After reading this article you will learn about the history and characteristics of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).
History of Integrated Marketing Communication:
In past decades, many marketers build strong barriers around the various marketing and promotional functions and planned and managed them separately, with different budgets, different views of the market, and different goals and objectives.
These companies failed to recognize that the wide range of marketing and promotional tools must be Coordinated to communicate effectively and present a consistent image to target markets.
In the 1990s, many companies are moving toward integrated marketing communications (IMC), which involves Coordinating the various promotional elements along with other marketing activities that communicate with a firm’s customers.
According to American Marketing Association Integrated marketing communication is a concept of marketing communication’s planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines—for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion and public relations—and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communications impact.
Advocates of the IMC concept, such as Don Schultz of North Western University, argue for an even broader perspective that considers all sources of brand or company contact that a customer or prospect has with a product or service.
Integrated marketing communication calls for a ‘big picture’ approach to planning marketing and promotion programs and coordinating the various communication functions. It requires firms to develop a total marketing communication strategy’ that recognizes how all of a firm’s marketing activities not just promotion, communicate with its customers.
Consumers perceptions of a company and/or its various brands are a synthesis of the bundle of messages they receive (such as media advertisements, price, direct marketing efforts, publicity, sales promotions, and type of store where a product is sold).
For example, a high price may symbolize quality to customers, as may the shape or design of a product, its packaging, brand name or the image of the stores in which it is sold. Integrated marketing communications seeks to have all of a company’s marketing and promotional activities project a consistent, unified image to the market place.
There are a number of reasons why marketers are adopting the concept of integrated marketing communication. One fundamental reason is that marketers recognize the value of strategically integrating the various communication functions rather than having them operate autonomously.
By Coordinating their marketing communication efforts, companies can avoid duplication, take advantage of synergy among various communication tools and develop more efficient and effective marketing communication programs. Advocates of IMC argue that it is one of the easiest ways a company can maximise the return on its investment in marketing and promotion.
The integrated marketing communication movement is also being driven by changes in the ways companies market their products and services. The main reason for the growing importance of the IMC approach is the ongoing revolution that is changing the rules of marketing and the role of the traditional advertising agency.
Characteristics of Integrated Marketing Communication:
Major characteristics of this marketing revolution include:
1. A shifting of promotional budget from media advertising to other forms of promotion, particularly consumer and trade oriented sales promotions. Many marketers feel that traditional media advertising has become too expensive and is not cost effective.
Also, escalating price competition in many markets has resulted in marketers pouring more of their promotional budgets into price productions rather then media advertising.
2. The fragmentation of media markets, which has resulted in less emphasis on mass media such as network television and more attention to smaller, targeted media alternatives such as direct mail and even sponsorships.
3. A shift in market place power from manufactures to retailers. Consolidation in the retail industry is resulting in small local retailers being replaced by regional, national and international chains.
These large retailers are using their clout to demand promotional fees and allowances from manufactures, Moreover, new technologies such as cheek out scanners provide retailers with information on the effectiveness of manufacturer’s promotional programs. This is leading many marketers to shift their focus to promotional tools that can produce short term results, such as sales promotions.
4. The rapid growth and development of data base marketing. Many companies are using computers to build data bases containing customer names; geographic, demographic and psychographic profiles; purchase patterns; media preferences- credit ratings, and other characteristics.
Marketers are using this information to target consumers through a variety of direct marketing methods, such as telemarketing and direct response advertising, rather than relying on mass media through traditional advertising.
5. Change in media buying practices. Many companies are taking media buying in house or are turning to independent media buying services that offer discounted rates. Those who have kept media buying with their advertising agencies are demanding reduced commissions and more accountability. They are also telling their agencies to consider less expensive alternatives to mass media advertising.
This marketing revolution is affecting everyone involved in the marketing and promotional process. Companies are recognizing that they must change the ways they market and promote their products and services.
They are selling to customers who are increasingly price sensitive and less likely to respond to creative advertising through the mass media. Nestle, P & G, Hindustan Lever, Modi Xerox, Escotel, and many other companies have adopted the IMC approach, and research shows that its use will continue to spread.
The marketing revolution has had even greater impact on traditional advertising agencies. Many agencies have responded to the call for synergy among the various promotional tools by acquiring PR, sales promotion, and direct marketing companies and touting themselves as IMC agencies that offer one step shopping for all of their clients promotional needs.
Some agencies became involved in these non-advertising areas to retain their client’s promotional money and have struggled to offer any real value beyond creating advertising. However, most agencies recognize that their future success depends upon their ability to understand all areas of promotion and help their clients develop and implement integrated marketing communication programs.
A successful IMC program requires that a firm find the right combination of promotional tools and techniques, define their role and the extent to which they can or should be used and Coordinate their use. To accomplish this, those responsible for the company’s communications efforts must understand the role of promotion in the marketing program.