Integrated Marketing Communications: Why Is It Important?

Managing and coordinating the entire communications process calls for integrated marketing communications (IMC). But what is IMC and why is it important?

By definition, integrated marketing communications is a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan. Such plan evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communications disciplines and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum impact through the seamless integration of individual discrete messages.

Considering that (a) the mass market can be fragmented into a multitude of mini-markets (with each mini-market requiring its own approach), (b) there is continuous proliferation of new types of media, and (c) there is growing sophistication of consumers, it is clear that there is definitely a need for marketers to utilize a wide range of communication tools to efficiently deliver messages to specific audiences. Marketers should therefore combine personal and non-personal communication channels to achieve maximum impact (i.e., employing multiple-vehicle, multiple-stage campaigns). Hence, it is clearly imperative for companies to move toward integrated marketing communications, and the absence of which results in uncoordinated communications and image diffusion.

A comprehensive integrated marketing communications plan can produce stronger message consistency. It can also help to build brand equity as well as create greater sales impact. Furthermore, it can unify the company’s brand images and messages as they come through multiple company activities. In simpler terms, IMC improves the company’s ability to reach the right customers with the right messages at the right time in the right place.

Essentials of an Integrated Marketing Communication Process

The American Marketing Association (AMA) which represents marketing professionals defines marketing as “The process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organisational objectives.”

Effective marketing requires that managers recognize the interdependence of such activities as sales and promotion and how they can be combined to develop a marketing program. In marketing, exchange is a central concept. For exchange to occur there must be two or more parties with something of value to one another, a desire and ability to give up that something to other party, and a way to communicate with each other.

Marketing facilitates the exchange process and the development of relationships by carefully examining the needs and wants of customers, developing a product or service that satisfies these needs, offering it at a certain price, making it available through a particular place or channel of distribution, and developing a program of promotion or communication to create awareness and interest. The focus of market driven companies is on developing and sustaining relationships with their customers. This has led to a new emphasis on relationship marketing which involves creating, maintaining and enhancing longterm relationships with individual customers as well as other stakeholders for mutual benefit.

The marketer’s task is to devise marketing activities and fully integrated marketing activities and assemble fully integrated marketing programs to create, communicate and deliver value for customers.

Advertising and promotion play an important role in the exchange process by informing consumers of an organisation’s product or service and convincing them of its ability to satisfy their needs or wants. The American Association of Advertising Agencies developed definition of Integrated Marketing Communication as “A concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic role of a variety of communication disciplines – advertising, direct response, sales promotion and public relations – and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.” Integrated Marketing Communication involves coordinating the various promotional elements. Six major promotional tools are advertisement, sales promotion, personal selling, direct marketing, publicity/public relations, internet marketing.

The Integrated Marketing Communication approach helps companies identify the most appropriate and effective methods for communicating and building relationships with their customers as well as other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, investors, interest groups and the general public. Companies send messages to customers and other stakeholders through all aspects of their marketing mixes, not just promotion. Consumers make inferences about a product on the basis of elements such as its design, appearance, performance, pricing, service support, and where and how it is distributed. For example a high price may symbolize quality to customers, as may be the shape or design of a product, its packaging, its brand name, or the image of the stores in which it is sold.

The Integrated Marketing Communication approach to marketing communications planning and strategy is being adopted by both large and small companies and has become popular among firms marketing consumer products and services as well as business- to-business marketers. By coordinating their marketing communications efforts, companies can avoid duplication, take advantage of synergy among promotional tools, and develop more efficient and effective marketing communication programs.

To move to Integrated Marketing Communication also reflects an adaptation by marketers to a changing environment, particularly with respect to consumers, technology and media. Major changes have occurred among consumers with respect to demographics, lifestyles, media use and buying and shopping patterns. Media strategy involves determining which communication channels will be used to deliver the advertising message to the target audience. Two most important aspects of the advertising program are development of the message and media strategy. Message development, referred as creative strategy involves determining the basic appeal and message the advertiser wishes to convey to the target audience. Once the message and media strategies have been determined, steps must be taken to implement them. Most large companies hire advertising agencies to plan and produce their messages and to evaluate and purchase the media that will carry their ads. Marketing Communication can tell or show consumers how and why a product is used, by what kind of person, and where and when. They can learn about who makes the product and what the company and brand stand for; and they can get an incentive or reward for trial or usage. Marketing communications allow companies to link their brands to other people, places, events, brands, experiences, feelings and things.

Marketing Communications

For people to understand each other, they need to converse. To spread the message or idea to another party, a person must communicate to them. This is not different in terms of marketing. In order to get the message across to the targeted market, related media must be used. The formal term for this type of communication is marketing communication. This kind of communication is also coined as integrated marketing communications. Examples of media used in this type of communications are advertising, promotion, packaging, direct marketing, sponsorship and the likes.

The traditional way on this type of marketing is through the use of traditional channels such as the use of TV ads, radio ads and newsprint. These are already considered traditional ways because it has already been used in such a very long period of time. With all honesty, this type of communication is still effective but everything in this world changes and the way of communication is not an exception to that rule.

The new communication of marketing is through the use of the internet. The internet has a lot of use in terms of business to business marketing. It has greatly benefited from the success of the internet. With the internet, the mode of communication is limitless. One can make an article just like in the newsprint. A video can also be made and uploaded to the internet. One can also make voice ads just like in the radio. A very own website can be created so that all the information pertaining to the product or service can be placed on that site so that everyone can see. With the rise of social networking sites, it has opened another avenue to communicate with the targeted market.

To further differentiate the traditional from the new trend of communication, you must take notice on how articles are submitted to be advertised. Before, it is given to newspaper or other form of print media and hope that it will be accepted but now, with the internet, all you have to do is just make an article and give it to article directories and it will be published. The simplicity and quickness is very evident if the internet is being used. Another example is the use of video for advertising. Before the only way is through TV ad slots and it entails too much cost but with the internet, only you have to do is upload the video on a free video repository and it is ready to be everyone to be seen. With this, it is perfect vehicle if you are on a tight budget.

If everything is taken a closer look, the difference is only the way it is being delivered but the concept remains the same. Just like for article marketing, articles are still written but it is just sent via internet rather than to newspaper or other newsprint. It is the same with the use of videos, videos are to be made but now it is just posted in YouTube for everyone to see.

In conclusion, everything is changing and you must be up to date of the change especially when it comes to marketing because it may be the reason for the rise or fall of your business.