Marketing communication comprises five distinct marketing functions: sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and customer service. Each element of marketing communication deals directly with sending messages to consumers and receiving messages from them. These marketing functions operate differently than other marketing activities, such as product development, packaging and pricing, in that they operate in the dynamic, uncontrollable environment of the marketplace.
The core component of sales is the personal interaction between salespeople and customers. Traditional sales models, such as direct sales and retail sales, take advantage of this component to make customers feel welcome and at ease during their shopping experiences. Salespeople can make personalized recommendations for individual customers or answer detailed questions to help customers make purchase decisions. Technology has expanded the sales function beyond personal interaction, providing distinct advantages and disadvantages along the way. Customers can now make purchases online, through the mail, via text message and a range of other ways that completely circumvent the interaction with salespeople.
Advertising is the art and science of creating attention-grabbing messages and transmitting them across diverse media channels to consumers. Common advertising media include television, radio, the Internet, magazines and newspapers. Things like flyers, posters and business cards can be considered advertisements as well. The way advertising works, on a fundamental level, is marketers carefully study their selected target markets, then fine-tune advertising messages to appeal to that consumer group on as many levels as possible. Every tiny detail of an advertisement is meticulously planned, including the verbal and written messages, the colors, the sounds, the actors' demographic characteristics and the images portrayed. Every element is designed to move a target customer one step closer to completely desiring the advertised product or service.
Employing socially and environmentally responsible business practices carries inherent benefits, and informing the public of your socially conscious activities can accrue even greater benefits in the form of customer loyalty and a solid reputation. Public relations is the marketing discipline concerned with letting the public know about all the good things your company does. Public relations is a highly strategic activity, as marketers have to determine how to give back to society in the most meaningful ways and exactly how to spread the word most efficiently.
Customer service can often be overlooked when analyzing marketing communications, but this area of marketing can be more influential than sales experiences in building a loyal customer base. Customer service representatives work personally and directly with customers, who are usually experiencing some sort of problem with a product or service they already have purchased. Customer service reps often work with customers who are angry and emotionally vulnerable, making tact and conflict management skills essential to creating lasting, positive impressions in customers' minds.