Is Our Communication Communicating?

By David Aeschliman

I was intrigued to see reported in a recent issue of AgriMarketing that top ad agencies had seen a significant 10-year shift in revenue stream. Print and broadcast advertising use was reduced by one-third while digital and electronics increased nearly 400%. It was also observed the FCC says 40% of rural households do NOT have broadband access. Interesting, the publisher noted. 

More like fascinating. The move away from broadcast and print is particularly interesting given those are the media recent research shows farmers ranked as “most useful” and “most used” “to help make decisions”. Yet, does that get overlooked by media buyers who are viewing readership of print dropping at an alarming 4% every year?

The 400% increase in digital use over 10 years may sound large, but that depends on where the original digital investment began. And the final point is this: while rural areas may not have broadband access, that isn’t the only way to reach the internet nor is it the most used…phone apps come in there, particularly with farmers under age 45.

Nevertheless, the above trends make me wonder if in the excitement of new breakthrough, revolutionary, media outlets being availed to us, do we perhaps need to remind ourselves of the core function of marketing communication?

If you’re a written, oral or artistic communicator, you have these roles to fulfill: know your audience, know your topic/product, gather info, develop a powerful message around that, send it down the channels of reception, make sure it gets absorbed and finally, understood. 

And if you’re in marketing communication, you have one more task to add to that list…and that’s create action. Your marketing communication job is to drive inquiry through intrigue. Yet, watching the idiocy of many of today’s tv spots far too often leaves me with this: “what were they selling?” Creativity over content is never a good idea…those two need to be very balanced partners. 

Sometimes, in the fascination of new technology introductions, communication fundamentals have been tossed aside a bit vigorously. An example is Facebook replacing face time, eliminating the powerful feedback gained from body language, tone, speed and fluctuation. Far too many messages (and decisions) are totally misinterpreted due to these critically missing elements. Thank God to salespeople for stitching these elements of understanding back into the formula. 

Have we forgotten our mission is to make sure our message is first and foremost received, secondly understood and thirdly, acted upon? Or, are we too consumed with our own fascination of what we’re able to do and/or send? 

Media reach is just that…reach. But, there’s more. The fact serif typography has historically rated above sans serif type in readability is ignored in the face of a “more contemporary look”. Is that a reflection of our fascination with design over message digestion? The fact Upper And Lower Case type is read much faster, more easily and better understood than all caps falls into the same category: the developers say “it looks cooler”. As for me…I’ll take reception impact over “cool” any day. 

We in the worlds of marketing, communication, journalism, strategy and design share a mission: to gain traction to action via the messages we send. Even great chefs understand how food hits the palate, not the skillet. It is customer behavior (message consumption and digestion, i.e. palate) that should drive our channeling decisions. 

Let’s circle back here to the fundamental assertion implied by AgriMarketing making note of the FCC comment we opened this article with. 

1. IF 40% of our rural audience does NOT have access to the internet, I would expect clients to ask “how are farmers capturing the digital investments you’re making”, “What is the page click-through rate” and “what time is spent on each page”, “how does our message rank against communication efforts of our competitors” (SEO)? 

2. IF our farm prospects and customers tell us they prefer print and broadcast for information gathering and decision making, WHY do we insist on diverting dollar expenditures into lesser persuasive media? It may be totally justified, but as a client, I’d ask.

“Marketing communication is NOT the art of message creation and distribution; it’s the art of a message being received, understood and acted upon.”


3. IF study after study with CONSUMERS indicate they prefer certain type faces and upper/lower type, WHY in the world do we insist “it’s more modern looking” is even important? I’ve heard that trendy excuse about every four years for decades.

4. IF product or company benefit is deemed in market research to be 12x more impactful than product or company feature, why brag about “look what this product has” vs. “look what this product does”? The term “more money” is a lot more powerful than “more yield”. The term “easier on the engine while faster” is a lot more powerful than “more horsepower”. Ask any farmer. Yet, I read message after message filled with you guessed it…features that leave benefit interpretation up to every recipient.

So, as a reminder to all of us sharing in the world of communication, please consider this: marketing communication is not the art of message creation and distribution; it’s the art of message digestion. That means a proper message properly sent through proper channels in the proper mix and proper frequency…

one reflecting how our customers behave out on the farm; not how we behave in our cubicles of creativity.  

David Aeschliman is the CEO of Growth Work with expertise in developing growth strategies in selling and marketing. He has worked with more than 200 businesses across the country. You can reach him at to schedule further discussion. 

August 18, 2021

By David Aeschliman

David Aeschliman is a nationally recognized strategist with an astoundingly rich resume of creating growth within firms. David graduated from Kansas State University with a double major and minor. His hobbies include gardening, cutting firewood, fishing and helping farmers during planting and harvest.

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