Consumer Perception of Communication
Organizations must keep in mind both the internal and external factors that influence audience perception during the communications process. Identifying and analyzing how consumers access marketing communications reveals their preferences in receiving information. With more and more brands cluttering the marketplace, consumers screen out the inconvenient and irrelevant messages that fail to address their needs and desires. Organizations that are able to successfully craft brand messages and products directly addressing consumer requirements have a competitive advantage over similar brands. (Figure 1)
Benefits of Listening to Consumer Preferences
Considering customer preferences makes communications more effective and more economical. Failure to follow consumers’ changing media preferences can be expensive. During the 1980s, cable television audiences grew rapidly. However, some advertisers were slow to react and continued to spend advertising dollars on the big television networks. As a result, advertising costs rose exponentially as brands fruitlessly searched for diminishing network audiences. Companies who listened to customer communication preferences and entered the cable market early reaped considerable advantages over competitors who failed to grapple with the changes in the consumer market.
Improving Communications Strategy
In the age of the Internet and digital communications, brands must carefully consider the timing and context of messages from consumers’ point of view. Companies must ask where the receiver is most likely to be receptive of the message. Besides market analysis, understanding the communications process, seasonal trends, purchasing cycles, or usage patterns can maximize the relevance of a brand’s messaging. For example, a person considering the purchase of a new car will be more receptive to marketing communications from a car dealership than a person who frequently uses public transportation.
The Consumer Perception Process
Once the consumer has recognized a problem, they search for information on products and services that can solve that problem. Consumers use a variety of sources, including:
- Personal sources
- Commercial sources
- Public sources
- Personal experiences
The internal psychological process that is associated with this information search is perception. Perception is defined as "the process by which an individual receives, selects, organizes, and interprets information to create a meaningful picture of the world." During the perception process, consumers enter different stages where they choose which promotional messages they will expose themselves to. These are usually the messages that are most in line with their beliefs, attitudes, motives, and past experiences. Some consumers will selectively listen to and remember messages that are more meaningful or important to them based on these internal factors. Organizations can source information from this perception process, using these data to develop an effective promotional strategy.
Once the consumer decides on the brands that appeal most to them, they compare the products in their evoked set. The evoked set refers to the number of alternatives considered by consumers during the problem-solving process. This set tends to be small relative to the total number of options available in the marketplace. To increase the likelihood that their brands are included in this shortlist, the marketing organization must understand the benefits consumers are seeking and the attributes most important to them during the decision-making process. Evaluating other competing brands in the consideration set also gleans important data for competitive analysis and proper marketing planning.