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How we perceive messages
November 2015 July 2021 in Mindset + Strategy

Advertising is rarely perceived consciously. This is due, at least in part, to the nature of the content: the message, generally only a fraction is consciously absorbed (20 percent). Much more relevant is the unconsciously absorbed part (80 percent). 

This insight is the cornerstone of the "iceberg model" of applied psychology, which goes back to Sigmund Freud and is still relevant today. This model is an excellent illustration of the proportion of the so-called factual level (20 percent consciously perceived) of a message and pre- and unconscious personality areas of the relational level (80 percent, pre- and unconscious). The two levels enable us to communicate in a way that is appropriate to the situation in general and facilitate interpersonal communication, the exchange of information and opinions, and orientation in the context in particular.


The factual content is visible and audible, the relationship level invisible, hidden below the waterline, so to speak. The effect of communication is largely determined by whether the factual and relational levels are in harmon

The triangle of relevance, context and emotion

Advertising that reaches the recipient is tuned to the factual as well as the relational level: On the factual level, the message must be of interest in terms of content (relevance) and be adapted to the external situation (context). On the relational level, the message must fit the recipient's current state of mind (context) and appeal to him emotionally (emotion). It is in this triangle between relevance, context, and emotion that the meaning and potential of a message unfolds.

Triangle Englisch


People are emotional beings and in the vast majority of cases they act as such. The power of emotion is often underestimated, it determines not only our actions, but also support our memory quite decisively. One still remembers exactly, the blue sneakers received for school enrollment, in contrast, few remember their sports grade in the fourth grade. In addition, emotions also decide the relevance. With creative ideas you have the best chances here.


Relevance is the measure of the substance of a message. It denotes the significance or importance that a statement has for the consumer. Relevance is not only significantly shaped by the context, it is also highly subjective: While a specific target audience awaits the market launch of a new hybrid sports car with excitement, curiosity and joy, the other reference group simply has the least interest in it.


Communication does not take place in a vacuum, but always interacts with the respective context in which it is realized. While people ignore information about the closest cab company near their home, this contact information is worth its weight in gold when an important appointment urges them to hurry and the bus pulls away right under their noses. However, the context not only determines how a message is understood, but also whether it can be relevant.

Combined in the right way, these three factors increase "Involvement"


When it comes to aligning emotion, context and relevance, one, relies on gut feeling in the worst of the cases - often, this approach has proven to be too subjective. Data-based and yet tangible insights are provided by persona development, an approach from software development. Based on statistics, analyses, tests, observations or other existing information, reference groups are defined, which are enriched with further personal facts such as age, consumption habits or values - the result is a series of easy-to-grasp personas that represent characteristics and needs of typical representatives of the individual groups. These prototypes or personas are used to derive valuable assumptions about the context, the relevance and emotionally occupied topics.


Media categories and communication channels

An almost unmanageable variety of communication channels used online and offline and the constant movement in this field make it difficult to deal with these media and their strategic orientation. This topic is much more manageable and easier to handle if one orients oneself to four categories that have been defined based on function, mode of action and rules: Paid Media, Owned Media, Earned Media and Shared Media.


Paid Earned Owned Shared Media Englisch

Paid Media

The classic approach: I pay for my advertising to appear on the channels of others, for example on websites or in the newspaper. Isn't that how advertising has been done for decades? Yes, but conceptually well-thought-out and neatly integrated, paid media can be used in an entirely different way today and be a first-class building block!

Owned Media

Owned media are media channels whose content is designed and published by the companies themselves. These primarily include company websites and corporate blogs. The trend towards own corporate podcasts is growing. These media channels are mainly realized online.

Earned Media

Earned media includes all publications that have been earned through public relations and media relations efforts. This refers to communication that takes place on other people's channels without you having to pay for it - this can be an article on LinkedIn, a Facebook post or a shared photo on Instagram. The big challenge is to provide the momentum for this kind of communication.

Shared Media

Shared media is the result of interaction by and with brands across platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram or YouTube. By sharing content with others, it spreads rapidly: Even if you have, only a handful of subs or followers, the numerous linking points on the social web increase the number of recipients of the message. The prerequisite for this is a functioning network that thrives on presence and activity. Paid and owned media can stimulate shared content; in return, shared media can provide the impetus for earned content.

All these media types are used to create as many points of contact with potential customers as possible. The harmonious interplay ultimately determines whether one is noticed and paid attention to - and how

One touchpoint leads to the next

Meanwhile, a 15-second challenge on TikTok already attracts attention and establishes a first contact with the brand. If the clip convinces the user - in whatever respect - he is curious for more. From such a successful start, the brand's YouTube channel is only one click away. If you succeed in capturing the visitor's interest here as well by offering him a selection of videos that are relevant to him, a communication channel is created. The following applies: the more loose and widely spread the points of contact, the more interested the users will be in this initiation phase.

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The question is: Where are the eyes and ears of the potential customers?

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Convert into opportunities and develop

From there, the interested user must be guided to further content, for example on the website or the corporate blog. This can be achieved either through know-how, competence and relevant information, but also through direct emotional access to the user - by getting him or her excited about a brand. Whatever the concrete strategy for the product or service looks like - at this point you have already achieved a lot: the potential customer has become aware of the company or the product, he or she has been introduced over several stages and shows real interest. Opportunities have arisen from points of contact. The willingness to buy is high, otherwise he would have left at an earlier point - but often nothing has been sold yet. At this final junction, it is important to convert these developed opportunities into a deal, for example by making the entry into the buying process as thoughtful as possible: Be it with a well-constructed online shop as direct sales, through targeted forwarding to the product page at MediaMarkt or Amazon, with a quick and easy specialist dealer search or with a simple contact form.


The concept must be right from the first point of contact.

By turning every opportunity into a new opportunity, the commitment of the interested parties increases more and more, so that the sale is initiated step by step. The big challenges lie in the development of the strategic direction and then in the professional and goal-oriented implementation. The first and second points of contact must be sensible and as broad as possible in accordance with the strategy to address all groups to be considered and not to limit the circle of recipients too early. Afterwards, relevant, professionally produced and exciting content is the right instrument to lead users from one opportunity to the next. If you follow this path consistently in strategy and be agile in implementation, then contacts are led directly or indirectly from the first touch point to the sale.

Buying decisions take more time than you think

As fast-moving as communication may be - building a customer relationship takes time, people rarely buy lightly. The vast majority of consumer decisions are well-considered, the decision for a technical device of one or the other manufacturer often takes weeks or even months: it is checked whether the brand is trusted with the corresponding competence or whether it has already proven it. A furniture manufacturer has to convincingly argue why a sofa is worth its price: form, function, feeling? Goods for daily use are also chosen with care: Toothpaste containing fluoride is bought because the health magazine in the dentist's waiting room has urged regular fluoride intake. If you take a closer look at these processes that precede the purchase decisions, you will find out: The effect can be long in coming - but nothing comes from nothing.

Beware of rigid structures as well as lucky hits

Lasting and sustainable success requires a certain foresight. It is important to set medium- and long-term goals with the right strategy and to implement them consistently with the right planning. But beware: people and markets change; the initial situation is not set in stone. Therefore, the strategy must be reviewed and adjusted or even realigned again and again. Even short-term hits are successes. But for them to lead to an actual and sustainable profit for the brand, they have to be integrated into the big picture and not only support the chosen course, but also drive it forward in the best possible way.

Code for Context Communication

  • Communicate like a human being, be a »human brand«

  • Be clever, but stay honest and avoid tricks

  • Communicate regularly as the target group expects you to do

  • Respond to criticism more quickly than to praise

  • Be authentic and accept that you cannot have a perfect answer to everything

  • Respect the time of your listeners, viewers and readers

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Always adapt all content, considering relevance and context!

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