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Integrated Marketing Communications

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the use of marketing strategies to optimise the communication of a consistent message of the company's brands to stakeholders.[1] Coupling methods together improves communication as it harnesses the benefits of each channel, which when combined together builds a clearer and vaster impact than if used individually.[2] IMC requires marketers to identify the boundaries around the promotional mix elements and to consider the effectiveness of the campaign's message.[3]

In the mid to late 1980s, the marketing environment was undergoing profound environmental changes with implications for marketing communications. Media proliferation, audience fragmentation, globalisation of markets, the advent of new communications technologies, the widespread use of databases meant that the old methods, and practices used in mass marketing were no longer relevant. In particular, the rise of digital and interactive media meant that marketers were relying less on advertising as the dominant form of marketing communications. Amongst practitioners and scholars, there was an increasing recognition that new approaches to marketing communications were required. That new approach would become known as integrated marketing communications. A number of empirical studies, carried out in the early 1990s, found that the new IMC was far from a "short-lived managerial fad," but rather was a very clear reaction by advertisers and marketers to the changing external environment.

Integrated marketing communications is a holistic planning process that focuses on integrating messages across communications disciplines, creative executions, media, timing and stakeholders. An integrated approach has emerged as the dominant approach used by companies to plan and execute their marketing communication programs [4] and has been described as a paradigm shift.[5]


The impetus to rethink marketing communications came from a number of environmental changes that were becoming increasingly apparent throughout the mid to late 1980s. Media was proliferating and at the same time converging, audiences were fragmenting and many new communications disciplines were emerging. Few advertising agencies provided the full suite of services in terms of the varied communications disciplines. Companies were reliant on a multiplicity of service providers for assistance with advertising, public-relations, branding, packaging, sales promotion, event organisers and other promotional activities. Each of these communications disciplines was treated as a "silo"; with little thought to the synergies between them,with the result that many different stakeholders involved in presenting the company's external image throughout the breadth and length of a campaign.[6] In that environment, both practitioners and theorists recognised the potential for confusing or inconsistent brand images to develop across media and across different communications disciplines.[7] The fragmentation of audiences presented marketers with particular challenges. No longer were they able to communicate with mass markets via mass media; instead they needed to communicate with increasingly tightly defined market segments, using highly specialist media and communications disciplines. New media and the use of databases were enabling marketers to communicate with customers on a one-to-one basis.[8] The old methods and practices associated with mass communications were failing to serve the realities of the new era.[9] The imperative to present a clear, coherent and unified narrative in both internal and external communications was becoming increasingly apparent by the late 1980s.

In 1989, two discrete events served to draw attention to the fact that industry attitudes to marketing communications were shifting. Firstly, the consulting firm, Shearson-Lehman Hutton published a report on the subject of consumer advertising, signalling that a number of market-place changes would force packaged goods marketers to adopt a more integrated approach to marketing communications. Their report also noted that high-end manufacturers (e.g. automobiles) and up-market services (e.g. cruise vacations) were more inclined to use integrated promotions.[10] Secondly, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), instituted a task-force to investigate integrated marketing communications (IMC), with the result that the first official definition was published. The AAAA defined 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 (e.g. general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations) and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact."[11] At this stage, the development of IMC, focused primarily on the need for organisations to offer more than just standard advertising and to integrate the various communications disciplines.[12]

The Medill School at Northwestern was the first university to teach course in integrated marketing communications

In 1991, the faculty of Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University in conjunction with the AAAA, began the first empirical research study designed to investigate how IMC was being used.[13] The study focused around understanding the concept and the importance of IMC and also to analyse the extent in which IMC was practiced in all major U.S advertising agencies. This initial study was then replicated by other studies with a view to examining how IMC was being used in other countries; New Zealand, UK, US, Australia, India, Thailand, South Africa and the Philippines, etc.[14] The findings from these studies demonstrated that the new IMC was far from a "short-lived managerial fad" but rather was "a very clear reaction by advertising agencies and their clients as they are affected by a multitude of factors such as new forms of information technology including development and usage of databases, media fragmentation, client desires for interaction/synergy, and global and regional coordination."[15] This was the second stage of IMC's development, where the focus shifted to documenting the practice of IMC as a global phenonenon. In other words, researchers were attempting to codify practices that had been used for some time.[16]

In 1993, Don Schultz and his team published the first text-book dedicated to IMC.[17] Their work, simply entitled, Integrated Marketing Communications, described IMC as a totally new way of looking at the whole of marketing communications, rather than looking at each of the parts separately. And, in the same year, the Medill School at Northwestern University changed their curriculum to include a focus on this new idea of integrated marketing communications rather than the traditional program which had emphasised advertising.[18] IMC emerged from an "academic department that, for several decades, had been recognized as the number one advertising program.[19] Since the mid-1990s, virtually every text-book on the subject of marketing communications has adopted an integrated perspective or has added chapters on IMC in new editions of standard works.[20] Collectively these books focus on the IMC planning processes and this represents the third distinct stage in the evolution of IMC - an emphasis on managing and organising IMC.[21]

Over time, scholars have advanced different definitions of IMC, with each definition exhibiting a slightly different emphasis. Yet, in spite of the variety of definitions in circulation, there is general consensus that integrated marketing communications should be viewed as a planning process.[22] Some scholars have pointed out that because IMC is both a process and a concept, it is exceedingly difficult to define.[23]

Some of the key definitions that have been advanced during IMC's evolution are outlined here:

* "IMC is the process of all sources and information managed so a consumer or prospect is exposed which behaviorally moves the customer more towards a sale." (Schultz, 1991)[24]
  • "The strategic co-ordination of all messages and media used by an organisation to influence its perceived brand value." (Duncan and Everett, 1993) [25]
* "The process of strategically controlling or influencing all messages and encoring purposeful dialogue to created and nourish profitable relationships with consumers and other stakeholders." (Duncan & Caywood, 1996)[26]
* "[A three-pronged definition] One-voice marketing communications is integration that creates a clear and consistent image, position, message, and/or theme across all marketing communication disciplines or tools. Integrated communications refers to the creation of both a brand image and a behavioural response that emanate directly from marketing communications materials such as advertisements. Coordinated marketing communications associates 'integrated' with the concept of 'coordination'. (Nowak & Phelps, 1994)[27]
* "IMC is a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinate measurable persuasive brand communication programs over time with consumers, customers and prospects, and other that are targeted, relevant internal and external audiences." (Schultz & Schultz, 1998)[28]
* "IMC is the concept and process of strategically managing audience-focused,channel-centred, and results-driven brand communication programmes over time." (Kliatchko, 2005)[29]
* "An IMC program plans and executes various marketing activities with consistency so that its total impact exceeds the sum of each activity. It is a strategy in which different communication tools like advertising, public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing and personal selling work together to maximize the communication impact on target consumers." (Saeed et al., 2013)[30]
* "IMC is the planning and execution of all types of advertising-like and promotion-like messages selected for a brand, service, or company, in order to meet a common set of communication objectives, or more particularly, to support a single ' positioning'." (Larry Percy, 2008)[31]

Today, there is general agreement amongst both practitioners and scholars that the emergence of IMC represents "a significant example of development in the marketing discipline... [that] has influenced thinking and acting among all types of companies and organizations facing the realities of competition in an open economy."[32] Belch and Belch argue that IMC has become the dominant approach used by companies to plan and execute their marketing communication programs[33] while other scholars have described IMC as a paradigm shift.[34] Larry Percy argues that "the planning and execution of all marketing communication should be integrated".[35]

Meaning of integration

Integrating the creative and the media can result in imaginative and powerful messages that grab attention and are noticed

Within the literature there is no absolute agreement about the meaning of "integration" in the concept, "integrated marketing communications". The concept of IMC has evolved during its brief history, and with that different ideas around the meaning of integration have been advanced.[36] The diverse views surrounding IMC and its meaning can be explained by the early state of theoretical development and research on IMC which gives rise to a mulplicity of different perspectives. As the discipline matures, these different views are expected to converge.[37]

The marketing and advertising literature identifies many different types of integration:

Functional integration

Functional integration refers to the capacity of the different promotional tools to complement each other and deliver a unified, coherent message. Each of the communications disciplines (advertising, PR, personal selling, sales promotion etc.) has its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, it is generally recognised that straight advertising is very effective at creating brand awareness, but much less effective at converting awareness into actual sales.[38] As consumers approach the actual purchase, they may turn to other types of promotion such as personal selling or direct marketing. A carefully planned communications program will include a blend of tools in a way that the messages move the customer through the various stages of the purchase decision - from need recognition through to purchase and post-purchase stages. Integrating the communications disciplines addresses the question of how the strengths of one discipline can be used to overcome the weaknesses of a different discipline.[39]

Message integration

Message integration is also known as image integration or creative integration. A key task for IMC is ensuring consistency in executions within and across the different types of marketing communications, as well as over time. Everything connected with an IMC campaign should have a similar 'look and feel', irrespective of the medium or tool. Message integration does not imply that messages need to identical. Rather it means that every piece of promotion - from advertising to direct mail to collateral materials to packaging to posters to corporate vehicles to business cards and office stationery - should be immediately recognisable as part of the same livery.[40]

Clearly, media releases which are often part of a PR program are very different to persuasive messages used in advertising. However, messages should include a similar tone and at least some common elements so that each message looks like it is part of a coherent, integrated campaign. Every execution is part of the brand's identity. Consistent executions facilitate brand awareness. People associate the 'look' of the brand's marketing communication with the brand itself. Consistent executions are more of a 'feeling' that ties everything together; a unique look or feel so that the target audience recognizes a brand's marketing communication even before they see the brand name. The key to consistency is the visual feel. This is because the visual memory for the imagery associated with the brand actually elicits faster brand identification than the brand name itself.[41]

Media integration

Much IMC planning is concerned with co-ordinating different media channels to optimize the effectiveness of marketing communications programmes. If brand communications "reflect implied brand values and imagery that are consistent throughout differing media channels, then clearly these channels act in a mutually reinforcing way with each successive consumer engagement."[42] Certain messages may not translate into other media. For instance, messages containing 'sex appeals' may work well on TV because movement lends itself to eroticism, but may become "flat" in a static medium such as print. In such cases it is important that the secondary media support the primary media and that messages harmonise.[43]

Research studies suggest that consumers learn more quickly when they are exposed to messages via different media. The explanation for this is that slight variations in execution create a slight mental perturbation which grabs attention, and results in more elaborate encoding of the main message argument. By exposing consumers to the same message through multiple media, there are more opportunities to engage with consumers. In short, a multi media strategy is more effective.[43]

Integration of timing

Integration of timing refers to the timing messages so that they operate to support each other and reach potential customers at different junctures, depending on when they are most receptive to different types of message or depending on the consumer's readiness to buy.[43]

Other types of integration

Other types of integration include:[44]

Coordinated integration refers to the ways that different internal and external agencies (e.g web designers, advertising agencies, PR consultants, graphic designers) coordinate to provide a consistent message.
Stakeholder integration refers to the way that all stakeholders (e.g. employees, suppliers, customers and others) cooperate to communicate a shared understanding of the company's key messages and values.
Relationship integration refers to the way that communications professionals (e.g. marketing managers, advertising managers) contribute to the company's overall corporate goals and quality management.


Both practitioners and scholars agree that IMC makes practical "good sense".[45] Consequently, the discipline has relatively few critics. Nevertheless, researchers have pointed to areas that are in need of further research, and highlight some of the discipline's deficiencies:

* Some practitioners and scholars argue that IMC is not new. Skeptics point out that the more experienced commmunicationsd managers, especially national brand managers, have always practised integration.[46]
* A more serious criticism of IMC concerns the problem of measurement. The value of IMC activities has proved very difficult to measure due to the interactions of different communications tools.[4] A growing number of scholars agree that the lack of rigorous measurement metrics and methods represents a major challenge for the discipline.[47]
* Studies have shown that, while managers are familiar with the IMC concept in theory, it is not widely practiced. Such findings suggest that IMC is easy to understand, but difficult to do. One possible explanation for the slow uptake is that organisational barriers to implementation may have become entrenched and are difficult to overcome.[48] A number of organisational characteristics have been cited as possible barriers to implementation. These factors include: a mind-set that has been built up over the years which promotes specialisation rather than integration; organisational structure which has been designed to manage specialisms (e.g. advertising, PR as separate branches); manager ability and lack of skills in integration; agency remuneration systems and the adequacy of budgets.[49]

Marketing communications framework

The marketing communications planning framework (MCPF) is a model for the creation of an ICM plan. Created by Chris Fill,[50] senior examiner for the Chartered Institute of Marketing, the MCPF is intended to solve the inadequacies of other frameworks.


IMC planning approaches

Inside-out approach

An "inside-out" approach is the traditional planning approach to marketing communication. Planning begins "inside" the organisation by identifying the goals and objectives which are often based around what has always been done. Communication's task then becomes a process of "selling" the organisation's message to the "outside" or external stakeholders. .[51]

The inside-out approach to integrated marketing communications has been criticised as a one sided view point, since it combines the elements of communication and marketing to create a single unified message. Porcu and his team point out that many of the first, tentative attempts to practice IMC were primarily concerned with integrating the message, so that to organisation appeared to speak with "one voice," but failed to adopt a more rounded customer orientation. The inside-out approach is weak due to the stagnant, outdated method.[52]

Outside-in approach

The outside-in approach of integrated marketing communications seeks to understand the needs and wants of the consumer.[52] In addition to the previous category, this approach establishes significant progression. Organisations can gain in-depth knowledge based on consumers and therefore can accommodate the way they approach to fulfil their requirements. Relationship marketing aids in building up a history of frequent conversation between organisations and stakeholders which contributes to trust.[53] Communication builds rapport that could prove to be profitable as they retain clientele. The outside-in approach offers a unique way to planning, as it operates backwards by concentrating on customers first, then determining the most effective course of marketing and communication methods to implement. Effectively managing the strategic business process is crucial as it defines the steps to follow which ensure brand value is upheld.

Cross-functional planning approach

Cross-functional planning approach of integrated marketing communications diverges away from the other two categories, it does not centre around the concept of marketing promotional elements, instead the focus has shifted toward restructuring the organisation to increase a customer-centric environment. This approach recognises that messages do not just come from the marketing department, but can come from virtually any department within the organisation.[54] Investing for the reorganisation sparks change where all departments interconnect to work cohesively toward managing and planning all stages of brand relationship. As a unified organisation, the cross-functional process is a competitive advantage as they can achieve profitable relationships with customers and stakeholders. This can be achieved through improving the relation amongst messages sent from all departments through channels to the receivers. By sending strategic messages and monitoring any external reaction, organisations gain feedback data from consumers which can be used to inform subsequent planning or fine-tuning of the communications strategy. The process is circular, not linear,[55] at the beginning organisation and consumer communicate by interacting and dialogue which ignites the relationship, over time trust is earned and the consumer may continue to purchase, which in turn increases sales and profitability for the organisation and finally, the relationship is strong and the organisation retains clientele.[3] Interactive communication is advantageous for a cross-functional approach as the business and consumer are both involved in brand communication.[56] Implementing IMC is a flexible process due to the changing nature of the marketing dynamics therefore by eliminating borders within the organisation it allows for this notion.

Barriers to implementation

The barriers to implementation have been cited as one of the main reasons for the failure to adopt holistic approaches to IMC.[57] The key barriers cited in the literature are:

No support from senior management

It is vital for an organisation who implements integrated marketing communications to have the commitment from all levels of employees, including senior management.[1] The union between both marketing and corporate goals should coincide and support simultaneously. The lack of involvement from senior management could lead to IMC being deprived of resources which prevents the full potential IMC can deliver for the organisation to benefit from (Valos, Habibi, Casidy, Driesener, & Maplestone, 2016). Higher levels of the business need to coincide with the efforts of staff in the strategic planning to grasp that IMC's programme is valuable.

Clients are confused about the concept

Some companies such as advertising agencies could possibly take advantage of the integrated marketing communications model, due to the stress they receive from clients and budgets being reduced.[1] The introduction of new technology broadens the boundaries for advertising elements to endeavour with such avenues like the internet. Their focus may stray from the core principles of IMC which is to integrate the elements together, as they're less effective individually. Also, their clients may not grasp the IMC concept as an essential attribute, therefore, they perceive IMC as saving money due to the strategic juxtaposition.

Organisation is too specialised

One of the core fundamentals of integrated marketing communications is that of the focus aspires toward a customer orientation.[1] In spite of that, the purpose of some organisations have not adopted the framework and are still task orientated. Examples include public relations, direct marketing and advertising.

Conflict within organisation

Trying to implement integrated marketing communications into strong hierarchy structured organisations may cause staff resistance due to the nature of horizontal communication causing disagreements amongst staff.[1] Staff may not perform their tasks and functions which jeopardises the work environment. For IMC to be successful the culture of the organisation needs to accommodate an open perspective where communication amongst the varying departments are managed tactically.[58] Individuals reactions toward the new restructure will differ, as some become custom to the process and enjoy the borderless integration, on the other hand, some may feel threatened from the absence of control that once maintained order and power within the previous structured organisation (Vladmir, Miroslav, & Papic, 2012). A corporate structure may not necessarily invite IMC due to their culture being incompatible for the integration.

Removing barriers

Integrated marketing communication is the process of communicating an idea in order to attract customers using an array of tools. It is the process of sending out a message to a receiver (Communications, 2016). Depending on the company values and the type of product or service they offer, the most appropriate message to deliver will depend on the brand and consumer. To understand how integrated marketing communication can benefit a business, three main areas will be discussed. These areas being who the Sender is? Who is the Receiver? And what tools can the sender use in order to pass a message on to the receiver?

Practical solutions towards improving marketing strategies by using ICM can be done through two differing marketing concepts the four P's or the four C's . Also, the uses of encoding and decoding should be followed, all of which intertwine to form growth in sales financially for a business.

A sender is someone who is aiming to communicate an idea to a receiver (Oxford, 2016). This can be an individual or a group. It is a person who is aiming to offer a product or a service. Marketers must first understand who the brand is in order to successfully implement marketing communications. Who is Staples? (Staples, 2016) In order to answer this, one must consider what value they offer their customers. What this company proposes is that it is a 'one-stop' shop for all office needs. They offer a wide variety of office supplies, safe and on time delivery, competitive pricing and excellent customer service. Staples focuses its marketing efforts on advertising those values. Their slogan "To make more happen, everyday". This theme is the most appropriate because it attracts their target audience. Workers have little time on their hands, the product they offer will give them the ability to make life easier; by doing so, they save time. In today's fast-paced lifestyle, if a service is convenient, customers will most likely use the product. Staples have successfully taken the necessary steps in order to communicate their values to their customers. They have done this through understanding who they are and who they should be targeting.

Branding plays a significant role in marketing communications. It is the process of establishing the identity of a product or service within the market, as well as differentiating itself from its competitors (WebFinance, 2016a). In order to identify which tool should be used in communicating a business's vision, the conglomerate must understand what their brand stands for and who their target market is.

The consumer is this person (Collins, 2016). People receive messages in two different ways: central (MedicineNet, 2016) and peripheral (Linde, 2016). Central receivers require extrinsic motivation (WebFinance, 2016b) in order to be attracted, some of the commonly used tools to capture this type of audience are catalogues and discount advertisements. Peripheral deals with the use of emotion in order to get a customer interested. For example, ADIDAS sponsoring the All Blacks (AIG, 2016). The customers will purchase ADIDAS products simply because the team they love wears them. All they need to do is advertise their sponsorship. However, it is important to note that consumers can be both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated into utilizing a product or service regardless of what is being offered.

To take advantage of the first, aggressive advertising of factual information must be conducted and 'on sale' type deals must be offered. This is because someone who receives a message centrally listens to reason, knows a lot about the industry or does not know why he needs the product or service yet. If the best deal is offered, we can expect that the customers will take part in the service. Businesses who sell a product that is not a necessity should use this strategy. Conglomerates within a highly competitive industry should use this theory as well. We'll use the sports shoe consumers as an example. This product is in the maturity stage of the product life cycle, as a result, there is a high level of competition. The consumer gains the advantage of choice and access to options and information. Aggressive advertising will reach those who buy on impulse and discounts will attract those who are looking for a deal. Retailers should implement these two strategies in order to highlight reasons a customer should visit their store.

To intrinsically motivate (Harackiewics, 2000) someone into taking part in a service, one must use emotion. There are a number of ways for a business to do so, one example is the direct comparison of a product to a familiar context, for example, a movie. A good example of such advertisement is the Brokeback Speights commercial (Speights, 2006).

What are some communication tools and how can they use them? The most effective marketing tool today is the use of social media (Technopedia, 2016). Twitter, Facebook and other services provide businesses with access to consumers all over the world. What methods can marketers use to take advantage of these services? They can use key opinion leaders (Matter, 2016). These people usually have adequate knowledge of the industry, hold credible titles for example members of parliament or have a large number of followers. Therefore, consumers are likely to follow the opinions they post about a product or service.

Key opinion leaders drive existing thoughts. They take the lead in voicing opinions - for example, Donald Trump, who is currently running for a chance to be the leading candidate of the Republican Party (Team, 2016). UPDATE (2017) - He is the current President of the United States. One of his strategies is to target the issue of immigrants entering America. He states that he's going to build a bigger wall in order to keep them out. Although his approach raises controversy, many Americans have that same thought in their minds: immigrants are taking jobs and opportunities, therefore, making it harder for citizens to live in their own country. Some like-minded people will agree with Donald Trump's views because it is an opinion that resonates with citizens. Leaders also have the ability to invoke thought to those who know little about a product or service. The opinion does not have to be an existing one. They have the ability to convince consumers that a product or service that they know nothing about satisfies an everyday need (for example, voters who did not know that immigration was a problem in America).

Other tools which businesses can use are touch points (SurveyMonkey, 2016), other languages, artwork for example logos and slogans. An example of the first is the student service centre at the Auckland University of Technology (Technology, 2016). The service enables students to interact with the university. Other examples are Facebook group pages. In other words, the touch point is the process of creating a service which allows consumers to communicate with the brand. Retail stores are another good example of touch point communications.

Nike specialises in the sale of sports gears ranging from shoes to apparel (Game, 2016). Originally they established themselves as a business that offers technical footwear. Today, they are known globally and have a following loyal to their brand. Consumers now, generally purchase their products because of the brand rather than the technical aspects it offers. Whether it be through sponsoring players or the event itself, this is an example of the use of Key Opinion leaders. Sports is an activity that a large population is interested in - an event that creates role models such as Michael Jordan (Rovell, 2016). In his early days, Nike was successful in gaining Jordan's endorsements, thus ensuring that loyal fans would follow what he said or what he wore. For example, the introduction of the Nike Air Jordan (Liquidrice, 2006) saw an increase in the consumption of Nike products simply because it was designed by a key opinion leader.

Artwork is a form of communication that engages with the consumer's emotions. Logos need to be carefully designed because they are a representation of who a company is (Newspapers, 2016). Kathmandu (Ltd, 2016) have over the years, changed their logo many times. Why have they done this? The scope of their target audience was changing and therefore to ensure that consumers knew this, they changed their logo as well. They were not just changing their logo but also what they stood for.

Slogans (Taube, 2014) are a quick and easy way to communicate what a business stands for. However, finding out which slogan best appeals to the target market is difficult. An example of a slogan that works is video game developer EA Games' "challenge everything". Playing an EA game - for example, NFL 2016 - is almost like playing a real game of football. Although it can be fairly predictable, the strategies used in order to win is relatively the same. "Challenge everything" means that in the cyber world, anyone can be experts at any sports, as long as they're willing to take up the challenge. It means that the dreams that people had about being the best at a sport can become a reality as long as they play their games. This is an example of an effective slogan because it tells the consumer what they stand for and resonates with many consumers.

Encoding conveys the meaning of a brand or messages meaning through differing words, colors, pictures, signs, symbols or music. Therefore, the differing channels of communication act as a ladder towards the consumer understanding the message being produced by the business/brand. This related to the concepts of the four P's, price, product, place and promotion. By the encoding of differing advertisements by their placement/where the consumer will notice the product, and promotion such as billboards, pamphlets and free samples.

Decoding is the process of interpreting messages and relies on the power of correct encoding and the ability of the targeted audience to deconstruct the meaning or meanings of a product, or an items given message. Therefore, making feedback a two-way street depending on the intended reaction of integrated marketing communications, from the target market to business. This is where co-creation for a business helps in ways of transforming/problem solving different ways of interaction, personalisation, customization and reconfiguration of the businesses item of delivery to the targeted audience. If the frame of reference from the sender isn't understood by the target market, the communications of the product's message will not take place nor expand.

Once these distinct aspects have been achieved or avoided the brand will be able to perform successful uses of integrated communications, by effectively intertwining cross channels of communication the four P's, four C's, encoding & decoding. Therefore, reaching a greater impact financially in the marketing of the product.

Linear communication model

The Linear communication model can inspire a business in the long term by the format of different information, ideas and emotions to the target market, the model itself shows how the differing components of encoding, decoding, noise and feedback can contribute to how the message of a product is produced. And can determine if the message will be successful in the market, by the realm of understanding. As encoding creates the message, which then can be interpreted by the formation of decoding by the target market, therefore avoiding noise and accomplishing the understanding of an integrated communication message to the targeted audience.

Model and stages

Tactical marketing communications

Mixed elements of "sight and sound" related communication channels givs a business the beginning of the implementation towards becoming an integrated marketing business to its target market. Once this stage is triggered, the business ought to aim into progressing into understanding the consumer's requirements based on market trends at the time of development. This produced through key marketing skills of advertising, promotions, direct selling and personal events. Therefore, increasing the chance of sales in the competitive market, through the channels/touch points of integrated marketing communication. Therefore, encouraging sales to the target market, in order to avoid the chance of a decline in the companies marketing position.

Redefining integrated marketing communication

Elements of tactical Integrated marketing communications is primarily focusing on one's businesses marketing strategy of advertisement. This including mostly promotional work, the public relations the business has with the market and the direct response of the businesses promotional work to its customers. The strategy itself connects to "Tactical marketing communications" by the aspects of "sight and sound" therefore, starting the beginning of specialization within the market and the targeting of core values of the consumer within the market, as well as brand equity

Applications of strategic marketing integration

Firms becoming highly practical with their approach to marketing communication as their main performance strategy, eventually, gain more sales financially compared to differing businesses. Also, in addition, motivating the target market to purchase the item repetitively or more-so over another businesses item. Financially the achievements of a businesses pricing of a product can fluctuate the demand of a product, this avoiding downfalls in the market.

Financial and strategic integration

The final stage shows the highest level of integration by the evaluation of marketing strategies and the strategic planning of one's target market understanding. Therefore, making the business re-evaluate its financial infrastructure, marketing expenditures and its marketing communication accomplishments to create growth and value externally and internally throughout one's company.


  1. Have objectives been meet?
  2. Evaluate alternatives
  3. Develop efficient and effective communication
  4. Help defend budgets
  5. Enrich planning and managing
  6. Provide controls


Integrated marketing communication can be defined as "[a] concept of marketing communications planning that recognises 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 promotion, and public relations - and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact" (Prasad & Raman, 2003). This definition highlights two key factors important to successful integrated communications marketing; clarity and consistency. The focus of integrated marketing communications is heavily based on a consistency throughout all areas of the organisation; "one voice across everything" (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011). By linking all communication in each media outlet, and therefore creating synergy, thus, enabling organizations to create a higher impact with their message. As according to Laurie et al. (2011), "a variety of media can have a strong impact on the overall effectiveness of a campaign, and one medium can improve the effectiveness of another". In laments terms, whilst a certain media outlet may not have a substantial impact as a single media source, when integrated into a larger-scale harmonious relationship with multiple other media platforms, the said media outlet has a stronger impact and benefits the marketing campaign by continuing consistency and reaching a wider audience.

Successfully coordinating synergy among all media platforms is not the final step in a rewarding integrated marketing communications plan. As according to Hughes "creating customer value is dependent on the synergistic coordination of many parts of the organisation, wherein internal resources and capabilities are effectively harnessed to create a competitive advantage", this meaning that synergy must exist across all levels of the organisation including organisational culture, branding and staffing. It is evident from previous integrated marketing communications research that the role of external and internal staff is key in reaching the highest level of integrated marketing communication planning; it helps to coordinate and encompass all levels of the organisations (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011). With the synergistic coordination of all internal and external staff, the organisational branding is exuded through all possible forefronts, therefore reaching maximum impact.

Internet marketing communications vs traditional marketing communications

Marketing communications can be divided into two periods:Traditional marketing communications (before the Internet) and Internet marketing communications (with the Internet). New ways of exchange of information and new categories of interaction are possible because of the invention of the Internet and corresponding digital medium. Specifically, there are three aspects of between the traditional and International marketing communications.


Interactivity is the typical feature of the Internet that was first proposed by John Deighton.[59] He argued that in Internet business environment clients rather than the marketers usually start the interaction and they will actively look for the information that they need. Moreover, personal responses of customer will be collected by corporation and their individual demands will be met according to their personal desire.

On one hand, traditional media is the "push" media where marketers send their broadcasting messages to customer, in which consumers seldom have a chance to give their feedback. Therefore, the interaction between the two parts is far and few between. On the other hand, Internet media have the attribute of "pull" where customers on the Internet have the freedom to search the items of their wish. For instance, whenever a consumer type "flower" on Google's search engine, an advertisement of a specific flower shop might occur on the top or bottom of the search result page by the program of the Google Adword.[60] Internet makes it possible for Google to find the right time to place the proper ad to the potential suitable consumer who might be in proper need. This way the traditional one-way "push" communication becomes the two-way "push and pull" interaction which is more active than before.


Compared with the traditional media where one same information sent by the company is received by all the consumers, Internet media can send "tailored" information in accordance with the personal need of a specific consumer.This is another advantage of two-way interaction of the Internet media. One of the first and most famous example of this attribute is the personal tailored service provided by Amazon in which consumers are called by their names and "tailored" recommendations are provided according to their previous purchase records.[61] Furthermore, besides "tailored" individual service, with the development and accumulation of consumers' information on the Internet, mass customisation become possible in which companies provide "tailored" content to particular segment of consumers with similar interests. Douban is a Chinese social networking service website which allows its users to rate the movie, TV dramas, music and concerts. It rapidly grew to 200 million registered users in 2013 (founded in 2005). In addition, people who like the same TV drama, like Game of Thrones, or fans of the same movie star, such as Tom Cruise, will group together to discuss and share their feelings. This is where companies could take advantage of mass customisation to sell their products or reinforce their brand equity in suitable target consumers. We can see that by doing so, the interaction and co-operation of companies and consumers are deepening, widening and multiplying in a variety of ways.

Industry restructuring

Restructuring followed by disintermediation and reintermediation is one of the essential features of the transition from traditional to Internet marketing communications. Internet may make the traditional distributors or retailers leave out of the business simply because the Internet communication is less costly than them. significantly changed the distribution channels of personal computer selling in China by letting the consumers order different parts of the computers and then pact together online before 2009, leaving tens of thousands of retailers in that field out of their jobs. In 2015, accounted for 22.9% of the Chinese online shopping's market share.[62] Again, according to Financial Times, with the shifting trend of using mobile phones for online purchase in China, the people using cellphones to log on to the Internet outnumbered those using PC,[63] the next wave of restructuring faced by and its major competitors like Alibaba. In 2014,'s orders deriving from mobile phones increased to 543%, compared with the last year's quarter of the same period. Haoyu Shen, the chief executive of the, ascribed this result to its own company's app rather than the co-operation with Tecent, the Chinese second largest online corporation, although it invested in on March 2014. We can see that as a company doing business of ecommerce, has been constantly facing challenges and opportunities of reintermediation with the rapid shifts of the technology development of the Internet.

Integrated marketing communications

Originally, marketing was focused around the 4P's (product, price, place and promotion) which concentrated on companies' internal concepts. The idea of integrated marketing communications was first raised in 1993 by Don E. Schultz, who changed the 4P's concept into the 4C's model. The four parts include consumer, communication, convenience and cost, taking into consideration the needs and wants of consumers. Weak and plain messages were evolving towards a larger scale platform that allowed for creativity between the fusion of marketing and communications. Integrated marketing communications accomplished synergy when each element was executed in accordance with the overall vision of the organisation's campaign, which allows the message to be executed efficiently.[3] Finding out who the target market is to answer the 4C's and study what products they're willing to purchase, the amount of money they are willing to spend for it, how the product will fulfil their needs and wants, the accessibility of the product and how easily correct information is transmitted (Nagra, Kumari, Gopal, & Manjrekar, 2012). Changing the emphasis onto what consumers desire leads to a higher success being attained through IMC, as it is being influenced by not only internal stakeholders but also external ones.

Expanding from this, Tom Duncan and Sandra E. Moriarty formed the concept of communication-based relationship marketing. This model diverged from the concept of the general one way, business influencing consumers what to believe scenario (Lucia, del Barrio-Garcia, & Kitchen, 2012). However, Duncan and Moriarty initiated that communication between business and consumers was the key to developing strong establishment for consumer orientated marketing endeavours. They found a strong and positive correlation between the interaction of communication and marketing as they both interconnected to create a dynamic element of marketing. The process of IMC through communication-based marketing goes through a sequential three stage process. Organisations begin with choosing an effective mixture of communication methods; then, the marketing methods are selected; thereafter, the best of each element is fused and integrated together which thence is channelled from the organisation to the audience (Vladmir, Miroslav, & Papic, 2012). Subsequently, these findings shaped modern marketing as it is known today as being an interactive two-way approach that builds rapport with stakeholders. Developments from integrated marketing communications have evolved into three categories; inside-out approach, outside-in approach and cross-functional strategic approach.

ICM will continue to transform, especially with technologies being developed at a fast pace. Organisations are seeking strategic approaches to gain a competitive advantage which IMC delivers through combining the most dynamic elements and incorporating media such as social networks and media enables marketing communications to interconnect globally.[2] The cross-functional approach holds an advantage, but nevertheless needs the supervision of all departments and senior management to identify and rectify internal and external weaknesses to succeed in integration.


First defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies in 1989, IMC was developed mainly to address the need for businesses to offer clients more than just standard advertising. The 4As originally coined the term the "new advertising"; however, this title did not appropriately incorporate many other aspects included in the term "IMC" - most notably, those beyond traditional advertising process aside from simply advertising.[64]

Overall, an influx of new marketplace trends in the late 20th century spurred organizations to shift from the standard advertising approach to the IMC approach:

  • Decreasing message impact and credibility: The growing number of commercial messaging made it increasingly more difficult for a single message to have a noteworthy effect.
  • Decreasing costs of databases: The cost of storing and retrieving names, addresses and information from databases significantly declined. This decline allowed marketers to reach consumers more effectively.
  • Increasing client expertise: Clients of marketing and public relations firms became more educated regarding advertising policies, procedures and tactics. Clients began to realize that television advertising was not the only way to reach consumers.
  • Increasing mergers and acquisitions of agencies: Many top public relations firms and advertising agencies became partners or partnered with other communication firms. These mergers allowed for more creativity, and the expansion of communication from only advertising, to other disciplines such as event planning and promotion.
  • Increasing global marketing: There was a rapid influx of advertising competition from foreign countries. Companies quickly realized that even if they did not conduct business outside their own country, they were now competing in global marketing.
  • Increasing media and audience fragmentation: With the exception of the decline of newspapers, media outlets, such as magazines and television stations, increased from 1980 to 1990. Additionally, companies could use new technologies and computers to target specialized audiences based on factors such as ethnic background or place of residence.
  • Increasing number of overall products: Manufacturers flooded retailers with a plethora of new products, many of which were identical to products that already existed. Therefore, a unique marketing and branding approach was crucial to attract customer attention and increase sales.

Shifts that enable it

Determining on the way a business in the market uses integrated communications, the business itself can change the way aspects of integrated communicational marketing as it spreads to ones targeted audience. This can be analyzed through the differing shifts of integrated marketing communication channels, from beginning to end of the product's development. By using feedback from consumers, a business finical status throughout the marketing of the product and connectivity from advertising to the consumer.

  1. Traditional marketing to digital market
  2. Mass media to specialised media
  3. Low accountability in market spending to high accountability in market spending
  4. Limited marketing connectivity to pervasive marketing connectivity
  5. Mass advertising to niche marketing

Therefore, developing more cost effective marketing channels, from the business to consumer. Thus delivering value to the consumer and finically improving the business or marketed product, hence enabling the business to reach the perfect competition within the market.

Within advertising agencies

As a large portion of successful integrated marketing communications is the synergy of all promotional tools, advertising agencies are an important catalyst to the achievement of harmonious integrated marketing relationships within organisations (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011). With the constant growth of technology sparking a need for evolving views on integrated marketing, agencies and practitioners have begun shifting from an attitude of "if it's not advertising, let someone else do it" to "if it is anything to do with communication, we can do it" (Olatunji, 2011). Moving away from the traditional integrated marketing approach of only linking branding through media outlets, agencies have begun to conform to the more recent developments in integrating marketing communications by bringing forth multi-level organisational strategies in order to integrate branding throughout an organisation as a whole (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011). To gauge this development in 2010, exploratory research was conducted by Campaign; a weekly magazine for the communications industry in the United Kingdom. It was aimed at analysing 10 essays about where integration is headed from a variety of advertising industry leaders within the London sector against a checklist influenced by Kliatchko (2008), and Duncan & Moriarity (1998).

The checklist was as followed:

  • Level of integration 1, 2, or 3
  • Branding issues
  • Customer-centric
  • Involvement of internal staff
  • Media synergy

The results illustrated by this study showed that while there had been growth in the understanding of the strategic approach to integrated marketing communication among advertising industry leaders in the United Kingdom, especially in fields of media synergy and branding, 6 out of 10 industry leaders discussed the change in the customer role in integrated marketing communication, and only 3 out of 10 explained the importance of internal staff being involved in strategic branding (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011).

Another example of research focused on assessing utilisation of integrated marketing communication within advertising agencies was conducted by form of a questionnaire in Nigeria in 2011. Participating agencies were required to complete a questionnaire asking the following questions:

  1. What is the pattern of integration adopted by advertising agencies in Nigeria?
  2. What are the dominant integrated marketing communication tools in use by advertising agencies?
  3. In what ways have the adoption of integrated marketing communications influenced advertising agency practice in Nigeria?

Results from this study showed that whilst these agencies had full intention of being a fully integrated marketing communications organisation, they didn't possess the financial capabilities of doing so; however, this is not to diminish the fact that majority of these organisations had adopted necessary steps in the shift towards fully integrated organisations.

Such studies indicate clearly that whilst there has been major growth in the advertising sector towards becoming and providing full-service integrated marketing communication services for clientele, there is still a remaining divergence between academic ideals of integrated marketing communication practices verses practitioner actions which are not necessarily at the fault of the agencies themselves. As according to Laurie et al. (2011) "it is clear that a number of viewpoints of the definition of IMC and its meaning still exist in the literature, which is not helpful for client or agency advancement..." and that "evidence suggests that confusion and misunderstandings are still a significant barrier to [integrated communication managements'] implementation at the higher levels of an organisation".

Customer-focused versus customer-centric

A recent revelation in integrated marketing communication is the change in the role of the customer within the business world. Due to the fast-paced growth of technology, customers are rapidly gaining more power through forums such as word of mouth; now with capabilities of reaching a much wider audience through the use of social media. Recognizing this power shift, organizations have begun to re-evaluate their typical marketing strategies and customer approaches from the traditional customer-focused attitude to the wide-spreading customer-centric method in order to develop a more integrated strategy.

A customer-focused approach can be defined as "when an organization learns more about the habits of the customer so that they can identify opportunities for cross-selling etc" (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011). While this type of approach can be viewed as entirely satisfactory, Kliatchko (2008) introduced a contrasting concept which concentrates on "working from the outside in" and promotes a different perspective on organizations. When an organization adopts a customer-centric technique, they forgo the view that customers are only passive receivers of marketing techniques and focus on listening to what their needs are and striving to satisfy them; integrating the customer into the process (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011). Many organizations are yet to relinquish such control, as shown by research conducted by Campaign magazine, which can only be suspected to be due to the fear that it could potentially diminish the marketing profession (Laurie & Mortimer, 2011). This view, however, is rebutted by Saihtiri et al. (2014) who claims that "achieving superiority in customer-centric performance is then rewarded through stronger brand performance in the marketplace".

See also


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Further reading

  • Belch, G.E., (2014). Advertising: An integrated marketing communication perspective. McGraw Hill. p 31.
  • Clow, Kenneth E.; Baack, Donald E. Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications. Prentice Hall. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-13-186622-5. 
  • Dahlen, M., Lange, F., & Smith, T. (2010). Marketing communications: A brand narrative approach. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons
  • Haumann et al.. (2015). Engaging customers in coproduction processes: How value-enhancing and intensity-reducing communication strategies mitigate the negative effects of coproduction intensity. Journal of Marketing 79, 17-33. doi: 10.1509/jm.14.0357
  • Kitchen, P., & Schultz, D. (2001). Raising the corporate umbrella corporate communications in the 21st century, Financial and strategic integration. Houndmills, Basingstoke Hampshire.
  • Luxton, S., Reid, M., & Mavondo, F. (2015). Integrated marketing communication capability and brand performance: IMC capability and performance. Journal of Advertising, 44, 37-46. doi:10.1080/00913367.2014.934938
  • Raki?, B., & Raki?, M. (2014). Integrated marketing communications paradigm in digital environment: The five pillars of integration. Megatrend Review, 11, 187-203. doi:10820-3159
  • The open university. (n.d). Retail marketing, the Linear model of communications. Retrieved March 18,, 2016, from
  • Verhoef, P., Kannan, P.K., & Inman, J. (2015). From multi-channel retailing to omni-channel retailing: Introduction to the special issue on multi-channel retailing. Journal of Retailing, 91, 174-181. doi: 10.1016/j.jretai.2015.02.005
  • Gambetti, R. C., & Schultz, D. E. (2015). Reshaping the boundaries of marketing communication to bond with consumers. Journal of Marketing Communications , 21 (1), 1-4.
  • Lucia, P., del Barrio-Garcia, S., & Kitchen, P. J. (2012). How Integrated Marketing Communications works? A theoretical review and analysis of its main drivers and effects. Journal of Marketing Communications , 25 (1), 313-348.
  • Nagra, G. K., Kumari, S., Gopal, R., & Manjrekar, P. (2012). Impact of Integrated Marketing Communication on different customer segments, effects on consumer decision making process. International Journal of Applied Services Marketing Perspectives , 1 (1), 56-61.
  • Valos, M. J., Habibi, F. H., Casidy, R., Driesener, C. B., & Maplestone, V. L. (2016). Exploring the integration of social media within integrated marketing communication frameworks: Perspectives of services marketers. Journal of Marketing Practice , 34 (1), 19-40.
  • Vladmir, M., Miroslav, K., & Papic, T. (2012). The necessity to adjust traditional integrated marketing communications tools and techniques to new global trends. Journal of Marketing Communications , 61 (4), 141-154.

External links

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