Integrated marketing communications

Managers have expressed the need for integrated marketing communication. The increased emphasis on the integration of marketing communications stems from a realization that there has been a shift from transactions marketing to relationship marketing accompanied by the requirement to build greater loyalty among customers. Furthermore, many customers have been critical of mass media advertising as being irrelevant. Organizations seek an impact greater than efficiency and cost effectiveness in fragmented markets.

Integrated marketing communications means considering all aspects simultaneously where once the organization examined public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing separately. Integrated marketing communication has been defined as 'The process of unifying all of the marketing communications tools to send to target audiences a consistent persuasive message that promotes company goals' (Burnett and Moriarty 1998). This means treating the integration task at two levels - the level of the marketing mix and the communications mix. Integrated marketing communications is based on the recognition that customers do not distinguish among different kinds of communication. It is important, therefore, that consistency is maintained in all messages sent to all audiences through the various channels used. Integrated marketing communications is an essential ingredient in building a strong brand.

For example, a failure to treat sales promotion as an integral part of marketing strategy may give rise to unrelated selling and advertising plans in the company and the dilution of decision-making authority over the sales promotion budget. This lack of integration may prevent the establishment of cohesive marketing communications strategies and an inappropriate balance in the allocation of marketing efforts.

The barriers to effective integrated communications arise from too much specialization within the organization and the communications agencies. Managers perceive that integration is too complex and difficult or impossible to plan and co-ordinate. Strategic direction and strong internal communication within the organization are required to drive an integrated consistent and effective communications policy.

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