The Evolution of IMC

During the 1980s, many companies came to see the need for more of a strategic integration of their promotional tools. These firms began moving toward the process of integrated marketing communications (IMC), which involves coordinating the various promotional elements and other marketing activities that communicate with a firm's customers.9 As marketers embraced the concept of integrated marketing communications, they began asking their ad agencies to coordinate the use of a variety of promotional tools rather than relying primarily on media advertising. A number of companies also began to look beyond traditional advertising agencies and use other types of promotional specialists to develop and implement various components of their promotional plans.

Many agencies responded to the call for synergy among the promotional tools by acquiring PR, sales promotion, and direct-marketing companies and touting themselves as IMC agencies that offer one-stop shopping for all their clients' promotional needs.10 Some agencies became involved in these nonadvertising areas to gain control over their clients' promotional programs and budgets and struggled to offer any real value beyond creating advertising. However, the advertising industry soon recognized that IMC was more than just a fad. Terms such as new advertising, orchestration, and seamless communication were used to describe the concept of integration.11 A task force from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the "4As") developed one of the first definitions of integrated marketing communications:

a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines— for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations—and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.12

The 4As' definition focuses on the process of using all forms of promotion to achieve maximum communication impact. However, advocates of the IMC concept, such as Don Schultz of Northwestern University, argue for an even broader perspective that considers all sources of brand or company contact that a customer or prospect has with a product or service.13 Schultz and others note that the process of integrated marketing communications calls for a "big-picture" approach to planning marketing and promotion programs and coordinating the various communication functions. It requires that firms develop a total marketing communications strategy that recognizes how all of a firm's marketing activities, not just promotion, communicate with its customers.

Consumers' perceptions of a company and/or its various brands are a synthesis of the bundle of messages they receive or contacts they have, such as media advertisements, price, package design, direct-marketing efforts, publicity, sales promotions, websites, point-of-purchase displays, and even the type of store where a product or service is sold. The integrated marketing communications approach seeks to have all

Exhibit 1-4 Ben & Jerry's has a very strong image and reputation as a socially responsible company of a company's marketing and promotional activities project a consistent, unified image to the marketplace. It calls for a centralized messaging function so that everything a company says and does communicates a common theme and positioning.

Many companies have adopted this broader perspective of IMC. They see it as a way to coordinate and manage their marketing communications programs to ensure that they give customers a consistent message about the company and/or its brands. For these companies, the IMC approach represents an improvement over the traditional method of treating the various marketing and communications elements as virtually separate activities. However, as marketers become more sophisticated in their understanding of IMC, they recognize that it offers more than just ideas for coordinating all elements of the marketing and communications programs. The IMC approach helps companies identify the most appropriate and effective methods for communicating and building relationships with their customers as well as other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, investors, interest groups, and the general public.

Tom Duncan and Sandra Moriarty note that IMC is one of the "new-generation" marketing approaches being used by companies to better focus their efforts in acquiring, retaining, and developing relationships with customers and other stakeholders. They have developed a communication-based marketing model that emphasizes the importance of managing all corporate or brand communications, as they collectively create, maintain, or weaken the customer and stakeholder relationships that drive brand value.14 Messages can originate at three levels—corporate, marketing, and marketing communications—since all of a company's corporate activities, marketing-mix activities, and marketing communications efforts have communication dimensions and play a role in attracting and keeping customers.

At the corporate level, various aspects of a firm's business practices and philosophies, such as its mission, hiring practices, philanthropies, corporate culture, and ways of responding to inquiries, all have dimensions that communicate with customers and other stakeholders and affect relationships. For example, Ben & Jerry's is a company that is rated very high in social responsibility and is perceived as a very good corporate citizen in its dealings with communities, employees, and the environment.15 Ben & Jerry's capitalizes on its image as a socially responsible company by supporting various causes as well as community events (Exhibit 1-4).

At the marketing level, as was mentioned earlier, companies send messages to customers and other stakeholders through all aspects of their marketing mixes, not just promotion. Consumers make inferences about a product on the basis of elements such as its design, appearance, performance, pricing, service support, and where and how it is distributed. For example, a high price may symbolize quality to customers, as may the shape or design of a product, its packaging, its brand name, or the image of the stores in which it is sold. Montblanc uses classic design and a distinctive brand name as well as a

Exhibit 1-4 Ben & Jerry's has a very strong image and reputation as a socially responsible company

high price to position its watches and pens as high-quality, high-status products. This upscale image is enhanced by the company's strategy of distributing its products only through boutiques, jewelry stores, and other exclusive retail shops. Notice how the marketing-mix elements that help shape the brand's distinctive image are reflected in the Montblanc ad shown in Exhibit 1-5.

At the marketing communications level, Duncan and Moriarty note that all messages should be delivered and received on a platform of executional and strategic consistency in order to create coherent perceptions among customers and other stakeholders. This requires the integration of the various marketing communication's messages and the functions of various promotional facilitators such as ad agencies, public relations firms, sales promotion specialists, package design firms, direct-response specialists, and interactive agencies. The goal is to communicate with one voice, look, and image across all the marketing communications functions and to identify and position the company and/or the brand in a consistent manner.

Many companies are realizing that communicating effectively with customers and other stakeholders involves more than traditional marketing communications tools. Many marketers, as well as advertising agencies, are embracing the IMC approach and adopting total communication solutions to create and sustain relationships between companies or brands and their customers. Some academics and practitioners have questioned whether the IMC movement is just another management fad.16 However, the IMC approach is proving to be a permanent change that offers significant value to marketers in the rapidly changing communications environment they are facing in the new millen-nium.17 We will now discuss some of the reasons for the growing importance of IMC.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Creating an Online Business Plan

Creating an Online Business Plan

Your online business plan needs to make sure it addresses the management and administration structure in other words your organization’s breakdown. Online businesses often have a simpler organization structure than a traditional business, but that’s not always the case, and it must be clearly defined.

Get My Free Ebook


Responses

  • Stephanie
    What is strategic consistency in marketing communications?
    8 years ago
  • Eric Bosch
    What are the reasons for more and more companies moving to the IMC approach?
    8 years ago
  • Regolo Angelo
    How to marketing communication concept has evolved?
    8 years ago
  • sergio
    What are the evolution process of IMC?
    3 years ago
  • leopoldo de luca
    What is a synthesis of the bundle of messages customer receive or contacts?
    2 years ago
  • anja abendroth
    What is the synthesis of the bundle of message customers receive?
    2 years ago

Post a comment