Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC): Concepts and Process
Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is an approach used by organizations to brand and coordinate their communication efforts. The American Association of Advertising Agencies defines IMC as “a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact.” The primary idea behind an IMC strategy is to create a seamless experience for consumers across different aspects of the marketing mix. The brand’s core image and messaging are reinforced as each marketing communication channel works together as parts of a unified whole rather than in isolation.
Benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications
With so many products and services to choose from, consumers are often overwhelmed by the vast number of advertisements flooding both online and offline communication channels. Marketing messages run the risk of being overlooked and ignored if they are not relevant to consumers’ needs and wants.
One of the major benefits of integrated marketing communications is that marketers can clearly and effectively communicate their brand’s story and messaging across several communication channels to create brand awareness. IMC is also more cost-effective than mass media since consumers are likely to interact with brands across various forums and digital interfaces. As consumers spend more time on computers and mobile devices, marketers seek to weave together multiple exposures to their brands using different touch points. Companies can then view the performance of their communication tactics as a whole instead of as fragmented pieces.
The other benefit of integrated marketing communications is that it creates a competitive advantage for companies looking to boost their sales and profits. This is especially useful for small- or mid-sized firms with limited staff and marketing budgets. IMC immerses customers in communications and helps them move through the various stages of the buying process. The organization simultaneously consolidates its image, develops a dialogue, and nurtures its relationship with customers throughout the exchange. IMC can be instrumental in creating a seamless purchasing experience that spurs customers to become loyal, lifelong customers.
Process of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC)
1. Get organizational buy-in
Integrated marketing requires co-ordination between various functional silos within marketing — media planning, buying, marcom, PR, sales, advertising agencies, PPC & SEO agencies and so on. Ensure the organization recognizes the need for integrated marketing and impresses this need upon all involved parties for smooth execution. Get ideas from different functional teams on their ideas and how they can contribute to an integrated marketing program. Set up clear collaboration processes and zero in on tools to help you do the same.
2. Do a SWOT analysis of your brand
A soul searching process that will tell you exactly where you stand in terms of your brands strengths, weaknesses, opportunities that can be explored and competitive and market forces that pose a threat to your brands growth. Identify your products key features that give it an edge over competition and how you can leverage the same to gain market share.
3. Choose the Best Communication Tools
Based on what you intend to achieve with your communication and what kind of media consumption habits your target audience displays, pick the right type of communication tools to reach out to your audience. This means choose between advertising, PR, direct marketing, sales promotion and personal selling. Whatever options you zero in on, need to work in tandem and complement each other. This synergy between promotion tools is what gives integrated marketing its edge over regular marketing.
Within each type of communication tool, drill down to the actual media vehicles that will carry your message most effectively. So if you decided to go with advertising and direct marketing, decide what media you will advertise on, whether you will go with brochures or fliers or email campaigns to achieve your objectives.
Media mix decisions also depend on your budgets and the estimated ROI you hope to achieve from each media vehicle. Create exact budgets for each media vehicle to guide media buying decisions.
4. Test and Execute
Once you have decided on your messaging and media mix, its finally time to test your communication and roll it out to your target audience.
Communication testing can be done in many ways, depending upon the platform being tested. Website communication can be tested with multiple online tools, emails can be tested on the email marketing software that you use before being sent out, TV commercials can be shown to test markets to test effectiveness, conduct group discussions with the sample groups to see if your communication hits bulls eye.
Once testing is complete, fix any issues that you unearthed. Once the fixes are made, roll out your campaign across all platforms. Or in Nikes immortal words, Just Do It.
5. Measure Results and Track Progress
There is no way to know how well a campaign performed without measuring the results achieved against the objectives set out in the beginning. Obsessively track every step of your marketing campaign to see if your marketing efforts have moved the needle and how significant is the difference that the campaign has made to organizational goals.
Tracking and measurement against numeric objectives is even more important in the case of marketing communication as sometimes, communication is well received and appreciated by the target audience but it may or may not show concrete results.