Chapter 10 – Integrated Marketing Communications

10.5 Message Strategies


  • Understand what a unique selling proposition is and how it is used.
  • Understand different types of promotion objectives.
  • Identify different message strategies.

Utilizing a Product’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

When companies want to communicate value, they must determine which message strategies work best for them. Smart companies determine a product’s unique selling proposition (USP), or the specific benefit consumers should remember. Domino’s “Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free” is a good example of a unique selling proposition. Likewise, Nike’s global slogan “Just Do It” conveys that Nike products help athletes realize their potential, and influences consumers to imagine what they could accomplish when they use Nike products.

Nike and Coca-Cola have been extremely successful in adapting their promotions to different international markets. Both companies have very popular global brands. Sometimes the same promotions work in different cultures (or countries), but others must be adapted for different international audiences, similar to the way products may be adapted for international markets. Companies must be careful of how words translate, how actions are interpreted, how actors (or models) look, and what different colors in ads may mean.

When deciding on a message strategy, companies must consider the audience, the objectives of the promotion, the media, and the budget, as well as the USP and the product. The more advertisers know about the consumers (or businesses) exposed to the message, the better. Promotional messages for golf products shown during golf tournaments focus specifically on golfers.

Promotion Objectives

Companies must determine their promotion objectives. What are they trying to accomplish with their promotions? Are they trying to build awareness for a new product, are they striving to get people to take action immediately, or are they interested in having people remember their brand in the future? Building primary demand, or demand for its cold drink category might be one objective, but a company also wants to build selective demand, or demand for its specific brand, such as Tropicana orange juice.

Other common objectives follow the Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action (AIDA) model. First, companies focus on attention and awareness of a product or service. This is especially important for new offerings. If a consumer or business is not aware of a product or service, they will not buy it. Once consumers or businesses are aware of products or services, companies try to get consumers interested and persuade them that their brands are best. Ultimately, companies want consumers to take action or purchase their products or services.

Message Characteristics

Companies must determine what type of appeal to use and how to best structure their message. An appeal is an approach used to attract the attention of consumers and to influence their emotions toward the brand (Zhang et al., 2014). Some of the common emotional advertising appeals are humorous or frightening. Rational appeals use detailed information or logic to persuade. If you were asked to name your favorite commercial, would it be one with a humorous appeal? Many people like commercials that use humor because they can be entertaining and memorable. However, in a diverse world, and with societal norms changing, companies must be careful not to cross the line from humorous to insensitivity. In other words, it is important that the intended humor does not offend, and that the brand name, not the joke, is remembered.

Companies must also decide whether to use tactics such as an open-ended or closed-ended message; whether to use a one-sided or two-sided message; and whether to use slogans, characters, or jingles. An open-ended message allows the consumer to draw his or her own conclusion, such as a commercial for perfume or cologne (Figure 10.5).


Figure 10.5 – “Lan Ghost Enchanted Bloom Perfume AD” by Spice Boy is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

A closed-ended message draws a logical conclusion. Most messages are one sided, stressing only the positive aspects, similar to what you might include on your resume. However, two-sided messages, which include both positive and negative aspects of a product, can be effective and build trust in the customer. Pharmaceutical companies often show both the positive and negative aspects of using a drug. One example is the Buckley’s cough medication tagline “It Tastes Awful. And It Works.”

The order of presentation also affects how well consumers remember a brand. The beginning and the end of the message should be strong and include the brand name. This is informed by findings which reveal that people often recall the first and last few seconds of an advertisement more so than the middle. Thus, by putting the brand name at the beginning and end of an ad, marketers can ensure that consumers remember the brand.

Some companies use characters or mascots and/or jingles or slogans to increase the memorability of their ad campaigns. Check out some of the ones used by Green Giant to sell canned vegetables or the Energizer Bunny to sell batteries. While companies can build brand equity with these characters and use them for a long time, they must be careful to modernize them to reflect contemporary norms or values or be prepared to discontinue them. For example, in 2020, Quaker Oats announced plans to change the name of its pancake and syrup name and image from Aunt Jemima in order to stop the strong criticism that it was “perpetuating a racist stereotype.” (Kesslen, 2020).

‡ signifies new material that Ryerson University authors have added to this adaptation of Principles of Marketing published by University of Minnesota Library Publishing, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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