At the core of marketing lies consumers ' for if the marketer does not have a consumer base, who will purchase what he is promoting, he has no one to market for. The consumer therefore plays an important role in marketing and in the communication and construction of marketing messages.
In the following piece, we will take a look at how consumers influence marketing communication by focussing on consumer characteristics, decision and purchase characteristics, consumer motivations, buying behaviour patterns, distribution and access and purchase characteristics.
It is important that one has an understanding of the basic concepts of marketing communication.
Marketing communication is executed through advertising, personal sales, promotional activities and various other marketing tools which deliver the marketer's message to his audience. But in a service-based industry, such as the tourism industry, the content of the messages delivered, through the use of these tools, are of the utmost importance due to the unpredictable nature of tourism offerings. It is much more difficult to develop a marketing communication strategy because the tourism industry is so different from any other industry due to its intangibility, perishability, heterogeneity and inseparability. (McCabe, 2012)
Marketing communication consists of messages, which aim to remind, persuade and inform the consumer, that are developed and sent out to the correct target audience with the goal of increasing an organisation's financial gains or profit. (McCabe, 2012)
The psychological, sociological and systems and networks perspectives to communication theory make it clear that the consumers' understanding of a message is complex. How the message is constructed, interpreted and understood is influenced by consumers' feelings and emotions, the social framework in which the message is spread and the way in which consumers respond to the message as well as how the message is adapted or changed, in terms of their response, by the marketer. Consumer behaviour thus has a large impact on marketing strategies and how they're implemented. Marketing messages will influence purchasing behaviour, engage the audience and make the consumer think and feel a certain way about a brand. (McCabe, 2012)
1. Consumer characteristics
Marketing is used to attract consumers to one's business. To do this successfully the marketer must develop target markets to attract the type of consumer the business wants. Most organisations would obviously want to attract those consumers who have a moderate level of wealth. After the marketer has developed the relevant target markets he must analyse the characteristics of the consumers in those target markets. These characteristics would include simple things such as what the consumers like to do with their free time, their peer groups, what their likes and dislikes are etc.
When analysing consumer characteristics one would basically determine who your customers are and what they would spend their disposable income on.
The most important consumer characteristics that a marketer must consider, according to McCAbe, (2012), are:
Demographics is the analysis of the statistical data within a population which would include factors such as the size and structure of a society. The demographics of an area would include the number of different age groups within the area, the level of income of the people in the area and the areas in which they live, the different ethnicities and religions in the area etc.
A marketer will use demographics to decide which group of people he will sell his offerings to and how he will construct his message to grab their attention specifically.
For example; a tour operator develops a student travel package for which the target market obviously is young people between the ages of 18 ' 25. The marketing message will then be directed towards and created for young people or students in society, i.e. the students will be the part of the area's demographics that will be targeted.
Another example would be when marketers make use of the target consumer's location to develop the most effective marketing communication or campaign. A resort on the beautiful and relaxing coast of South Africa will target consumers who do not live in this coastal area. These target consumers usually live inland (Gauteng or the Free State) and they want to visit the coastal areas every year during December holidays and this is why the coastal resort would market specifically in these locations.
1.2 Socio ' economic characteristics
Socio-economics takes a look at the economic activity within a society. The socio-economic characteristics would include the level of income, employment rate, age groups, social standing or status, level of education etc. of the consumers.
People with different socio-economic characteristics have different needs based on those characteristics. Marketers must determine what their target market's characteristics are and develop marketing communication in such a way as to persuade the target consumers that what the marketer is selling will fulfil their needs and desires. The marketer must show these consumers what makes his product special.
Customers with a higher level of education will be more knowledgeable about what other organisations have to offer, what marketing strategies companies use and where to gather information on different destinations.
University graduates, for example, will have a higher level of education and knowledge than most others. This means that if they were to decide to purchase a holiday package, they would know where to gather information on the cost of different holiday packages and would be able to make an educated choice. Whereas consumers with a lower level of education will mostly make a purchase without doing prior research ' they could be more easily persuaded to make a purchase than more educated individuals.
1.3 Feelings, beliefs and values
This section highlights the important role that a target market's psychological state plays in marketing communication, i.e the subjective processes within a consumer's mind. In marketing it is important to make consumer's thinks, feel and do. To do this the marketer must create a message which the customer will be able to (subjectively or psychologically) relate to. When this is successfully done, the message will stick with the consumer for a long time and the consumer will have a positive attitude towards the brand or product.
Paying close attention to consumer's feelings, beliefs and values for improving marketing communication could, according to George (2008), be explained by the AIDA principle (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action). The message must grab attention, peak interests, evoke a desire and give a call to action to attract and preserve consumers ' the marketer does this by delving deep into consumer's beliefs and feelings to find something which they will remember because it is so dear to them, be it a memory or a dream that they might have.
Consumers will be more willing to purchase a product which are in line with their beliefs and values. One must determine what one's market values, not only in life, but in an offering as well. For instance, if a consumer believes in living 'green'; recycling, conserving natural resources and protecting wildlife etc., and values that in a company, then the message that should be sent to such a consumer should be one that informs him of the fact that their purchase of one's product will contribute to their 'green' lifestyle. Such a consumer would rather purchase a holiday at a resort which contributes positively to nature conservation and recycling efforts than one which does not do so.
1.4 Decision-making units
Within a household there are members of a family who influence the decision to make a purchase in different ways. There are a variety of types of consumers to target with one's marketing communication in a 'decision-making unit' (McCabe, 2012).
These decision-making units could consist of a large family, newlyweds, a single parent household, friends who are living together etc. and all of the individuals in those units could be targeted in a different way with a message created specifically for them or by creating a single message which will communicate a relatable sales pitch to all of the individuals.
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