If you are a marketing executive, and not currently using an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach or struggling to find time to implement this post is for you.
You might even be asking yourself questions like:
Why do I need to integrate my marketing?
Doesn’t that take a lot of time and resources?
The post below provides all the untold benefits of using IMC, and if you get half the results of IBM, the effort and resources spent will be worth it.
In one of my previous posts titled “Why Use an Integrated Marketing Communications Approach?”, I provide an explanation of an integrated marketing communications approach (IMC), the IMC process, a light explanation of the benefits of IMC, and how Nike uses IMC.
In this post, I would like to expand further on the benefits and critical nature of IMC for an organization by providing an example of a company that uses this approach and one that does not.
An IMC strategy benefits all organizations at every level of the organization. IMC provides alignment of the brand position with the differentiation business strategy giving the company one voice and one look in all communications.
IMC avoids your brand from having a split personality like Edward Norton’s character creating Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden character in the movie Fight Club. Having different voices and looks leads to confusion with your target audience, reducing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts significantly.
I like this quote from John Jantsch, a leading marketing authority, about the advantage of using integrated marketing communications:
“I absolutely believe the real integration opportunity, and way [for] most small business owners to blow their competition out of the water, is the intentional blending of online and offline tools and tactics around a single marketing strategy.”
– John Jantsch
The benefits of an IMC approach based on a comprehensive and well-developed brand strategy include:
At the operational level, IMC reduces transaction costs, interdepartmental conflict, and duplication of effort.
At the campaign level, IMC creates synergy with the communications mix providing a higher return on campaign investment than the competition.
At the brand performance level, IMC provides clarity and consistency to brand messages to create brand loyal customers.
IMC at the customer level results in the increased ability to effect positive change in consumer awareness, customer attitudes, and customer experiences at every touch point.
At the market and position level, IMC can decrease the rate of defection, increase market position, sales, and sales growth.
IMC effects the financial level with increased ability to achieve higher sales, sales growth, profitability, return on investment (ROI), and return on brand investment (ROBI) than the competition.
A clearly defined IMC media plan provides a cost-effective combination of media to attain the company’s media objectives. The other benefits of an IMC media plan include the ability to achieve larger increases in sales, achieve higher sales growth, and deliver brand messages with the optimum impact.
Integrating the media plan with the IMC strategy provides an approach using different media scheduled to reach the target audience for its product or service. The media plan reaches the target consumer at the right time utilizing an effective approach optimizing the company’s resources. An organization that uses a well-defined approach to media planning is rewarded with a top of mind presence with the consumer when it comes time to purchase.
IMC creates a unified and consistent brand identity and position the consumer recognizes and relates to in any context. An IMC strategy is more effective and powerful with each marketing communication item having a consistent message that differentiates a company from the competition.
Consistent messaging avoids confusion and reinforces the brand with consumers over time and builds greater trust and awareness making a brand top of mind when it comes time to purchase.
IBM is a massive global organization with approximately 380,000 employees. If you’re anything like me, you are wondering how a company implements an enterprise-wide change globally with such a large employee population successfully.
IBM is the number six ranked global brand according to Interbrand in 2016. IBM is an example of a successful brand that has implemented a unified IMC strategy coupled with a great brand strategy along with an effective media plan to become one of the best global brands and attain the goals of the organization.
IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign is an extension of the previous Solutions for a Small Planet campaign. IBM’s fundamental belief in the IMC strategy centers on a brand message of a globally integrated enterprise with integrated solutions. The media plan communicates this in every brand message across all channels. Specifically, IBM developed a strategic framework providing training to all employees.
IBM’s training curriculum consisted of how the company presents itself in all communication channels (visual, sound, and perception) in its daily work across all businesses, not just communications and marketing. IBM uses this management system to guide individuals to make the correct decisions for the business based on the brand.
The employees are the core component communicating the IBM brand using the brand messages communicated in the media plan. IBM recognizes that the employees are the most critical communication channel and medium to convey the brand message.
The IMC strategy communicates the brand message internally with each employee conducting their daily work using a brand focus approach. Internal training was a key component of the IMC strategy implemented by IBM. IBM has energized its workforce using Internal training as the mechanism turning IBM’s employees into brand champions. Training has been the key element used to differentiate the company from the competitors with a significant distinction.
JC Penney provides an example of a company that does not appear to have an IMC strategy. If JC Penney has a strategy, it is not linked to specific objectives, especially in the media planning area. The former CEO Ron Johnson admitted to failing to communicate a major new strategic initiative for the company, introducing a new everyday-low-price strategy.
The everyday-low-price strategy for the company marked a new direction for the low-price discount retailer who previously used significant discounts and coupons on merchandise. Failing to communicate this new direction for the company in an IMC strategy and aligning it with media planning objectives provided a fundamental mistake for JC Penney.
On a conference call with analysts, the former CEO also admitted the marketing failed to reach the core customer, and the media plan spent too much money on TV and insufficient spending on print media. The admission of the marketing failings suggests that media planning did not align with an IMC strategy.
The fundamental ability to communicate a change in pricing strategy to the market suggests the lack of a proper IMC strategy. The media planning miscalculated media selection giving evidence of a lack of clearly defined objectives. As you can imagine, the media plan failed to reach the target audience with the right message at the right time with the appropriate selection of media.
The marketing failings led to the firing of Mr. Johnson and JC Penney appointing former CEO Myron (Mike) Ullman in April of 2013 after less than two years in the position. In August of 2013, the retailer reported its ninth straight quarter of sales declines and a 12% decline in sales from the previous year. To make matters worse, in November 2013, Standard and Poor dropped JC Penney from the S&P 500 Index.
It is easy to get sucked into the daily routine of checking off tasks as marketers, but stepping back and taking a strategic look at your marketing plan is essential to survival. Ensuring you are using a brand and IMC strategy provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace and is critical to reaching your firm’s goals.
JC Penney provides a cautionary tale, and IBM offers a template for your organization to leverage, no matter how large or small. If you’re thinking my company is too large, or the task is too daunting, just remember IBM did it with 380,000 employees!