For marketing communication to be successful, sound management decisions must be made in the other three areas of the marketing mix: the product, service or idea itself; the price at which the brand will be offered; and the places at or through which customers may purchase the brand. The best promotion cannot overcome poor product quality, inordinately high prices, or insufficient retail distribution.
Likewise, successful marketing communication relies on sound management decisions regarding the coordination of the various elements of the promotional mix. To this end, a new way of viewing marketing communication emerged in the 1990s. It is called integrated marketing communication; this perspective seeks to orchestrate the use of all forms of the promotional mix to reach customers at different levels in new and better ways.
Why Integrated Marketing Communication is Important?
The evolution of the above mentioned perspective has two origins. Marketers began to realize that advertising, public relations, and sales were often at odds regarding responsibilities, budgets, management input and myriad other decisions affecting the successful marketing of a brand. Executives in each area competed with the others for resources and a voice in decision making. The outcome was inconsistent promotional efforts, wasted money, counterproductive management decisions, and, perhaps worst of all, confusion among consumers.
Secondly, the marketing perspective itself began to shift from being market oriented to market driven. Marketing communication was traditionally viewed as an inside-out way of presenting the company’s messages. Advertising was the dominant element in the promotional mix because the mass media could effectively deliver a sales message to a mass audience. But then the mass market began to fragment. Consumers became better educated and more skeptical about advertising.
A variety of sources, both controlled by the marketer and uncontrolled, became important to consumers. News reports, word-of-mouth, experts’ opinions, and financial reports were just some of the “brand contacts” consumers began to use to learn about and form attitudes and opinions about a brand or company, or make purchase decisions. Advertising began to lose some of its luster in terms of its ability to deliver huge homogeneous audiences. Companies began to seek new ways to coordinate the multiplicity of product and company messages being issued and used by consumers and others.
Thus, two ideas permeate integrated marketing communication: relationship building and synergy. rather than the traditional inside-out view, integrated marketing communication is seen as an outside-in perspective. Customers are viewed not as targets but as partners in an ongoing relationship. Customers, prospects, and others encounter the brand and company through a host of sources and create from these various contacts ideas about the brand and company. By knowing the media habits and lifestyles of important consumer segments, marketers can tailor messages through media that are most likely to reach these segments at times when these segments are most likely to be receptive to these messages, thus optimizing the marketing communication effort.
Ideally, integrated marketing communication is implemented by developing comprehensive databases on customers and prospects, segmenting these current and potential customers into groups with certain common awareness levels, predispositions, and behaviors, and developing messages and media strategies that guide the communication tactics to meet marketing objectives. In doing this, integrated marketing communication builds and reinforces mutually profitable relationships with customers and other important stakeholders and generates synergy by coordinating all elements in the promotional mix into a program that possesses clarity, consistency, and maximum impact.
Practitioners and academics alike, however, have noted the difficulty of effectively implementing integrated marketing communication. Defining exactly what integrated marketing communication is has been difficult. For example, merely coordinating messages so that speaking “with one clear voice” in all promotional efforts does not fully capture the meaning of integrated marketing communication. Also, changing the organization to accommodate the integrated approach has challenged the command and control structure of many organizations. However, studies suggest that integrated marketing communication is viewed by a vast majority of marketing executives as having the greatest potential impact on their company’s marketing strategies, more so than the economy, pricing, and globalization.