By: Johana M. Caba, M.A.
What is integrated marketing communications? According to Philip Kitchen and Inga Burgmann's Integrated Marketing Communications: Making it Work at a Strategic Level (2015), Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is an expansion of utilizing both modern and traditional marketing strategies, to optimize the communication of a consistent message conveying the company's brand to stakeholders. Like with many things in life, consistency is the key. To optimize message consistency, we must be highly collaborative and bring together people and functions who normally might not communicate with one another.
In other words, Integrated Marketing Communications, as defined by The American Association of Advertising Agencies is a marketing strategy that recognizes the value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines, advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotion, and combines them to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact.
In order to build collaboration to deliver a single, cohesive message throughout the organization, IMC requires the integration of various functions including:
Why is IMC becoming increasingly popular?
IMC is becoming increasingly popular because it is communication that works without waste. What do I mean by this? Integrating marketing and communications is a unique practice because it looks at the promotional mix as a whole instead of separate parts. The promotional mix is a marketing term that stands for product, place, price, and promotion. The advantages of the IMC strategy is that it makes your campaigns more intuitive. Integrating allows for a consistent message across all of your communication and marketing channels.
How can IMC help your small business, start-up, or nonprofit?
Research-driven initiatives that are focused on delivering results against measurable objectives during specific time frames are most effective. This is why IMC will help your small business, start-up, or nonprofit succeed. Research, SMART goals and objectives, clear and consistent messaging, and building long term relationships with your target audience are essential for the success of any organization. Integrating your marketing and communications is a strategic approach to delivering your message consistently and clearly to your target audience.
As communicators, marketers, and business owners, we need to be highly collaborative and bring together people and functions that historically don’t communicate, from marketing to advertising, PR, social/digital media, graphic design, website design/development, event production, and sales. These various groups, departments, or individuals must build collaboration to deliver a single, cohesive message throughout the entire organization.
The History of IMC
Let’s dive a little deeper into IMC. According to Avocet Communications: IMC is “A term coined in 1989, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) began as a need to focus advertising efforts across several different promotional methods. By integrating communications across multiple marketing platforms, businesses discovered that each individual brand message was actually reinforcing the others. The need arose as a result of businesses realizing there were other more efficient and cost-effective ways to reach customers. Focusing advertising efforts in more ways became necessary for the growth of the business, but some quickly realized that consistency and integration between those efforts was just as important.”
Many big name brands and organizations have developed IMC campaigns throughout the years. Think about your favorite brand and how they share a consistent message on their websites, on social media, on their ads, through their marketing like email marketing, on TV ads, and even through influencer marketing. There are many successful IMC campaigns that you can start to recognize once you learn more. And, of course, you can do this too, it just takes planning, research, execution, and evaluation.
Case Studies: Successful IMC Campaigns
An example of a successful IMC campaign is the Old Spice: Smell Like a Man campaign. This campaign integrated great videos, social media, ads, and everything in between with great copywriting that held your attention and sold you the product. This campaign was research-driven in that it was developed based on one key insight, that 60% of body wash purchases are made by women. So, they developed a campaign in which women were the target market by having a shirtless, good looking man, riding a horse on a beach at sunset. Although it is a product for men, the campaign targeted women as research showed that over 60% of body wash purchases were made by women. The imagery, content, videos and everything focused on the key message of smelling like a man and what that looked like through the screen. The imagery helps us associate a scent with the brand even if we don’t know what that scent is, through the power of the mind we can picture what that smell is based on what the ads are portraying.
Another example is the Always: #LikeAGirl campaign which promoted a cause rather than a product. This campaign wasn’t designed to sell you a product, which is evident through the consistent messaging across platforms with videos that worked and a hashtag to tie everything together. The videos didn't focus on “selling a product." Instead, through the #LikeAGirl hashtag, the campaign sparked a debate centering around gender equality on social media. The consistent message that was clear and evident throughout the various platforms from images, to digital, to videos and commercials even during the Super Bowl was that girls are strong, smart, and powerful. We as women, know that we are capable of anything and everything and we will succeed, and this message came out through this campaign.
A third example is the Levi Strauss: Ready to Work campaign which focused on documentaries about rebuilding efforts in a rundown steel town across multiple media sources which made the campaign an integrated marketing gem. It was real and raw which struck a chord within consumers but most importantly it delivered a clear and consistent message across platforms from video ads, to social media, digital ads, and more.
These case studies are great examples that clearly show you how IMC campaigns can be highly successful and intuitive. They demonstrate exactly why IMC is the new gold standard of marketing communications. Like I mentioned earlier, the key to IMC is consistency because consistency will help you optimize the message you are trying to convey.
Learn More about IMC
I created an online course focusing on IMC for small business, start-ups, nonprofits, creators, and any individual or organization that wants to learn more about marketing communications. In my IMC online course, you can learn the process of planning your own IMC strategy for your business and products. The learning objectives of my course are:
Let's work together to learn and create a plan for your brand or organization. Click here to register for the course.
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