Introduction to Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a marketing concept of the 1990’s. It will be necessary for survival in the 21st century. The advent of integration is causing marketers to take a fresh look at all the components of marketing, specifically the unique dimension that public relations bring to the marketing mix. Public relations people in turn are seizing the opportunity that integration offers them to make a difference where it counts most to their companies and clients — on the bottom line. IMC is the culmination of the shift that began in the post — World War II period, from selling what the companies make to making what the consumers want. IMC is focused on what to know about product and services, not what the marketers want to tell them in order to sell them.

Integrated Marketing Communication is defined as the coordination and integration of all marketing communication tool, avenues and sources within a company into seamless program that maximize the impact on customer and other end users at a minimal cost. This integration affects all firm business-to-business, marketing channel, customer-focused, and internally directed communications. It is a management concept that is designed so that all the marketing communication which consists of advertising, sales promotion, public relation, and direct marketing work together as a unified force rather than each of those marketing communication work in isolation. Besides, it acts as an aggressive marketing plan because it sets and tracks marketing strategy that captures and uses extensive amount of customer information. It also ensures that all forms of communications and messages are carefully linked together to achieve specific objective.

Evolution of Integrated Marketing Communications  

Integrated Marketing Communication is a planned trade procedure used to scheme, improve, implement, plus estimating matched as well as calculable convincing product communique course more than moment through clients, consumers, probability, and another under attack, related exterior plus interior spectators.

Integrated marketing communication evolved out of the require use of marketing association toward shift further than functionally motivated, inside paying attention move toward marketing as well as communique. It tries to transfer concentration starting a back to front, interior direction toward single so as to be front to back. It staffs a multiplicity of customary and non-customary communique equipment as well as techniques towards sending mail toward consumers, probability, plus extra main spectators; organize every one action toward reaching stability as well as sympathy. On the other hand, integrated marketing communication since it has been trained through principal association, does not finish through synchronized memo deliverance. The final aims of Integrated marketing communication are to establishment consumer-ousted awareness as well as trade method during each side of the association as well as its company toward include rate for consumers, endow with a structure for source allowance, as well as accomplish renewable ready for action positivity’s.

Definitions of  Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

  • The American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), defines it as “A concept of marketing communication planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines, e.g. general advertising, direct response, sales promotion and public relations – and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact.”
  • The Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism defines IMC as “The process of managing all sources of information about a product/service to which a customer or prospect is exposed which behaviorally moves the customer toward sale and maintains customer loyalty.”
  • According to Kotler and Armstrong, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a concept in which a “company carefully integrates and coordinates its many communication channels–mass media advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, packaging, and others–to deliver a clear, consistent, and compelling message about the organization and its products.”
  • Integrated Marketing Communication according to Schultz and Kitchen “is a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute, and evaluate co-ordinated measurable, persuasive brand communication programs overtime with consumers, customers, prospects and other targeted, relevant external and internal audience.”
  • Tom Duncan defined IMC as “A process for managing the customer relationships that drive brand value. More specifically, it is a cross-functional process for creating and nourishing profitable relationships with customers and other stakeholders by strategically controlling or influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data-driven, purposeful dialogue with them.”

In short, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is “Joint planning, execution and coordination of all areas of marketing communication and also understanding the consumer and what the consumer actually responds to.”

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Process

  1. Identify target audience:  Promotional process must start with identify target audience by using segmentation, which is defining buying preferences and characteristics of buyers and dividing them into segments. The goal of identify target audiences is to design promotional strategies that can meet the customer expectations more accurately. Thus, IMC which integrating and coordinating of all types of marketing promotional tools that maximize satisfaction of buyers will be very useful to the firm’s promotional strategies. This is because IMC can help the company by providing customer databases to sellers and marketers to identify information about the buyers precisely and accurately.
  2. Determine the communication objectives: In the second stage, company need to develop a clear objective and the goals of promotional strategies. The objectives of promotional strategies include creating products and services awareness in the buyers’ mind, developing competitive advantages against competitors, creating brand equity of buyers, retaining current buyers and changing buyers’ behaviors. Meanwhile, Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) develops different types of promotional tools, which have containing different functions to achieve the communication objectives of the promotional strategies effectively and efficiently.
  3. Design messages: An effective message will get the attention from buyers and maintain their interest toward the messages about their brand of products. Therefore, promotional team of a firm should implement IMC when designing the messages deliver to each segment in order for the messages to be delivered effectively. Although a tailored message for each target segments designed by using several promotional tools in IMC process, but the messages of promotions must have same meaning and theme. This is because each of promotional tools must used to achieve the same communication objectives and goals within the firm.
  4. Implementation of promotional strategy: Promotional channels can divide into two categories, which consists of personal communication and non personal communication channels. So when incorporated IMC into the promotional strategy, it needs to select and implement the right marketing channels and methods. No single channel can dominates in all aspects, which means that the channels need to be adjusted based of the markets needs and changes from time to time. This has proven that IMC which integrating and coordinating of all types of marketing promotional channels can be very useful when it comes to the implementation of promotional strategy process.
  5. Collecting feedback: Finally the firms will carry out some surveys in order to get some feedback from the target audience as the final step in the IMC process. For example, the firm will ask how effectively the message was delivered to the target audience, such as how many times the audience saw the advertisement or can the audience remember what the message marketers are going to inform and etc. Based on that, the firm will conduct a report about the behavior resulting from the message, such as how many of the target audiences buy the product or visit the store after they saw the advertisement. These information could be very important to the firm promotional strategies as it could directly affects the volume of sales, profits and indirectly reflect to the successfulness of the promotional strategies that had been implemented. Hence, all this information can get from the customer database to create more accurate and reliable feedback.

Why Companies are Adopting Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)?

Companies look at Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) as a way to coordinate and manage their marketing communication programmes to ensure that they give customers a consistent message about the company or its brands. IMC represents an improvement over the traditional method of treating the various marketing and communication elements as virtually separate activities. The IMC approach helps companies identify the most appropriate and effective methods for communicating and building relationships with their customer as well as other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, investors, interest groups and the general public.

  • Can consolidate image of company, develop a dialogue and nurture its relationship with customer: Integrated Marketing Communications focuses on using all the organizations advertising and promotional efforts towards delivering the same united message. It can make the intended information and messages including slogans, quotes, facts, and figures more consistent in the process of transmitting messages from producers to buyers. It can be used in consolidating the image of company, develop a dialogue and nurture its relationship with customer.  Clear and consistent marketing message are able to reach the target audience in the shortest time without confusing them and ensure that all the segment of the campaign can be reached. Hence, it creates a long term relationships with our target customer. These customers could be present or future, internal or external. This will help company to keep the profitable customer for life. Adversely, if different division handling their own marketing activities in the company, it may result in the situation in which sales people giving out different marketing message while corporate department giving out another inconsistent message that lead to confusion. Lack of consistent of messages just may confuse or distract the buyers. In addition, it also helps buyers to shorten their buying process, especially stage of search information about each alternative of products with different brand. In conclusion, IMC is very important in deliver the consistent image and message.
  • Reduce Confusion of the product: Through IMC, buyer can reduce their confusion when choosing a product which can deliver superior value and satisfactions to them by presented in a planed sequence with communication tools. IMC also help buyers by update new information about a product or special offers; give reminders about existing product timely and others. Therefore, buyers and consumers can afford a new product within fastest time and repurchase a product when they are always persuaded by the communication tools such as advertising or buy additional services and products from the same sellers.
  • Increase the profit through increase effectiveness: Besides, Integrated Marketing Communication also can increase the profit by increase its effectiveness. This is because impact of unified message on the customer’s mind is bigger than impact of disjointed myriad of messages. By using Integrated Marketing Communication, message transmitted has a better chance of cutting through the barriers of commercial message that bombard customer each day. When customer received a crystal clear message about the product and service, they will tend to build a long term relationship with the company and hence the market share will increase gradually. It will be profitable for the company for long term. By providing clearer message and develop a strong strategy positioning company product in the market,   competitive advantage can be delivered to differentiate themselves from other competitor. Thus it will increase the customer satisfaction and promote increasing profit in the long run. It can be proved by research from Centre for Integrated Marketing which shown that by adopting integrated marketing communication, it can enhance business performance by 10% to 25%.
  • Integrated Marketing Communication can boost sales by stretching message across several communication tools: It is profitable when customer practice Integrated Marketing Communication which will deliver superior value more effectively by using a combination of variety communication channel like sales promotion and direct marketing. By stretching messages across several communication tools, purchase can be increased gradually because it create more avenues for customer to become aware about the product itself and its benefit. It will definitely boost sales by gradually increase in customer purchase. This is because by using the integrated marketing communication, we can deliver our information toward more specific target audiences. It is like a more specialized media compare to other mass media. So, it can reach the potential target customer with the high accuracy and the probability of those customers to purchase product offer is higher. It can maximize the effect on customer with lower cost if integrated marketing communication is used wisely.
  • Integrated marketing communication can help the company to save money: Any communication tool should integrate with and draw on as many other communication tools as possible in order to maximize cost effectiveness. Integrated marketing communication can saves a lot of money in the promotional effort as compared to other who does not adopt it. This is because it enables the company to reduce unnecessary cost by cutting down number of agencies. By choosing the same service supplier, it can coordinate photography, design and printing of advertisement and also sales literature. Hence it will save a lot of money and work effort because it avoids duplication in areas such as graphics and photography. Moreover, it also can save a lot of time. Times can be saved when we organized meeting that bring all the agencies together for briefing, creative session, tactical or strategy planning. Hence, workload and subsequently stress level can be reduced when company practice integrated marketing communication.
  • Reliability of the messages: In the un-integrated communication marketing, sellers or marketers always send out of disjointed of messages and information to buyers. As a result, it directly dilutes the impact of messages and many messages will fail to arrive, misunderstood, simply ignored by buyers because of its reliability. Moreover, without using IMC method, it may bring anxiety frustrate and confuse to buyers, and then buyers will not have confidence and trust in this brand and their product. This also gives bad effect such as transactions in market which cannot carry out smoothly, and sometimes buyers are unlikely to buy the product again because the performance of the product cannot meet their expectations and cannot provide them satisfactions. Then it affects the volume of product sales, which also give bad impact to the business objectives and normally sellers were blamed as they did not achieve the target given to them. The problem of un-integrated communication marketing can be solving by using IMC method. Ability of sellers to use several communication tools for creates the messages and information in a form that can be easily understood by the buyers which give reliable, inspire, reassure of sense to buyers in the buying process.
  • Customer Database: Moreover, IMC also provides customer databases to sellers and marketers to identify information about buyers precisely and accurately. Sellers can know detail information such as which buyers need what information throughout their buying life, name and email address of every customers the sellers have sold to and also include what the customers purchase and when they purchase the product. Based on all information inside the customer databases, sellers and marketers can decide which promotional strategy should used to create effectiveness in targeting their market. In other meaning, customer databases can be say is the best marketing tool in the IMC for to track buyer’s interest precisely.
  • Relationship marketing: In the IMC method also include “relationship marketing” which is a form of marketing strategy emphasizes customer satisfaction and retention, rather than focus on sales transactions for obtain short-term profits only. “Relationship marketing” different from other types of marketing strategy in that it can recognizes value of customer relationships in long term and protect customers from intrusive sale promotional messages and advertising. Besides that, it also builds a bond of loyalty with buyers which can provide them protection from the unavoidable onslaught of competition in market. Sellers and marketers can gain competitive advantages when they can to keep a long-term customer for lifetime, offering greater customer value within IMC method.

Factors Contributing to IMC’s Growing Popularity

  1. More contact points:  Traditional mass media such as radio and TV is used to be a way to advertising a product, brand or service. This type of promotional strategy only can transmit the information to some of the target customers but not all. Therefore, IMC is a form of promotional strategy where all the promotional strategies are integrated so that the company able to transmit the message to all the target customers and also the customers can interact with the company brand in many ways. For example, a customer may have heard about one restaurant from their friend which they had been go there before and had a great experience dining at there. After that, the customer goes online to search information about that restaurant which include the menu and price and also make reservations. When the days come, your restaurant have to notice how cozy the place is and also get the chef’s recommended dishes for that night to make sure the customer satisfy what they expected. From the example above, the IMC cover all the contact points which include customer service, store design, direct marketing, internet, word-of-mouth marketing, after sales service, new media and etc. Thus, IMC can be said that it is a very useful tool where it can generate more contact point from customers.
  2. More specialized media:  It is used to be enough for mass media to cover any advertiser’s needs. Due to the rising of ad clutter, greater confrontation to advertising and shorter attention spans, and this cause the customers tend to be a lot more selective which they shut off the material that they feel no need and select with the thing that they need. IMC can generates specialized media where not only one of the promotional strategy is use to advertise one of the product or service. For example, the magazines may provide to entrepreneurs, pet owners, budget travelers, sport fans and mothers. There are also other example which are viral video clips of cats, blogs on cheap hotels and resorts in Asia Pacific, have podcasts now that talk about starting up a successful small business.
  3. Marketing in now more data-based: Nowadays, the companies like to make advertisement through media such as TV. But the problem is do they know exactly how many people watched their ad? The advertisers do not like to shell out wads of cash for media buy without knowing their ways of getting the media investment back. They always want to see figures like how much they had spent for the ad and how much they are getting back in return to support their decision. This is to evaluate whether the time and effort that they need spent is worth it or not. So based on these facts, it shows that IMC is playing an important role in firm promotional strategies. This is because IMC in now more data-based. It can provide the useful and accurate data form information that needed by the marketer and advertiser.
  4. More than ever, customers are king:  The power has shifted from those who make a product to those who actually see the product. As we know, it is difficult to win back the customer you lost than keeping an existing customer happy. Therefore, the retailers have to put more attention on protecting their clientele and also participate in whipping up the best experience before, during and after the sales for patrons. Promotional tool performance increase when IMC is incorporated in the promotion of company product and service that is needed by our target customer. When IMC can help the marketer to carry out the promotional strategy more effectively, it can meet the customer expectation and hence create the customer delight. As an example, if the customer needs some information for a particular product, the promotional too can help them to get the reliable and accurate information that help the customer making the buying decision. After that, when the customer uses the product offer by the company and found that information that the promotional tool convey match with the product’s performance. Customer will feel delight and satisfied. This will help the company to retain existing customer and attract new customer.
  5. More widespread internet use: The customers can use the worldwide web to check what they want anytime and anywhere they feel like it. It is also good for business people where they can exist outside their business hours. Every company should have an online presence but no need to be a static-brochure type website. For example, company blogs which allow us to interact with our online audience. Normally, innovative and new promotional activities can help to bring in new business. Through this worldwide web, we can know that our clientele are discussing about our product, brand or service that has made a tremendous impact to them either good or bad ways. Besides, we can also integrate promotional tool to convey the information of the product. For example, we can excess internet to view the advertisement of the company offer. The company not only displays their advertisement beside the road or through the television, they also can place the advertisement on the internet so that more people can view it and excess to the company offering. In the other hand, we can also get coupon from the internet which is also a form of integrated marketing communication tool which incorporated the internet sources and the sales promotion. So, it is more convenience rather than visiting the product stall to get couple.

Barriers to Integrated Marketing Communication

In spite of its many profits, Integrated Marketing Communication has many barricades. Totaling up to the accustomed confrontation to adjust and the unique troubles of being in touch with an extensive diversity of goal spectators, there’re further more obstruction which defies Integrated Marketing Communication. If some companies use integrated marketing communication for its vascular advantages other companies do not prefer to use it for several reasons:

  1. Functional Silos: Resources, support and guidance of upper management are needed to build a successful integrated marketing communications campaign. The job of upper management is to make sure that all the resources are thoroughly no matter is for budgets, sharing data or people across teams. However, the problem now is integrated marketing communication don’t control by one manager only. All the managers involve in the information transmitting process have to work together in controlling the process. It mean that all the manager of advertising team, public relation team and also the marketing team have to coordinate in the process of delivering information about the product and service of the company to the target customer. When the control is shared among all the team manager, which can prove to be a difficult concept for some member of upper management, creating a barrier to integrated marketing communication.
  2. Restricts creativity: IMC can restrict creativity. With a variety of team involved in launching an integrated marketing campaign, each team have to ensure that all the task carry out must fit the overall goals and message of the campaign. As an example, when the promotional team comes up with a creative idea for a sweepstakes, it must match with the integrated campaign goal to ensure the communication process effectiveness. But, if it doesn’t fit with the realm of integrated marketing goals, the creative plan cannot implement by the particular team no matter how high the level of creativeness it may seem. All the teams have to follow the unified strategy to convey a consistent message to send to our target customer.
  3. Lack of Resources: When the integrated marketing communication is practiced, it requires the entire member in the organization to take part in the process of transmitting the information to the customer. So, in order to make sure the process of transmitting consistent and useful information to carry out smoothly, the entire member in the organization needs to have the required knowledge and skill to executive the strategic plan. Because skills and knowledge are the key needs, some staff members receive training in areas they may not familiar with to ensure the success of the transmitting information about the product and service the company offer. Hence, it will increase the company cost and hence it will become more costly to practice integrated marketing communication. Besides, integrated marketing communication also required proper planning and time management to ensure the communication transmitting process become more effectively. When the marketing team delays their work process, it will affect the sales rape work task because they are interdependence. So, information transmitting process tends to become less effective when practice integrated marketing communication.
  4. Different Corporate Cultures: Integrated marketing communications generally include more than just one company working to put together in a campaign. For example, pitching articles to the press about a product launch is in charge by the public relations firm and a print advertisement may develop by an advertising agency. The problem occur when each company take part in the customer transmitting process tend to operate in its own unique culture, but when it is needed to meshed with a new company culture, the result is not always positive. There is one of the potential barriers the organization must overcome when the company practice integrated marketing communication. As an example, the advertising company may take relaxed approach to completing task, paying little or no attention to looming deadlines, but the public relation firm may be dead-line driven. This different culture between the companies may cause the integrated marketing communication process less effective to carry out.

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