Obstacles to Effective Communication
While a message source may be able to deliver a message through a transmission medium, there are many potential obstacles to the message successfully reaching the receiver the way the sender intends. The potential obstacles that may affect good communication include:
- Poor Encoding – This occurs when the message source fails to create the right sensory stimuli to meet the objectives of the message. For instance, in person-to-person communication, verbally phrasing words poorly so the intended communication is not what is actually meant, is the result of poor encoding. Poor encoding is also seen in advertisements that are difficult for the intended audience to understand, such as words or symbols that lack meaning or, worse, have totally different meaning within a certain cultural groups. This often occurs when marketers use the same advertising message across many different countries. Differences due to translation or cultural understanding can result in the message receiver having a different frame of reference for how to interpret words, symbols, sounds, etc. This may lead the message receiver to decode the meaning of the message in a different way than was intended by the message sender.
- Poor Decoding – This refers to a message receiver’s error in processing the message so that the meaning given to the received message is not what the source intended. This differs from poor encoding when it is clear, through comparative analysis with other receivers, that a particular receiver perceived a message differently from others and from what the message source intended. Clearly, as we noted above, if the receiver’s frame of reference is different (e.g., meaning of words are different) then decoding problems can occur. More likely, when it comes to marketing promotions, decoding errors occur due to personal or psychological factors, such as not paying attention to a full television advertisement, driving too quickly past a billboard, or allowing one’s mind to wonder while talking to a salesperson.
- Medium Failure – Sometimes communication channels break down and end up sending out weak or faltering signals. Other times the wrong medium is used to communicate the message. For instance, trying to educate doctors about a new treatment for heart disease using television commercials that quickly flash highly detailed information is not going to be as effective as presenting this information in a print ad where doctors can take their time evaluating the information.
- Communication Noise – Noise in communication occurs when an outside force in someway affects delivery of the message. The most obvious example is when loud sounds block the receiver’s ability to hear a message. Nearly any distraction to the sender or the receiver can lead to communication noise. In advertising, many customers are overwhelmed (i.e., distracted) by the large number of advertisements they encountered each day. Such advertising clutter (i.e., noise) makes it difficult for advertisers to get their message through to desired customers.