Integrated Marketing Communication

[Based, in part, on Marketing Communications by Patrick De Pelsmacker]

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a popular term in marketing today. It generally describes having synergy and consistency across all communication channels, both internal and external. But to really understand this idea I want to explore the context and the barriers to IMC.

IMC came into existence due to influence from expanding globalization, technology and consumer power. The world we live in has many communications channels, through different forms of both digital and analog technology. All of these channels themselves communicate (the medium is the message). With mass access to information, globalization, and new forms of communication, consumers have more power and choice shifting companies to build products with a market orientation – a focus on customer need, as opposed to making things company is good at. In an effort for differentiation in this new marketplace, organizations have placed more emphasis on branding and governance. The result of all this is a seemingly infinite number of possibilities for variation in communication and added costs in having such variation. IMC came into existence to solve these needs – to have a consistent message across all channels and be cost effective at doing so.

Barriers to implementing IMC still exist in organizations; it is not something to be taken for granted. These barriers include: general organizational conservatism (sticking with way things have been done), functional separation, lack of market orientation, poor internal communication. In general, the barriers to IMC focus on a fear of change and poor communication structures – issues that are barriers for many things including innovation.

IMC seeks to bridge the gap between the vision of top management, organizational culture and brand image/experience. This requires a focus on (my favorite) touchpoints. A term often used in service design, touchpoints focus on the actual moments at which an organization connects with people. In contrast with a channel which is a means of communication, touchpoints are an interaction and one channel can have many touchpoints. The key is having consistency and synergy in your touchpoints. For example, the tochpoint of an ad on my smartphone game branding the organization as innovative would need to be consistent with touchpoingt of an email I receive about the organization releasing a new innovative product. There would be trouble here if the organization sent an internal email to the staff about being slow to change and relying on older methods as this email would create a touchpoint that has gap with the brand image/experience.

As you may have noticed with “image/experience,” IMC is about more than just what the organization communicates, it’s the experiences (which involves communication) it creates for people. I think of the Wolff Olins blog post about how what you do is more important than what you say. The goal of IMC is synergy and consistency across the brand experience.

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