During the last decade of the twentieth century, the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) received considerable attention from practitioners and academics alike, and that interest has continued into the new millennium (e.g., Bearden and Madden 1996; Cornelissen and Lock 2000; Duncan, Schultz, and Patti 2005; Garretson and Burton 2005; Nowak and Phelps 1994; Schultz and Kitchen 2000a; Schumann, Artis, and Rivera 2001). As the marketplace has become more fragmented over the years, organizations have embraced IMC as a means to effectively and efficiently target and attract the splintering mass market through the transmission of a unified message across all "contact points" between organizations and their consumers. Whether the contact point is product packaging, a Web advertisement, or any other "information bearing experience that a consumer or prospect has with a brand" (Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn 1993, p. 51), the goal is to present a message to an audience that is consistent (Duncan 1993) and/or to generate valuable customer information (Roznowski, Reece, and Daugherty 2002; Yarborough 1996). In short, utilization and coordination of various promotion and communication tools is necessary to assure optimal market coverage (Stewart 1996) and to develop a strong marketing program (Nowak and Phelps 1994).
Despite its potential contributions, debate still exists regarding the significance of IMC as a practice (e.g., Cook 2004; Cornelissen and Lock 2000; Gould 2001). Questions pertaining to the prevalence of IMC in the marketplace (Roznowski, Reece, and Daugherty 2002) and regarding its differential applicability across product type (e.g., Nowak, Cameron, and Delorme 1996) remain. This study was designed to help answer these questions.
INTEGRATED MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS
In recent years, the concept of IMC has made its way into the mainstream of the marketing literature (Duncan and Caywood 1996; Nowak and Phelps 1994; Schultz 2003; Schultz and Kitchen 1997, 2000b; Zahay et al. 2004). This has occurred despite the fact that, in reality, there is no universally agreed upon definition of IMC (e.g., Cornelissen and Lock 2000; Kliatchko 2005; Schultz and Kitchen 1997; Stewart 1996) and IMC appears to be an evolving concept (Duncan, Schultz, and Patti 2005). While a "working definition of integrated marketing communication is hard to come by" (Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn 1993, p. xv), one simple characterization of the phenomenon poses IMC as the coordination of communication tools for a brand (Krugman et al. 1994). Central to the concept of IMC is the notion that effective communication is accomplished by blending various communication forms--for example, advertising, publicity, sales promotion, and so forth--into a single, seamless entity (Nowak, Cameron, and Delorme 1996). Furthermore, when it is well devised, IMC can generate information that can be used to identify and target different types of consumers with customized communication (Schultz 1997) and, ultimately, help to build a strong relationship with them (Duncan 2002). In a sense, then, IMC involves a process that is circular in nature--a sort of two-way communication between organizations and consumers that gathers and stores responses to communication and uses that information to effectively target consumers in future efforts (Roznowski, Reece, and Daugherty 2002; Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn 1993).
A review of the phenomenon in practice performed by Nowak and Phelps (1994) uncovered three broad manifestations of integrated marketing communication: IMC as "integrated communication," IMC as "'one voice' communication," and IMC as a "coordinated marketing-communication campaign." While the distinction among the three manifestations is sometimes hazy, each one poses a slightly different approach that organizations may take to create messages that are uniform in tone and look (Duncan 1993). The "integrated...
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