Integrated Marketing Communication Essay

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The emergence  of integrated  marketing  communication (IMC) introduced  a new paradigm into the corporate sphere, promising to make marketing more effective and competitive.  The development  of IMC constitutes  a significant evolution in the areas of corporate marketing, corporate  communications and, in particular,   marketing   communication.  While  there is no  specific definition  or  common  understanding of the concept of IMC, it is widely accepted that it is based on cross-functional  processes given that it aims to coordinate corporate and brand messages and communication  activities across units and functions. The aim is to increase brand value and to enhance profitable brand relationships by persuading and influencing customers and other stakeholders such as employees, media, suppliers,  local community,  and/or prospective customers.  Soon marketing  and communication practitioners and academics began to recognize and apply an IMC approach to their tactics and strategies.

In  the  1990s, the  concept  of integrated  marketing  communication  became   increasingly   popular. The various reasons  that  accounted  for its relatively quick spread and acceptance  included the following: (1) from the outset the notion of integrating the communication  and marketing  activities of an enterprise originated  in—and was soon supported  and adopted by—a wide  spectrum   of  practitioners  (advertising, direct  marketing,  and public relations)  as well as by advertising agencies and companies alike; (2) the various academics (including Don Schultz of Northwestern University’s Medill School, who allegedly coined the phrase), who embarked upon periods of extensive research into (and subsequent publishing of ) the concept, soon found an audience both inside and outside the academic world; (3) faced with the challenges (a) of an increasingly globalizing world, and  (b) of the growing importance  of the internet  for daily life and business, the implications for marketing communication appeared  stark: It was necessary now to market and  communicate  more  effectively in  increasingly fragmented  and segmented  markets. Simultaneously, mass advertising was renounced in favor of segmented or more personalized communication; (4) a change of focus from an internal (company)-driven  to an external (consumer)-driven marketing and communication orientation,  and (5) the increased popularity of integrating business functions  in order  to use synergies resulting  in  more  competitiveness.   A  combination of the above changed the nature  of competition and the process of marketing  communications markedly. There were even claims that  the new paradigm  had revolutionized the marketing discipline in its entirety.

Concept

The precise nature  of integrated  marketing  communication (IMC) is difficult to capture. Popular definitions include Don Schultz’s emphasis on the importance  of IMC to influence  behavior  and  to address brand  and  company  contacts  with audience.  Other definitions of IMC range from understanding IMC’s role as managing customer  relationships  to improving brand  value, highlighting the cross-functionality of IMC (Tom Duncan) and the importance of aligning corporate  messages (on both the corporate  and individual brand  level) at all contact  points of the company with the customer.

Is IMC a tactic or strategy? In line with the alignment  and coordination of all messages going out, a transformation   from   promotion   to   communication has taken place, i.e., communication not simply between  different  business  units  but  also between consumer  and  company.  Dialogue such as this will inevitably result in enhanced consumer  participation in the processes of communication, marketing,  and finally, brand  value creation.  Knowing more  about customers’ needs and preferences allows for increased customized  communication and  a strengthening of the company’s relationship with the customer. Today, more than ever before, concomitant with the spread of internet  technologies the customer can be treated, integrated, and involved in a more holistic manner.

Glen J. Novak and Joseph Phelps identified three forms  of IMC in the  body of relevant  research:  (a) integrated  communication, (b) “one voice” communication,  and  (c) coordinated  marketing  communication  campaign.  Integrated   communication,  that is, the promotion of brand  image and the influencing of direct audience behavior, employs all available communication and marketing tools. As regards “one voice” communication, the  company  makes it clear from the outset that it is committed  to a unified and single positioning strategy. In contrast, a coordinated marketing-communication  campaign  is about  synchronizing marketing communication activities in order to address multiple audiences and to introduce multiple brand positions if necessary.

Critiques

Integrated marketing communication’s relevance and practice  value are being debated  vis-à-vis the applicability of both different product  types and different business types. On an organizational level, two critical points  affect the implementation of IMC: (1) structural  barriers  (a pronounced business  unit  mentality including business unit profit centers,  functional specialization and lack of IMC budget) can hinder or restrict integrated marketing communication; and (2) the absence of (or limited) horizontal communication would be incompatible with the IMC mindset.

Critiques  of the IMC concept  are not necessarily limited  to the  questioning  of the  technical  applicability of IMC: Postmodernists question the ability of IMC to capably address the increased complexity of today’s globalizing world. IMC, with its emphasis on control, order, and predictability, is in general terms a somewhat  modern  concept  whereas market  fragmentation and consumption practices tend to display postmodern characteristics.  To this end, in their discussions of the integrated marketing communication paradigm, postmodernists call for a more fluid, flexible, and open approach to change.

Bibliography:   

  1. Lars T. Christensen, Simon Torp,  and A. Fuat  Firat,  “Integrated  Marketing   Communication and Postmodernity: An Odd  Couple?” Corporate Communications:  An  International  Journal  (v.10/2,  2005);
  2. Lynne Eagle, Philip J. Kitchen, and Sandy Bulmer, “Insights Into Interpreting  Integrated   Marketing     A Two-Nation  Qualitative  Comparison,”  European  Journal of Marketing (v.41/7–8, 2007);
  3. Stephen J. Grove, Les Carlson, and Michael J. Dorsch, “Comparing the Application of Integrated  Marketing Communication (IMC) in Magazine Ads Across Product Type and Time,” Journal of Advertising (v.36/1, 2007);
  4. Călin Gurău, “Integrated Online Marketing Communication: Implementation and Management,” Journal of Communication Management  (v.12/2, 2008);
  5. Olof Holm, “Integrated Marketing Communication: From Tactics to Strategy,” Corporate Communications: An International Journal (v.11/1, 2006);
  6. Philip J. Kitchen, “New Paradigm—IMC—Under Fire,” Competitiveness Review (v.15/1, 2005);
  7. Philip J. Kitchen and Patrick  de Pelsmacker,  Integrated Marketing Communications: A Primer (Routledge, 2004);
  8. Glen J. Novak and Joseph Phelps, “Conceptualizing the Integrated Marketing Communications’ Phenomenon: An Examination of Its Impact on Advertising Practices and Its Implications for Advertising Research,” Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising (v.16/1, 1994);
  9. Don E. Schultz and Heidi Schultz, IMC, The Next Generation: Five Steps For Delivering Value and Measuring Financial Returns (McGraw-Hill, 2003).

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