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Percy (1997) defines integrated marketing communications as “the planning and execution of all types of advertising and promotion selected for a brand, service, or company, in order to meet a common set of communication objectives, or more particularly, to support a single positioning”.
Smith (1998) highlights the importance of “ensuring that the brand positioning, personality and message are delivered synergistically across every element of communication and are delivered from a single consistent strategy.
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Duncan and Moriarty (1998) draws attention to the concept of brand stewardship “…the marketing mix must be planned as an integrated whole by applying such ideas as consistency and integration….”. He implies that, while consistency is a coherent fit, integration is an active harmonious interaction among the elements of the mix.
IMC offers several different tools that can be used in order to communicate a marketing message. According to Smith (1998) and Smith, Berry & Pulford (1998) these tools are: personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, public relations, sponsorships, packaging, point-of-purchase, the internet, word of mouth and corporate identity. Percy (1997) simply divides Marketing Communication tools into advertising and promotion. According to him, advertising means all channels that are used to build awareness and brand equity, while promotion includes a wide variety of techniques that help accelerate normal purchase behaviour. In other words, “advertising brings the horse to water, promotion makes it drink” (cited in Jober, 1998).
The principles of IMC as stated by Smith (1998) are:
IMC starts with customer perception and activity.
IMC integrates the strategy of the whole business with the needs and activities of the customer.
IMC coordinates all the communications of the business within an IMC mix.
IMC creates dialogue with the customer.
IMC seeks to customize communications towards individual need.
The principle of integration holds that all communications emanating from a single strategic platform will generate a significantly greater return on the communications investment than would be the case with traditional independent media executions “synergetic effect” (Pelsmacker et al., 2004).
According to Lee (1996), “ IMC is a new way of looking at the whole, where once we saw only parts such as advertising, public relations, sales promotion, purchasing, employee communication, and so forth, to look at it the way the consumer sees it - as a flow of information from indistinguishable sources”. In other words, the communication process, IMC should be a two-way communications between marketer and customer.
This statement is well-founded, in a context that customers are becoming smarter and more demanding particularly in industrialized countries where they have more, better and faster access to information than ever. Bombarded by competing messages, they have learned to skim through the information overloaded, eliminate the “rubbish” and find what they are looking for. They increasingly expect higher quality, service, and customization. More than ever, they are better equipped to distinguish false marketing claims from substantive ones. Therefore, integration will help producing integrity, because an organisation that is seen as a “whole’ rather than pieces and parts could be perceived as being more sound and trustworthy. Thus increasing the perception of a brand’s integrity is a definite advantage.
Nevertheless, the question that needs to be answered is when to use IMC and does the potential return on invested communication “pound” it always positive(ROI). Firstly, the best way to identify the need for IMC planning is to identify the complexity of the market where the company is dealing. The more complex the market, the more likely the need will be for integrated communication solution. The complexity can be caused by many factors, such as the target audience, the multiple communication objectives, the distribution channels or even the product itself. Secondly, to generate a positive ROI, the goal of IMC should be the establishment of an on-going dialog and communication programs with specific groups of identified customers. The starting place is to prioritize the segments in terms of IMC efforts and investment levels and from that, to establish for each segment specific communication objectives, messages and incentives using various media tools. In other words, the general approach should be to develop an analysis of the individual segments, determine their value to the marketing organization and then prioritize them in terms of the amount of the communication budget and other efforts that is to be directed toward each of those segments.
The key element in IMC should be the establishment of two-way customized communication with the aim to allow the company to develop "smart" communication programmes that constantly progress over time. These programmes have to be designed to create "conversations" with customers rather than simply trying to reach them in order to sell an idea or a product.
Overall, IMC offers an extremely powerful image of marketing communications, in terms of how marketing communications strategies need to be developed and managed. Even so, the rhetoric association of the IMC concept with words such as ‘synergy’, ‘holism’ and ‘integration’ has become so common that it might undervalue the complications of its actual implementations in an increasingly disordered and fragmented marketing context. The market may in fact be too complex to be responded to with the simple prescriptions and actions provided by some metaphorical framings. Marketing communications academics and professionals should at least consider this possibility.
Duncan, T. (2002). “IMC Using Advertising & Promotion to Build Brands”. (New York: McGraw Hill).
Duncan, T.and Moriarty, S.E.(1998). , “A Communication-Based Marketing Model for Managing Relationships,” Journal of Marketing 62 (April 98): 1-13. (found in Anders Gronstedt and Lisa Stracuse, eds. The ABC’s of IMC: Building Blocks for Integrated Marketing Communication. NYC: Advertising Research Foundation,1998. Bus HF 5415.123 A23 1998).
De Pelsmacker, P., Geuens, M. and Van den Bergh., J., (2004), 2nd ed, “ Marketing Communications: A European Perspective”.(Harlow: Prentice Hall).
Jobber, D.(1998). Principles and Practice of Marketing. 2nd ed. (London: McGraw Hill).
Lee, J.A. (1966), “Cultural Analysis in Overseas Operations”, Havard Business Review (March-April), 106-14.
Percy, L. (1997). “Strategy for Implementing Integrated Marketing Communication. (Lincolnwood: NTC Books)”.
Smith, P., Berry, C. and Pulford, A. (1998). “Stragec Marketing Communication: new ways to build and integrate communication”. ( London: Kogan Pages Limited).
Smith, P.R.(1998). “Marketing Communication: an integrated approach”. 2nd ed. (London: Kogan Pages Limited).