marketing communication

Understanding Integrated Marketing Communication

By Suresh Gaur, P R Guru, CEO, P R 4 You, 

The traditional definition of marketing was released by the American Marketing Association in 1985 and states that “Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives”. This definition suggests that the parties involved must have something of value to offer to the other party and must have the desire and ability to give it up and find a way to communicate with one another.

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In 2004, the definition of Marketing was revised to reflect these changes – “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large”. Creating, Communicating, and Delivering Value is thus the current focus. Marketing is regarded as an integrated process through which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value for customers in return.

As per Phillip Kotler, the main goal of marketing is to develop deep, enduring relationships with people and organizations that could directly or indirectly affect the success of a firm’s marketing activities. Thus, relationship marketing aims to build mutually satisfying long-term relationships with key constituents in order to earn and retain their business.

Tom Duncan, author of Principles of Advertising & IMC, also puts emphasis on the importance of building long-term relationships with customers and other relevant stakeholders. As per Duncan, the primary relationship focus of a company is on its customers and internal employees; but a beneficial long term relationship with several other stakeholders – including suppliers, shareholders (from the financial and investment community), the broader community, government regulators, media and agencies (for those companies that use their services) and distribution-channel members is also important.

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Communication is the key to getting the word out, and marketing helps businesses do just that. Marketing communication for businesses. Marketing communication helps move products, services, and ideas from B to C i.e. Business to consumers/customers, and builds and maintains relationships with customers, prospects, and other important stakeholders of the organization. Communication helps in turning such encounters into commendable experiences so that they help in developing correct consumers’ attitudes toward the product or service. The role of marketing communication is to deliver the message to our customers. Marketing communication is a basic and complex part of corporate marketing efforts. Marketing communication can be described as all the messages and media we deploy to communicate with the market.

There are two general forms of marketing communications that are being used by corporate on a daily basis: External and Internal Communications.

Internal communications mean the communication that the corporate uses to reach out to its employees within the organization. Employees work as internal customers and it is as important to keep them satisfied as it is with the external customers. A company’s employees can be its most powerful marketing force. As they go about their daily lives outside of the company, they provide a general impression of the company to those who know they work there. Over time, this has enormous influence over a company’s reputation, which ultimately provides a tangible contribution to the company’s bottom line: its sales.

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External communication on the other hand includes the communication that corporate uses to reach out to its external customers. By using external communication corporate hope to send a message to their customers that later on, it will result in the customer buying their products or services. This external communication can be done through various media channels. Communication in Marketing covers all the ways you share what you do with the world.

Marketing communication informs, persuades, or reminds the target audience about the market offers but the ultimate role of marketing communication is to influence the behaviour of the target market. Communication objectives, such as creating awareness of or interest in the marketing offer, are certainly not enough. Marketing communication should, in fact, lead to changes in the behaviour of the target market in the purchase of products or loyalty towards the brand. Marketers can use the marketing communication strategy to convince the selected target market(s) that the products or services offered to provide a significant and competitive advantage over those of their rivals or competitors.

Marketing communication can add value for customers, because customers need to be informed on aspects, such as the features and potential benefits of a product, where it can be bought, and whether it is a well-known brand with a good reputation, or whether it has already formed a positive association in the minds of the consumers. In other words, marketing communication can influence the target audiences’ perceptions of crucial features and symbolic associations that are superior to those of the competitors. Marketing communication can also add value to the company/advertiser by building brands and creating brand equity.

Advertising, Public Relations, Personal Selling, Direct Response & Database Marketing, Online Marketing, and Sales Promotion, and all other communication elements (i.e. E-marketing, Digital Media, Social Media, Cellphone-Marketing, Buzz-Marketing, Viral-Marketing, Guerrilla-Marketing (Flash Mob), Event-Marketing, Product Placements and Branded Entertainment) are collectively known as the Marketing Communication Mix. Therefore, the marketing communication manager has to keep in mind that there are multiple markets, multiple customers, multiple channels, and multiple media.

The focus is now on the retention rather than on the acquisition of customers and alongside this is media proliferation, audience fragmentation, the advance of information technology, consumer empowerment, increased advertising clutter, a shift in channel power – offline to Online, and desire for more accountability, all considered to be driving forces leading towards Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).

Integrating the marketing communication elements has moved from being a planning process to a strategic process and is described as a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated measurable, persuasive brand communication programs over time with consumers, customers, prospects, and other targeted, relevant external and internal audiences in order to contribute a consistent and synergized brand message and experience.

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Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the synchronization and integration of all marketing communication tools, avenues, and sources within a corporate into a faultless program, in order to maximize the communication effects that promote corporate goals and enhances the impact on customers and other end users. This assimilation affects all of a corporate business-to-business, marketing channel, customer-focused, and internally directed communications.

The phrase of Integrated Marketing Communication evolved in the late 20th century (1990) regarding the application of reliable brand messaging across innumerable marketing channels. The main purpose to develop this type of communication is to address the need for businesses to offer customers more than just standard advertising. Integrated Marketing Communications suggests that marketers focus at the customer first and his or her preferences, buying patterns, media exposure, and other factors and then the customer is exposed to the products that fit its need through a mix of communication methods which the customer find more eye-catching and convincing.

The way that Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) has been conceptualized and developed from 1990 up to the present have varying terminologies that have been given to IMC, such as ‘360 branding’, ‘total branding’, ‘relationship marketing’, ‘one-to-one marketing’, ‘integrated marketing’ and ‘integrated communications’.

One of the first and most widely quoted definitions of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) was proposed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) in 1989  as “A concept of marketing communications planning that recognises the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines (for example, advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations), and then combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact”. In this definition, IMC is regarded as a theory or idea.

It emphasizes the added value aspect of a complete IMC plan, to combine, but also to integrate, the various marketing communication functions (tactics) and vehicles in order to ultimately convey a unified and consistent message. This added value applies not only when integrating multiple marketing communication techniques e.g. advertising is combined with public relations, but also when integrating multiple media e.g. outdoor advertising is combined with transit advertising media. In other words, the combined effect of multiple activities exceeds the sum of their individual effects; this phenomenon is known as synergy.
Therefore, Integrated Marketing Communication is the process of managing all sources of information about a product or service to which a customer or prospect is exposed, which behaviorally moves the consumer towards a sale, and maintains customer loyalty”.

Integrated Marketing Communication is an on-going process that should be controlled and managed, and should bring about behavioral and long-term changes in the behaviour of consumers. It should also bring to the fore cultivation of the relationship between customers and brands aiming at loyalty. The suggested objective of customer loyalty implies that this process should be a long term one and customer-focused. It should also include all sources of information or brand contact points.

Tom Duncan  provided a broader definition of Integrated Marketing Communication that reads: “IMC is a  cross-functional process for creating and nourishing profitable relationships with customers and other stakeholders, by strategically controlling or influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data-driven, purposeful dialogue with them.”
This definition suggests that it is a process for managing customer relationships that drive brand value. A cross-functional process means that all departments, as well as external agencies, should work together to plan and implement brand relationships with all the stakeholders.

Creating and nourishing stakeholder relationships involves attracting and retaining them by shaping all messages sent by everyone in the company. The most distinctive feature of this definition is the specific requirement of two-way, data-driven communication. The use of databases and skillfully placed media efforts in an IMC strategy play a significant role in reaching the target audience and getting them involved in a two-way exchange of information or dialogue.
This has surely been the result of an increasing amount of communication that has been taking place between organizations and stakeholders, based on the information obtained from and captured in new information technologies, such as the Internet, mobile phones, and the abundance of computer software programs.

Today, IMC is an audience-driven business process of strategically managing stakeholders, content, channels, and the results of brand communication programs.

Suresh Gaur, CEO, P R 4 U

This means that IMC has moved from being perceived as a mere communication process to developing into a strategic management process that is ‘audience-driven’, proposing that this should be client-centered, and focusing on the relevant stakeholders including customers, and not only inwardly of the company.


To sum up;

Integrated Marketing Communications is the effectual process to develop and execute various forms of influential communications programs with customers and prospects over time. The target of IMC is to influence or directly affect the audience’s behaviour of the particular communication. IMC involves the development of marketing strategies and creative campaigns that weave together multiple forms of communication media to suit the particular messaging goals for a brand. It is essential to manage all components of IMC to become successful in a competitive market. IMC gives a positive impact with successful promotional integration if it is realized with an appropriate process.

Integrated Marketing Communications has a good effect as brand equity, brand awareness, profitability, and changing attitude of a consumer. Today, organizations use this communication tool to build healthy relations with customers and in turn, enhance sales – Suresh Gaur, PR Guru

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