The Concept of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

Presently, a number of companies universally are fully aware that customers have turned out to be more involved in their applications for personalized products and services that are tailored to their needs. For an increased exchangeability of a firm’s promotional and marketing efforts, the ratio of the output to the input of any system in marketing processes should imply a synchronization of the various promotional elements and other marketing activities for successful and convincing brand communications program. In other words, Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).

Like the industry of public promotion of some products or services, advertising, and consumer behavior theory and research has laid much emphasis and paid attention to the brand and image-oriented advertising, they also have a tendency or disposition to ignore other forms of marketing communications on the presumption that they are neither prominent nor pervasive enough to warrant study (Formichelli, 1999).

Nevertheless, the content of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) can also mean effective communication attempts like how marketers work out communications across the several channels that will in a successful manner work together and come out incorporated to the consumer.

These issues are without question and beyond reasonable doubt important and relate to the very heart of the matter, and the ability of the marketing firm to successfully communicate to the consumer in one consistent voice (Belch, & Belch, 2007).

Furthermore, the process of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) can also refer to the actual effort synchronization within a marketing firm or among the several marketing firms involved in the coordination. Inclusively, only by combining the content of integrated marketing communications with the organizational issues that are inherent in the integrated process itself, then, can a truly Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) strategy be achieved.

Since most organizations exist to make a profit and increase shareholders’ worth, the usual aim of an IMC is to become bigger or greater in mind and market share of its products as well as to bring into existence short-term financial returns.

An indication that marketers are really adjusting to a changing environment with an attitude of admiration to consumer, expertise, and media is the increase in the act of accomplishing some aim of IMC into firm’s marketing processes.

Also, because there is an increase in the general understanding of the value of strategic integration of the various communications functions, a lot more companies are adopting an IMC approach. Although many brand and packaged-goods marketers have yet to realize the full potential of marketing database, the ability to gather, store, and manipulate consumer data is thought to improve marketing communication performance in at least three ways:

In relation to this, databases improve the target market by giving marketers a better understanding of who their customers are and what media to use to reach them.

The detailed information contained in a database typically goes beyond demographic approximations to include names. It is however possible to isolate and determine the characteristics of best customers, information that can be used to find new prospects.

The shopping, purchase, and other lifestyle information contained in the database can provide insight into consumers buying habits and motivations. These insights help marketers develop creative and media strategies that match market segments. And lastly, profiles derived from databases can be used to establish long-term customer relationships and foster repeat buying (Bodin 1991).

It is very convenient to conjecture that there is increasing use of the World Wide Web and an increased percentage of the world’s population are experiencing a shift of their primary source of information from traditional media, TV, and radio to the World Wide Web. Though, this means that a very substantial sum of the target audiences for marketing campaigns can be reached more easily via the internet.

To strictly consider all of the potential ways of reaching their target part of the general public interested in a source of information or entertainment and favorably presenting a brand, a firm should initiate efforts to set up channels of information and persuasions.

This will usually involve a process of planning, managing, and communicating the various promotional mix elements to the audiences by a solid marketing plan with a good situation analysis. The situation analysis will usually include an internal analysis for assessment of relevant areas involving brand offering and capabilities of the firm to implement a successful promotional program Schultz et al, (1993).

At this point, successes and failures of past programs are reviewed and critically assessed. Soon after this, an external analysis follows to focus on factors to evaluate customer characteristics and buying patterns as well as affective factors in the decision-making process. Competition and possible threats are also considered at this stage.

After the promotion process, a communication process is established to examine and establish market and communication objectives in terms of sales and return on investment.

Thereafter comes the budget determination phase which determines costs to be allocated to promotion.

After this, the most involved and detailed step of the promotional planning is done – the development and implementation of the IMC (Deighton, & Glazer, 1998).

The superiority in power or influence of IMC in academia speaks well of its growing importance in the Marketing Communications field and its welcomed use by advertising and marketing organizations to convey the message that there is a speedily increasing acceptance of the IMC model. Schultz (1999) argued that IMC is the result of a natural evolution from the use of mass-market advertising to more targeted message strategies.

Phelps et al. (1996) speaks from an outcome-based perspective and say that IMC is prescribed as a solution for achieving synergy in advertising planning and execution, with the end result being increased or intensified efficiency, the quality of being productive and execution.

A reason in fact for the increasing importance of the IMC perspective is the ability to make a small or insignificant budget allocation for a campaign by targeting a sifted audience. This is very unlike traditional marketing where there is minimum demographic profiling.

However, the rapid growth of the internet is changing the ways firms communicate and interact with consumers. Nowadays that most firms reach a wider portion of their audience by targeted advertising, they experience advantage in the fulfillment of their demand for accountability on advertisements from advertising agencies and changes in the way agencies are compensated since billing processes are automated.

The development of personalized messages that are capable of being reproduced with the overall theme and imaginative platform of the communication program is a key strength of interactive IMC and one reason for the increasing importance of the IMC perspective. Practicing effective interactive IMC requires organizations to develop an internal structure for doing so. For a firm to truly become a ‘smart’ company it must have the ability to develop ‘smart’ marketing campaigns and ‘smart’ integrated marketing communication programs. To accomplish this, firms must have the ability to collect information at the individual level and use that data to create information-intensive customer management strategies that use electronic media to generate interaction (Glazer 1999). However, while most advertising researchers, managers and academics would agree that the true value of electronic media lies in its interactivity, the way to proceed to make that a reality is less clear. Consequently, the concept of a fully interactive IMC approach is more of an intriguing idea than a practised reality (Davenport et al. 2001).

Nevertheless, noting that database technologies and electronic media have a capacity for creating unique and personalized conversations with individual customers and can cause a great change by increased interactivity (Schultz, 2000).

In relation to this, still less is understood of how a fusion of these electronic media and customer databases can be converted into integrated communication strategies (Peltier et al. 2002a).

Even when efforts are made to use personalized data to understand customers, demographics and purchase history are often the only information collected, while other potentially valuable information, including customer needs and priorities are mostly overlooked (Peltier et al. 2002a).

A very considerable case study is Jenkinson’s (2006) example from business-business marketing by a very valuable brand, IBM in the mid-1990s when the firm planned and implemented an ambitious global marketing and contact database system, MSM which helped them consolidate data on a regional as well as global basis for analysis and planning. IMC helped IBM develop existing marketing thinking and practice because of its focus on best practice in the use of commercial communications media.

Jenkinson (2006) further identifies that the IMC’s systematic approach recognizes the relative value of isolated initiatives and it calls for integration throughout the organization as well as in the media. Thanks to IMC, IBM enhanced relationships with existing customers and also built a platform for recruiting major new customers by developing new awareness of their solutions while putting a barrier in place to prevent losses of their customers.

In conclusion, the numerous benefits achievable by IMC are largely responsible for the increasing importance of the IMC perspective. With IMC, firms experience several shifts from mass media to more specialized media that connect more to their target audience, from general-focus marketing to data and demography based marketing, from low agency accountability to an interactive and timely update on advertising costs and impressions.

References

Belch, G. E. & Belch, M. A. (2007) Advertising and promotion: An integrated marketing communications perspective (7th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Bodin, M (1991) The future of Database Marketing, Inbound/Outbound magazine, January, 19-21.

Deighton, J. & Glazer, R. (1998) From the editors. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 12(1), pp. 2–4.

Davenport, T.H., Harris, J.G. and Kohli, A. (2001) How do they know their customers so well? S loan Management Review, 42(2), pp 63-73.

Formichelli, L. (1999) Learning from other data warehousers. Public Utilities Fortnightly, pp. 6–11.

Glazer, R. (1999) Winning in smart markets, S loan Management Review, 40(4) pp 59-69.

Jenkinson, A. (2006) IBM in the City: 5% of TV budget yeilds 7000% ROI. Web.

Peltier, J.W., Schibrowsky, J., Schultz, D. & Davis, J. (2002a) Interactive psychographics: cross-selling in the banking industry. Journal of Advertising Research, 42(2), pp. 7–22.

Phelps, J., Harris, T.E. & Johnson, E. (1996) Exploring decision-making approaches and responsibility for developing marketing communications strategy. Journal of Business Research, 37(2), pp. 217–23.

Schultz, D.E. (1999) Integrated marketing communications and how it relates to traditional media advertising. In The Advertising Business: Operations, Creativity, Media Planning, Integrated Communications, J.P. Jones (ed). London: Sage Publications, pp. 325–338.

Schultz, D.E., Tannenbaum, S.I. & Lauterborn, R.F. (1993) Integrated Marketing Communication. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Business Books.

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