Over the couple of previous decades, research on IMC (Integrated Marketing Communication) has generated immense discussion leading to interesting contribution to the evolution of IMC as a strategic means that can develop firms to be more valuable in achieving their brand communication objectives (Madhavaram et al. 2005).
Kitchen et al. (2004), describes the IMC as an endeavour to come together, combine and synergize elements of the communications mix to act as strength and offset the weakness of other element. The need for attempt to combine and synchronization of communication mix has found place in twenty-first century interactive market place where marketing and its communication strategy are in transition (Schultz and Schultz, 1998).
Factors influencing need for IMC
The emphasis on IMC has been driven by continues international changes in the marketing communication surroundings and the call for efficient marketing communication. Sophisticated customer database, cost of emerging customer attainment, disintegration of mass media, change in costumers way of reacting to traditional marketing mix and approaches are the major global changes which instigate the emergence of integrative communication strategy (Reid, 2002). Below describes are the key issues influencing the traditional marketing communication changes as suggested by Shimp (2000):
Decreasing confidence in mass marketing because of communication means and diluted consumer loyalty.
Ever increasing dependence on hugely targeted marketing methods based on developing relationship marketing communication in business.
Increasing pressure on agencies and others which are suppliers of marketing communications to influence and become brand conscious rather than just a supplier of communication services.
Increased focus on return of investment on marketing and communication services demanding greater accountability of marketers and their measurement of substitute consumer attainment and relationship activities.
On an international level, it can be distinguished that fundamentally there are three factors which has changed the traditional marketing communication strategy; deregulations of market-place, globalization and individual preference of consumption (Holm, 2006). These factors depend mainly on development of technology and the current market-place is dominated by the consumers’ interaction through rapid development of information technology which will drive e-commerce (Schultz and Schultz, 1998). Marketers are not in position to push their strategy to the customers instead there is need for pulling information form consumer end to marketer. This situation influence marketers the need to regulate and emphasize marketing strategies to change from tactics to strategy according to the change in market-place reality (Holm, 2006).
Recession in global economy and increasing competition has had an impact on client agency relationship (Brown, 1997). Financial gain, client sophistication, disillusionment with brand and advertising and disillusionment with agencies has necessitated IMC to be supposed as the key fundamental which will complement client-agency relationship and maximise their cost effectiveness by integrating their communication methods (Brown, 1997). Apart from technological development and consumer awareness, internal communication has key strategic role and advantageous for organisations when assessing knowledge sharing (Kalla, 2005). Therefore the integrated structure of internal communication drives organization to reap benefit of all dimensions of knowledge sharing within an organization. Furthermore, internal integrated communication spread beyond the corporate communication activities to the all form of internal and informal communication taking place within an organisation. Market based approach as suggested by Stewart (1996) indicates that marketing communication design and its execution required to be keeping customer focus in mind that how organisation is delivering value to the consumers’. This approach cannot be executed by centralized communication function of contemporary marketing communication method.
IMC: solution to contemporary marketing communications problems
According toSchultz and Schultz (1998) IMC is not considered just as a marketing concept but as a whole strategic business process to map and develop, implement and evaluate in a structured method to develop a brand communications program with customers and other external and internal stakeholders. Author suggests that the most important factor of this definition is that this system is driven by customer data and consumers brand contacts and awareness as this methodology focuses on customers’ assessment and their present and future potential value for the organisation (Schultz and Schultz, 1998). IMC suggests the coordination of message in one sound, one voice between various media and message as a whole facilitating the effectiveness of organizations marketing effort to include and use broad consumer information in defining communication strategy (Sisodia and Telrandhe, 2010). As opposed to traditional marketing which employs a push strategy, IMC employs both push and pull strategy. The IMC concept is not limited only to simultaneously using multiple media in which success of every activity depends upon every communication activities used by the firm creating synergy and one voice (Raman and Naik, 2006).
Schultz and Schultz (1998) have acknowledged four level of integration of IMC for an organization to be fully integrated. Cross functionality through tactical coordination generate high level of competence by achieving synergy along with increased individual communication efficiency. Organizations tend to go beyond the coordination to focus on customer driven, approach as opposed to corporate driven which is found in traditional marketing communication. The next level of integration requires the application of information technology which not only enables solutions but also drive the change in paradigm of marketing communication. IT-based marketing communication incorporate data based system and can be described as the IT development has put good old time of marketing communication far behind (Holm, 2006). The final level of integration represents the involvement of top management of the organisation as it includes and provides the structure of resource planning and execution with arrangement of organization (Schultz and Schultz, 1998). As discussed in previous four level of coordination of IMC approach, it is perceived either theoretically or practically IMC offers considerable value to the clients and agencies (Eagle et al., 2007).
It has been found that integrated communication approach is being executed as a practice as a result of changing consumer behaviour and market development with greater demand for commitment and effectiveness in every communication activities (Eagle et al., 2007).
To quote an example, dLife an integrated network of multi-media communication channels aimed to enhance the living of American with diabetes portrays a perfect model of rising IMC trend. Started in late 2004, dLife used IMC approach to reach the target audience and set itself (dlife.com, dLife direct mail marketing, dLife radio and TV, dLifeEducator, a focused marketing for the community of Hispanic diabetes dLifeLatino and dLifeRetail a collaboration with pharmaceutical business) as the sole integrated patient and consumer education and communication source to effectively reach diabetic community (Stokes, 2009).
dLife’s integrated marketing was innovative and informative which won several awards like national Health Information for executing perfect marketing plan through various modes of communication channel viz. innovative documentary “The Story of Insulin” along with public campaign regarding blood glucose test using slogan “Test! Don’t Guess”. Using integrated approach dLife also used multimedia channels like television shows hosting guests and celebrities and comedians, radio spots and website which contained mail option and enquiries. Stokes (2009) believes that dLife display how sponsorships with public relation attribute organisations to develop new relationship with patients and marketers.
For any news channels it’s not easy to maintain interest in viewers’ 24-hours to remain occupied. CNN is one such example to use IMC as an influential marketing and communication means with variety of traditional journalism and latest marketing strategic tool to create steady audience. CNN used the tactics of retaining old and traditional marketing strategy like CNN Newsroom broadcast and with leading journalists planned to organize programs according to their specialism e.g. The State of Union John King and Larry King Live etc) with CNN.com as their advanced website filling the gap of ongoing social media. Through website’s iReport section which facilitates for viewers to access current news from any platform, website’s correspondent blog section audience can read, react and comment at any stage during live broadcast which have some famous blogs like Paging Dr. Gupta blog and Anderson Cooper 360 blog etc. news on cell phone are made available via CNN mobile, viewers can tweet @CNN breaking news, video and audio contents can be accessed through podcast section and multi-lingual section for foreign language speakers allows CNN to capture wide section of audience. By using different media and latest technology CNN is able to produce single brand with same message and CNN dominates in the news channel industry.
Rapid technological development, internationalization of global economy, deregulation, current customer driven market-place and changing consumption pattern has changed the perception of behaviour and brand value through direct communication. This scenario has instigated marketers to rethink their objective and strategies to the realities of current marketing and communication approach. Keeping this fact, communication needs to shift from tactics to strategy. Strategically focused integrated marketing communication can drive business to develop powerful and attractive brand and brand equity as dominant factor for the success of organisations. Communication of the significance of the brand in the current customer driven market-place will instigate marketers towards collaborative, strategic and coordinated approach to managing their communication and marketing objective with minimal resources and marketing funds. Integrated marketing is being adopted as both an up-and-coming strategic management concept, and as marketing and communication approach for developing brand value.
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