A Six-Segment Message Strategy Wheel

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Date: Nov. 1999
From: Journal of Advertising Research(Vol. 39, Issue 6)
Publisher: World Advertising Research Center Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 5,721 words

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This article revisits the literature bases used to build message strategy models and develops a model that is more comprehensive than previous ones. Tests of the model's ability to capture consumer decision-making and to generate alternative strategies are presented. Other applications include plotting competitive strategies, generating product ideas, and comparing message strategies across cultures.

ADVERTISING MANAGERS generally accept that there is not one single way in which advertising works. Rather it depends on the advertising situation: the type of product, the nature of the target audience, the purchase motivation, and the importance of the decision to the consumer (Rossiter, Percy, and Donovan, 1991).

Kotler (1965) was among the first academicians to suggest that different approaches were needed for different buying situations. Kotler's pioneering work formed part of the conceptual basis for the FCB Grid (Vaughn, 1980), which has been a popular approach for determining creative strategy decisions during the past two decades.

Any management strategy model is likely to have weaknesses because including some dimensions in a model means excluding others. For example, a weakness of the FCB Grid is its inability to capture and account for the influence of social factors in the buying process (Ratchford, 1987). In addition, as models are tested empirically they are revised to account for research findings (Vaughn, 1986).

One way to remedy some of the weaknesses of a model is to return to its original literature base and determine if knowledge gained through empirical testing or recent theoretical thought can shed light on the problem areas. The purpose of this paper is to revisit the literature bases used in developing the FCB Grid in light of revealed weaknesses and to review other models and typologies of creative strategy with the aim of building a message strategy model that is more comprehensive than those currently available. This paper presents a new, more comprehensive model called the Six-Segment Message Strategy Model, discusses its applications and limitations, and suggests where further testing is needed to refine the model.


"Message strategy" or "creative strategy" generally refers to "what to say" in an advertising or marketing communications plan whereas "creative tactic and execution" refer to "how it is said." Frazer (1983) distinguished creative strategy as a policy or guiding principle that specified the general nature and character of messages to be designed. Laskey, Day, and Crask (1989) chose the term message strategy" because, for some authors, the term "creative strategy" implied both message content and execution. For this reason, this paper also uses the term "message strategy" to refer to a guiding approach for marketing communication efforts. The term "advertising" is often used in conjunction with "creative strategy"; however, there is no reason to limit the consideration of strategic, promotional communication efforts to advertising. Sales promotions, event marketing, and public relations efforts are as much in need of strategic communication planning as is advertising. Thus, the term "message strategy" can be d efined as "a guiding approach to a company's or institution's promotional...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A60905111