There are many misconceptions about what integrated marketing
communication really is. So let me distinguish it from what most
people think it is. Typically, when people refer to an integrated
communication strategy, they are referring to integrated advertising.
Integrated advertising is the one look, one voice concept, where
all of the advertising material and messages have a common look,
feel and message. This is certainly one aspect of integrated marketing
communication (IMC), but IMC goes much further to permeate every
planned and unplanned communication at every contact point where
the customer or prospect may receive an impression of the company.
IMC incorporates the corporate mission, the compensation plan,
the management style, and the employee training. It includes packaging,
positioning, promotions, pricing, and distribution.
Marketing Communications (IMC) is a comprehensive, consistent,
goal oriented, focused and planned methodology to marketing and
communication. And it is the hottest trend in marketing communication
IMC ties together
the leading-edge business principles of Management By Objectives,
Total Quality Management, Relationship Marketing, Targeted Marketing,
Direct Response Marketing, Mission Marketing, and Database Marketing.
of IMC starts with sufficient research to understand who the target
market is, where they are, what they want to hear, how they want
to be communicated with, and how they define a positive relationship
with the organization. By focusing a consistent and appropriate
message to your defined market, you can break through the competitive,
unfocused, inconsistent and off-target clutter.
competition is trying-this-and-trying-that, a little-here-and-a-little-there,
throw it all against the wall and see-what-sticks approach, the
IMC organization is reaping the rewards of building a solid brand
image-an identity, and top of mind awareness for its product category.
By remaining consistent in its marketing message, consistent in
its service and shopping experience, which supports the experience
the advertising says they will have, they are building trust with
their customers and prospects. And trust is the cornerstone of
a long-term customer relationship.
IMC is a process,
not an event. It is an all encompassing strategic and tactical
approach to every facet of your marketing communication. Including
mass media advertising, niche market advertising, interactive
marketing, direct response and direct mail, events, promotions,
PR, in store displays, packaging, distribution methods, pricing
strategy, store locations, employee uniforms and dress codes,
sales approach, database marketing, contact management, follow-up
systems, corporate communication, corporate mission statement,
cause related or mission marketing and relationship marketing.
IMC manages every message contact point within your organization,
including the way telephone operators, greeters, sales people,
finance people, service people, and others relate to, talk to,
prioritize and deal with the public. It includes your hiring and
training practices, compensation plan, job descriptions and management
processes and logistical systems to build and maintain customer
databases for follow up to provide customer requested information,
to retain and grow customers, and for customer conflict resolution.
To be effective,
IMC must tear down the traditional departmental walls that create
information silos and management fiefdoms. All departments must
work together as a unified team to carry out the strategic plan
in total unison. One aim, one mission, one message and one experience.
Customers and prospects are treated in the same way no matter
what department or individual in the organization they deal with.
Each employee has easy and quick access to customer files in order
to respond quickly, intelligently, and accurately to questions
or problems. Every transaction and interaction the customer has
with the company is recorded on the same company-wide database.
communication management team is established. This team consists
of department heads across the organization. A team leader oversees,
organizes and coordinates the group, but does not dominate the
direction, discussion, or ideas. Each departmental head generates
ideas, aids in the communication strategy development, implementation,
management, training, and results tracking for his or her own
department. They make sure all communications are on strategy,
on target, and approved by the team leader or IMC Manager. There
is no individual departmental marketing of independent messages,
themes, or looks. The cross-functional management team in an integrated
company essentially expands the marketing responsibility beyond
the marketing department and makes each employee a marketing representative.
generalist is part of the team, to recommend, implement, manage
and evaluate the appropriate research techniques, tactics, media
options, strengths and weaknesses, costs, and efficiencies. This
person cannot be biased toward a single medium, and should not
be paid media commissions. This person acts as a consultant and
resource for finding the appropriate specialists and media outlets.
The IMC Manager ensures that every communication is on strategy
before it is released.
plans and bonuses are structured to reward not only transactions
but for customer retention and satisfaction as well. Employees
are be rewarded for being pro-active in solving problems and complaints
quickly and completely. They are rewarded for superior customer
service that keeps customers coming back and recommending the
business to others.
strategies place equal emphasis on communicating with, and not
just to, customers and prospects. An interactive two-way dialog
vs. monolog is actively pursued and supported. True communication
vs. pure mass media advertising is developed. Customers and prospects
are to be invited and encouraged to discuss ideas, register complaints,
and give feed back to the organization. Two-way communication
is made easy, fast and non-confrontational.
values its customer base (revenue stream), its employees (revenue
creators), and its sophisticated database (communication system)
more than brick and mortar.
At the core
of the marketing strategy is a mission statement. The mission
statement explains very briefly what the organization stands for
and why it exists (beyond making money for the shareholders).
The mission statement defines what drives or motivates the organization
and its employees to perform exceedingly well.
Also at the
core of the marketing strategy, is a mission marketing program.
Mission marketing is similar to cause-related marketing, but it
is on a bigger scale, is long-term, focused and integrated, permeating
the organization at every level.
With a mission
marketing plan, the organization adopts a single charity, fund
or cause, and becomes the sponsor and the champion of that cause.
Every customer, prospect and employee is aware of it. A percentage
of every sale goes to support that single cause, and such fund-raising
and support is actively communicated to the media and public using
appropriate IMC tools and tactics.
is broad based so as not to alienate customers. It is a neutral
cause usually without political, religious, or ethnic ties, unless
of course, this is your niche market. The cause is on-going. Examples
include the Children's Miracle Network, Make A Wish Foundation,
Ronald McDonald House, The Primary Children's Hospital, and The
American Cancer Society. It can be a local or a national cause,
as long as your organization is a big and recognized part of it.
The cause must be willing to work with you, and help support your
fund-raising efforts and IMC objectives.
marketing statement helps significantly to separate you from the
crowded arena of look-alike competitors. It gives you a legitimate
and newsworthy venue for free media exposure, and it gives people
one more reason to do business with you. Mission marketing is
one of the most powerful, yet misunderstood and underutilized
branding strategies available.
budget is zero-based. In other words, the budget is not determined
by last year's spending, or a percentage of sales revenue, or
on whatever is left over after all other expenses are paid. It
starts at ground zero and is built to meet the defined communication
objectives and desired results. If the communication objectives
are met, then the sales goals are met, and the return on investment
pays for proper strategy implementation. If the funds are not
available to finance the defined objectives, secondary communications
are scaled back or stretched out over time. Never is the quality
or implementation of the IMC plan eroded. If the plan is sound
and based on sufficient research, the investment is justified.
This, of course,
assumes that the proper research, strategy, tactics, training,
and resources are in place to implement and capitalize on the
plan. Most marketing campaigns fail because they lack proper funding
to achieve stated goals.
The perfect campaign consistently interweaves a big creative idea
into every communications message. The big idea may be a creative
way to position the brand, explain a key benefit, portray the
quality, or demonstrate the utility. However, don't wait for that
big idea to hit like a lightening bolt. If the big idea doesn't
come, roll forward with the best you have. A campaign that is
consistently on target with its audience, message, and offer,
has sufficient reach and frequency, and is integrated throughout
the organization will likely be successful. On the other hand,
a great creative execution of a poorly defined strategy, with
little or no supportive research likely will fall far short of
to zero-based budgeting, zero-based communication planning is
used. As such, all media and communication options are treated
equally, absent bias, commission structure, or personal preferences.
The best tool(s) for the strategic objectives are utilized. Analyze
each medium based on the chosen strategy, the message to be conveyed,
the relevance of the medium to the target audience and its media
consumption habits. Next, analyze cost per point or cost per impression,
as well as production costs associated with each medium, and weigh
the differences. It is always better to use a mixture of appropriate
media to complement and leverage the campaign message. Remember,
every medium has distinct strengths and weaknesses.
As with any
effective marketing effort, serious attention is paid to the details
of implementation, including quality of production, effective
media placement, appropriate timing of message delivery, and flawless
is always free cheese in a mousetrap." So remember that it
takes trained and talented people to carry out the plan at every
level. And talented people cost money. It helps to keep the definition
of insanity in mind: "Doing the same thing over and over,
and expecting a different result." In other words, if you
always call on the same talent pool, utilize the same advertising
media, or use the same tactics hoping to generate completely different
results, you consistently will be disappointed. Look at a variety
of sources for implementation and inspiration.
It takes an
unbiased individual with a very broad, and yet specific, understanding
of every aspect of advertising, marketing, promotions, PR, relationship
marketing, research, and branding to effectively manage an IMC
flow of IMC events for the automotive retailer may look like this:
and quantitative market research about your market area and customers:
§ Focus groups
§ Customer database enhancements with demographic, psychographic
and lifestyle data
§ Scarborough research data
§ SRDS research data
§ State, local and federal research and census data
§ Customer surveys
§ Sales mapping
§ Manufacturer research data
§ Independent research conducted by local media sources
§ Other credible data and research findings
Assess all assets and resources currently available (human capital,
financial capital, technology, knowledge base, patents, unique
processes, distribution, location(s), databases, market share,
brand awareness, collaborative marketing partners, co-op funds,
special contacts, etc.)
past marketing and advertising failures, un-achieved goals, poor
performing markets, products and services. Analyze all successes
in the same areas. Understand what is similar and what is different
among them that made some a success and the other a failure.
a SWOT analysis (market strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
a list of all the marketing and communication objectives. Place
a time frame on each objective. Prioritize them according to the
impact they will have on the organization in terms of creating
a sizable and loyal customer base.
analyze and prioritize the most cost effective communication media
available to achieve your objectives.
a budget to reach the stated objectives utilizing the appropriate
media mix for the strategy and target audience. (The budget must
keep the prioritized objectives in mind, understanding that every
objective may not be addressed based on budgetary constraints.)
the IMC cross functional management team.
the IMC team leader.
the IMC manager. (The advertising and marketing expert who understands
the IMC concept and all methods of communications, and who can
assure the IMC message is on strategy. This person also has extensive
knowledge of which experts to call on for tactical implementation.)
the strategy to reach the stated objectives.
the tactical plans to implement the strategy.
the tracking tools and train the staff to use them.
results against the stated objectives.
the customers to see if they are receiving the same message you
think you are sending, both from a service standpoint and a communications
the results and create a report for the cross functional IMC management
adjustments to tactics and budget if necessary.
tracking results and surveying the customers.
more adjustments as needed.
on the objectives and the organization, there may be several additional
steps, and processes involved, but this provides an idea of the
IMC is a company wide endeavor to create a "whole business"
as seen from the customer's point of view.
marketing is a cross-functional process for managing profitable
customer relationships. It brings people and corporate learning
together in order to maintain strategic consistency in communication,
facilitate purposeful dialogue with customers and prospects, and
market a corporate mission that increases customer and prospect
trust in the organization. IMC breaks through the media clutter."
unity of effort, unity of purpose, unity of process, unity of
goal, and unity of action.
Association of Advertising Agencies describes IMC as:
"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 promotions, and public relations-and
combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and
maximum communication impact."
implementing an IMC strategy is difficult. The most difficult
aspect is getting every employee in every department to work,
plan and think together as a team. It is the separate and distinct
territories that destroy integration, consistency, pro-activity,
real branding ability, and solid customer service and retention.
Getting the Managers to see this is necessary for the IMC process
Benefits To IMC
When an organization integrates, its communication and interactions
become consistent, its reputation and image more distinct, and
its customers more trustful. The organization builds integrity
because it is seen as a whole, rather than as a collection of
fragmented functional units.
every contact point and media impression, and maximizes impact
by emphasizing a one-look, one-voice approach. IMC gives consistency
to the customer shopping and ownership experience. Brand image
and awareness are built faster because all planned messages are
consistent, and the best media tools are used based on a strategic
marketing plan, backed by research to guide the direction of the
customer retention and satisfaction is increased, growth by referrals
spirals upward, prospects become customers more easily, and advertising
dollars are more effectively spent. The organization builds on
the solid foundation of a large and loyal customer base, an unshakable
reputation, a positive public image, and a strategic plan, things
that cannot be easily duplicated by the competition.