What is the difference between marketing objectives and communication objectives?

Post created by Jace Gersten (Applied IMC, Fall 2022)

This fall I managed a team of content creators in my Applied Integrated Marketing Communication class at WWU. Our project was to develop a product for the marketing program. This process started with learning about creative briefs and creative strategies. In content marketing, it is especially easy to get carried away with the excitement of a product and making it how you want, instead of strategically following client guidelines.  The purpose of these documents was to ensure our product did solve our client’s goals, and to also set objectives to measure whether our campaign was successful.

The lesson I learned from my experience was how important it is to create and understand our objectives from our creative strategy. We were introduced to 2 different types of objectives: marketing objectives, and communication objectives. The easiest way for me to explain communication and marketing objectives is by using the marketing funnel.

upside down pyramid flow chart from Awareness to Preference

If you are already a marketer, you will already know about the buyer’s journey and some version of the marketing funnel. Everyone has a slight variation of the marketing funnel (or pyramid), but all follow the same general concept of following the buyer's journey from awareness all the way to purchase. The way marketing objectives and communication objectives were explained to me when it all started to click was that communication objectives cover everything at the top of the funnel like awareness, knowledge, liking, and preference, while marketing objectives are only at the bottom of the funnel: purchase. This was something I wish we had spent more time to understand because it created even more confusion in the long run. Without clear objectives, it is difficult, or impossible to measure how successful your campaign was.

Marketing objectives are seemingly straightforward. Marketing objectives are companywide goals such as increasing revenue, market share, profit, etc. This was easy enough to understand in theory, but when we tried to put it into practice, we all struggled. Our issue as product managers was that our client was not a for-profit business with a simple marketing objective like increasing profit. Our client was our own marketing department. On top of that, we started off by getting vague unmeasurable goals from our client because this was our first time developing a marketing campaign, and we didn’t know the right questions to ask. We started off with goals like increase marketing alumni engagement and ended with clear marketing objectives like increase the number of alumni donations from 93 to 100 by June 2023.

We also struggled with communication objectives since they stem from marketing objectives. Communication objectives are objectives to meet in order to satisfy marketing objectives. Unlike marketing objectives, communication objectives are not as companywide and are usually more specific to the product itself. So, our communication objectives would focus on things like increasing awareness of our podcast among alumni, in order to hopefully satisfy our marketing objective of increasing donations.

The reason this was all so important, that we failed to understand until the end, was that in order to measure our success we needed clear, measurable objectives. If we had clarified our objectives earlier, we could have implemented tools like adding a link to the donation page on our website and video descriptions. With that link, we likely would have been able to see how many people clicked on it and had a much better proxy for determining how much we helped contribute to increasing donations. We fell for the common downfall of being so wrapped up in making our product awesome, without taking the time to make sure our product provided solutions to the problems we were trying to solve.