Friday, March 25, 2011

Market research and contemporary advertising

 Marketing research: the rationale
Market research has become so vital in all areas of economic activity. Advertising being a catalyst of selling naturally relies on market research to get inferences that would help in preparing effective copies to major campaigns. Since its origins in the United States in the 1930’s market research including the tool kits has undergone several changes. Starting from simple observations, market research developed and modified the methodologies to sample surveys to gather attitudinal data, ‘factor and cluster analysis for segmentation, conjoint analysis for pricing decisions, data fusion to fill in gaps of missing data and geomapping to find best locations for retailing and distribution.(Morgan, Hague and Hague, 2004). Although common sense and intuition were general rules in business decision making, market analysis gave it precision reducing risk.
Thus, the objective of every market research is to gather precise market information to aid business because market economy is functionally an informational system, where the right information at the right time contributed to the right management of market forces.
Ignor Ansoff’s products and market matrix clearly explains the roles of market research in already existing and new markets for existing and new products. Ansoff matrix shows that market research can help the new products in existing markets by predicting the probability of its adoption, whereas in new markets the research can point to the factors that underplay the market situation. For existing products in existing markets research can give the right feed back keep the position of the product while in new markets it can help to find out the new possibilities. Theodore Levitt takes the logic of market research to a higher plane, explaining its role in each of the stages in the life cycle of a product or service. Levitt’s product/service life cycle shows that in the early stage defined ‘youth’, market research can give hint at the ‘likely demand’, which can be helpful in deciding the pricing strategy. In the second stage termed ‘maturity’ research can help branding and sheds light on the strengths and weaknesses. Research in the third stage, identified as ‘old age’, tells ways to revive the product or reposition it. Thus in the case of all four P’s; product, price, place and promotion; market research helps to understand and analyse the factors that are at work. In the case of products, it can throw light on consumers’ attitude to products, whereas research on pricing gives information on the right pricing strategy to be adopted. Identifying the right distribution network, and developing and testing concepts for campaigns form the other two activities. (Morgan, Hague and Hague, 2004) Now with the proliferation of international brands and product ranges the market research has become very much sophisticated and at the same time supportive of the market functions.

Consumer mind and marketing research
Sheth et. al. (1988) classifies twelve schools of marketing theory into four dimensions. The first one, the economic dimension says that actions should be derived from economic values, which are part of the economic theory. The second one, the non-economic dimension speaks about the social and psychological ingredients that decide the attitudes of the consumer and the seller from an anthropological dimension. The third dimension, the interactive dimension, accepts interactivity as core to the relationship between buyer and the seller and explores their interdependence. The final one, which is the non-interactive dimension regards buyers as passive and is susceptible to persuasion. These four dimensions exemplify the nature and role of marketing, explaining the role of the buyer-seller interaction. Thus, when marketing emphasises a point, it derives from persuasion, a common strategy adopted by advertising too, which is directly linked to the manipulation of the mind of the consumer.  ‘Thus marketing is a social process consisting of individual and collective communicative activities performed by activities performed by people as producers, intermediaries, and/or purchasers that facilitate and expedite participation in voluntary chosen satisfying tangible and intangible exchanges in social relationships by creating, maintaining or altering attitudes and/or behaviours in a dynamic environment through the joint and interactive creation, distribution, promotion, and pricing of valued goods and services, and the promotion of ideas, causes, places and people.’ (Varey, 2002) Carey (1975:17) explains communication as ‘a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed. This definition of course is a pointer to consumer behaviour, which incorporates logical/cognitive and emotional/affective factors. In the decision-making model, the consumer behaviour is mainly viewed as a ‘problem solving and decision-making sequence’ as Varey(2002) states, in which the consumer analyses the information, makes a comparative study and  opts for a ‘rational selection.’ Thus, market research cannot ignore the consumer’s mind in every respect.

Advertising and market research
Schultz at al. (1993) summarises the basic aspects of marketing communication strategy from a cognitive level. He entrusts the decision-making and choice-making to the consumer or buyer, advises to establish a good relationship with the customers to make them loyal and advocates to differentiate the brand by establishing rapport, empathy and dialogue. The primary object of market research is to find out the factors that influence consumer behaviour and thus it aids in helping build the advertising strategy and brand building.

Japanese auto giant Honda’s ‘City’ introducing the tall boy concept is a splendid example of how market research has helped them to develop a car that fits the requirements of a city drive as well as to launch a campaign world wide, which virtually shook the automobile industry. The development of the ‘tallboy’ concept was a reaction against the American automotive giants’ big car concepts. Extensive market research provided data to develop the revolutionary man maximum, machine minimum concept. Since then Honda’s products and campaigns generally reflected the consumer attitudes.

Branding exercises across the world today speaks about new lessons in market research. The changing trends in economy, the development of technology etc.have contributed to the growing need of market research in advertising for advertising means marketing.  Some of the factors that contribute to this process are the proliferation of new media and advertising vehicles, globalisation and its impact on technology, changing consumer behaviour and new modes of marketing communication

The proliferation of new media and advertising vehicles
The digital age is witnessing a rapid advancement in technology, which has lead to invention of many new communication devices and gadgets.  Miniaturatisation has become the strategy or say the politics of technology in the new digital era; creating more customers and reciprocally fed with more demands to fuel new inventions. Thus through simple one or two line promos and advertisements that comes as SMS messages on the cellular phone to pod casts of multi million conglomerates, technology has in fact given marketing and economic activity a boom. A good case study is that of the General Motors, which used pod casts to announce the 2005 line up of their automobiles. These pod casts can be regarded as the first cases in ‘feed branding,’ ‘which includes the RSS feeds, ring tones and digital radio’ (Wreden 2005).  Pod casting was later used by Microsoft for their campaigns.

The globalisation and its impact on technology
Globalisation, in fact has widened the markets, the consumer choices and even the consumer profiles, making marketing a very sensitive and strategic area, than it was a decade ago. New media like the Internet and the new generation gadgets like the mobile phone demanded new dynamic communications strategies, capable to arrest the consumers on the move.

Changing consumer behaviour
The changes brought about by globalisation and the new life styles has made the consumer choices sophisticated and at the same time fluctuating. Influx of too many products in a single target category and competition confused even the brand loyal customer. Consumer attributes like brand loyalty and marketing features like brand positioning have become ‘tactics’ of the past and new strategies like ‘brand journalism’ has taken over. The agencies and the manufacturers relied more on new statistical data on psychographic profiles, consumer choices and selling patterns, thus market research became an inevitable factor. It gave impetus to brainstorm new strategies, and even provided hints for a ‘catchy slogan’.

Changing modes of marketing communication
Marketing communication enters a new phase after e-commerce and the wide range of internet applications that are increasing day by day. After the advent of consumer marketing, ‘there has been a shift from the personal relationships with costumers to mediated action directed towards consumerism.’ (Varey, 2002) New media in fact has returned the personal relationships; once again customer as an individual is the focus point.

Communication and intentionality and advertising
Communication when defined in a social context is a dynamic process that is required to share meaning. Thus from the viewpoint of one with something to share, the intertwined work of representation, projection and externalization is the essence of communication (Smith, 1995) Mentalists define communication as a special type of social interaction whose distinctive features are intentionality and overtness.(Bara, Tirassa, 1999).
Intentions are at the centre of communication theories such as Relevance Theory. Bratman’s Theory of Planning recognises the critical role of intentions in governing our actions, driving our practical reasoning, and enabling us to coordinate with other individuals. (Taillard) Communication thus involves an interaction, verbal, non-verbal, linguistic or extra linguistic with a purpose or intention to share meaning. 
Communication has thus been defined in a number of ways by many scholars and shows the very difficulty in defining this dynamic process. From Shannon and Weaver to technical models the communication act has been viewed in varied perspectives, but Roman Jakobson’s concept that links the six physical components of communication - sender, message, receiver, context, code, contact - to six linguistic functions - expressive, connotative, phatic, metalinguistic, denotative-referential, poetic - establishes the intentionality of the communicative act. (Anolli, 2002)
One of our objectives, when we communicate with another person, is to be understood. Another goal is to be believed: we try to affect our audiences’ beliefs, desires and actions. Persuasion is the communicative act that carries out both these goals. An audience that has been persuaded has understood an utterance, and believed its message. Persuasion involves encoding of intentional messages in the communication act to influence the audience. Of all the media of mass communication advertising uses persuasion to a greater extent to communicate. Intentionality forms the basic premise for developing persuasive messages.
The notion of intentionality in linguistic semiotics is rather indeterminate and fuzzy. And if we relate the notion of intentionality directly with the semiotic process of sign generation, that is, with categorization of objects as meaningful entities interactions with which produce orientational influences on an organism by in-forming it in the world, then we are confronted by a necessity to consider intentionality as a biological cognitive function. Intentionality as a philosophical category has to do with the problem of relation of thought to the world by means of language (Fodor 1987; Carruthers 1996). In this context, representations and intentionality are two sides of the same medal (see Fodor 1998), but no one seems to know (at least, such is the impression) what the medal is made of.

Advertising, and intentional communication
Successful advertising is usually equated with effective communication. Every aspect of communication is employed in creating and disseminating advertisements. In advertising, the primary purpose is to influence beliefs or behaviour. Its primary purpose is to shape actions or beliefs in a desired way; its primary goal is successful manipulation. That is why advertisements carry no information despite being made to appear informational..
The central idea behind an advert appears to be the factor of conscious intention behind the text, with the aim of benefiting the originator materially or through some other less tangible gain, such as enhancement of status or image. So, although a church poster might not be selling us anything in the material sense, it is still intentionally selling an idea – religion – in order to benefit the institution of the church by drawing converts and swelling its ranks.(Goddard.A, 1998)
Advertising has a very important reinforcement effect. One of the most important effects of advertising is consolidating and protecting what has already been built. It reinforces behaviour. (Sutherland, Sylvester 2000) Advertising professionals know that they need camouflage – the appearance of altruistically disseminating information. They use what seems to be a strategy of innocence by association. Some such appearance is needed because efforts to persuade and influence, particularly if intended to promote unnecessary consumption, are socially disapproved for both their manipulative methods and the waste they may encourage or in other words every message encoded in an ad copy is ‘intentional.’ These intentional messages use significant symbols to convey meanings that reflect different factors which may directly or indirectly help to influence the consumer behaviour. These include symbols from culture, social life, language, religion and even ethnicity and race factors.

Intentional messages, advertising and market research
 Advertising thus relies on intentional messages to communicate because ‘advertising is an institutional model of communication that is deeply rooted in daily interests and has continued to contribute to the reproduction of the social conditions and values of a mode of living and a social system.’ (Varey, 2002) Advertising which is an inevitable function of the market economy, helps consumers to identify their needs and locate the products and brands according to their needs and attitudes and also helps them in distinguish products from one another. As Varey (2002) says advertising is not simply a conveyor of information and persuasive messages, it is a massive and pervasive industry, afforded great prominence in our lives, that provides social communication. Advertising gathers the input to communicate through market research.  

1.      Varey R.J., (2002) Marketing Communication: Principles and Practice London: Routledge
2.      Morgan C.A, Hague N and Hague P., (2004) Market Research in Practice: A Guide to Basics, London: Kogan Page
3.      Anolli, L., (2002) Say Not to Say : New Perspectives on Miscommunication, Amsterdam, NLD: IOS Press
4.      Smith J., (1995) Understanding the Media: A Sociology of Mass Communication, New Jersey: Hampton Press Inc.
5.      Sylvester A.K. Sutherland.M., (2000) Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer, London: Kogan Page.
6.      Taillard Marie-Odile, Beyond Communicative Intention
7.      Bara B.G., and Tirassa M.,(1999) A mentalist framework for linguistic and extralinguistic communication, Siena,  Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference on Cognitive Science
8.      Fodor J. A., (1998). Concepts: Where Cognitive Science Went Wrong. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
9.      Fodor, J. A. (1987). Psychosemantics: The Problem of Meaning in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge, MA.: Bradford Books/The MIT Press.
10.  Goddard, Angela,(1998), Language of Advertising : Written Texts. Florence,  Routledge.
11.  Wreden, Feed Branding. The Next Wave?

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