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what is a communication strategy: simplifying the complex

There is no exact statistics on how many companies have closed in the last 5 years, but usually this number is not less than 50%. That means, even with the most optimistic forecasts, the chances of your company's doors being open in 5 years are 50/50. Especially now, as the crisis and sanctions situation has narrowed markets to the size of actual solvency and intensified competition.

Is your income too low? Online discounters taking away your customers? Advertising no longer works? Looking for external reasons is a common mistake of many business owners and marketers. Communication strategy adapts the company's communication to external changes and helps to survive the crisis with fewer losses.

Professionals always have a plan

Communication strategy is a complex impact of the company on the external environment (not vice versa!) with the aim of creating favorable conditions for stable and profitable market activity through communication with the customer. What does it look like in practice? In fact, it is a set of research and a creative advertising concept created on its basis. Imagine an archer shooting arrows into the fog, hoping to hit the target. Of course, by releasing many arrows in random directions, he may still hit it. And this is how many companies work. But any self-respecting marketer will consider this method reckless, because he may not have enough arrows (i.e. money) for such a quantity of shots at his audience, which will bring return on investment. If we are talking about serious brands, none of them can do without a thought-out communication strategy. None of them will tell you, "Who needs your plan? We'll figure it out!" Communication strategy is your plan.

Goals of communication strategy

When developing a communication strategy, it is important to see the ultimate goal and understand what you are doing it for - for example, to attract new customers, increase the average bill or increase profits.

Here are the most common goals set when developing a communication strategy:

  • — increase brand awareness
  • — expand the circle of potential customers
  • — increase audience awareness of the brand and its products
  • — establish partnerships
  • — neutralize negativity
  • Any goal should be measurable, which will make the strategy more grounded and precise.

    Promotion, positioning, advertising

    The tasks of a communication strategy are determined by business goals. What does this look like in practice? Agencies offering communication strategies may have different services with varying composition and duration:

    1. Emphasis on promotion, where the client receives a ready-made promotion plan as a result:

    • — market research
    • — identification of effective communication channels
    • — recommendations on promotion channels with a detailed media plan

    This communication strategy with an emphasis on promotion is used when creativity is not as important as where to place it, why these channels, and how many people will see it. For example, a cosmetic brand's frequent message is to give women a sense of their own beauty. Therefore, the company should focus on finding platforms to place its ads where more of the target audience will notice it.

    2. Emphasis on positioning, where the client receives the basis of communication that can be used to create advertising campaigns:

    • — conducting quantitative or qualitative research during the analysis and hypothesis testing stage
    • — creating a communication platform
    • — separate advertising campaigns targeting different audience segments
    • — building long-term communication that will form the basis of advertising for several years

    For a natural chocolate brand, a communication strategy with an emphasis on positioning could be built around promoting the idea of a healthy lifestyle by creating a community of people who support it together. This will allow the company to occupy a certain niche in the natural food market and form a vision of an eco-brand.

    3. Emphasis on advertising, when the client receives a concept and prepared materials for launching an advertising campaign:

    • - communication research: analysis of brand communication and competitors, impact of external factors on communication, basic audience research
    • - creation of advertising campaign ideas for a specific audience segment with relevant visual and creative solutions in channels

    Initially, Nike positioned itself as a brand offering sportswear and footwear. However, the company changed its strategy and focused on promotion through values and community building. The most famous advertising campaigns are "Just Do It" and "If You Have a Body, You Are an Athlete," which have contributed significantly to Nike's success. When choosing a service, it is worth first determining the goal and desired outcome. Then you will know exactly why you need a communication strategy or, at a minimum, be able to clearly articulate your expectations in a brief. As a second step, we recommend finding out what the agency you have chosen invests in developing a communication strategy. Then you will have a clear idea of the result you will get in the end.

    What if the strategy is wrong?

    More often than not, businesses make mistakes when reflecting a communication strategy in an advertising campaign. The mishap occurs when you need to decide:

    • - where to place the advertisement
    • - what to write in the advertisement

    Surprisingly, "where" is often what companies focus on, as "what" seems to be self-explanatory. What does this lead to? The company develops an ideology, thinks about its positioning, wants to convey its main idea to people, but when it launches the ad, we see only price promotions and a few factual advantages that all competitors operate on.

    Will such advertising bring results? Definitely, having advertising is more effective than not having it, especially when promoted correctly. However, in the end, such an advertising campaign will be just another arrow of the archer in the mist - it will not help you build a brand image, it will be difficult for you to be remembered by the audience, and ultimately, you will attract the wrong customers who may not become loyal or even advocates of the brand.

    If a communication strategy is a way of developing an advertising campaign, then to make it effective, you should clearly know what it should lead to, which people to attract, and what to say to them to make them come. To do this, both the message and the promotion must be well thought out.

    How to make an advertising campaign effective?

    At ICU agency, we consider the development of a communication strategy to be a mandatory step in launching a successful advertising campaign, and we make it comprehensive:

    • — We study the product, market, competitors, audience, form insights, and a communication message
    • — We create a creative concept from a big idea, visual concept, and creative mechanics
    • — We include an ecosystem of channels and media planning in promotion

    Unfortunately or fortunately, a really good strategy remains a "unique" product. There are no universal solutions that can help novice strategists in every specific situation.

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