Source of the Message
It is not rare for large multinational brands to now use actors, sports stars or musicians for their advertising campaigns, but do you ever look at the advert and wonder what the source of that advertising message is? Take the advertisement showing footballer Cristiano Ronaldo endorsing Tag Heuer watches. Who is the source in this message? It is Ronaldo? Tag Heuer? Or a combination?
In many instances, sources are individuals delivering the message. On other occasions, it is the organisation or the brand behind the product of service that is the instance. The audience can often make a distinction between a direct and an indirect source. A direct source is a spokesperson delivering a message or demonstrating a product whereas an indirect source does not deliver a message but is nevertheless associated with the product or service. In the above example, Ronaldo is not speaking directly about the product to the audience, but is merely associated with the brand.
Credibility with an advert includes the source expertise and trustworthiness. Whilst all companies would want their message to be presented by credible sources, research suggests that the impact of source credibility is sometimes impressive and sometime negligible. Source credibility influences message processing and persuasion predominantly when recipients are not particularly motivated to process the message. Since this is often the case with advertising messages, it is understandable that companies go to such lengths to harness expertise and trustworthiness.
Integrated Marketing Communications is a simple concept. It ensures that all forms of communications and messages are carefully linked together.
At its most basic level, Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC, as we’ll call it, means integrating all the promotional tools, so that they work together in harmony.
Promotion is one of the Ps in the marketing mix. Promotions has its own mix of communications tools.
All of these communications tools work better if they work together in harmony rather than in isolation. Their sum is greater than their parts – providing they speak consistently with one voice all the time, every time.
This is enhanced when integration goes beyond just the basic communications tools. There are other levels of integration such as Horizontal, Vertical, Internal, External and Data integration. Here is how they help to strengthen Integrated Communications.
- Horizontal Integration occurs across the marketing mix and across business functions – for example, production, finance, distribution and communications should work together and be conscious that their decisions and actions send messages to customers.
- While different departments such as sales, direct mail and advertising can help each other through Data Integration. This requires a marketing information system which collects and shares relevant data across different departments.
- Vertical Integration means marketing and communications objectives must support the higher level corporate objectives and corporate missions.
- Meanwhile Internal Integration requires internal marketing – keeping all staff informed and motivated about any new developments from new advertisements, to new corporate identities, new service standards, new strategic partners and so on.
- External Integration, on the other hand, requires external partners such as advertising and PR agencies to work closely together to deliver a single seamless solution – a cohesive message – an integrated message.
Benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications
- Although Integrated Marketing Communications requires a lot of effort it delivers many benefits. It can create competitive advantage, boost sales and profits, while saving money, time and stress.
- IMC wraps communications around customers and helps them move through the various stages of the buying process. The organisation simultaneously consolidates its image, develops a dialogue and nurtures its relationship with customers.
- This ‘Relationship Marketing’ cements a bond of loyalty with customers which can protect them from the inevitable onslaught of competition. The ability to keep a customer for life is a powerful competitive advantage.
- IMC also increases profits through increased effectiveness. At its most basic level, a unified message has more impact than a disjointed myriad of messages. In a busy world, a consistent, consolidated and crystal clear message has a better chance of cutting through the ‘noise’ of over five hundred commercial messages which bombard customers each and every day.
- At another level, initial research suggests that images shared in advertising and direct mail boost both advertising awareness and mail shot responses. So IMC can boost sales by stretching messages across several communications tools to create more avenues for customers to become aware, aroused, and ultimately, to make a purchase
- Carefully linked messages also help buyers by giving timely reminders, updated information and special offers which, when presented in a planned sequence, help them move comfortably through the stages of their buying process… and this reduces their ‘misery of choice’ in a complex and busy world.
- IMC also makes messages more consistent and therefore more credible. This reduces risk in the mind of the buyer which, in turn, shortens the search process and helps to dictate the outcome of brand comparisons.
- Un-integrated communications send disjointed messages which dilute the impact of the message. This may also confuse, frustrate and arouse anxiety in customers. On the other hand, integrated communications present a reassuring sense of order.
- Consistent images and relevant, useful, messages help nurture long term relationships with customers. Here, customer databases can identify precisely which customers need what information when… and throughout their whole buying life.
- Finally, IMC saves money as it eliminates duplication in areas such as graphics and photography since they can be shared and used in say, advertising, exhibitions and sales literature. Agency fees are reduced by using a single agency for all communications and even if there are several agencies, time is saved when meetings bring all the agencies together – for briefings, creative sessions, tactical or strategic planning. This reduces workload and subsequent stress levels – one of the many benefits of IMC.
Barriers to Integrated Marketing Communications
- Despite its many benefits, Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC, has many barriers.
- In addition to the usual resistance to change and the special problems of communicating with a wide variety of target audiences, there are many other obstacles which restrict IMC. These include: Functional Silos; Stifled Creativity; Time Scale Conflicts and a lack of Management know-how.
- Take functional silos. Rigid organisational structures are infested with managers who protect both their budgets and their power base.
- Sadly, some organisational structures isolate communications, data, and even managers from each other. For example the PR department often doesn’t report to marketing. The sales force rarely meet the advertising or sales promotion people and so on. Imagine what can happen when sales reps are not told about a new promotional offer!
- And all of this can be aggravated by turf wars or internal power battles where specific managers resist having some of their decisions (and budgets) determined or even influenced by someone from another department.
- Here are two difficult questions – What should a truly integrated marketing department look like? And how will it affect creativity?
- It shouldn’t matter whose creative idea it is, but often, it does. An advertising agency may not be so enthusiastic about developing a creative idea generated by, say, a PR or a direct marketing consultant.
- IMC can restrict creativity. No more wild and wacky sales promotions unless they fit into the overall marketing communications strategy. The joy of rampant creativity may be stifled, but the creative challenge may be greater and ultimately more satisfying when operating within a tighter, integrated, creative brief.
- Add different time scales into a creative brief and you’ll see Time Horizons provide one more barrier to IMC. For example, image advertising, designed to nurture the brand over the longer term, may conflict with shorter term advertising or sales promotions designed to boost quarterly sales.