The Communication Process

Before we venture into an in-depth analysis of promotion, it is necessary to lay additional groundwork by examining how communication process works. By understanding the basic concepts of communication, the marketer will have a better idea of what actions should be pursued or avoided in order to get its message out to its customers.

The act of communicating has been evaluated extensively for many, many years. One of the classic analyses of communication took place in the 1940s and 1950s when researchers, including Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, Wilbur Schramm and others, offered models describing how communication takes place. In general, communication is how people exchange meaningful information. Models that reflect how communication occurs often include the elements shown below:

the communication process

(Tap image for larger view)

The key elements of the communication process include:

Communication Participants

For communication to occur there must be at least two participants:

  • Message Source – The source of communication is the party intending to convey information to another party. In marketing, the message source can be an individual (e.g., salesperson) or an organization (e.g., through advertising). In order to convey a message, the source must engage in message encoding, which involves mental and physical processes necessary to construct a message in order to reach a desired goal (i.e., convey meaningful information). This undertaking consists of using sensory stimuli, such as imagery (e.g., written words, symbols, images), sounds (e.g., spoken word), and scents (e.g., fragrance) to convey a message.
  • Message Receiver – The receiver of communication is the intended target of a message source’s efforts. For a message to be understood, the receiver must decode the message by undertaking mental and physical processes necessary to give meaning to the message. Clearly, a message can only be decoded if the receiver is actually exposed to the message.
Communication Delivery

Communication takes place in the form of a message that is exchanged between a source and receiver. A message can be shaped using one or a combination of sensory stimuli that work together to convey meaning that meets the objectives of the sender. The sender uses a transmission medium to send the message. In marketing, the medium may include: the use of information outlets where promotion is only part of the content provided, such as television, websites, mobile apps, radio, print; promotion-only outlets that only display promotional messages, such as direct mail and billboards; and person-to-person contact outlets where a person presents promotional information directly to another person, such as in-person contact (e.g., salespeople), email and social media.

Additionally, communication can be improved if there is a two-way flow of information in the form of a feedback channel. This occurs if the message receiver is able to respond, often quickly, to the message source. In this way, the original message receiver now becomes the message source and the communication process begins again.