Brand Strategy Integrated Marketing Communications

How IBM Wins with Brand Strategy and Integrated Marketing Communications

As most of you know who read this blog, I am an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) advocate. I find that IMC is a key differentiator for organizations and those that do it well, have a higher probability of success versus those that are not. IMC in the modern business environment provides a competitive advantage from a marketing perspective.

A well thought out brand strategy provides the basis for a successful IMC strategy. IMC can unlock the potential of an excellent brand strategy and be the platform for marketing success. IMC, when executed well, can enable your organization to outperform the competition regardless of the industry or organization type (B2B, B2C, or even non-profit).

The good thing about IMC is its free and just like almost every successful organization you’ll find that they do these core principles well; plan, implement, execute, measure and continuously improve.

Brand Strategy and IMC

Brand Strategy and Integrated Marketing Communications

The fundamental concept of an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach is the creation of a unified and consistent brand identity and position.

A brand strategy combined with an IMC approach provides the consumer with a brand and consistent messaging that is easily recognizable and relatable 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.


Brand Strategy and Integrated Marketing Communications


What is Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)?

After the brand building elements are selected, the IMC coordinates and manages the marketing communications. IMC ensures consistent brand messages are used in every internal and external communication and promotes collaboration amongst all stakeholders.

Listed below are two definitions of IMC from two of the leading authorities in marketing.

IMC Definition – Duncan

Tom Duncan, is the author of “The Principles of Advertising and IMC”, founder of the Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) graduate program at the University of Colorado. Previously, Tom Duncan was a Leo Burnett employee working with prestigious clients such as Procter & Gamble, KFC, and Union Carbide.

IMC Definition – Kotler

Philip Kotler needs no introduction, especially if you read my blog on a regular basis. Listed below is Kotler’s definition for integrated marketing communications.

“the concept under which a company carefully integrates and coordinates its many communications channels to deliver a clear, consistent, and compelling message about the organization and its products” – Philip Kotler

IMC Format

The IMC strategy planning process using the zero-based campaign approach, includes:

  • Identifying the target audience
  • Performing a SWOT analysis
  • Determining the marketing communication objectives
  • Developing strategies and tactics
  • Determining a budget
  • Evaluating the IMC plan’s effectiveness

The Benefits of a Brand and IMC Approach

The IMC strategy complements the brand strategy by coordinating and managing marketing communications providing consistent messaging promoting collaboration amongst all stakeholders. IMC benefits the organizations brand at several levels including:

  • Operational level
  • Campaign level
  • Campaign level
  • Brand level
  • Customer level
  • Market level
  • Financial level

IMC at the Operational Level

An IMC strategic approach benefits organizations at the operational level reducing transaction costs, interdepartmental conflict, and duplication of effort. IMC provides alignment of the brand position with the differentiation business strategy giving the company one voice and one look in all communications.

IMC at the Campaign Level

At the campaign level, IMC creates synergy with the communications mix providing a higher return on campaign investment than the competition.

IMC at the Brand Level

At the brand performance level, IMC provides clarity and consistency to brand messages to create brand loyal customers.

IMC at the Customer Level

IMC at the customer level results in an increased ability to effect positive change. At the customer level, IMC positively impacts consumer awareness, customer attitudes, and customer experiences at every touch point.

IMC at the Market Level

At the market and position level, IMC can decrease the rate of defection, increase market position, sales, and sales growth.

IMC at the Financial Level

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.

“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 in his book Duct Tape Marketing regarding the advantages of  using integrated marketing communications.

IMC and Media Planning

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.

The media plan integrated with the IMC approach provides a method using different media scheduled to reach the target audience for its product or service. Utilizing an effective media plan to reach the target consumer at the right time is a powerful approach optimizing a company’s resources.

A top of mind presence with the consumer is achieved with a well-defined media plan when it comes time to make a purchase.

IBM, IMC, and Brand

Brand Strategy and Integrated Marketing CommunicationsPhoto by

IBM is an example of a successful brand with a unified IMC approach. IBM is the number six ranked global brand according to Interbrand in 2016. IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign is an extension of the previous Solutions for a Small Planet campaign.

IBM’s fundamental belief in the IMC approach centers on a brand message of a globally integrated enterprise with integrated solutions. For example, the media plan communicates this in every brand message across all channels. Specifically, IBM developed a strategic framework providing training to all employees.


Brand Strategy and Integrated Marketing Communications


Enterprise-Wide IMC Training the Key to Change Culture

Training provided the critical element used to change the culture at IBM. The training platform was the key element, shifting IBM’s organizational culture from a push culture to a pull marketing culture throughout the enterprise.

The training 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 important communication channel and medium to convey the brand message.

The IMC strategy communicates the brand message internally with each employee knowing how their daily work should be conducted in a brand focus approach.

Internal training as part of the IMC strategy provides the mechanism that has energized IBM’s employees into brand champions used to differentiate the company from the competitors with a significant distinction.


Hopefully, after reading this, you can see the power of IMC to achieve meaningful results in your organization. I recommend reviewing your brand strategy, and then as you make your FY18 strategy plans include IMC.

As you can see from the IBM example when you have an excellent brand strategy powered by IMC the sky is the limit. The key takeaway is the that IBM did not have a one-time speech from executive leadership or one workshop. Instead, executive leadership made IMC a fundamental part of their strategy using systematic, ongoing internal training embedded in their strategy to succeed.

Leadership support and internal training provided the method to energize IBM’s employees into brand champions that differentiate the company and allow them to outperform the competition.

Now I challenge you, to create or enhance your current brand strategy and add IMC using IBM’s internal training approach to achieve new levels of success for your company.




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