Managing the Integrated Marketing Communications Process

As defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan. Such a plan evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communications disciplines – for example general advertising direct response, sales promotion and public relations – and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum impact through the seamless integration of messages.

Unfortunately, many companies still rely on one or two communication tools. This practice persists in spite of the fragmenting of mass markets into a multitude of mini markets each requiring its own approach; the proliferation of new types of media; and the growing sophistication of consumers. The wide range of communication tools, messages, and audiences makes it imperative that companies move toward integrated marketing communications. Companies must adopt a “360-degree view” of consumers to fully understand all the different ways that communications can affect consumer behavior in their daily lives.

Here is a successful example of an integrated marketing communication program.

Forced to change its company name from Andersen Consulting after and arbitrator’s decision, Accenture developed a re-branding campaign that utilized a fully integrated communications program. By January 2001, television, print, Internet and poster ads featuring the Accenture name appeared in each of 48 different countries where the company did business. Between January and March 2001, over 6,000 television commercial spots and 1,000 print ads were run in global markets. In Australia, the company placed a “cover wrap” on the magazine Business Review Weekly and advertising on bus stops and park benches in Sydney’s business district The company placed large-scale outdoor ads in Milan’s Oberdan Square and coated 10 taxis in London with Accenture signage. The January 2001 Accenture World Match Play Championship allowed the company to run some 300 commercials in its international markets and 100 commercials in the United States, plus print advertisement in major newspapers business periodicals, and golf magazines in the United States. Additional high-profile global advertising sponsorship opportunities included the Formula 1 racing Series, several European skiing events, the Six Nations Rugby tournament the Asian PGA tour, the World soccer Dream Match in Japan and the Italian Football Championship.

Media coordination can occur across and within media types. Personal and non-personal communications channels should be combined to achieve maximum impact. Imagine a marketer using a single tool in a “one-shot” effort to reach and sell a prospect. An example of a single vehicle, single-stage campaign is a one time mailing offering a cookware item. A single vehicle, multiple stage campaign would involve successive mailings to the same prospects. Magazine publishers, for example send about four renewal notices to a household before giving up. A more powerful approach is the multiple vehicle, multiple stage campaign. Consider the following sequence:

Multiple media deployed within a tightly defined time frame can increase message reach and impact. For a Citibank campaign to market home equity loans, instead of using only “mail plus an 800 number,” Citibank used mail plus coupon plus 800 number plus outbound telemarketing plus print advertising. Although the second campaign was more expensive, it resulted in a 15% increase in the number of new accounts compared with direct mail alone.