It is a brave new world with new technologies, social media, and apps entering the market at a lightning fast pace that can give you a headache.
Traditional media methods to reach consumers have changed with media sources, such as the Internet and social media adding complexity to the marketing mix.
Traditional media, Internet, and social media provide opportunities to reach consumers in various ways. Brand messages can be inconsistent or get lost across the different media options for your target audience.
Without an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach, some of the common feelings and concerns of most marketers include:
The good thing is that all is not lost. In spite of all the technology advances, the heart of any quality marketing effort is a sound strategy. A quality strategy making use of the right technology, tools, and resources created by people within the organization is the critical component.
Philip Kotler, one of the legendary figures in marketing provides a great quote that sums up integrated marketing communications:
“Integrated marketing communications is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the view point of the customer.” -Philip Kotler
It is critical for organizations to use an IMC approach focused on a consistent brand message across all media channels. IMC effectively reaches consumers with the intended message stimulating awareness, creating trial usage, and ultimately achieving brand loyalty for the products or services of an organization.
Through an effective IMC approach, a company can create a strong brand based on a consistent message strategy projecting a unified voice. Consistent messaging avoids confusion and reinforces the brand with consumers over time and builds greater trust and awareness making an organization’s products or services top of mind when it comes time to purchase.
The current business environment characterized by increased levels of competition and more ways to reach consumers creates a complex set of challenges for organizations. The most significant change is the advances in information technology (IT) transforming the way business is conducted and how individuals communicate. IT has provided the mechanism causing the change from mass marketing to a customer focused approach with databases and measurable ways to integrate communications.
It is especially critical in this environment to have an integrated marketing communications (IMC) approach to the market with a consistent message to create effective marketing that reaches the intended target.
An IMC approach provides benefits at every level of the organization including:
Forming a well-constructed brand strategy is the first step before IMC can be used. Once a brand strategy is formed, an integrated marketing communications (IMC) plan can be created to influence perceptions of the brand across all media and channels. If an organization has a corporate brand with sub-brands (product or service), then IMC provides the ability to achieve a consistent corporate branding across all the sub-brands.
Let’s take a step back to explain 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.
The IMC strategy planning process using the zero-based campaign approach, includes identifying the target audience, performing an environmental analysis (five-forces analysis and SWOT), and determining the marketing communications objectives. The next steps in the IMC process include developing strategies and tactics, deciding on a budget, implementation, and evaluating the IMC plan’s effectiveness.
The IMC strategy flows from the mission, vision, and values to the overall business strategy providing the filter to guide every strategic and tactical aspect of the IMC plan. The IMC strategy complements the branding strategy and maintains a consistent message that gives the organization the ability to convey the right message using the right medium to achieve the pre-defined business goals.
IMC facilitates collaboration and creates synergy across departments or work groups. The increased collaboration leads to reduced bureaucracy and the formation of employee behaviors that lead to business goal attainment. Using IMC offers significant advantages for the company in the form of financial results and the ability to compete at a heightened level with the synergy IMC provides the company.
An example of a brand with a consistent message is Nike with its “Just Do It” campaign used across all media since its inception in 1988. Nike created a strong brand, through its effective branding using consistent messaging across all communication platforms.
The benefits of a strong brand includes differentiation from its competitors, a barrier to entry, the ability to demand a higher price, and the opportunity to experience higher revenues. Nike is a prestige brand that adds value to its products communicating an upscale image identified by the Nike swoosh logo distinguishing the purchaser as a selective individual.
Image is especially important in the highly sporting goods market with fierce competition from Under Armour, Adidas, and Reebok. These competing brands cannot compare to Nike in terms of consistent brand message over time.
In the case of Reebok, they have changed brand messages several times over the years. Nike’s marketing excellence with a consistent brand message has propelled the company to economic success and established Nike as a prestige brand with significant brand equity.
An Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) strategy enhances the effectiveness of the branding strategy to use the right message using the medium to achieve your business goals. IMC aligns and synergizes every group and department to collaborate and deliver results. IMC provides the ability to achieve a consistent corporate branding that delivers significant bottom line results.
B2C companies such as Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Starbucks, Apple, American Express, Stonyfield Farm/Danone and newcomer GoPro are great examples of companies that are doing IMC right.
B2B companies such as Intermedia, Datavail, and Rockwell Automation are also using IMC to achieve business and marketing goals. The success of these organizations and many others provides examples and evidence that IMC is a critical differentiator for success.
Using IMC offers significant advantages and a distinct competitive advantage for a company in the form of financial results, and the ability to compete at a heightened level with the synergy IMC provides the company.