The Communications Process: Encoding and Decoding


Why is the communications process important?

Promotion, also referred to as marketing communications, is the process of an organization communicating information about their brand and products to the marketplace (customers, stakeholders and the public).

From the above definition, it is clear that the basis of promotions is communication. Therefore, to understand promotions, the process of communications needs to be understood.

The Encoding and Decoding Model of Communication

The process of communication can be understood using a model known as the ‘Encoding/Decoding’ model. The Encoding/Decoding model has several parts: source/sender, encoding, message channel, receiver, decoding and feedback.
All of these parts will be explained below as well as how they relate to the process of promotions (marketing communications).

The Source/ The Sender

The process of communication begins with the ‘source’ also known as the ‘Sender’ . The source refers to the individual or group who intend to communicate an idea to their audience.

In regards to promotion/marketing communications, the source of the communication will be the organization that intends to promote their new product.


When the source of the communication puts together their intended message, this is referred to as ‘Encoding’. ‘Encoding’ can be defined as transforming an abstract idea into a communicable message. This is done using words, symbols, pictures, symbols and sounds.

In regards to promotion/marketing communication encoding involves transforming the organizations ideas about a product into various forms/types of promotion: advertisements, press releases, sales promotions or a personal sales pitch.

Message Channel

The encoded message must now be delivered to its audience via a message channel. A message channel is a term that refers to the medium that carries the message from the sender to the receiver.
In marketing/promotions the message channel may be: television, radio, newspaper, or a sales person.

The Receiver

Anyone who is audience to the message is referred to as the receiver. For example, all viewers of a television advertisement can be referred to as the ‘receivers’ of the message.


When the receiver views or hears the message they do what is termed ‘decoding’. Decoding can be defined at the receiver interpreting the message and coming to an understanding about what the source is communicating.

In promotions, an example of this would be a consumer viewing an advertisement and coming to an understanding about what the product is.


Feedback refers to any response the receiver offers to the message, this could be communication or behavior.
In marketing/promotions feedback refers to the way the consumer responds to the promotional campaign. For example, purchasing a product after viewing an advertisement is an example of feedback to a promotional campaign.

Measuring feedback is extremely important in a marketing/promotions campaign because it allows for a measure of the success of the marketing campaign. For example, negative feedback such as no increase in sales would show that changes need to be made in the promotional strategy.


Noise is the term given to anything that disrupts the communication. That is, anything that prevents the audience from receiving the message the way they source intended to. It doesn’t necessarily involve and audible distraction.

In the case of promotion (marketing communications) noise could be – applications that allow audiences to skip advertisements – poorly place billboards – advertisements in print that are too small or poorly placed.