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Joshua Bains

Marketing Communications: The MarCom Matrix

Joshua Bains
Marketing Communications: The MarCom Matrix

This is about marketing communications.

And to remind you, here’s what Oxford says about the Matrix:

An environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure.”

The Marketing Communications Matrix is therefore the developer, medium and structure for what we’re marketing, whether that marketing serves:

  • search
  • products
  • service or
  • self promotion

It’s all growing from a messy petri dish called the MarCom Matrix, which is the strategic communication that helps your marketing goals.

You already know each piece, which are compiled by Bruce Bendinger in the book, The Copy Workshop Workbook:

  1. Public Relations and Publicity
  2. Sales Promotion
  3. Event Marketing
  4. Direct Marketing
  5. Advertising
  6. Digital Marketing

Maybe you disagree that I’ve relegated digital marketing to last place; many of us reading SEMrush probably think that digital marketing is itself the MarCom matrix.

You’re half right.

Today we have digital and physical options for each node of the MarCom Matrix because we’re in the midst of a technological crossover:

...Dox attacks poach your physical identity,

...SmartThings downloads to your appliances,

...Amazon wants you to browse live in...Indiana!

So the MarCom Matrix functions on two planes — one digital and another physical. It’s a double octave that creates a single stream of notes that the savviest businesses (or biggest) will play together as one.

You need to know this. Digital marketers with no sense of MarCom are like writers at Gawker who’ve never read The New York Times.

So think of a single idea for your business and how it would look in life through each of the following strategies ... that’s what Nike does.




  • Plus: Whether you’re selling or branding, this is the traditional form of marketing that gives you total control over messaging, mode of delivery and targeting to your prospects. Try to ignore a billboard or a pop-up and they’ll just burrow deeper into your brain.
  • Minus: Brains aren’t for burrowing into no matter what marketers think. Uninvited advertising is annoying. Ads enjoy the lowest credibility in the matrix. To pull them off properly you also need a lot of money, good marketing, creative direction and great writing.

Sales Promotion



  • I’m surprised how few clients think about including a promotion with their product or service. SEO goes for naught — even with good content — when there’s no icing to go with the product. You’ll convert more on screen or in person if you cut through the mental blubber and deliver something inspiring, impressive or FREE.

Ask yourself one question:

What incentive would make it almost impossible for someone to pass up your offer...?

Offer that.

Plus: Unlike advertising, sales promotions directly influence your profit

and often cost less to undertake. You’re providing an actionable, rational option to build recordable sales with high accountability.

Minus: You’re generally not adding mystique to your product - but it could happen if your promotion is part of a savvy, society-changing brand campaign.

Public Relations

PR Agence France Presse


I began to feel disillusioned with the news business when I realized that many stories begin life with a press release sent from the PR department of a company.

Plus: Make that work in your favor by finding the most newsworthy angle in your product or service. Companies wield dazzling power when they can find the story behind what they do. With PR you can turn advertising, products and services into mass movements once you hook the public’s imagination.

And if that’s too much, at least offer a notable story.

Like journalist Jimmy Breslin did when he avoided the main spectacle of President Kennedy’s funeral and instead interviewed the gravedigger who was excavating JFK’s plot at Arlington cemetery. He wrote an iconic piece of reportage for the New York Herald Tribune that is studied and remembered more than leading articles written about the event itself.

Tramping to the graveyard was all about Positioning. Breslin had to find the story that he could write for his column.

So do you.

If you know you’re number two (or 200) what is the message you or your brand can reliably tell?

Minus: PR magic only happens when your story is filtered through a reliable third party. I’m surprised when clients reject showing real testimonials about their services. Guarded companies that don’t tell a story fail to compel us with their brands.

On the other hand everyone hopes to make viral content. But if it’s contrived, ill-timed or irrelevant? It’s going nowhere. The good news is AFP prints 5000 stories a day. The bad news is they only print news.

... You need a real story to get in.

Direct Marketing



We’re all involved in marketing online, whether for a company or for ourselves, but this is just one part of the picture when you’re talking about the full force of the MarCom Matrix.

USC Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing, Ira Kalb, writes at The Huffington Post that digital marketers could be “far more effective if they better understood the other Direct Marketing methods…”

  1. Direct Mail
  2. Telemarketing
  3. Direct Response Advertising
  4. Direct Response Television
  5. Advergaming

To be fair, the people who know a lot about measuring success are direct and digital marketers. As Ogilvy wrote: “Every year we spend hundreds of millions of dollars of our clients’ money. At the end of it, what do we know? Nothing.”

Plus: You get high accountability with direct marketing and can choose your targets with fairly personal messages that have the potential to close more sales than advertising.

Minus: It’s expensive, and you need to know what you’re doing to create an effective campaign.

Professor Kalb writes: “Knowing how to use the Internet and its mobile ‘offspring’ in conjunction with direct mail, telemarketing, and direct response advertising can create a synergistic force for marketing products most efficiently and effectively.”

You can sell to certain clients online, and others, you just can’t.

Event Marketing



When your brand is mixed into an event, you can show off every facet of the MarCom Matrix.

  • Events are often third party to your company, or at least give that impression, which increases their value in the eyes of spectators and allows your advertising to rise with them.
  • Events are news. When you’re orchestrating a branding event or a product launch, you’ve entered the stream of social history that has the potential to give you a lot of free publicity. Product launches and general trade shows are newsworthy to outlets and to trade media.
  • Events give you reason to devise crafty campaigns offering sales promotions and direct mail to your customers and prospects.

...Just think how you can tie your brand into the event.

  • Sponsorships and Cause Marketing are two ways to inject your brand and both result in positive advertising and PR.

Digital Marketing



Digital marketers are creating a new world, and nobody actually knows where it’s heading. At my digital agency we have a great amount of specialized knowledge hardly anyone else on earth grasps.

Only 40% of humanity has Internet access.

The people adept at optimization and digital marketing are far fewer. As the technology becomes more important, how many of them are also proficient in classical knowledge of the MarCom Matrix?

Professor Kalb writes: “Taking this integration of [digital] marketing methods further by combining them with other off-line marketing methods can give marketers the greatest power at the lowest cost.”

So we must learn from each other.

Digital marketers need to look back to a century of successful marketing communications; traditional marketers and business owners who still call the digital landscape New Media...

...need to work with digital marketers.

Header image credit: Arc de Triomphe, Shutterstock: 11640275, Steve Roche​

Joshua Bains is a Content Marketing Specialist at Eclipse Web Media in Atlanta, Ga. With an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, he produced video news features for the English desk at InfoliveTV in Jerusalem, and writes for Ami Magazine. He speaks about better content writing and video on the Small Business Samaritans show with Phillip Saxton, part of the Wall Street Business Network.​ His last article for SEMrush was “The FCB Grid: What It Is and How It Works."

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