I think of a successful marketing campaign as a well-oiled system, multiple parts working in harmony to achieve a single result. Marketing has evolved into a multi-faceted process, especially in today’s technology and social media-driven landscape.
No longer can you rely on one thing to carry your brand. For example, in the past, you could depend on your company’s excellent public relations and storied history to net your customers.
Now with so much competition and many platforms to market on, somebody is bound to sweep the rug under your feet if you are not careful. You cannot settle for some shoddy and weak marketing plan; brand communication must be strong and unified.
There are lots of advertising and marketing mediums right now, and marketing campaigns are becoming more powerful and creative. To stand out from the lot, you need to assert your presence through a consistent message and aggressive branding, not separately, but together.
Integrated marketing communication (IMC), which became popular in the 1900s, is returning as a central concept in today’s brand advertising. But for beginners the question is what is this concept? and how do you apply it to your marketing efforts?
Before we get into details, watch how big brands like Coca-Cola implement IMC in their business.
What is IMC?
Organizations have to promote their brands to survive in the long run. It sounds easy, but the thing is that it’s not.
Marketing techniques and channels continue to evolve and grow in number. The ways you employ to get your message across have to be artful and intelligent, without coming across too strong.
When a product is promoted correctly, the public’s brand awareness increases. When people are more aware of your product, there are understandably more potential customers.
And well, the rest follows: more sales, revenue, and income figures.
To do this, organizations make efforts to raise the popularity of the products for the potential end-users. Brand communication is the process adopted by companies to make their products more popular and appealing among end-users.
Brand communication promotes products through many possible means, such as:
- Sales promos,
- Personal selling,
- Direct marketing,
- Public relations,
- Social media,
- And many more.
So, where does integrated marketing communication (IMC) fit in all of this?
IMC is a concept where an organization coordinates and combines many communication and marketing channels to impart a consistently clear message to customers. To do this, they would utilize the many methods of promotion with complimentary use of media to expand the reach and effect of brand communication.
Introduced in the 1980s, IMC changed the landscape that marketers and communicators work on. Many organizations today combine traits such as corporate communications, public relations, marketing, promotions, and advertising into a collective “IMC mix.”
Through collaborative efforts between the different departments, organizations ensure that their messages and promotions are consistent and unified.
IMC combines all the marketing tools, resources, and approaches available to an organization to create an impact and imprint in the mind of consumers. This results in high profit amounts at relatively lower costs; you would not need to advertise at every turn because your brand is already inside the consumer’s mind.
Innovation is the cornerstone of IMC; companies must employ creative ways to ensure that customers receive the right message at the most suitable place and time.
Conceptually, IMC is simple. An organization links all promotional tools together, so they work in harmony to deliver a consistent message.
However, applying it is another task altogether, and requires careful planning and coordination across the teams involved.
The major IMC tools
Integrated marketing communication tools are those functions the company combines to create a consistent plan with one purpose and message. The following are the primary and most significant IMC tools.
Any non-personal promotion for a sponsor is a form of advertising. There are many mediums of advertising.
- Print media (like magazines and newspapers)
- Network (satellites, telephone, wireless)
- Broadcast (television and radio)
- Display (billboards, posters, signs)
- Electronic/digital (social media, audio, video)
The primary benefit of advertising is its reach. You can still market your product for overseas or geographically separated consumers because most media still work regardless of location.
At the same time, advertising is an expensive form of brand communication. However, consumers tend to think that when a product is heavily advertised, it is more valuable and offers more value.
Sales promotions are those activities or incentives given out by a company to potential consumers to encourage trial or purchase of a product or service. This technique helps draw the attention of buyers and acts as an invitation to try out the service or engage in a purchase transaction.
Examples of sales promotional activities are as follows.
- Giving out free samples
- Distribution of coupons
- Trade promotions focused on retailers
- Volume discounts
- Merchandising allowances
- Commissions and performance incentives
Public relations (PR) aim to improve the image of the company to the public. Brand and company perception are essential things that drive engagement, so an organization must keep an effort to keep PR positive.
The main difference of PR to other tools such as advertising is that while the latter is one-way communication (company to consumer), PR is two-way. The company monitors the feedback and reaction of the public, then adjusts accordingly.
Companies use publicity to build upon the news value of the service or product. For example, a product with excellent news value will be covered more by the media and will reach more audiences.
Articles by independent media tend to be more objective and credible than advertisements. Another advantage of PR is it can reach those types of consumers who shy away from targeted communications such as advertising.
Personal selling involves face-to-face engagement and interaction with one or more buyers to pitch your products or services, take purchase orders, or answer inquiries. With personal selling, you can customize your pitch according to the wants, needs, and preferences of the buyer you are facing.
Personal selling focuses on growing a long-term relationship with your customer base.
At first glance, direct marketing and personal selling may sound the same but differs in how they approach things. In a direct marketing scheme, brand marketers use phone calls, e-mails, fax, or the internet to communicate with targeted prospects.
Companies keep their customer details in a database. They use these to send new marketing material to them, making it easier for the consumer to make a purchase transaction.
Over the years, direct marketing has gained relevance. Many buyers have resorted to online purchases and credit cards, so marketers must make direct approaches to customers to help them with their purchases.
Experiences and events
Events, activities, and programs are great ways to interact with customers. Creating an event that gives consumers an experience of using a product leads to more significant brand recall and imprint.
Sponsoring events are great ways to improve a company’s reach and visibility. Both of these can help with customer engagement.
The use of mobile marketing is very rampant today, in this age, where many people own a smartphone. Mobile marketing is a more streamlined and cheaper version of online marketing, which is also famous nowadays.
Mobile marketers communicate with consumers through a mobile device. Activities include simple things such as sending a marketing message, giving a link to a mobile website, or advertisements on mobile.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing is the new trend where promotions are done through social media channels. These sites are the future of marketing and promotion because social media naturally fosters timely interaction and engagement.
Social media marketing involves promotion through the many available social media channels. Brands gather the right amount of attention and audience on such channels and can even interact with many users in real-time while they are browsing the internet.
These tools are combined by a company to create a proper IMC plan that tells a unified message and purpose.
Relevant: How to advertise on Google
Why is IMC important?
Even if it’s not exactly a foreign concept unique to today, IMC is vital in this era. More marketing channels are popping up now, and different people lead those channels with diverse communities.
The most significant of IMC is it collects the many message points of a brand and combines them into a connected and cohesive whole. This results in a clear and strong message you can use to shape your brand identity.
A clear message, regardless of the channel or method used, helps prevent confusion and helps your product stand out from the bunch. Especially in today’s digital media-driven world where information can be easily manipulated, clarity and solidarity are very much appreciated.
Different IMC approaches
Different marketing plans have different purposes and objectives. The approach to take is dependent on how the firm wants to go about its IMC plan and what the company wants to accomplish.
With the external approach, a company outsources its marketing function to an external firm specializing in public relations or marketing. These outside organizations are tasked with coming up with ideas and developing strategies for the firm employing them.
Outsourcing the IMC gives the benefit of a fresh set of eyes. When a firm wants a different perspective or an objective expert’s opinion, employing outside help is favorable.
Internal IMC involves top management action trickling down to the employee level. Management gives employees reasons to be excited and happy about the products they are developing.
With this, employees are more invested in the process. This approach also makes the workers more likely to leak the details, creating hype, and gaining the excitement of potential users.
The horizontal IMC approach brings different departments together to work on the same purpose but in varying functions. For example, a department tasked with product development and a separate one responsible for marketing work together for a common message.
To achieve this, there must be a consistently open and accommodating line of communication among the departments involved. This fosters the synergy required to build an effective integrated marketing campaign.
A vertical strategy demands that a product developed must fit the structure of the company as well as its corporate policy. The product has to be within the breadth of company philosophies and policies.
Marketing, though, is more than these approaches. The way you impart your brand message also plays a part in successful IMC implementation.
Here are the consumer perception approaches used by many marketers.
Companies employing the outside-in communication approach listen intently on consumer wants, needs, preferences, and values, and adjust accordingly. Companies evolve to fit their customers and provide them with the products and services that they demand.
At first, firms are not so quick on developing ad materials. They first strive to know the opinions and beliefs of the community and work on becoming what they want the firm to be.
This is a continuous process that puts consumer perceptions at the center and constructs products, services, offerings, and values around those perceptions.
This approach is the opposite of “outside-in” and is thought to be generally the more inferior. As opposed to the outside-in, which is more customer-oriented, inside-out does not consider customer opinions that much.
Firms employing this approach just go ahead and advertise the product with their values, without adjustment for external opinions.
This works best for firms with strong values that they are committed to sharing. ‘Inside-out’ focuses on giving out a single, clear, and unified brand message all consumers encounter.
This approach is best when the message is honest and aligns with customer values for it to resonate more.
IMC also evolves, and the cross-functional approach is gaining more traction. With this, all that matters are touchpoints and engagements with potential customers.
Free-flowing constant two-way communication is the centerpiece in this approach, and the organization is often restructured to achieve this. When channels where interactions between customers and the company are facilitated, the result is a customer-centric company that puts user engagement first.
Benefits and risks of integrated marketing
All marketing campaigns come with its risks and rewards, so you want to make sure the benefits outweigh the potential shortfalls.
Here are the reasons to try an IMC campaign or shy away from one.
Effective and efficient
An adequately handled IMC program works and works well. Later in this article I’ll discuss some tremendous success stories by brands that handled IMC well, some even gathering as much as two million social media impressions each day.
IMCs also lets the customers do some of the lifting for marketing. Once a brand markets itself well and delivers value, additional publicity can happen without shelling out more costs.
Multi-use materials for IMCs can be used on various platforms.
For example, a Facebook ad copy or video can also be used on Instagram. Images on Instagram are also for magazine articles.
With that, you are afforded consistency in marketing and branding. You also don’t need to hire more people for different jobs.
Furthermore, united messages result in higher returns on investment than many scattered advertisements.
Integrated marketing is just about everywhere
Integrated marketing is useful because it can be seen anywhere. You see a food commercial in between television show breaks, at the Superbowl halftime, at the NBA rafters.
You grow tired of it, but you have gotten so used to it that you don’t mind. Next thing you know, you find yourself buying that food product because of seeing it all the time.
This is an example of how consistent product advertising and branding work. You don’t buy it at first, but because of seeing or hearing it all the time, your interest is piqued.
It fosters trust
Integrated marketing campaigns are built from the ground up to establish customer engagement and rapport, to increase brand awareness and reputation. Additionally, it builds trust.
A consistent message results in a better understanding of your audiences. The different departments within your company must say and share the same message and values so that consumer trust is built.
However, IMC is not all positive. There are trials and negative things involved, but it helps to know them so you will be more prepared when they crop up.
Here are some of the risks involved in an IMC program.
Management team reluctance
Before you can combine your messages externally, you must integrate departments internally first. This means ensuring that your sales, production, marketing, finance, public relations, and more into one cohesive unit.
IMC campaigns require the teams to share their resources while coming to an agreement, and often, it is easier said than done.
Ideas are restricted
The purpose of IMC is to make a cohesive message, so consumers have an understanding of your brand value. Because of this, ideas that are unique and creative but are not consistent with what you want to impart are of no use.
You cannot have your different campaigns vying for attention. All must be for the same purpose.
Successful IMC examples
There is no universal way to apply IMC to your marketing efforts. Different companies have differing dynamics, philosophies, products, and messages.
To further understand IMC, here are some real-world examples that used the concept for their successes.
The GoPro utilized components of IMC to great effect. They used their IMC-geared campaigns to appeal to the masses.
GoPro has mastered online content to catch the attention of an audience. Their YouTube channel displays videos shot using their action camera taken by the company itself and its users.
Their social media following is also significant, and they use these platforms to post more visually appealing videos taken with the action cameras.
GoPro also conducts online contests almost every day with chances to win prizes. This form of event also acts as publicity, and the number of entrants every day shows how effective it is.
The company’s “Be A Hero” campaign spanned many platforms, such as print, display, and online. The program was created to market their ‘Hero’ product line, and centered on the idea that “anyone who pursues their passion and lives life to the fullest is a hero.”
This spawned many video clips and shots by these heroes, such as the adventurous divers and ambitious surfers. Through a singular brand message, “Everyone is a hero, and they are all around us,” GoPro appealed to emotion and passion.
When you are hungry, of course, you will want food. When you are “pizza hungry,” then Domino’s has your back.
The company’s “AnyWare” campaign allows the customer to order from just about any platform, be it text messages, smartwatches, smart TVs, Twitter, or Facebook. Domino’s pre-established Pizza Profile system, which they debuted years before AnyWare, saves a customer’s payment information, preferences, and address.
This system, coupled with AnyWare, allowed for easy one-click orders. The campaign garnered upwards of two million impressions on social media, was featured on television talk shows, and launched Domino’s AnyWare website.
With the recent boom in smart home devices, AnyWare just proves to be more accessible than ever. Customers can now order through Alexa and Google Home, or even through Slack.
The AnyWare campaign resulted in over 500,000 more site visits, facilitated a 10.5% year-over-year revenue growth, and fulfilled Domino’s vision of having half of their pizza purchase orders made digitally.
Always, as a feminine care brand, is advocating itself as a voice for good. Many studies outline that a girl’s confidence and self-esteem lowers as they reach the puberty stage.
Always came up with their #LikeAGirl campaign to combat this self-esteem crisis. The program aims to change the way people perceive the phrase “You ____ like a girl.”
The company pushed the campaign to multiple mediums such as social media, television, and print.
The campaign’s video was considered more of a documentary on the perception of girls about themselves and won multiple awards from the British charity, Design and Art Direction. With more than 65 million YouTube views, the campaign is considered a success; the video still receives new comments every day.
You have probably heard of, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” The famous Snickers tagline implies that the chocolate bar is a great on-the-go snack, and relieves you of hunger.
Snickers continued this program through print, digital, display, and television media, and even at the retail level. Consistent messaging and branding resulted in this easily distinguishable sentence that when you hear it, you immediately think of Snickers.
The concept of integrated marketing communications is not new but is essential in today’s marketing landscape.
In the digital era, we see the traditional marketing tools (advertising, public relations, etc.) acting as a base on how the modern tools (social media marketing, mobile marketing, events) are shaped. These new facets enhance how consumers receive and interpret your message.
With the advent of modern and digital tools, IMC is becoming more and more personal and is paving the road for the future of digital marketing.
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