“Integrated marketing communications are far from reality in most companies. A number of strong barriers prevent IMC from being implemented quickly and efficiently.”- De Pelsmacker
Managing Marketing Communications
Integrated Marketing Communications, (IMC) has been one of the major communications developments in the last decade of the 20th century (Kitchen & Schultz 1999, 2000) It is regarded as a fundamental paradigm shift in the thinking and practice of marketing communications. Although marketing communications has been used as the umbrella term to group various communication functions, it is IMC that brings strategic integration to these functional areas, to reach consumers and other stakeholders effectively. (Duncan & Everett, 1993) IMC is no longer just a communication process, but an integration of the brand with the management. The IMC diffusion curve has begun to accelerate, due to today’s highly fragmented media marketplace and the dwindling attention spans of consumers. IMC is no longer an inside-out approach, but an outside-in; and has moved beyond tactical juxtaposition of channels. It is driven by buyers or potential buyers of products and services, to bring sharp focus to orient all communications and touch-points with the consumer. This cross-functional process is the center of all relationships. It is an on-going, circular process that creates brand value in the form of sales, profits, and brand equity. IMC has become a strategic tool, in helping to ensure synergy and consistency of messages, regardless of the vehicle used to deliver the message. It is also important to note, that though there is ample focus on IMC, integrated marketing and integrated marketing communications, (IMC), are intrinsically interdependent, one cannot function without the other. IMC can never function in a disintegrated organisation, and equally an integrated organisation will make it impossible for un-harmonious communication to be disseminated.
IMC is impossible to achieve when the brand’s communication programs work separately, are disjointed and disconnected. This leads to inconsistency and incoherence of brand messaging, and can be detrimental to brand equity. IMC, conceptually and practically does offer significant value to marketers and advertising agencies, most organisations have adopted IMC, to one degree or another but various barriers and obstacles prevent it from being truly successful.
‘One Voice, all the time, every time’.
Changing market environment, heavy media fragmentation, new technology and the evolving consumer mind-set have encouraged and forced companies to organise and integrate their marketing communication activities. (Kitchen & De Pelsmacker, 2004) Some other drivers include: Loss of faith in traditional mass media advertising Media cost inflation Need for more impact Media fragmentation Audience fragmentation Need for cost-effectiveness and increased efficiency Low levels of brand differentiation Increased need for greater levels of accountability Overlapping audiences Perceived competitive advantage and financial benefits Technological evolution and revolution Need for higher consumer loyalty Locus of retail power Emergence of relationship marketing Reliance on highly targeted communication methods Complex decision-making units Globalisation of marketing strategies
All the tools in the marketing mix, especially promotion cannot work in isolation. For the brand to achieve a harmonious and seamless integration fuelled by various drivers, it needs to speak consistently with one voice all the time, every time. IMC makes the sum greater than its parts.
IMC Process model (Duncan, 2002)
There are various ways integration can be strengthened: Horizontal Integration: It occurs across the marketing mix and business functions. It brings together functions like production, finance and...