The aim of this short essay is to explain why advertisers need to understand the concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC). The essay will begin by defining what IMC is, and explaining what it entails. The essay will further progress by presenting arguments which support IMC as a strategy for effective marketing campaigns, and certain weaknesses and challenges that surround IMC as a marketing strategy will also be presented an addressed.
The concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC) can be explained as being a “concept in which a company carefully integrates and coordinates its many communication channels to deliver a clear, consistent and compelling message about the organisation and its products” (Kotler, Adam, Brown and Armstrong, 2006, p. 412). Essentially, an IMC campaign has its basis on the foundations provided by the communications model. It is a concept, or strategy, which has gained popularity since the early 1990s (Kitchen, Schultz, Kim, Han and Li, 2004). However, there is still great debate about the value of IMC as a marketing communication strategy. Smith (2002) explains that an IMC strategy can help the organisation achieve a competitive advantage through a combination of increased sales and profits while saving money, time as well as stress. This is because the marketing message that is presented as part of an IMC strategy will have a greater impact than would a disjointed in myriad of individual messages. Others argue that IMC is another management fad which is very exciting and promising in theory, but its application in reality may be very difficult and lead to very disappointing and costly results. Researchers such as Hutton (1996) explain that there is nothing new about what IMC offers, since the concept of coordinating the various marketing functions and promotional activities has been described in various marketing literature for a long period of time. The only thing new about IMC is its name.
Integrated marketing communication, as the term suggests, requires integration of the various messages from different communication channels to come together to form a coherent brand and corporate image. The various marketing elements such as advertising, personal selling, public relations, sales promotion and publicity have to be coordinated in a way which makes them speak as a single voice. The critical success factor to ensure an achievement of a strong and unified brand image which persuades consumers to take action is coordination. The failure to closely co-ordinate all the various communication elements can result in duplication of efforts or contradictory messages. Coordination and integration is generally easier said than done, and there are many barriers which make integration very difficult. Moriarty (1994) believes that the greatest barriers to IMC are cross disciplinary managerial skills. This is supported by Kitchen et al(2004) whose research has identified that the various researchers on the topic agree on one thing, and that is that “for successful execution of marketing communications, various disciplines must be brought together with high efficiency and high resonance meaning to stakeholders, customers and consumers” (p. 1417). It is often not easy to bring together the various disciplines or even managers from different departments in one organisation, to work together in a way that benefits the organisation as a whole, rather than the individual departments. Organisational politics are major obstacles which need to be overcome during the process of integration (Duncan and Everett, 1993). These obstacles will make it very difficult to develop and effectively integrated campaign.
It is important for advertisers to understand the concept of integrated marketing communication due to its breadth and complexity. An IMC campaign involves various IMC media, tools as well as technologies each of which have certain strengths and weaknesses, as well as being more appropriate for different marketing objectives. Furthermore, because integrated marketing communication involves the use of multiple marketing media, even a small IMC campaign can be very expensive. Advertisers and marketers need to understand the various media, tools and technologies as individual elements, and then examined how this can be used together to create an overall IMC campaign. This is on top of the issues that have been outlined in the previous paragraph which need to be considered and investigated prior to developing an IMC campaign.
Semenik (2002) provides multiple arguments for the support of IMC in the contemporary business environment, and explains the following as being the driving forces which lead organisations towards the use of integrated marketing communication for their marketing campaigns. According to Semenik (2002) the contemporary marketplace is characterised with having a customer base which is fragmented, consumers who are empowered and desire more corporate accountability, where there is already a great deal of advertising clutter, a shifting in channel power and one which has a well-developed information technology infrastructure and Internet. Due to the complexity of the marketplace, organisations can no longer simplify marketplace systems and communication approaches, instead, they need to adapt their communication techniques in ways that are most appropriate for the more dynamic and complex marketplace. Duncan and Everett (1993) explain IMC as being a reflection of meaningful integrative and holistic thinking. According to the authors it requires advertisers to look at marketing communications as communication tools which “are strategically deployed in a complimentary fashion after careful analysis of customer needs and review of the market situation” (Kitchen et al, 2004, p. 1419). For this to be done with any chance of success, the advertiser needs to understand the various forms of communication, the various delivery channels and customer characteristics.
In conclusion, advertisers need to understand the concept of integrated marketing communication because it is quite a complex concept, yet one which requires a considerable financial investment as well as allocation of organisational resources. However, if successfully implemented, an integrated marketing communication can do a lot for the organisation in terms of informing consumers about the organisation’s product, its brand and this can help to considerably build brand equity. An effective integrated marketing communications strategy will be one that is not only informative, but it is also persuasive and will incorporate reminders to consumers about the organisation and its products. Due to the great deal that can be achieved through an IMC strategy and costs that are involved in an effective implementation, it is important to ensure that advertisers and marketers understand the concept. Failure to do so can be very disappointing and also highly costly for the organisation. This essay illustrated that there are many pitfalls involved with integrated marketing communication campaigns which need to be taken into consideration by marketers and advertisers. It is a relatively recent concept which has been developed over the past couple of decades. There is still a great deal to learn and understand about the concept, and those advertisers who are in a better position to do so will be able to provide much more effective and successful campaigns for their corporate clients.
Duncan, TR & Everett, SE 1993, “client perceptions of integrated communications” Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 30 – 39.
Hutton GJ 1996, “Integrated Marketing Communications and the Evolution of Marketing Thought”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 37, pp. 155 – 172.
Kitchen, PJ, Schultz, DE, Kim, I, Han, D & Li, T 2004, “Will agencies ever “get” (or understand) IMC?”,European Journal of Marketing, vol. 38, iss. 11/12, pp. 1417 – 1436.
Kotler, P, Adam, S, Brown, L & Armstrong, G 2006, Principles of Marketing, 3rd edn, Pearson Education Australia, Sydney.
Moriarty, SE 1994, “PR and IMC: the benefits of integration”, Public Relations Quarterly, vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 38 – 44.
Semenik, RJ 2002, Promotion and Integrated Marketing Communications, Thomson learning, London.
Smith, PR 2002, Marketing Communications: An Integrated Approach, 3rd edn, Kogan Page Limited, London.