Sunday, 7 October 2012


Understanding Source, Message and Channel factors

Understanding Source, Message and Channel factors

In this part, we are going to understand the three major components of the communication process –
1.      Source 
2.      Message, and
3.      Channel factor
The receiver will be discussed in the subsequent posts.

These are the factor which can be controlled by the communicator (the marketer) in order to achieve a desired persuasion of the receiver (the target customer).
 Who delivers the message, what kind of appeal to use, and the channel of communication- all play a very significant role in the process of communication for a marketer. The steps involved in the process of message conveyance are :
1.      Message presentation
2.      Attention
3.      Comprehension
4.      Yielding
5.      Retention, and
6.      Behaviour

Source factors:

The question to ask here is - When Tiger Woods appears in an ad of Nike or Tag Heuer or Buick, what is the source? Is it he himself, the company or a combination of the two? We will try to find out.
Well, a source is a person involved in communicating a marketing message, either directly or indirectly. The characteristics of the source affect the advertising message and in turn the consumer behaviour and consumer purchase decision. There are three basic categories of source attribute which a marketer must bear in mind. These are:
1.      Credibility
2.      Attractiveness, and
3.      Power

Source Credibility

The credibility of a source comes from expertise, trustworthiness or a combination of the two. Does Tiger Woods give the credibility, the brand he endorses demands? Well, depends upon the perception of the consumers about him. And a marketer has to be careful in understanding that perception.
 The use of expertise and trustworthiness helps in creating a positive attitude towards the message and hence leaves a positive influence on the receiver.
Using celebrities (like him), experts in the given domain or corporate leaders (in case of Dell), as the spokesperson generally help in giving credibility to the message being delivered.
Also, several studies have shown that a high credibility source is not always an asset and low credibility source is not always a liability. It depends upon the position that the target audience is in before viewing the commercial advertisement. This is because of the Sleeper Effect, whereby the persuasiveness of a message decreases with the passage of time.

Source Attractiveness

Next important aspect is attractiveness of the source. It leads to persuasion through the process of identification. The source of the message should be attractive enough to concentrate the viewer’s attention towards the advertisement but not to an extent that it overshadows the brand itself.
For example- Lindsay Wagner appearance in Ford commercials proved to be very successful. She proved to be very effective in communicating the message to the consumers while still not overshadowing the brand.
It has also been suggested that celebrity endorsers bring their meanings and image into the advertisement and transfer them to the product they endorse. For instance, PowerBar, the leading brand of energy performance bars, uses the Lance Armstrong’s image of a strong competitor, fighter and determination in their advertisements. And he proves to be a very effective endorser here.
Also, looking from the perspective of the celebrities, who appear in a number of commercials, it leads to an overexposure, which may give negative results in sending across the desired message. This is because the consumers are aware that they are being paid for the commercials. Hence, their appearance in too many commercials is detrimental to the credibility of the message.
Meaning movement and the endorsement process
Thus, a celebrity’s effectiveness as an endorser depends upon the culturally acquired meanings he/ she brings to the endorsement process.

Source Power

A source has power when it can actually administer rewards and punishments to the receiver. This power is a function of:
1.      Perceived control
2.      Perceived concern, and
3.      Perceived scrutiny
For example, in a personal selling situation, the sales representative may have some power over a buyer in case the latter anticipates receiving special awards on complying with the salesperson.

Message Factors:

Order of presentation

Research on learning and memory generally indicates that items presented first and last are remembered better than those presented in the middle. Presenting the strongest arguments at the beginning assumes a primacy effect while, doing that at the end assumes a recency effect.

Conclusion Drawing

Research indicates that, in general, messages with explicit conclusions are more easily understood and effective in influencing attitudes. However, this depends upon the target audience, type of topic/ issue at hand and the nature of the situation.
For instance, stating the conclusion is necessary for a less educated audience. But, open- ended ads work better for highly involved audiences.

Message sidedness

Message can be either one sided (stating only the positive attributes) or two sided (presenting both good and bad points). Depending upon the market share and image associated, a particular message type can be chosen.

Comparative advertising

This is the practice of directly or indirectly naming the competitors for the purpose of comparison. Ethical issues may be associated with the same.


The relationship between persuasion and fear can be explained by the fact that, fear appeals have both facilitating and inhibiting effects.

Relationship between fear levels and message acceptance


Humorous advertisements are often the best known and best remembered of all advertising messages. However, their effectiveness reduces with every watch. As someone once has rightly said, “The first time the ad is funny, the second time the ad is acceptable, and the third time it is a bore”. One should also keep in mind that “if the viewers laugh with you, you can be in it for the long haul. It’s when they laugh at you that you are in trouble”.

Channel factors:

Personal vs Non Personal Channels

Personal channels of communication turn out to be more persuasive that the non-personal channel(s) of mass media. The difference lies in the personal influence and customization in the case of personal channels.

Effects of alternative mass media

There I a basic difference in the manner and rate at which information from various forms of media is transmitted and can be processed. Information from ads in print media is self-paced, thus can be used to give extensive information. While the information given on broadcast media is externally paced thus, the message needs to be short and effective at the same time.

Effects of context and environment

The medium communicates an image that is independent of any message it contains. The Qualitative media effect is the influence of the medium on the message.


The problem of clutter is very intriguing for the advertisers in today’s world of information overload. Thus, the importance of being as direct and effective in the minimum time possible besides being able to grab attention has increased dramatically.


The Epitome of Achievement- Rolex

The people who fall in the category of Achievers are usually motivated by the desire for achievement. They are successful, goal oriented people who focus on and are deeply committed to their career and their family. They are politically conservative and respect authority and status quo. They prefer harmony, obviousness and stability as they are risk prone, lack the urge for self-discovery. Brand image is the most attractive feature and they favour established, prestige products. The reason that could justify their liking towards the established brand would be the lack of time.
Mercedes Gleitze, 1st woman to swim across the English Channel in 1927; wore the Rolex watch Oyster for 14 hours and 15 minutes while was swimming in the English Channel. Still was in perfect condition; was showing accurate time.
The two paragraphs: Achievers and Mercedes with Rolex watch. What is ‘The Connect’ between the two?
Achievers, they want to associate themselves to the brands that have earned and achieved its name, its image, its brand. Rolex is one of the best examples in this segment. It has proved way back in 1927 or by attaching the watch to the submarine; double the pressure that deep sea divers experience.

1908, Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis started era of Rolex. Easy pronunciation, short enough to figure on the dial of the watch.  It is a luxury brand of watches, Swiss watches. In 1910 Rolex obtained in Switzerland the first official chronometer certification to a wristwatch. Hans Wilsdorf used the event (Mercedes Gleitze; 1st woman to swim across English Channel) for the advertisement and called it the ‘Wonder Watch that Defies the Elements’. With this Rolex started the testimonial advertisement and continuously associated themselves with the most extreme achievements (Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay and Jacques Picard).
After the death of Hans Wilsdorf in 1960, a private trust was created. This insured that the company will never be sold, hence the board of directors would not have to worry about distributing the dividend to their shareholders instead they reinvested for the betterment and improvement of the company in the various fields, to name few, distribution, after sales services, research and development and promotion. They, therefore, focus on long term achievements and develop strategy accordingly.
Rolex was 71st on the list of 100 most powerful brands by Business Week in 2007.
Product – Rolex is a Swiss Luxury Watch brand with various models like Explorer, Submariner and Cosmograph. The Rolex watches are known for the accuracy, highest satisfying quality and limited designs. They were the first ones to get the certification for the wristwatches.

Price – The Rolex watches maintain has the functional benefit of accurate time teller and benefits of possession of having the luxury product and therefore they are towards the higher end on the scale of price. “Pilot” range start at £5250 whereas Diamond studded watches cost more. The Rolex limited edition watches are even more expensive. They have produced the costliest watch ever ‘the GMT Ice’ £485,350.

Place – Rolex is preferred by its customers globally, who remain loyal to this brand. They follow a rigorous channel selection method for selling its watches. In major cities Rolex has its own retail outlets. In India they also sell through Multi Brand Outlets line Shopper’s Stop.
Promotion – Rolex has smaller but loyal customer base and therefore it is very important for them to reach and communication to their target customers effectively. Rolex has its own brand image and they rely heavily on this factor for attracting customers. It invests heavily on brand ambassadors, like Roger Federer, to increase its brand value and in turn attract more customers.
If Rolex follows the traditional advertising channels they will hinder their own image severely. They cannot afford to invest in traditional advertising channels. To earn enough sales and keep the company profitable it is essential for the company to have an aggressive marketing strategy. They follow a slow but sure way of customer development through brand building. Through subtle imagery of a premium, aspirational product worn by high achievers, Rolex has carved for itself a niche in the customer’s mindshare.

Current Strategy –

Conservatism and tradition are the two credos of the Rolex’s strategy: same product and same communication in the last few decades. The company has been able to gain sustainable advantage over the years owing to its unique communication strategy and differentiation. The brand has always personified achievement and has kept nurturing this ‘myth’ on account of successful celebrity endorsement. It also maintains a part of mystery around its brand in order to cultivate the legend.
For a long time, it has been considered a male watch, but lately they began efforts for women to like it too. Another important theme of the strategy has been the backward vertical integration. This helped them to secure future supply. Finally, going into the untapped potential of emerging markets has been on their agenda.

Communication –

Advertisement Categories
Personalities/ Events
Product Campaigns

The current marketing communication strategy features two distinctive categories of advertising as shown in the figure. The communication strategy of Rolex is very elaborated and specific. The key points of their strategy rely on the use of sponsorship and particularly celebrity endorsement and the emphasis on being a mysterious brand.

Celebrity Endorsements –

As mentioned above testimonial advertising has been main key to their communication strategy from a very early stage. Even though the strategy has evolved but the association of a successful personality to the brand is still the heart of the communication.
Earlier the task of the ambassador was to provide a testimony to the robustness of the brand. But today product functionality has become an order qualifier from being an order winner before. Now the link between the ambassador and the product is a lot more subtle. Rolex tries to exalt individual success choosing strong personalities, representing their time and their discipline. From dance choreographer Maurice Béjart, ice skater Peggy Fleming, photographer Helmut Newton, opera singer Placido Domingo and golf player Arnold Palmer to the explorer Sir Edmond Hillary, Rolex has always chosen the best people of their category to represent them.
In line with the idea of a long term strategy, Rolex uses a selective marketing strategy which goal is to target very directly the desired customer. They do not use artists that are “hot in the moment” to have periodically picks of sales linked to the use of the superstar. On the contrary, the chosen celebrities have a sustainable character. In fact, Rolex ambassadors are famous only in “niche” activities like golf, equestrian and sailing just to name a few and are unlikely to provoke demonstration because most of the time they are unknown by the general public.
Therefore, Rolex is the incarnation of success, accomplishment and going beyond one’s limits. It is definitely the watch people buy when they have achieved something in their life. The design of the watch went through so minor changes that it is recognizable at first sight and most people could identify a Rolex very easily. At the same time, they will assume the person wearing it is an achiever and that he/she can afford it to buy a Rolex watch.
Rolex has a very large range of communication themes, among them dance, equestrian, exploration, golf, racing, sailing, tennis, jazz, opera and classical music. What is more, Rolex is robustly involved in philanthropy: it is the initiator of a mentoring program, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, launched in 2002 as well as the Rolex Awards for Enterprises launched in 1978.

Mystery –

“Mystery opens up emotion. Mystery adds to the complexity of relationships and experiences. It lies in the stories, metaphors, and iconic characters that give a relationship its texture. Mystery is a key part of creating loyalty beyond reason.” (Kevin Roberts, CEO worldwide Saatchi & Saatchi, The future beyond brands: love marks).
Thanks to the lack of financial information about the company, the particular status that the brand enjoys and their communication strategy, Rolex without doubt is one of the most mysterious brands in the world. And this mystery adds to the charisma of the brand.
First, Rolex tells great stories that feed the brand identity and build inspiration. The celebrity/event advertisements always start with a catching sentence followed by a short text presenting the achievement of the celebrity/event:
“You have 100 days to travel 3924 km on foot. By the way you are in Antarctica.”
This is not only the watch of collectors but also of the speculators. In fact, the model is introduced with extreme frugality on the market; the difficulty in finding one adds a lot to its status. The beginning of this passion can be tracked back in the 1970s when Paul Newmann was wearing it in the movie "Winnings" where he was a race car driver. Now, the models are very demanded and can be bought in a jewellery store and resold right away with up to 20% added value.

Female Customers –

Roles wanted to move away from the identity of being a “male’ watch, and the opportunity of increasing their presence on the female segment is identified.  However, the company still seems having troubles implementing it and attracting woman.
In the end of 2004, Rolex has presented new pictures of some of its woman ambassadors in its advertisements. The pictures still presents the celebrity in her environment (golf, etc) but the picture look a lot more glamorous now. Finally, mechanical watches were usually designed for male with the idea that “women do not understand technology anyway” and that quartz watch with a nice design were more appropriate for them. This tendency is slowly changing and women also want to buy technological timepieces. Therefore, Rolex cancelled all the quartz movement in the Oyster feminine line the next year. This was a very innovative move compared to its competitors.
With the strategy of backward integration, Rolex confirms that it is true watch making group that privilege the total control of all aspects linked to the quality of its product instead of the development of a multi brand portfolio. Rolex SA Geneva owned by Wilsdorf foundation and Rolex Bienne produced movements exclusively for Rolex SA Geneva, were the two different entities. Rolex SA decided to buy Rolex Bienne so that it’s provisioning of movements.
Rolex is a watch company but has established itself more than just a time checker. Elegance, celebrity and class are the few words that can be associated with this brand- Rolex. It represents the hi-class fashion and the spirit of achievement. Rolex is WIMBLEDON. Rolex is THE MASTERS GOLF TOURNAMENT. Rolex is LE MANS.
It has come first in a list of UK’s top consumer brands for the first time in its history.