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Marketing communications as a strategic function
Marketing communications as a strategic function

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1 Barriers to a strategic view

Marketing communications is not always accepted as having strategic importance in organisations. This course examines some of the reasons for this, before exploring some recent arguments in favour of a strategic role for marketing communications.

One reason for seeing marketing communications as tactical rather than strategic is that much of its development and execution has been outsourced to marketing services agencies offering a range of specialisms (such as design, creative consultancy or sales promotion). This casts some doubt on its position as a core competence. Furthermore, much advertising and promotion thinking risks being short to medium term because the people and organisations involved are constantly changing.

Traditional rivalries between marketing communications disciplines (such as media advertising and public relations), and compartmentalised thinking amongst both clients and their agencies, have acted as a barrier to a holistic approach to the consumer. Schultz, et al. (1994) point out that planning marketing communications as if the different ways of reaching the consumer exist in isolation is essentially an organisation-centred view of marketing. A customer-centred view would acknowledge that customers pay scant regard to whether the communication in question is through advertising, public relations or any other channel. Communications are received (or not) depending on their relevance, timeliness, convenience and consistency with other messages. Integrated marketing communications, an approach which has gained considerable academic and practitioner endorsement since the 1990s, attempts to take the customer, not the organisation, as its starting point in designing a seamless web of communication. But the difficulty of its genuine implementation is another pointer towards why marketing communications can often be limited to a tactical rather than a strategic role.