Revised 2018.01.21

Message, Channel, Audience

Marketing is fundamentally about getting a message through a channel to an intended audience. From road signs and emails to posters and radio commercials, marketing abounds in different forms. The effects of marketing can be distilled into 3 key concepts: the offer of opportunity, the touch of emotions, and the provision of knowledge. Combined, these effects draw immediate and delayed consequences, notably including charity, sales, and inspiration.

In the message, every detail matters. Controllable factors include the size and duration of the message, the colors and shapes, the font and spacing of text, the music and narration, the sounds of the active scene and background. Evaluate the general statements, the concrete details, the call to action, and the elements that engage/inspire/entertain.

The channel is the context and environment in which the message meets the audience. The channel shapes the experience of the audience, based on the medium of the message, the advertisement timing and frequency, the physical location of the channel, the atmosphere of the channel, the ideas normally associated with the channel, the potential for discussion and interaction, and the voluntary/involuntary elements.

The audience interprets different meanings based on their mood, their prior knowledge, their beliefs, the time, the scope of the topic, the duration of the message. Also consider their background, culture, aspirations, and interpretive habits. Their attention is driven by relevance and interest.

Options, Intent, Meaning

The first step of a marketing plan is to know all your options. Marketing options are fundamentally about integrating your message into life experiences. From waking up and eating to washing up and sleeping, all individuals live through routine and unique experiences. Marketing essentially aims to latch onto these experiences, be they physical such as conducting transportation, sports, and retail shopping; or digital such as checking email, news, and movies.

Second, accounting for limited marketing options, determine a clear intent. Marketing intentions are best when specific and actionable, falling into common general categories. Brand-oriented marketing intends for the audience to associate happy thoughts with the name and logo of the company. Sales-oriented marketing intends for the audience to go to a store or website then buy a specific product or service. Public safety marketing intends for the audience to behave defensively, such as with a reminder to drive slowly during snowy conditions.

Third, with specific options and clear intent, design the message and its meaning. Take the perspective of the audience and consider the minimum information they need. Information and interactive elements can help escalate the engagement conveniently. Knowledge and demonstrations can explain unfamiliar details and convince faster decisions. Aesthetics can stimulate wondrous attention and funnel clear navigation.


Direct and indirect marketing revolves around the attention of the audience. People cast their focus on the things they consider to be normally important, such as meaningful colors, human-like outlines, word-like sounds, laughter and cries, and unfamiliar smells. Direct marketing works within that attention for highly visible, important information. Indirect marketing works outside that attention for subliminal engagement and to increase the voluntary aspect of engaging the message.

Direct marketing branches toward the idea of disruption, the degree to which the audience is pulled away from their core experience. Good marketing minimizes disruption by keeping messages short, making messages optional, allowing messages to be skipped, timing messages during audience downtime, placing messages on the side, and, ideally, integrating messages with the core experience in a seamless way.

Example: Directly, airport signs use large letters, consistent colors, and easily viewed positions to help people navigate the building. Indirectly, product placement in movies tends to be low-key so it does not detract from the core experience, which would otherwise generate ill will from viewers driven out of immersion.

General and specific marketing addresses the abstract and exact content of the message. Abstract content aims to be persistently true, easily understood, and emotional. Exact content aims to be objectively true, clearly understood, and rational. General marketing tends to be more reusable and more engaging with a wide audience. Specific marketing tends to be more actionable and more useful for the intended audience.

Example: General ads may extol tourism to a particular continent; this promotes the drive to travel the world across many people. Specific ads may highlight a limited-time offer for an all-inclusive trip to a specific city at a specific price and schedule; this promotes a real opportunity for travelers and vacationers who are currently looking for a destination.

Targeting concerns proper channel selection to reach the intended audience. The scope of the message determines whether it is better to reach a small number of interested people or a large number of general people.

Example: A banner ad on a video game forum might reach a small number of people, but could attract customers quite cost-effectively, given the right, related product. Conversely, a large-screen ad at a sports stadium event may reach a lot of people, but stakes the message relevance on enough interested people to make the cost worth it.

Context involves the factors affecting the mood and immediate thought patterns of the audience. What is the audience doing as they discover your message? How easy is it for them to divert attention from their primary activity? How might the meaning of the message tilt from the local thought patterns emitted from the immediate surroundings into the specific intentions and considerations of the audience?

Example: The sign near a museum's exit that directs visitors to the gift shop.

Word of Mouth

Cost: Time

Talk with contacts who are most likely to be interested. Accept disinterest in stride. Keep questions simple. Be brief unless they show large interest. Show gratitude.

Action: Approach a friend or family member. Tell them that you are working on a new business or project. Ask them if they would be interested in providing feedback on the current website. If they accept, ask for an honest answer to a few simple questions, such as whether the website looks good on a scale of 1-5. Also tell them that you would like to learn what would need to improve in order for them to be willing to mention the website to others. This is the honest way to request word-of-mouth without pushing your messages while they are of premature quality.

Email List

Typical Unit Cost: under $1

Sending emails to a subscriber list is a cost-effective way to promote announcements, sales, and new products to an existing customer base. Highly recommended.

Acceptable Frequencies. Aggressive; once per week. Standard; once per month. Passive; once per quarter or year. Exceptions; emails pertaining to announcements, holidays, upcoming/recent events, reminders.

Personalized Emails

People like responding to messages that are relevant for them and have effort put into them. Personalized emails are effective because they specify what you understand about and are requesting from the other person, clarifying the relevance of the inquiry; though inefficient in terms of time, the personalized effort testifies to your genuine intentions about connecting with that particular person.

Product Branding

Typical Unit Cost: under $1

Product branding, such as company imprints and stickers, is mainly a passive advertisement noticed by users and bystanders. Because users may forget which products were from which companies over time, product branding can be a useful reference point when the product needs to be replaced, repaired, or maintained.

Beware the trap of over-sizing and over-coloring your brand attachment, which can sharply decrease your product's value. It should be inconspicuous enough relative to the product's size such that the user does not feel overwhelmed by the advertising element.

Search Engine Ads

Typical Cost: $100 and up. You can get results with as little as $5, but it costs more to run an effective campaign across weeks and months.

Bing Ads - Managed by Microsoft, this advertising network covers popular websites like DuckDuckGo, Bing, and Yahoo.

Google Adwords


Beginner's Guide to Crowdfunding - by Indiegogo

Effective Crowdfunding - Infographic

The top 2 crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter and Indiegogo.



TV Ads

Poster Ads

Newspaper Ads

Radio Commercials

Billboard Ads

On-vehicle Ads

Company Website Promotions

Ex. Seasonal sales displayed on homepage

Company Forums

Drives community Q&A for new and existing customers.

Company Blog

Ex. DigitalOcean Blog

Company Knowledge Base

Draws visitors. Educates customers.

Ex. Proto Labs Material Comparison Guide

Third-Party Website Banner/Video Ads

Ex. Youtube Ads

Forum Ads

Ex. Ads between threads and posts

Event Ads

Ex. Superbowl commercials

Event Presentations

Ex. scheduled talk with slideshow at farmers' conference


Ex. Edible samples at Costco.

Ex. Free trial period.


Ex. playable console games at store, self-driving car prototypes on road

Social Media Ads

Ex. Facebook feed ads

Review Articles/Videos

Especially by trusted figures in niche communities

Text Message Ads

Ex. Mobile carrier offers roaming data plans for sale when user is in another country


MailChimp - Email marketing automation service (freemium). Create web links for customers to subscribe to your email list. Manage and track the performance of email campaigns. Handle legally mandated functions such as email list unsubscriptions.