seeks to address a number of objectives. These include the importance of target marketing, the role of behavior graphics in targeting consumer groups, the nature of psychographic targeting, major demographic developments, the meaning of geodemographics and lastly, the recognition of the basis for a sophisticated marcom strategy.
The author holds that the determination of a brand’s marcom efforts should be geared towards precise group of consumers. This decision ought to be based on behaviorgraphic, psychographic, demographic and geodemographic factors. He therefore argues that any succeeding marcom decision like positioning, setting objectives, determination of budget should concur with this fundamental decision.
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The most important factor to consider in targeting customers is pinpointed as the identification of their past purchase behavior in the particular product category that a brand manager is endeavoring to make a targeting decision. With this information, the author goes ahead to add that one is able to predict with substantial accuracy on how consumers are likely to behave in the future. As such, marketing communication programs and efforts can be geared towards those consumers whose activities profiles’ show that they are major candidates to obtain and act upon those advertisements as well as other messages. In addition, knowing how consumers behave online makes it possible for marcom practitioners to advertise brands corresponding to the traits of consumers visiting the sites in question (pp.116-118).
The chapter also notes that marcom practitioners may target consumers based on psychographic information. This is information about consumers’ interest, activities, and opinions and, to extension, their entire lifestyle. This information enables them have a better understanding of what consumers want and how they are likely to respond to advertising and other marketing communications. To make this strategy a reality, tailored studies are conducted for the identification of psychographic segments which can be applied to the marketer’s product category and brand. Alternatively, syndicated research systems like SRI’s VALS system can be deployed (pp.118-123).
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The chapter also identifies geo demographics as another basis by which consumers can be targeted. Going by this strategy, targeting is fundamentally identified through clusters of consumers residing in neighborhood where residents share common demographic traits and possess related lifestyles. This information is used to make direct marketing decisions, selection of retail outlets or to spot broadcast advertisements in selected markets. The last part of this chapter discusses three main demographic developments in the United States of America which include the age structure, the changing American household and the ethnic population developments (pp.124-139).
Under the subtitle of the ever-changing American household, Shimp notes that households are increasing in number, decreasing in size, as well changing in character. He, therefore, posits that the changing composition of the American household has impacted tremendously to marketing communications. This is because advertising has to bring out the variety of living situations that exist. He gives a classical example of the case of households with a single occupant. To substantiate this, he further argues that advertisers are now forced to make special appeals to the purchasing interests and needs of singles. These needs include the ease and pace of preparation, maintenance of simplicity, alongside small serving sizes (p. 134). Shimp notes that in order to reach singles, there is a need for market communicators to deploy special media-selection efforts. This is because singles are likely not to be big time prime-time television viewers but rather prefer the late edging hours. The other reason for the deployment special media coverage is because singles are less likely to watch cable TV or read magazines than the rest of the population.
In addition to the challenge of the ever changing American household, Shimp, in this chapter, adds that marketing communicators have to be aware of the ethnic population developments. This is because a third of the American population consists of minorities. To make his case clear, he samples out marketing communications implications for African, Hispanic and Asian-Americans. Shimp notes that Blacks do not constitute a large portion of the American consumer market. Nevertheless, he adds that companies should use different advertising media, distribution channels, advertising themes, as well as pricing strategies in their endeavors in order to market to the various portions of the African-American population (p.136).
Another ethnic population that Shimp highlights in this chapter is the Hispanic Americans or simply put, the Latinos. He notes that marketing communicators in the past have not paid enough attention to this group. To remedy this problem, Shimp advises marketing communicators to advertise to them in their dominant language, which, in this case is Spanish (p.138). The last category that Shimp sheds more light on this chapter is the Asian-American population. Shimp notes that this group is better educated and has a higher income compared to the rest. As such, he poses a challenge to the marketing communicators to design targeting strategies that make use of this added advantage. As the custom of the author, the chapter contains interludes of integrated marketing communications focus provided a case study of a concept discussed earlier in the chapter.