Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC)
Critical Evaluation and Future Prospects
1. Integrated Marketing Communication:
Keeping in view the dynamic environment of today's business, Marketer is required to develop the product that have the capacity to satisfy target market needs and wants, price that product attractively, and ensure its availability to the target customers. But the task does not stop over here; the organization must also communicate with their target about the company offerings. Communication is the process in which messages are exchanged to achieve a desired behavior direction or goal. The task of communication with target market is called promotion in Marketing.
A company can use variety of promotion techniques including advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, direct marketing and public relations to achieve the company's communication objectives. From the last two decades, promotions strategies used by organizations around the world have undergone through tremendous changes. This is due to the fact that the technology has revolutionized our daily life, marketing promotion have no exception. Companies must be aware of the fact that the face of marketing communications is continuously shifting and, to be successful in the future, the Marketing manager needs to utilize the novel emerging communication techniques.
According to Kotler and Armstrong (2006), Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a concept in which a ”company carefully integrates and coordinates its many communication channels—mass media advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, packaging, and others—to deliver a clear, consistent, and compelling message about the organization and its products”. The results of IMC are better communication that transform into consistent sales volume.
The integrated marketing communication goes beyond these specific promotion tools. The design, and packaging of the product, its container and packaging, its price, and the retail stores that sell the product, all communicate something to buyers. Thus, although the promotion mix is an organization's primary communication, the whole marketing mix including product, place, price and promotion must be coordinated in order to achieve the desired impact. The organization IMC helps the firm in identification of the target audience, and then helps the firm in designing a well-coordinated promotional program that focus on managing the customer relationship over time.
According to Pelsmacker et all (2006) Integrated Marketing Communication is “the integration of specialized communications functions that previously operated with varying degrees of autonomy”. If the organization fails to integrate its various communications tools, for example, the advertisements of the offering concentrate on one thing, while a price signaled transmit a different message while the labeling of the product depicts still another message. This will create ambiguity in the mind of the consumer and he will wander here and there in search of “what the company is trying to convince me?” As Kotler and Armstrong (2006) have pointed out “IMC builds brand identity and strong customer relationships by tying together all of the company's messages and images. Brand messages and positioning are coordinated across all communication activities and media”.
Factors Leading to Integration of Marketing Communication:
The following are some of the reason due to which it is inevitable to integrate the Marketing Communication of the organization.
1. Fragmentation of the mass market:
This mass-marketing strategy focuses on what is general in the needs of consumers rather than on what is different. The organization offer single Marketing Mix consists of one type of product with small or no variation, one pricing strategy, one promotion program aimed at every person and one distribution system aimed at the entire market.
In the last two decades, the mass marketing strategy has lost its impact due to fragmentation of the markets across the world. Consumers around the world now have a more options of what to buy, what to watch to listen or read. The emergence of new market segment which was previously homogeneous, having distinct needs, requirements, and preferences. (Groucutt ; 2004). These fragments reduce the effectiveness of mass marketing techniques and erode brand loyalty.
2. Media Fragmentation:
Market fragmentation has resulted in media fragmentation because the of alternative media channels available to the consumer and all messages seen as one single message to consumer. Today's consumers are being irritated with a bundle of of television channels, and a steady stream of new magazines that hit the newsstands every week. Coupled with rising level of ad dodging and the future for some mass media might seem austere. Therefore advertising has to spread further, covering massive amount of channels to gain the same exposure.
3. Explosion of New Technologies:
The Technology is evolving today with much speed and has a very disruptive impact on our daily life. Something that has been considered as status symbol today is a myth of past now. Also this explosion allow customer to have greater control over the communication. Consumer can now select what to see, and what to hear more easily as in past.
4. Emergence of Global Markets:
Due to advent of IT the whole world has collapse to a global village. The culture around the world is merging and a unified culture is emerging. Although this has created some opportunities for organization, but is also posing some potential threat as they need now to be very cautious while designing there promotional programs and unless the promotional program are well coordinated and integrated it will not have any impact on the target market. The global market has also led to increase in advertising mess due more channels and more group placing ad on mass media.
5. Shifts of Power from Manufacturers to Retailer:
The power that historically rests with manufacturer has been shifted to retailer. The retailers due to this power now demands huge promotion fees and can offer better retail information from due to the usage of checkout scanner technology.
6. Shifting of Promotion Cost from Advertising to other Forms of Promotion:
Due to the increase usage of Internet, growth of customer databases, customer lack of time, companies are moving toward concentrated and niche segmentation, as consumer has the convenience to order what he needs and wants from direct marketers. This had led to change on the percentage of promotion spent on advertising. Traditionally this percentage used to be very high but now as the market conditions are changing it is eroding and taking the form of direct marketing, point of sales activities, online advertising etc.
7. Emergence of Lower Cost and More Target Communication Tools:
As the traditionally used media tools is losing its impact, the exploration of lower-cost and more targeted communication tools continues. Marketer now have the option to use promotional tools like event marketing and direct mail etc that are more targeted and have less cost as compared to of mass media.
8. Development of Database and Relationship Marketing:
One of the most important Direct Marketing is the Customer Databases. It is a controlled collection of absolute data about individual customers or prospects, together with geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data. These databases help companies in influencing and building customer relationships and the organization can also tailor its message or market offering according to the personal needs of the target market.
9. Increase Usage of Internet:
The usage of Internet around the world is increasing with the passage of time, and this had led to change how a company does its business and how the organization communicate and interact with its target market. Companies around the world are using the Internet as a competitive tool to change how they transact the business. They can a company does business and how they communicate and interact with customers as they can reach prospects at just the right moment and can offers a low-cost, well-organized way to reach markets.
10. Agency Accountability:
The terms and conditions of the relation that the company and agency used to have are changing, due to changes in the competitive setup of the industry. The organization now demands for greater accountability from the advertising agencies and changes in return and incentives of the agency.
11. Marketing Strategy Results Measurement
Organization now calls that the activities that the marketing department carries out should be measurements appropriately and expectations from marketing strategy.
12. Change in Shopping Approach:
The reason behind why the consumer goes for shopping has been change. Traditionally people used to went for shopping in order to get the desired products and/or services from the market. But now the shopping approach has been changed, it is now taking form of freedom and entertainment.
13. Growth of Digital Media:
Multi-track media society that is constantly developing and changing with the passage of time has led to advent of digital media. In digital media consumer have extraordinary control over the information and entertainment choice. With new digital media in place, people have thousands of viewing options they can select from.
Future of IMC:
The conception of integrated marketing communications (IMC) is fairly new. The IMC tools allows marketing manager to plan and then execute his marketing communication programs, which create and maintain mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with the target market by satisfying their needs and wants. This means that promotion tools are used to create loyalty.
The future trends of IMC are discussed in the following:
1. Competitive Advantage:
The Various tools that organization has can be used as a competitive edge against the competitors. Competitive advantage is the edge and the ability of firm to provide superior value to its target market as compared to competitors. As IMC components are designed as a whole, the organization is able to focus its efforts in all the communication elements that create single, powerful brand equity by speaking with one voice. This single brand message provides a competitive advantage to the company as the target clearly understand that what the company is communicating.
2. Brand Equity
IMC strategies are essential to the company's strategic brand management because IMC strengthens the interface between the organization's strategy of brand identity and the target market's brand equity. The organization that uses IMC strategies will be able to measure the brand awareness and brand image of its various offerings. Specifically IMC strategies and brand identity are the most vital parts of the company's overall brand equity strategy. The brand identity strategy of the organization serves as a foundation for its overall IMC initiative and, for this reason, accounts for to the firm's brand equity.
3. Online Advertising:
Online Advertising is becoming powerful IMC tool for advertisers and organization can use online advertisement as people are now spending more time online; the Internet became another channel via which companies can market their offerings successfully. (Google; 2007)
Because of the Internet's versatility, it will give an organization the opportunity to reach and interact with its target market. Companies can now produce an IMC campaigns that exclusively target the desired customer more successfully with less cost as compared to traditional communication efforts. Online campaigns will give organization new abilities to the organization due to the following reasons:
• Reach: The Internet used by more than 170 million people only in the United States.
• Relevance: Online Advertising shows ads to potential customers who are actively searching for what businesses have to offer.
• Return on investment (ROI): Using analytical tools, companies can understand more about the effectiveness and efficiency of their ads. (Google; 2007)
Viral marketing is an IMC technique that is mostly used for trendy brands, Marketers are increasing acknowledging Viral marketing as an important IMC tool because it offers the traditions benefits and effectiveness of advertising. In viral marketing the organization promotes its product using Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM), utilizing individual's communication networks, and relying on their individual recommendations to sell the product. Companies actively seek viral marketing, by fueling discussion on their offerings. (Groucutt, J. et al 2004).
1. Multi Chanel Promotion:
As multi channel media increases in reputation, the problem of IMC is to make sure that the IMC campaign reaches its planned audience. According Perkin (2003) “as media-blitzed, ad-cynical, time-poor, channel-flicking audience living in a fast-paced, attention-challenged world” The fact is that due to fast pace of technology, and globalization of the world, consumer behavior around the world is changing. Today customer have more control over what to see, and read and therefore IMC need to tailor the organization campaign as per the requirements of the market.
2. Media Selection
There are a huge number of magazines, each having its own focus, allowing segmented audience to the organization. The owner of these Magazines not only offers media planners a place to get the target audience, but also provide insights regarding audience and how to connect with them in the most excellent manner. Companies can use these magazines in there IMC efforts by effectively marketing their product and to utilize and ensure correct targeting, positioning and promoting the company offerings. (Perkin, N. 2003).
3. Sponsorship Campaign
Sponsorship of sporting events like football, cricket, or even horse race is recognized as a strong medium of promotion due to its focus of providing target audience on one platform event and the capability to attach with company target market by adding value to their behavior and interests. The finding of the response that how a particular customer or a group of customers will reveal some interesting aspects about the company sponsorship and will also reveal the form of sponsorship appropriate for the company products. Although sponsorship, like other form of promotional mix, has to prove its value in IMC, consumers are inner to a sponsorship strategy. Targeting the accurate event will take a lot of research on behalf of the organization while the exposure created by sponsorship is very short lived (Crow 2003).
4. Market Positioning
The art of targeting customer to portray a product in a certain desired manner in known as positioning is the one of the most important factor while launching a new product and/or service for any organization. With the entire media overloaded, the consumer has closed mind to the new products, therefore, the company offerings should be exceptional, and supported by original, relevant, creative and really inspired IMC efforts. Advertising diffusion is exceptional and media fragmentation is growing now a days. In order to get a desired level of recall and brand awareness marketer need to target several medium. This is due to fact that consumer media habits are diverse and had led to higher IMC budgets and also waste of the precious organizational resources.
Direct marketing has become one of the most effective and efficient way for reaching target market due to dynamic environmental factors, changing customer preferences, and technological developments. (Brassington, F. & Pettitt, S. 2003). The key to successful direct marketing for an organization is targeting. The success of marketing manager while using direct marketing depends on his capability to identify the just right audience for the company product and then design the direct marketing campaign to achieve that goal.
5. Site-Targeted Campaigns:
The keyword-embattled ads can become visible on Google exploration results pages or on search and content sites inside the Google Network. Site targeting will give an organization the ability to:
• Advertise on most wanted sites.
• Reach customers near the beginning in the buying process, with advertisements designed to increase responsiveness or to promote a brand, but not unavoidably to generate clicks or traffic.
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