Integrated Marketing Communication: The Complete Guide

Integrated Marketing Communication The Complete Guide

A decent-sized company has multiple points of contact with its target audience.

Existing customers direct their issues to the customer service department.  Potential customers can either consume marketing messages as is or talk to your sales associates.

The press team has the press to address. Not to forget the occasional interviews that the CEO might be required to attend. 

And then there’s the social media team to keep the public engaged. 

All this has to be coordinated and planned for in advance. Otherwise, everyone might be communicating a different message, with a different tone of voice. 

Maybe your social media team feels like it’s a hippy company for young people, while the CEO is busy on the other side, painting your products as some high-end luxury products for the wealthy class. 

Your company needs an Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) strategy to speak the same language across all channels or contact points.  

An IMC strategy will ensure everyone is on the same page on:

  • who their company is
  • who their target audience is
  • what their product is
  • and what tone of voice should they adopt when communicating with the world

It makes a lot of sense to have a consistent, more focused marketing and communication strategy, minus the pitfalls of becoming a company with no identity or, even worse, a contradictory identity. 

What’s Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC)?

IMC was first defined in 1993, by Shultz, Laurerborn, and Tannenbaum. 

In the most basic sense, IMC is the act of coordinating or unifying your marketing messages at the various points of contact or channels.

It’s the process of melding all aspects of marketing communications, including social media, public relations, press, sales promotion, advertising, and direct marketing, through their respective blend of tactics, channels, media, methods, and other activities. The point is to get them all to work together as one unified force. 

4 Key Things to Note about Integrated Marketing Communication 

  • IMC is not a one-off campaign but an ongoing process. It’s a continuous process involving strategic planning, communication refinement, and measurement of results. 
  • The key goal of any IMC campaign should be to accelerate results. You want to make sure your revenue is growing faster. 
  • IMC is customer-centric. It focuses on the customer and how to push out your marketing messages in the hopes that your customers will read or listen to them. You must empathise with your customers and put them at the centre of your marketing effort. 
  • IMC seeks to align your key objectives with your business goals. 

3 Examples of Integrated Marketing Communication Strategies executed by some of the Companies you Know

Here are three examples of integrated marketing communication strategies to help you understand this concept better:

Domino’s AnyWare

When you’re hungry or nursing a pizza craving, the last thing you want is to be taken through hoops when trying to place your order. You don’t want to go through an endless list of topping, enter your credit card details, update your address, and then wait patiently for the delivery person to show up at your home or place of work with your order. 

This was the driving force behind Domino’s AnyWare campaign.

They wanted to address this issue by streamlining their ordering process across various channels. Hungry customers that resented the lengthy ordering process were allowed to place their orders via text messages, Twitter, Smart TVs, smartwatches, and so on.

Not only that, Dominos would go on to create pre-established pizza profiles that saved their customers’ go-to orders. That meant ordering a pizza with them was a one-click activity. 

This campaign managed to turn in about 2 million impressions on various social media channels. It was also featured on several celebrity talk shows. 

Through the campaign, they were able to increase the number of pizza orders their customers made through digital platforms

The best part: the service still exists and has grown to be even more accessible. Customers can now order pizza through Alexa, Google Home, Facebook messenger, and even slack. 

GoPro’s Be a Hero

GoPro launched the “Be a Hero” campaign not long ago to appeal to its target audience emotionally. 

For a company that sells video cameras, their goal has always been to encourage thrill-seekers to record every moment of their adventures. 

Their “Be a Hero” campaign spanned multiple channels and media, including billboards, social media, in-store displays, and magazines. 

The campaign was created to advertise their new Hero device. 

Their message was simple and clear. 

Everyone who pursues their passion or lives their life to the fullest is a hero. It doesn’t matter if you’re still chasing your dream or in the backyard playing with your kids. You’re a hero so long as you’re living your life to the fullest. 

The goal was to encourage everyone to cherish every moment of their life.  To be a carefree spirit, and while at it, capture every moment of your experience using GoPros ever-expanding ecosystem of camera accessories and software. 

The campaign was accompanied by video clips from a long list of celebrated heroes, from the surfers riding the waves to the drivers riding off into the sunset. It aimed to make us understand that “we have heroes all around us.” 

Snap Inc. Spectacles

You’ve heard of wearables. Google Glass, Fitbits, and Apple watch. 

Snapchat released its own version of wearables, spectacles

These were no ordinary spectacles. But spectacles with the capacity to snap photos and record videos in real-time, sending it directly to your mobile device via Bluetooth. 

Everyone was excited to see how these spectacles worked. 

And Snapchat outdid themselves by thinking past this hoopla. They instead launched a guerrilla campaign, where they installed vending machines at strategic points in different cities, or Snapbots as they were referred. 

Instead of just selling the spectacles like anyone else would have done. They decided to vend them via the travelling vending machines to generate some buzz around it and get their prospects even more intrigued. 

Thanks to this integrated marketing campaign, they figured out how to blend this digital product with a physical vending machine, and people were intrigued. They even extended the campaign’s reach by posting the booth on their social media profiles, making the campaign gather even more attention than it could have picked on Snapchat alone. 

Four Types of Integrated Marketing Communications

IMC may come off as a complicated concept to some people; however, it’s not that difficult to comprehend when broken down into components. 

IMC lets you unify the various marketing and communication components and make them work together towards a common goal. 

There are four basic elements of an IMC strategy:

Internal 

Any good integration must begin with your internal team. Before you think of extending the same energy to the outside world, you must first get your internal team excited about the whole idea. Before customers can feel the excitement, it must first be felt by your internal team of workers. 

External 

External integration occurs when you’re dealing with outside sources. The external sources refer to any third-party force your company is in business with. They include advertising, marketing, and PR firms. When working on a new product or service or are launching one, it helps to keep the lines of communication open with external sources or the people that will help you get the message out. 

Horizontal

Horizontal development can be pretty useful when you’re developing a new product or service. You want to make sure the line of communication between your production team and distribution team stays open. The same way you’d want your production team to keep in contact with your financial team and other groups. In other words, this is where you try to integrate the various departments in your organisation. 

Vertical

Vertical integration will help you ensure your products and services fit into your overall company policy and structure. It’s where you ensure your products or services are in line with the company’s mission. 

The Benefits of an Integrated Marketing Communication Campaign

Before you run with any campaign, you have to ask yourself, “how will this benefit my brand?” We’ve identified a few reasons that your business or brand could benefit from running an IMC campaign: 

It effective, cost-effective, and it works

Let no one lie to you. IMC works. It could be the only thing standing between you and greatness. You’ve seen how brands have managed to use it to generate millions of impressions. With the right strategy and some little bit of hard work, there’s nothing to stop you from receiving the same amount of success, if not more. 

Makes Sure Your Product is Everywhere

IMC creates familiarity. Advertisements nowadays are so in tune with our interests, to the point that they’re almost coming off as creepy. IMC campaigns are everywhere. For example, a snicker commercial will appear on TV and in between episodes of your favourite TV series. You’ll also see them during the Superbowl, and before you know it, they’re everywhere — on social media, search engine results pages, and so on. Customers may not rush to buy your product when they first see it, but as the familiarity grows, the more they soften up, making them more likely to make up their mind and purchase it. 

Building a Relation with Your Customers

IMC is all about your relationship with your customers. Your IMC strategy must help you build a rapport, increase brand awareness, and most importantly, improve your reputation. The campaign has to get the customer talking about your brand more casually, the same way you talk after running into an old mate. 

It Builds Trust

IMC is good for building trust between your brand and the customers you’re targeting. Similar to the old school days. Your parents set rules that you had to abide by. The same way your teachers and the school principal came up with rules and regulations that held you in line. It’s the same way with your business. 

There are rules that everyone in your organisation has to follow. The point is to ensure the various departments in your institution all share the same value, speak the same language, say the same thing, and that they’re all sharing the same marketing message. 

The Risks of Running an Integrated Marketing Communication Campaign

It’s not just going to be a smooth ride as you run your IMC campaign. There are potential challenges that you must be prepared to deal with. 

We’ve identified two such challenges:

Reluctance Within Your Team, especially the Management Team

Think of all the departments involved in your integrated marketing communication campaign. Before you integrate externally, you have to make sure your teams are integrated internally. All the departments must be prepared to work with each other. 

For example, your design team must be willing to work with the sales team, which should be prepared to work with the marketing team, and so on. But there’s no guarantee that everyone would be open to your idea of working together. So, expect some resistance or reluctance.

Why is this so?

Not all professionals are comfortable with the idea of sharing their marketing budget with an outside team. Others don’t just like relinquishing their authority.  

An IMC campaign requires all teams to agree on how they’re going to work together. It might also direct them to share resources. 

So how do you handle this Challenge?

Before you run with any IMC campaign, you first have to examine your team structure. Find out how they’re prepared to handle such a challenge. 

You also want to talk to your team managers or leaders and make sure they share your vision.

Restriction of Ideas

When running an IMC campaign, you should shelve all the other ideas you have and focus on this one particular idea, at least for some time. As we said, the point of running an IMC campaign is to present a more cohesive brand message so that your consumers can start seeing things from the angle that you want them to. 

That’s to say any other idea that your team has in the interim has to be placed on hold. It doesn’t matter how good it is; what you’re trying to avoid is your team competing for attention. Plus, it helps to have everyone’s hands on the deck, delivering the same purpose, and working together in one accord, at least for a period or until you’ve accomplished your mission.  

How to Execute an Effective Integrated Marketing Campaign 

Developing an integrated marketing campaign isn’t the same as setting up a social media campaign. The process can be a little complicated. 

Considering you’re using multiple channels, there’s no step by step procedure on how to execute the perfect campaign. 

So much of what you’re expected to do is deciding on you think best suits your company, starting with which channel best complements your brand or if you’re going to take an informative or humorous approach.

We’ve, however, identified a few key behaviours that will most likely propel your campaign to success: 

Alignment

The most important aspect of executing any IMC campaign is alignment. All the channels and mediums involved must deliver a coherent brand message. Team members are expected to be clear on their goals and the messages they deliver. Most importantly, everything they do must strengthen the effort applied by the other members. You want to make sure every team member is headed to the same finish line. 

Clear Leadership

IMC is a teamwork effort, and not just between members of one team, but members of different groups and departments. That means some leaders have to relinquish their authority and decide who’s the ultimate authority. You want to decide on this early to prevent the discrepancies that might arise later on. You want to make sure you have that one particular person that you can turn to for answers should things fail to go as planned or in case of disagreement.  

Goals

It helps to define your goals from the get-go. What do you expect to gain from the campaign? Are you looking to generate more engagement? Or do you want to increase your revenue? Paint a clear picture of what it is that you wish to accomplish through the campaign, and be sure to communicate it to everyone involved. 

Clear Workflow

Think of your ICM campaign as a car. There are millions of movable parts, all serving the same purpose. You have to begin by establishing a well-defined workflow. You’re doing this to ensure no important step is left behind and that all deadlines are met, and nothing important is lost in the mix. 

Especially with different teams working together, everyone must know what’s expected of them, and most importantly, where to send their work and to whom, after they’re done. 

8 Major Tools of Integrated Marketing Communications

There are eight major tools of a successful integrated marketing communication campaign:

Advertising 

Advertising the act of sending paid messages, posters, or any form of content to inform, persuade, or influence its target audience. Examples of media used in advertising include broadcast (radio and TV), electronic (web, videotape, and audio), network (telephone, wireless, and satellite), display (billboards, posters, and signs), and print (magazines and newspapers).  

Why do People Advertise?

The main reason people advertise is to reach geographically dispersed consumers. It’s also been proven that consumers associate a heavily advertised product with good value. 

The Con

The problem is that advertising is an expensive way of promoting your products. So, you want to do some little bit of calculations and make sure you’re not advertising your products at a loss. 

Sales Promotion

Sales promotions are the short-term incentives that you offer your customers and prospects to encourage the trail or purchase of your products or services. 

There are two types of sales promotions: 

  • Consumer Promotions: These are focused on consumers. They include coupons, distribution of free samples, discounts, premiums, and offers on high-quality purchases. 
  • Trade Promotions: Trade promotions tend to focus on retailers. They include merchandising allowances, incentives to salespeople, pay for performance incentives, and volume discounts. 

Why are Sales Promotions Important?

Sales promotions are used to draw attention. They act as an invitation to consumers to engage in a trial or transaction by offering some form of incentive. 

Personal Selling

Personal selling refers to the face-to-face interactions you have with a buyer or a group of them. It involves making presentations, taking orders, and answering questions. It’s one of the most effective marketing tools at the later stage of the sales process. 

Why is Personal Selling Important?

Personal selling allows you to customise your marketing messages to match the individual needs of your customers. It’s also a good way to build long-lasting relationships with your customers. 

Public Relations

Public relation is concerned about the relationship that your organisation has with the general public. It differs from advertising in the sense that it’s not one-sided, but a two-way communication between your organisation and the public. 

It involves sending out brand messages, monitoring its feedback, and adjusting your messages for maximum benefits. The most common public relations tool is publicity, which leverages your products or services’ news value, thus allowing information to be disseminated to various new media.

Why is Public Relations Important to Your IMC strategy?

The articles that appear in the media tend to be more objective. They also enjoy high credibility. Plus, they can reach hard-to-find consumers or those elusive to targeted communication. 

Direct Marketing 

Direct marketing involves the use of telephone, mail, fax, email, and the internet, in general, to communicate directly with a specific group of customers or prospects to solicit a dialogue or direct response from them. Shoppers no longer deal with cash. Instead, they use their credit cards for almost all the purchases they make. As a result, marketers are now reaching consumers directly to assist them with the purchasing process. 

Why is Direct Marketing Important to Your IMC Strategy?

Any decent-sized company has a database of consumers that they send regular catalogues and other marketing materials that make it easier for them to purchase their products or services online. It’s a common practise that’s been picking up steam fast over the past few years. 

Events and Experiences

Events and experiences refer to the company-sponsored programs and activities designed to facilitate brand-related interaction with consumers. 

Why are Events and Experiences Important to Your IMC Strategy? 

Sponsorship programs improve the visibility of your company or brand. Brands organise these events to provide their customers with the experience of trying out their products. The result of this is an increased brand recall. Events and experiences are also recommended because they encourage engagement. 

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing refers to the whole concept of promoting your business, brand, or website on social media. If done right, social media is a good platform for drawing attention to your brand. You can also engage your customers and prospects as they browse the internet. 

Why Social Media Marketing?

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Social media is advancing pretty fast. Communication has been greatly improved on these platforms, and it’s safe to say social media is the future of marketing and promotions. 

They’re highly interactive and easy to keep up with the latest updates within your industry.  

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is a term used to refer to the whole concept of communicating with consumers via mobile. Whether you’re sending them a brief marketing message, introducing them to your new participation-based campaign, or directing them to a mobile website, as long as the communication is happening via a mobile device, that qualifies as mobile marketing. 

Why Is It Important? 

It’s cheaper than traditional promotional means, for both the marketer and consumer. It’s also as streamlined as online marketing

Plus, its use has been increasing with time. 

Examples include all the ads that you’ve seen on your mobile device. 

The 5 Steps of Planning an Integrated Marketing Communication Campaign

Identify Your Customer Using Behavioural Data

Your customer should be at the centre of your IMC campaign. Meaning, there’s no way you’re running a successful IMC campaign without first understanding your customer. 

Here’s an example:

If you’re operating an education institution, your customers are the students that enrol with you. 

There are two types of data that you may use to understand your customers. 

  1. Behavioural Data: This type of data focuses on your customers’ behaviour. It informs us about what they do, how they conduct themselves, and their history regarding your offering. 
  2.  Demographic Data: This type of data describes your customers. It informs us about their age, gender, income, location, and so on. 

IMC is more about what people do rather than what they are. That’s to say behavioural data generates better results than demographic data. Because of this, you want to start by aggregating your customers according to their behaviour first and their demographic second. 

Calculate Your Customers’ Value 

Marketing is always looked at as an expense. But IMC requires a change of mindset. Instead of looking at marketing as an expense, you look at it as an investment, a strategic tool for increasing your revenue. 

Using the example of students

Before you come up with a marketing budget, you must first calculate the financial value of your current students. 

This value should form the basis of your marketing investment. Your end goal is to drive revenue. So, use this value to set up goals and determine your next marketing course of action. 

Create Your Marketing Messages and the Incentives to Deliver

With this, you have to wear your customers’ minds and think about what appeals to them. 

After setting your business financial goals, the next thing you want to do is to create meaningful marketing communications to your customers and prospects. 

This is where you tie your marketing objectives to the anticipated financial outcomes. 

There are two components for tying the two: 

Delivery: You have to identify the point of contact between your brand and customers. 

Where do the two come in contact? Or where would they prefer to be reached? If it’s on social media, then what specific platform? 

Content: What customer insights do you think best connects your brand with your customers? The message you deliver should serve as the middle ground between what the customers want to acquire and what your brand plans to deliver.

IMC differs from traditional marketing because it requires you to select your channel first before determining your marketing message, not the other way around. 

You first have to figure out where your target audience can be found. Where do they hang out the most? 

After you’ve determined this, you can go ahead and figure out how to meet them there. You also have to make sure your content and marketing messages are grounded in your customer insights and not randomly curated. 

Estimate Your ROCI (Returns on Customer Investment)

Step four focus on the ROCI, your returns on marketing and communication investments. 

This should be your ultimate goal. Or aren’t you interested in a marketing strategy that results in the most profitable and loyal customers

It’s simple: just prove to your seniors that you can turn $100 worth of marketing investments into $1000 of customer revenue, and they’ll never fight you over your marketing budget again. 

But How Can You Prove This?

  • Learn how to use Google analytics. They’re descriptive and predictive.
  • Use attribution: the first, last, and multitouch. 
  • Use optimisation: control groups and A/B Tests

Budget, Allocate and Evaluate. Now Rinse and Repeat

Your IMC strategy needs a budget, an IMC marketing budget to be precise. You need an advertising budget, promotional budget, a budget for the incentives, and so forth. 

Learn to think like the investor you are. Understand key financial numbers, starting with customer acquisition cost, customer retention rate, and so on. You also want to calculate the difference between short-term and long-term returns. 

You have to understand the 3 C’s: 

  • Contribution: The dollars the business has generated over time.
  • Commitment: How many dollars is your business generating vs. how many is your competition making? 
  • Champions: Support, involvement, and brand advocacy

At this point, you should be able to prove the impact of your IMC campaign. You should be able to evaluate the program’s effectiveness and even use the insights you’ve gathered to plan for the future. 

Don’t forget that IMC is an ongoing process and not a one-off campaign. In the end, you’d want to recycle what worked and improve on what didn’t until you’re finally there. 

 

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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