Integrating IMC

Integrated marketing communications has been slow to take hold for several reasons. Large companies often employ several communications specialists to work with their brand managers who may know comparatively little about the other communication tools. Further complicating matters is that global companies use s large number of ad agencies located in different countries and serving different divisions, resulting in uncoordinated communication and image diffusion.

Today, however, a few large agencies have substantially improved their integrated offerings. To facilitate one-stop shopping, major ad agencies have acquired promotion agencies, public relations firms, package-design consultancies, Web sites developers, and direct-mail houses. Many international clients have opted to put a substantial portion of their communication work through one agency. An example is IBM turning all of its advertising over to Ogilvy to attain uniform branding. The result is integrated and more effective marketing communications and a much lower total communications cost.

Integrated marketing communications can produce stronger message consistency and greater sales impact. It forces management to think about every way the customer comes in contact with the company, how the company communicates its positioning, the relative importance of each vehicle, and timing issues. It gives someone the responsibility – where none existed before – to unify the company’s brand images and messages as they come through thousands of company activities. IMC should improve the company’s ability to reach the right customers with the right messages at the right time and in the right place.

IMC advocates describe it as a way of looking at the whole marketing process instead of focusing on individual parts of it. Companies such as Motorola, Xerox, and Hewlett-Packard are bringing together advertising, direct marketing, public relations, and employee communications experts into “supercouncils” that meet a few times each year for training and improved communications among them. Procter & Gamble recently revised its communications planning by requiring that each new program be formulated jointly, with its ad agency sitting together with P&G public relation agencies, direct-marketing units, promotion merchandising firms, and Internet operations.

Coverage is the proportion of the audience that is reached by each communication option employed, as well as how much overlap exists among communication options. In other words, to the extent of different communication options reach the designated target depending up on the same or different consumers making that market.

Contribution is the inherent ability of a marketing communication to create the desired response and communication effects from consumers in the absence of exposure to any other communication option. How much does a communication affect consumer processing and build awareness, enhance image elicit responses, and induce sales?

Commonality is the extent to which common association are reinforced across communication options, that is, the extent to which information conveyed by different communication options share meaning. The consistency and cohesiveness of the brand image is important because it determines how easily existing associates and responses can be recalled and how easily additional association and responses can become linked to the brand in memory.