The Role of IMC and its theory
Is it a bird? is it a plane? Is it a business theory or a marketing theory? A management practice? A philosophy or a concept? A traditional linear marketing process (Kliatchko, 2008) or a cross-functional departmental process that requires management and board ‘buy-in’ (Duncan & Moriarty 1998)? Moreover, in this era of rapidly developing communications (Internet, mobile phones, digital communications and rapidly changing society, (demise of the family unit, the prosumer) is it now a necessity? The theory of IMC has been dissected, bissected, post-mortemed and analysed, yet consensus on what it is (in theory) and how it should be applied (in practice) has become somewhat of the holy grail to academics. But perhaps not to those in practice, which I will discuss later through my case study.
Therefore, ironically, for a paradigm or pre-paradigm (Kitchen & Schultz, 2000) that promulgates ‘once voice’ and a ‘consistent approach in communication, IMC fails to practice what it preaches, with many voices and opinions creating ‘IMC theory noise’, the very noise its integrated application claims to penetrate and conquer; the very noise which us Generation 'Y' marketeers must contend with every day. Therefore I will attempt to filter this noise and come to some conclusions. In this paper I will speak of the positives and negatives in assuming an IMC mindset from the theory as well analysing the barriers impeding its full adoption in practice and then why various levels of integration are apparent within the market.
The definition debate has been well documented and is used in the academic papers as one of the impediments towards widespread adoption of IMC. Although consensus is achieved somewhat with Kliatchko's 2008 paper supporting the Schultz and Schultz (1998) definition as he posits their interpretation as being the future of IMC;
‘IMC is a strategic process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coodinated, measurable, persuasive brand communications over time with consumers, customers, prospects and other targeted external and internal audiences.’
Duncan (2002, p.8) describes IMC as ‘a process for managing the customer relationships that drive brand value….influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data driven dialogue.’ Cornelissen and Lock (2000) lauded IMC as a management fashion due to the ambiguity of a definition. Yet I discount the arguments based on definition ambiguity because even a definition for ‘Marketing’ has yet to be agreed upon. The American Marketing Association (2005) have intermittently been changing their definitions of ‘marketing’ for many years now. Academics have also been providing conflicting definitions and views (Wilkie & Moore; 2007; Gundlach, 2004: Gummesson, 2005). Yet why is marketing not seen as a management fashion or fad? Why is its definition ambiguity not seen as a constraint?
Technologies, business channels, processes and stakeholders are rapidly changing; new issues that effect brand equity and stakeholders are becoming complicated; e.g. sustainability, the environment and corporate social responsibility so it makes sense that the definition of IMC must also be constantly redefined: from a management fashion (Cornelissen & Lock, 2000), to a process that is still evolving (Duncan & Mulhern: White Paper, 2004); from a driver of competitive advantage (Kitchen et al 2004) to 360-degree branding (Kliatcho 2005) from a market-oriented and brand-oriented approach (Reid et al, 2005) to strategic and financial integration (Kliatchko, 2008). Funnily enough, it is a definition of marketing which provides an apt backdrop to the relationship and cultural sentiments of IMC: ‘Marketing is a culture, an organisational function and a set of processes for creating, communication, and delivering value with customers and for interacting in relationships in ways that benefit the organisations, its customers and other stakeholders’...
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