Chapter 2: mpr and the Marketing Communication Mix

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Chapter 2: MPR and the Marketing Communication Mix

Chapter Objectives

After studying this chapter, students should be able to:

  1. Explain the different variations of exchange and their relationship to Marketing Public Relations.

  2. List and explain key elements in the marketing communications mix.

  3. Explain how MPR works together with the key elements of the marketing communications mix.

  4. Explain the concept of positioning and MPR’s role in shaping it.

  5. Describe and differentiate between the standard and MPR communications process.

  6. Explain what a connector is and how connectors function in the MPR process.

  7. Explain the two types of MPR audiences and the importance of a firm’s relationships with them.

Chapter Overview

The chapter starts with another excellent example, the Disney experience: from movies to theme parks and cruise ships, the interconnectedness of the enterprise is created through embracing PR tactics. The newest Disney phenomenon, Hannah Montana, is chronicled in the example.

Chapter Outline

  1. Disney combines traditional and cutting edge marketing with promotion of Hannah Montana.

    1. Product line includes music, live events, the series, movies, and products

    2. Website utilizes new communication technology.

  1. Exchanges and their relationships with MPR

  1. Marketing encompasses efforts to change or maintain consumer behavior relative to a product in exchange for money.
  2. MPR techniques are used to foster communication between a firm and its public constituencies to promote word-of-mouth communication and increase media mentions leading ideally to a positive perception of the firm, its brands, and its product.

  1. Positive perception leads the consumer to exchange something of value (usually money) for something the organization offers.

  1. The exchange could be for money.

  2. The exchange could also be for votes, adoption of an idea, change in behavior, or spreading of information.

  3. Traditional exchanges involve goods, services, and money.

  1. MPR is part of the marketing communications, or promotional mix which includes marketing activities of advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, direct marketing, and PR

  1. Advertising: any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor

      1. Traditionally delivered through mass media and paid by the organization.

      2. Adding word-of-mouth and other types of communication blurred the line between advertising and PR.

      3. Today, through MPR, advertising and PR work together for a desired effect which may include generating “buzz” which lasts beyond the advertising.

      4. Super Bowl ads are an example of such “buzz”

  1. Sales promotion: short term incentives to encourage the purchase or sale of a product or service

  1. Sales promotion may include events such as coupons, point of sales displays, and more.

  2. Wal-Mart’s $4 prescription prices are a good example of MPR.

  1. Personal selling: personal presentation by a firm’s sales force to make sales and build customer relationships
  1. MPR supports personal selling by paving the way for the sale by introducing the customer to the product before being approached by the sales staff.

  2. Media mentions or word-of-mouth are nonthreatening ways for consumers to gain awareness of the product

  1. Direct marketing: use of direct mail, phone, direct response TV, e-mail, the Internet, and other tools to communicate directly with carefully targeted consumers for immediate response and cultivate lasting customer relationships

  1. Direct marketing and MPR interface much the same way as MPR interfaces with personal selling.

  2. MPR increases customer awareness of the product or company, resulting in customers who are more receptive to direct marketing efforts.

  3. A challenge to direct marketing is the many competitors vying for the customer’s attention.

  4. Customers are exposed to the marketing message in viral marketing, being exposed to the message passed form person to person, almost like a virus.

  5. Viral marketing can be beneficial, as in the OfficeMax Elf Yourself promotion, which was created in winter, 2007.

  6. Media attention to this clever promotion added to the firm’s message, even though it did not promote a specific product.

  1. Public Relations: building good relations with various publics, building good corporate image, handling rumors, and crises

  1. MPR works in conjunction with traditional PR to achieve the marketing goals of the organization

  2. PR and MPR direction needs to come from management

  1. Positioning refers to the place customers perceive a product to inhabit in relation to its competitors

  1. Recent studies have shown MPR and advertising are equally effective in establishing positioning.
  2. Some research shows MPR techniques may have an edge, accomplishing positioning better than advertising because MPR messages have more credibility with consumers.

  3. If MPR and advertising are roughly equal in success, there is an incentive to use MPR because of financial reasons.

  4. In addition, MPR maximizes exposure by reaching many media outlets, while advertising reaches only those the firm has paid.

  5. Further, MPR increases consumer credibility in the message.

  6. Successful companies develop a positioning statement which can be used to describe the way marketers intend consumers to perceive the product relative to its competitors.

  1. Typically this statement is four to six sentences in length

  2. The statement helps answer two questions: What do consumers think about the product; and how will consumers learn about the product

  3. Examples of positioning include Volvo as a “safe” vehicle and BMW as “The ultimate driving machine.”

  1. The communication process governs marketing communications, including integrated marketing communications.

  1. Both use the classic communication model, though marketing communication focuses on the marketing mix

  2. The model starts with a sender who encodes a message in a form that is intelligible for the receiver.

  3. The message is transmitted by a channel, which may be as complicated as broadcast media or as simple as the sound waves of a voice.

  4. The receiver then decodes the message and offers feedback which the sender uses to determine if the message has been received and how it has been perceived.

  5. Noise is anything that may interrupt the channel, which in marketing communication may include competing messages.

  1. Connectors are media, groups, or individuals who act as a channel for a marketing message, resulting in media mentions or the creation of word-of-mouth.
  1. Methods of making contact with connectors vary, but the marketing communicator should take care to identify connectors that will promote the message most effectively.

  2. The message is filtered through the connectors who have the option of changing the message, or not using the message at all.

  3. The audience in marketing includes the intended receivers of the promotional message.

  1. In MPR there are two audiences: the connector who must be enticed to use the message; and the intended receiver, usually the consumer.

  2. Understanding of the intended audience, and the connectors, is crucial in getting the message delivered.

Chapter Summary

Marketing encompasses all efforts to change or maintain the behavior of consumers or businesses relative to a product, typically the purchase of a product or service in exchange for money. However, marketers need to remain aware MPR activities may not directly result in the sale of a good. MPR activities foster communication between a firm and its publics to promote word of mouth and media mentions, ideally leading to positive perception of the firm and its products. Such activities may also lead to sales, but not always.

MPR is one of the elements in marketing communication, or the promotional mix, which is designed to inform, persuade, and remind consumers of products. This mix includes the marketing activities of advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, direct marketing, and public relations. An organization may use all these tools in a process called integrated marketing communications (IMC)

IMC includes advertising (any paid form of promotion), sales promotion (short term incentives to encourage purchases), personal selling (presentation by the firm’s sale staff), direct marketing (use of direct mail, phone, direct response TV, e-mail and Internet to communicate directly with potential customers), and public relations (building good relationships and image, as well as heading off unfavorable rumors/crises).

Like IMC, MPR includes some of each of these categories, but places greater emphasis on PR tactics.

Traditionally, advertising and PR both used mass media outlets, but advertising was paid while PR was not. That line has been blurred. MPR and even traditional PR often utilize paid advertising, often in a combined campaign with other PR tactics.

Teaching Tips

Tip #1:

Be sure students understand the trade-off between advertising and public relations activities. Advertising’s benefits include ultimate control over the message: its specific content, timing, and what media outlets it appears in. On the other hand, messages transmitted through PR tactics lose that control. They may be changed, edited, or not even used. But in return, media consumers tend to look at PR messages as more credible. In addition, PR is not paid, so it can be less expensive, even with the cost of hiring a PR practitioner or having one on staff.

Consider the Super Bowl commercials as an example. People see the TV commercials, but those ads take on a life for themselves, being available well after the event. This is an extreme example of MPR and advertising working together. There are many others.
Tip #2:

The Super Bowl provides numerous opportunities for instructors to find examples of MPR at work. Each year there is a lot of “buzz” about the ads themselves. Students can access them online after the game. They do not need to watch the game.

Sales promotion and MPR work together to market a product. Consider point-of-purchase displays, coupons, and event marketing. Wal-Mart’s $4 prescription drugs united sales promotion and MPR, generating much publicity in the media with news stories and coverage.

Personal selling and MPR seem unlikely partners, but they, too, work in conjunction. Potential customers who are made aware of a product through MPR tactics are easier to “sell” once the sales staff contacts them. Media mentions and word-of-mouth present information to consumers in a nonthreatening manner.

Direct marketing and MPR interface in much the same manner as personal selling and MPR. MPR generates awareness, while direct marketing completes the process.

Viral marketing is a term recently created for use of the Internet as a marketing and promotional tool. Sometimes viral marketers create something not directly related to the organization or its products but is of great entertainment value. An example of this would be OfficeMax’s Elf Yourself during the winter holidays in 2007. Though not directly related to selling a product, the campaign still helped create a positive image for the company. Direct marketing and MPR worked together for immediate response, fostering long term relationships, spreading word-of-mouth, and eliciting media mentions.

Tip #3:

The Elf Yourself promotion may be repeated because of its success. Check out the OfficeMax Website well before the holidays.

None of the elements in marketing communications works in a vacuum and MPR is often what begins a campaign. Experts agree the best situation integrates all the elements of the marketing mix, including PR, advertising, sales promotion, MPR, and others.

The primary goal for marketing communication is to position the company in a desirable place relative to the competition. This is called positioning. Most consumers perceive information delivered by “news” outlets or word-of-mouth as more credible than information they receive through traditional advertising, giving MPR an advantage. A media credibility study of the fictional Zip Chips confirmed this concept.

If advertising and MPR provide roughly equal results, then there is an incentive to shift away from advertising and utilize more MPR tactics. MPR costs less, increases credibility, and contributes more to positive positioning. MPR maximizes exposure to many media outlets, while traditional advertising focuses on a small number of media outlets.

A successful marketing plan includes a positioning statement describing the way marketers intend consumers to perceive the product relative to its competitors. This statement is short, only four to six sentences, and serves as a decision making tool for marketers as they plan and implement a marketing campaign. The statement should answer: what do consumers think of the product; and how will they learn about it. Examples include Volvo, positioned as a “safe vehicle”, and BMW, positioned as “the Ultimate driving Machine.”

Integrated marketing communications follows the classical communication model, which is very similar to the pattern people follow in a conversation. Here a sender who has a message encodes that message into a form that is intelligible to a receiver. The message is then transmitted via a channel (anything that transmits the message—from broadcast equipment to simple sound waves in speaking). Then the receiver decodes the message and offers feedback (in either verbal or nonverbal form) that tells the sender whether the message has been received and how it was perceived.

In marketing, the sender is usually an organization with a product to sell or an idea to foster, and the message is designed to change or reinforce the behavior of the receiver. The channel is the media. Receivers are consumers the sender hopes to persuade. The desired feedback is the purchase of the product or acceptance of an idea. Feedback here is measurable consumer behavior.

This communication takes place in an open environment with many competing messages creating lots of noise (which interferes with the channel’s transmission of the message). Noise makes it uncertain whether the message reached and was understood by the receiver.

Media outlets, groups, or individuals who act as a channel for a marketing message are called connectors. MPR needs to consider the audience of proposed connectors, what type of message they use, and how to contact them. Once the message is delivered to a connector, control of that message is sacrificed. Media outlets have the final word on which messages they choose to transmit, and how they might change the message (edit or change it), as well as the timing of when that message will be transmitted. Media theorists call this ability to choose and change a message gatekeeping.

Tip #4:

For an in class activity, have students in small groups compile a list of all the connectors in your area. They should include newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and Internet sources they use commonly. Discuss with them the social media—interactive websites including Facebook and YouTube.

Many students use clever or suggestive online names and addresses for themselves. Discuss with them how that may affect how others view them. Especially relevant is the fact that President Obama asked applicants for positions on his team for ALL online addresses and names people may have used.
Loss of control of the message is offset by the credibility lent to a message in this process. Consumers tend to consider these messages more credible than paid advertising. However, a drawback may be that the media outlet may also express its opinion of the message.
MPR needs to carefully choose its channels to suit the message it chooses to transmit. The Anheuser Busch Swear Jar campaign used language inappropriate for TV, but acceptable for the Internet for this very funny ad campaign. Traditional media still covered the campaign, creating a “buzz”.

It is also crucial to understand your audience, in MPR it is typically the intended receivers of a promotional message. To complicate things further, in MPR there are two intended audiences: the connectors (media, groups, or individuals) and the intended receiver (typically consumers). MPR needs to carefully choose the connector to reach the intended receiver. The first hurdle for the MPR marketer is to entice the connector to accept and transmit the message. Success means knowledge of the connectors and the receivers you wish to reach.

Tip #5:

Instructors should stress the importance of carefully choosing the right media outlet/connector to reach their target audience. Even the best message, if transmitted by the wrong media, is sure to fail.

Key Terms

Advertising: Any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor.
Audience: The intended receivers of a promotional message.
Buzz: Synonymous with word-of-mouth.
Connectors: Media, groups, or individuals who act as a channel for a marketing message resulting in media mentions or word-of-mouth.
Direct Marketing: The use of direct mail, phone, direct responses TV, e-mail, the Internet, and other tools to communicate directly with carefully targeted individual consumers in an attempt to obtain an immediate response and to cultivate lasting customer relationships.
Exchange: A transaction in which a person or organization trades a definite quantity of one substance for a definite quantity of another.
Integrated marketing communications: The concept under which a company carefully integrates and coordinates its many communications channels to deliver a clear, consistent, and compelling message about the organization and its products.
Media mentions: The spoken, written, or visual reference to a product presented through mass media or other incidence where one source has the attention of many people or organizations.
Noise: Anything tangible or intangible that interferes with the transmission of a message from a sender to receiver or with the comprehension of the message by the receiver.
Personal selling: Personal presentation by a firm’s sales force for the purpose of making sales and building customer relationships.
Positioning: The way that consumers perceive a product relative to its competitors

Positioning statement: A statement describing the way that the marketers intend customers to perceive the product relative to its competitors

Public relations: The function of building good relations with the company’s various publics by obtaining favorable publicity, building a good corporate image, and handling or heading off unfavorable rumors, stories, and events.
Sales promotion: Short-term incentives to encourage the purchase or sale of a product or service
Viral marketing: The marketing phenomenon which facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message. The message spreads “like a virus”.
Word-of-mouth: Information spread from person-to-person through spoken or written word where the communication is personal, intentional, and concerns a product.

Relevant Websites

Social media websites: Facebook at and MySpace at
Youth marketing website: —presents an MTV spin on marketing products to teens and 20-somethings.

Concept Case 2.1

How can our company, The Falcon’s Lair, integrate MPR practices with the other elements of the marketing communication mix?
*advertising: solicit media to report on new advertising techniques (blogs, podcasts, e-mail, etc.); solicit media to report on innovative/controversial ads
*sales promotion: publicize a visit from a famous climber in conjunction with a sale

*personal selling: publicize knowledge of the sales staff

*direct marketing: announce launch of a new catalogue

  1. Cite some other ways The Falcon’s Lair might use MPR together with advertising and personal selling to help improve business.

Student responses will vary, but might include use of various media outlets. For example, inviting a radio station to broadcast from the store, running a contest in a newspaper, having speakers from the staff appear on a TV show.

  1. Find an example of a real company using MPR in conjunction with one of the other elements of the marketing mix and explain what you think the company is trying to accomplish.

Again, student responses will vary according to what is occurring in their area at the time.

Concept Case 2.2 Positioning Statement

The following is a possible positioning statement for The Falcon’s Lair:

The Falcon’s Lair is a premiere hiking and camping store that serves everyone from the master climber to the youth hiker. Our products are a collection of the best hiking and camping equipment available, and our staff is experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful. Our customers rely on their relationship with us to make their time hiking and camping safe and enjoyable, and they know that personal service is part of every product we sell.

1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this positioning statement?

Student responses will vary, but might include positives such as wide range of audience/customers, quality products, and knowledgeable staff. Negatives might include use of premier instead of “leading” (might denote expensive?), length, and it does not answer how customers will learn about the product/store.

2. How could you improve it?

See above.

End of Chapter Questions

Reflection Questions

  1. People commonly perceive a marketing exchange to be the trade of a good or service for money. List and describe other types of exchanges that do not include a good, a service, or money as part of the exchange.

Student responses will vary, but may include reference to exchanges geared to enhance a firm’s image (such as some companies using environmental issues).

  1. Explain the five elements of the marketing communications mix.

Advertising: paid nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor
Sales Promotion: short term incentives to encourage purchase of product or service
Personal Selling: presentation by the firm’s sales force to make sales or build customer relationships
Direct Marketing: use of direct mail, phone, direct response TV, e-mail, Internet or other tools to communicate directly with consumers for an immediate response and to cultivate lasting customer relationships
Public Relations: building good relations with a company’s various publics with favorable publicity, building good corporate image, and handling or heading off unfavorable rumors, stories, and events (crises PR).

  1. Discuss how MPR is used in conjunction with the other elements of the marketing communications mix.

Smart marketers use all the tools available to them, including traditional PR, MPR, advertising, sales promotion, personal selling, and direct marketing. MPR complements and supports these other parts of the marketing communication mix. However, using these in concert makes it difficult, and often impossible, to ascertain which part of the mix worked best.

4. What is a positioning statement and how does it serve the marketer?

Positioning refers to the place consumers perceive a product to inhabit in relation to its competition. A positioning statement is part of a successful marketing plan describing the way marketers envision their product to be positioned relative to the competition. The statement focuses on what consumers think of the product and how they will learn about the product. The statement is used to provide direction to marketers.

5. Describe and differentiate between the standard communication process and the MPR communication process.

The standard communication process includes a sender with a message, transmitted over a channel to a receiver who can then decode the message and provide feedback. Noise may interfere with the message transmission. With MPR the sender is an organization that wants to influence a public relative to a product, service, or issue. The channel needs to be carefully chosen to reach the right audience. The objective of MPR is to obtain media mentions, create word-of-mouth. The channels used in MPR are called connectors.

6. Explain what a connector is and list several examples.

Connectors are channels used in MPR. They include media, group, or individuals who act as channels for a marketing message resulting in media mentions or word-of-mouth.

  1. For each of the following industries, list as many companies or products as you can, and discuss their positioning in their respective markets.

Student responses will vary, but may include:

  1. Fast food

McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s—all about equal, with McDonald’s usually performing the most MPR activity and advertising

  1. Automobiles

All the major makers warrant mention

  1. Airlines

Responses will vary with what company is doing the most advertising/promotion at the time

  1. Soft Drinks

Coke and Pepsi will be major players, followed by Dr. Pepper and 7Up

  1. Coffee (retail, by the cup)

Retail makers vary, Starbuck’s and probably McDonald’s Mc Café lead by the cup sales and promotions

Application Assignments

Student responses will vary widely depending upon which company is selected and what is currently featured on their websites. All companies are upscale, high end retailers and can be expected to utilize superior Web design. Connectors can be expected to be all major national media outlets.

Practice Portfolio

Again, student responses will vary widely, depending on current events as well as the practice company developed by the student. Students should be encouraged to incorporate the theory from the chapter into these exercises.

Additional Exercises

  1. Consider adding an on-going exercise, an MPR event journal. Students can be asked to continue this assignment throughout the semester, handing it in for grading at regular intervals. In addition, they can be asked to discuss their findings with the class as an in class exercise.

For this assignment, students are asked to observe traditional media, including newspapers, television news, radio news, and Internet news sources. They should find a story they feel was created by or influenced by MPR. These stories should not be difficult for them to find, as most news outlets use many MPR-generated news releases every day.

Once they locate a story, they should apply the theory they have learned in class to it. Students may express their opinion as to whether they think it has been effective/successful MPR, or if there should be any changes.

Discussion of these events can be lively, so be prepared to mediate any arguments or debates.

  1. Ask students to think of any non-MPR PR tactics that could be used in conjunction with MPR tactics to support their journal events. These may also be discussed in class.

  2. Because students are generally very aware of fast food promotions, consider asking them to consider a recent promotion, perhaps tied in to a motion picture release. They are frequent promotions, so there should always be one or more available for discussion. Students should be prepared to apply the theory from the text and in class lecture to their opinion of the promotion.
  3. Ask students to list the connectors within your geographic area. Then ask them to list connectors on a national level. Repeat the request for international connectors, which may require some research online. Point out that MPR practitioners may work on a local, state, national, and international level and need to be able to identify these connectors at each level.

  4. Have students look at a newspaper and ask them to identify advertising. Then ask them to identify editorial copy. Ask them to find an example of advertising that has been disguised as editorial copy. These stories are usually identified in very small print as advertising. Ask students which message they would believe.


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