The term ‘marketing communication’ speaks directly to the heart of marketing as a science. Marketing communication identifies at least four distinct marketing functions and studies them at length to form a composite picture of both the marketplace and the consumer.

Basically, it is all about sending messages out to the customer and analysing the responses. This, in turn, allows sellers and buyers to interact more effectively, creating greater profits as well as a higher degree of customer satisfaction. Other marketing functions, such as product development, packaging and pricing, are not identified as marketing communications.

The four identified forms of marketing communication are:

1)      Sales – Here we look at the interaction between buyer and seller, seller and buyer. In the most basic sense, this function is achieved if the salesperson helps you to make a purchase by starting a conversation with you, making a recommendation or answering your questions. This is also achieved via email messages exchanged between seller and buyer on online sites such as eBay.

2)      Advertising – Caught somewhere between propaganda and fine art, advertising is a science/art form entirely unto itself. Entire libraries have been written on the subject and yet still new and innovative (and occasionally invasive) advertising methods are currently being dreamed up in boardrooms around the world. As a form of communication, advertising addresses the buyer via interpolation; attempting to win him/her over, usually with a combination of lifestyle promise, fancy graphics and sex appeal (although not always). Advertising is carefully considered, even though it is a one-sided form of communication initially; the sales figures for the products themselves usually define the perceived customer response.

3)      Public Relations (or ‘PR’) – This is the act of addressing potential customers as well as existing customers. Building good PR is becoming more and more important to modern companies. Donating money to charity, ensuring that your products are ethically sound, or taking care of your employees in a positive and supporting way are all proven (and effective) forms of PR. Profits from PR are usually implied, as PR exercises typically cost money and bring in little, if any, revenue in the short term. However, once again, sales figures will constitute a consumer response. PR is also a direct way to reach the customer, demonstrating that your company is concerned with the same issues as they are. In the world of ‘ethical consumption’ that we live in today, PR is an especially important form of marketing communication.

4)      Customer Service – Although it often feels like a lost art these days, customer service is a vital pillar of any business’ ultimate success or failure. Customer service, as the name implies, indicates that your company is serving the customer. Think of it this way, if you were in a restaurant with a snarky, abusive waiter, would you think twice about visiting that restaurant again? However, if you were in a restaurant offering quality, efficient and friendly service, would you be more likely to eat there again? This function overlaps somewhat with Sales, but it also includes unique functions such as dealing with angry customers and fostering loyalty among buyers.

So, to sum up, marketing communication occurs whenever the seller addresses or interacts with the buyer, or vice versa. Any time any of the above functions are, um, functioning, you’ve got marketing communications going on.