Integrated Marketing Communication

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Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a process for managing customer relationships that drive brand value primarily through communication efforts. Such efforts often include cross-functional processes that create and nourish profitable relationships with customers and other stakeholders by strategically controlling or influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data-driven, purposeful dialog with them.

IMC includes the coordination and integration of, all marketing communication tools, avenues and sources within a company into a seamless program in order to maximize the impact on end users at a minimal cost. This integration affects all firms’ business-to-business, marketing channel, customer focused and internally directed communications. Integrated Marketing Communications is a simple concept.

Learn about:- 1. Meaning of Integrated Marketing Communication 2. Growth of Integrated Marketing Communication 3. IMC Tools 4. Importance 5. Planning Process

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6. Sustainable Competitive Advantage Based on IMC 7. Benefits 8. Barriers 9. Models of Communication Strategy 10. Integrated Marketing Communication in India and Other Countries.


Integrated Marketing Communication: Meaning, Growth, IMC Tools, Importance, Benefits, Planning Process and Barriers

Integrated Marketing Communication – Meaning

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) is a process for managing customer relationships that drive brand value primarily through communication efforts. Such efforts often include cross-functional processes that create and nourish profitable relationships with customers and other stakeholders by strategically controlling or influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data-driven, purposeful dialog with them.

IMC includes the coordination and integration of, all marketing communication tools, avenues and sources within a company into a seamless program in order to maximize the impact on end users at a minimal cost. This integration affects all firms’ business-to-business, marketing channel, customer focused and internally directed communications. Integrated Marketing Communications is a simple concept.

It ensures that all forms of communications and messages are carefully linked together. At its most basic level, Integrated Marketing Communications or IMC, as we’ll call it, means integrating all the promotional tools, so that they work together in harmony. Promotion is one of the Ps in the marketing mix.

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Earlier from the Seller’s point of view, it was called ‘Promotion’, as a part of 4 P’s; but now from Customer’s point of view, as a part of 4C’s – i.e., ‘Communication’.

All of these communications tools work better if they work together in harmony rather than in isolation. Their sum is greater than their parts – providing they speak consistently with one voice all the time, every time. This is enhanced when integration goes beyond just the basic communications tools. There are other levels of integration such as Horizontal, Vertical, Internal, External and Data integration. Here is how they help to strengthen Integrated Communications.

Horizontal Integration occurs across the marketing mix and across business functions-For example- production, finance, distribution and communications should work together and be conscious that their decisions and actions send messages to customers. While different departments such as sales, direct mail and advertising can help each other through Data Integration.

This requires a marketing information system which collects and shares relevant data across different departments. Vertical Integration means marketing and communications objectives must support the higher level corporate objectives and corporate missions.

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Meanwhile Internal Integration requires internal marketing-keeping all staff informed and motivated about any new developments from new advertisements, to new corporate identities, new service standards, new strategic partners and so on. External Integration, on the other hand, requires external partners such as advertising and PR agencies to work closely together to deliver a single seamless solution a cohesive message an integrated message.

Promotion is one of the four variables in the marketing mix. Basically, it is communicating information between producer/ seller and buyer or prospective buyer to change attitude and behaviour of consumers. The promotion has become necessary today as selling has become more complex today because product are more technical and customers are more sophisticated and the competition has become more intense.

These all valuables make it necessary for the product producer or seller to make prosper flow of communication to the buyers or prospective buyers about the characteristics of his products. When a company develops a new product, makes changes in the old one or simply wants to increase sale of its existing products without making any change, it must transmit selling message to potential customer, it is promotion.

Integrated marketing communication refers to integrating all the methods of brand promotion to promote a particular product or service among target customers. In integrated marketing communication, all aspects of marketing communication work together for increased sales and maximum cost effectiveness.

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The American Association of Advertising Agencies defines IMC as “a concept that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines, and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact”.

IMC as a tool has been taken as a medium to reinforce what the company wants to convey to its customers and target segment about the brand and helps it to remain consistent in its marketing communications.

A brand is linked with elements of consumer behaviour which are related with the tools of Integrated Marketing Communications. All the consumer behaviour elements have a role to play in building a brand. Right from the introduction stage to the forming formidable bonds with the customers, these elements play a vital role in forming the strategy for communication and how should the brand behave in the market place.


Integrated Marketing Communication – Growth of IMC

IMC is the result of changes that have taken place in the world of advertising and other promotion tools. Over the last few decades and particularly after late eighties, advertising started losing its prominence as a solution to any communication problem. Marketers started transferring their money from advertising to other promotion tools in order to have better return on their investment.

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To restrict the loss of business to other promotion tools advertising agencies, particularly the large agencies, thus started the move of mergers and acquisitions to provide a kind of one stop solution to their clients. According to Duncan and Clarke (1996) these agencies, however, had little understanding of integrated marketing communication concept and they continued to have tunnel vision, responding to most situations with the attitude of ‘advertising is the answer, now what’s the problem….’ Recognizing that IMC was more than a fad, the ad agencies, led by American Association of Advertising Agencies in late eighties, tried to co-opt the concept calling it the ‘new advertising.

Although the advertising agencies continue to struggle with IMC to recognize and focus their efforts, more and more clients are taking hard look at IMC because of the synergistic effects it can provide – giving them better returns on their marketing communication investment.

Some practitioners, however, do not recognize IMC as a new concept as some companies (particularly small and medium) use the same agency for their varied promotion tools and, therefore, to some extent avail the benefits of centralized planning and execution. But, certain changes in marketing and non-marketing environment are so significant that it compels IMC to be understood as a concept and process.


Integrated Marketing Communication – IMC Tools

1. Advertising:

Advertising is a tool to reach out to the masses. This will include all Print Media and Electronic Media campaigns that a company runs for promoting its brand.

2. Public Relations:

It is a customized form of communication going to the public, there is no payment to the media people and thus, if often most credible source of information.

3. Sales Promotions:

This is one of the old and most successful gimmick of the marketers. It leads to immediate result and success. Sales Promotions are for the masses again and their approach is very short run. It is usually motivated to pick up sales on or around important festivals or holidays or peak season.

4. Personal Selling:

One to one interaction with the customer is involved in personal selling. Thus, the feedback mechanism is very strong.

5. Direct Marketing:

It is also a customized way of communicating to the customer. We can refine what information to send to which customers without taking a lot of time. But, the important fact here is to identify that the database is relevant and accurate. It facilitates building relationships with the customer. Mobile Marketing and SMS marketing are the new forms of direct marketing.

Major Tools of Marketing Communications:

Philip Kotler classifies the ‘tools’ of marketing communications into four broad categories:

(i) Advertising – Any paid form of non-personal present­ation and promotion of ideas, goods or services by an identified sponsor.

(ii) Personal Selling – Oral presentation in the form of a conver­sation with one or more prospective purchasers for the purpose of making sales.

(iii) Sales Promotion – Short term incentives to encourage purchase or sale of a product or service.

(iv) Publicity – Non-personal stimulation of demand for a product, service or business unit by planting commercially significant news about it in a published medium or obtaining favorable presentation of it through media i.e. radio, television, or stage that is not paid for by the sponsor.


Integrated Marketing Communication – Importance

The IMC strategy is being adopted by all organizations whether small scale or large scale as the most important tool to market their products and services. The approach has been adopted also by business for the business to business marketing and business-to-government marketing.

The major reasons for the growing importance of integrated marketing communication planning and strategy are as follows:

1. Synergy among promotional tools gives greater effect rather than having each tool of promotion operate separately or autonomously. By coordinating marketing communication programs, firms can avoid duplication and take advantage of synergy among promotional tools like the personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, publicity and public relations.

2. Changing environment with respect to the customers, technology and media consumption behavior has compelled marketers to adopt the IMC. Traditionally, marketers used the mass media to advertise their products. The media would develop and deliver expensive, high quality content that would attract large audience. Over the past one decade, there have been major changes in the media characteristics.

There has been an evolution to micro-marketing as the mass audience assembled by network television and augmented by other mass media is very fragmented and is increasingly getting more fragmented per day. Viewing audience is moving from television networks such as – ESPN, MTV to other forms of entertainment such as – DVD’s, Internet, Videos games etc. Internet is rapidly becoming the most dynamic advertising medium with online versions of almost every television station, newspaper and magazine in circulation in any country.

The web offers marketers tremendous opportunities for targeting based on various dimensions. Internet advertising is giving way to paid search which is the fastest growing form of online advertising. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn have become the part and parcel of Internet and make it possible for people to share their opinions, content, experiences etc., with many other Internet users. They can educate the other users about the product of firms, the brands, the problems with the product and services etc.

Therefore, there seems to be no stopping of the drive of fragmentation of customer market as well as the proliferation of media. Marketers have now realized that it makes no economic sense to send an advertisement message to many in the hope of persuading a few customers. IMC thus seems to be the only way to promote the product and services to the fragmented customer market.

3. Lack of consumer response to the traditional promotional tools is yet another reason for marketers turning towards other forms of marketing communication. The customers in generation Y, having grown up in media-saturated and brand conscious world than their parents, want to encounter marketing messages in different places and from different sources.

Marketers have realized that to capture the attention of this generation, social media like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc., have to be used. Thus, integrated marketing communication programs are adopted by marketers to attract the new generation.

There is thus, a revolution in the marketing efforts of organizations where all the rules of marketing have had fundamental changes. The IMC is also driven by the fundamental changes in the manner in which organizations market their goods and services.


Integrated Marketing Communication – Planning Process (With Steps)

Organizations have to balance the strengths and weaknesses of each element of their promotional mix to develop an effective integrated marketing communication strategy. Integrated marketing communication management involves the process of planning, executing, evaluating and controlling the use of various elements of promotional mix to communicate effectively with the target customers/audiences.

Marketer has to use these tools of promotion mix according to the objectives of his communication plan. He also must decide the allocation of total marketing communication budget across various elements of the promotional mix e.g., how much to spend on advertising, sales promotion, publicity and public relation, internet, personal selling and so on.

Planning is the most crucial part of Integrated Marketing Communication Program. This program provides a framework for developing, implementing and controlling the organization’s communication plan. People who are involved in the integrated marketing program should decide on the role and functions of specific tools of promotional mix, develop method of use of each element, determine how will they be combined, plan for their implementation, decide how to evaluate their results and make necessary changes for future. Marketing communication is a part of overall marketing program of an organization.

Steps Involved in the Integrated Marketing Communication Planning:

The integrated marketing communicated planning process involves various steps which are briefly explained below:

Step 1 – Review of marketing plan

Step 2 – Analysis of internal and external situation of the promotional program

Step 3 – Analysis of communication process

Step 4 – Determination of market communication budget

Step 5- Development of market communication programs

Step 6 – Integration and implementation of marketing communication strategies

Step 7 – Monitoring, evaluation and control of the program.

Step # 1 – Review of the Marketing Plan:

The first step is to review the marketing plan and objectives. When an organization is developing a promotional plan it should see the role of advertising in its communication package. A complete analysis of each element of promotion should be made. This analysis will give a picture of whether the tools used have been of relevance or not.

The one’s which have become redundant due to changes in environment should be modified to be effective and the one’s which are doing well with the environmental challenges should be used more comprehensively. For all organizations, promotional plan is the most important part of marketing strategy, thus, it takes all information from the marketing plan. The planners therefore, focus on information in the marketing plan that is most relevant to the promotional strategy of the organization.

Step # 2 – Situation Analysis:

Situation analysis focuses on the factors that influence or are relevant to the development of a promotional strategy. Promotional analysis includes both internal as well as external analysis. The Internal Analysis assesses areas involving product/service which is offered by the organization.

It includes the capabilities of the firm and its ability to develop and implement successful promotional programs, evaluation of the post promotional programs, evaluation and selection of agencies that will assist the firm in implementing and managing the promotional programs.

If the firm is already using an ad agency to facilitate promotion, the quality of its work based on results achieved in the past campaigns should be carefully done. If there has been no significant impact of the agency’s work on firm’s promotion, then the firm should advertise and promote its offerings itself without the help of any ad agency.

Some companies or brands for which perceptions are negative may have to lay emphasis on their image more than benefits or attributes of a specific product or service they are offering. The firms which are already having good brand image in the market place are always ahead of others when it comes to marketing their products or services.

The internal situational analysis assesses the relative strengths and weakness of the product/ services offered by the firm, the advantages and disadvantages, the unique selling properties that the product or service may have, its packaging, sizes, design, price and so on. This information is given to creative personnel of organizations who develop the advertising message for the brand. There are some areas where the organization may require information from external sources to help the organization. For addressing such issues analysis of external variables is a must.

External Analysis of the situations lays focus on the factors such as characteristics of firm’s customers, market segments, positioning strategies and competitors. The characteristics of customers are the facts about their buying patterns, their decision processes and factors influencing their purchase decisions. Customer’s perceptions, attitudes, lifestyles and their criteria for making purchase decisions should also be analysed thoroughly as they impact their actions in the market place.

The second dimension of external situation is the assessment of market. The facts related to different market segments must be evaluated and the segment to be targeted must be identified. Once the target market is identified, the marketer should then decide how to position the product.

The third dimension of external situation includes the in-depth study of both the direct and the indirect competitors. The focus should be on primary competitions, their strengths and weakness, their segmentation, position and targeting strategies, the promotional strategies which they employ for capturing the market share etc.

At times, the budget of the competitors regarding promotion does not come through easily, then their media strategies and the messages they are sending to the market place should be thoroughly followed. This may give some idea about the competitor’s expenses on the promotion of his product or service.

Another dimension of external analysis is the market trends or developments that affect the promotional programs of the organisation. Growths of social networking have led to a great change in the knowledge, lives, behavior and day to day awareness of consumers. The firm, therefore, has to be creative enough so as to have an access to the consumer’s regularity.

Step # 3 – Analysis of Communication Process:

At the third stage of promotional planning process the organization has to access whether it is able to communicate with its customers effectively or not. The customers should have a high level of response if he has high level of interest in the communication. Low involvement is good for routine decisions but for major specific decisions about non-routine purchases, the firm to arouse his interest in communication so as to make him desire the firm’s product.

Communication regarding the use of various sources, messages, channels etc. has also to be analysed. The promotional planner must recognize the effectiveness of various types of advertising messages and try to use the most appropriate means for its product/services.

Step # 4 – Budget Determination:

The budget is determined after deciding the main objectives of communication program. Ideally, promotional budgets are often determined using the simplest approach, such as – how much money is available or a company’s or brand’s sales revenue. This lays that most of the times promotion budget of the organizations is tentative. This budget gets finalized only when specific promotional mix strategies are in place.

Step # 5 – Developing the Integrated Marketing Communication Program (IMC):

The most detailed step of the promotional planning is to develop the Integrated Marketing Communication Program. Each element of promotional mix has to be coordinated with other elements so that they perform most effectively in meeting the objectives of the promotional program. Every element of promotional mix has its own set of objectives involving the communication of some message or appeal to target audience.

An ad agency may be involved which makes the communication campaign for money, if the firm is making the ad campaign on its own, it will have to purchase media to disseminate the ad message. Once the message and media strategies have been determined, steps are taken to implement them. Message development is called a creative strategy which involves the basic appeal and message that the advertiser wishes to convey to the target audience. Media strategy on the other hand involves determining which channel of communication will be used to make the advertisement reach the target audience.

This task requires a careful evaluation of all media options, their advantages and disadvantages, costs and their effectiveness to deliver the message to the target audience. After the message and media are decided, steps are taken to implement them. Some communication specialists such as – direct marketing and interactive sales promotion agencies as well as public relations firm may be used to perform some integrated marketing communication functions.

Step # 6 – Integrating the IMC Strategies:

When all elements of the IMC program are set, according to objectives of the campaign, an overall strategy is developed, message and media strategies are determined and steps are taken to implement them. The Marketer may use advertising agencies, or hire some communication specialists to perform these functions of IMC.

Step # 7 – Monitoring, Evaluation and Control:

The last step in the IMC planning process is monitory, evaluating and controlling the promotional program. The firm has to carefully monitor the program and check whether it is meeting the marketing objectives or not. If the planner feels that the marketing objectives are being displaced by the nature of message sent in a media, he should take the right steps to correct the program.

This final step of the process has been designed to provide managers with continuous feedback concerning the effectiveness of the integrated marketing communication program, which in turn can be used as input into the planning process. The feedback of the results achieved by the integrated marketing program is generally used by the firm in all subsequent promotional planning and strategy development.


Integrated Marketing Communication – Sustainable Competitive Advantage Based on IMC

It has been said that integrated marketing communications will be the only sustainable competitive advantage for marketers in the near future. The other elements of the marketing mix, product development, pricing, and distribution, can be achieved at a very similar level, and in a similar way, among companies competing in a particular industry.

In addition, we know the customer has taken on a completely new, powerful, role in the marketing process. Because it is largely through promotion that a company speaks most directly to its customers, it seems appropriate that a marketer’s promotional strategy must change to reflect the dynamics of today’s marketplace.

Some of these changes include:

a. Changing technology, which has made it possible for media organizations to identify, segment, select, and attract smaller audiences for their respective vehicles.

b. The trend toward de-regulation that has allowed for increased competition within many industries, such as air travel, banking, and utilities.

c. Globalization of the marketplace, which causes promotional efforts, including advertising, sales promotion, public relations and personal selling, to be implemented throughout a worldwide market. Customisation for different cultures is key to competing successfully in this arena.

d. Changes in the demographic and psychographic profiles of today’s consumers that have paved the way for new product category opportunities such as (such as healthcare for the aging “baby boomers” and health food/clubs for nutrition conscious consumers).

e. Money-rich, time-poor consumers are seeking control of their purchases. Consumers have become adept at avoiding marketing communication, through the use of VCRs/VCD/DVD players, remote controls, radio push buttons, etc., so when they are at all listening, the message should be simply stated and easy to understand. Today’s generation is also more visually oriented than verbally, which means they rely more on images, symbols and graphics than any previous generation.

It is important also to note that a marketer can communicate with customers through means other than formal marketing communications. Every element of a product’s marketing mix helps to position that product in the minds of consumers. The result is that the elements of the promotional mix should all present a consistent theme.

The same is true of the other “Ps” of marketing, namely, product, price and place that also should support the theme:

a. Products communicate through size, shape, name, packaging, and various features/ benefits.

b. Price communicates to the consumer that the product is high quality, low quality, prestigious, common, etc.

c. Retail locations (place) where customers purchase the product will reflect upon the product’s image as well. Stores are thought of as “high-class,” exclusive, speciality, discount, etc.


Integrated Marketing Communication – Top 10 Benefits of IMC

1. Integrated marketing communications requires a lot of effort it delivers many benefits. It can create competitive advantage, boost sales and profits, while saving money, time and stress.

2. IMC wraps communications around customers and helps them move through the various stages of the buying process. The organization simultaneously consolidates its image, develops a dialogue and nurtures its relationship with customers.

3. Relationship marketing cements a bond of loyalty with customers which can protect them from the inevitable onslaught of competition. The ability to keep a customer for life is a powerful competitive advantage.

4. IMC increases profits through increased effectiveness. At its most basic level, a unified message has more impact than a disjointed myriad of messages. In a busy world, a consistent, consolidated and crystal clear message has a better chance of cutting through the ‘noise’ of over five hundred commercial messages which bombard customers each and every day.

5. IMC can boost sales by stretching messages across several communications tools to create more avenues for customers to become aware, aroused, and ultimately, to make a purchase.

6. Carefully linked messages also help buyers by giving timely reminders, updated information and special offers which, when presented in a planned sequence, help them move comfortably through the stages of their buying process and this reduces their ‘misery of choice’ in a complex and busy world.

7. IMC makes messages more consistent and therefore more credible. This reduces risk in the mind of the buyer which, in turn, shortens the search process and helps to dictate the outcome of brand comparisons.

8. Un-integrated communications send disjointed messages which dilute the impact of the message. This may also confuse, frustrate and arouse anxiety in customers. On the other hand, integrated communications present a reassuring sense of order.

9. Consistent images and relevant, useful, messages help nurture long term relationships with customers. Here, customer databases can identify precisely which customers need what information when and throughout their whole buying life.

10. IMC saves money as it eliminates duplication in areas such as graphics and photography since they can be shared and used in say, advertising, exhibitions and sales literature. Agency fees are reduced by using a single agency for all communications and even if there are several agencies, time is saved when meetings bring all the agencies together – for briefings, creative sessions, tactical or strategic planning. This reduces workload and subsequent stress levels – one of the many benefits of IMC.


Integrated Marketing Communication – Barriers to IMC

Research has shown that marketers overwhelmingly believe that the orches­trating role has to be undertaken by the marketers themselves/ indeed, 60 per cent of research respondents felt that they could manage an IMC programme more effectively than their agencies could. It was the view of some marketers that agencies’ obsession with advertising creation has allowed new competi­tion, in the form of management consultants, to enter the marketing communications field.

One marketer suggested that marketing communica­tions could be managed better by splitting up specialist agency input into the following three parts:

(a) Marketing consultancy – strategic consultants such as PriceWaterhouse- Coopers or Andersens, who perhaps supply the strategic thinking;

(b) Advertisement and marketing communications creation – specialist creative shops;

(c) Marketing communications placement – media planning and/or buying agencies.

One major UK brewery has already placed a management consultant in the role of marketing communications orchestrator, with responsibility for over­seeing the strategy of communications directed at all customers, in both consumer and business-to business markets. However, despite the advances some companies have made in adopting an IMC approach, most believe that the implementation of an IMC programme is a difficult and political process.

When asked what they thought were the biggest barriers to IMC implementa­tion, the brewery’s client marketers identified several major obstacles.

Each of these main barriers relates to the use of agencies, and they included the following areas:

1. Egos and Value Systems:

The seemingly entrenched attitudes and opinions of marketing agency staff are seen to restrict any progressive internal change. While marketing organizations are adapting to embrace IMC, agencies are persisting in maintaining an organizational structure and culture better suited to the dominance of mass advertising.

For example, within the advertising industry, kudos is gained by the winning of creative awards, of which the most publicized and glamorous are those given for television and cinema work. By contrast, the status connected to the award for a direct mail campaign is minimal. The preservation of this apparently rigid and ‘exclusive’ value system among agencies has made it very difficult for marketers to implement IMC programmes.

2. Remuneration System:

Historically, marketing agencies have been paid commission for ‘above the line’ (advertising) work and a negotiated fee for ‘below the line’ (all other forms of promotion) work. This remuneration system has often incentivized mass media advertising and only now does there seem to be evidence of a shift towards project fee payments. This development can only help in the adoption of an IMC approach.

3. Agency Lack of Expertise:

Marketers feel that in using one particular agency, they might not be obtaining the best skills in every marketing discipline. An agency might also favour certain media that reflect its own area of creative expertise, rather than offering the client the best integrated solution.

The use of IMC can enhance marketing precision and effectiveness, if prevailing barriers to its implementation are recognized and resolved. In addition to the difficulties associated with agencies’ resilience to change and clients’ reliance on agencies, very few companies have managed to incorporate the feedback loop required for IMC into their technologies and operations.

One of the leaders in the use of IMC in the UK is Tesco, the supermarket retailer. With 10 million customers on its database, even Tesco admits that the implementation of feedback loops is very complex and costly. The company has piloted a one-to-one, micro-marketing programme with the top 10 per cent of spenders in each store, using information gathered from the loyalty card scheme.

Customers are invited by store managers to share their thoughts and impressions of Tesco at special customer panels. Many of these panels have prompted Tesco to reward these loyal customers by offering them relevant and timely promotions, such as wine tasting evenings and ‘privileged shopping’ hours.

The successful implementation of an IMC programme involves the thorough fulfilment of all the requirements of the marketing communications process, from creative considerations to strategic management issues. It emphasizes the multi- faceted issues that managers need to consider achieving full integration of their communication strategy.


Integrated Marketing Communication – Models of Communication Strategy

The objective of marketing communication is to not only make the consumers aware about a brand offering, but also build preference, conviction, and persuasion to purchase. The marketer needs to raise brand awareness, build brand preference, encourage purchase and re-purchase, and he/she should be achieving all these objectives simultaneously at the same time.

Marketers make use of the promotional or communication mix, which comprise advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, publicity, and direct marketing to communicate with their consumers, each of which singly and/or jointly helps achieve the marketing objectives of a company. With recent developments in technology, there has been a growth in interactive forms of communication, and people have begun to communicate differently.

While traditionally, there are these five marketing communication tools, technological advancements have given rise to various other means such as the interactive digital media as well as social media through which people communicate with their target segment. These tools can be used in various combinations and levels of importance depending upon the objective(s) of communication.

The various promotional tools must complement each other in their efforts towards achieving the communication objectives. Against this background, organizations are designing their promotion strategies in a manner that helps them reach their audiences with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Messages in different forms and through different sources and channels may confuse the consumers about the company as well as the brand identity and associations. With consumers being addressed by a marketer in different ways through different channels, it was realized that there is a need for consistency and coherence of message across different media. Marketers must not use these tools in isolation.

Rather, they need to make judicious use of a combination of them depending upon (i) the product or service offering; (ii) the objective of communication; (iii) the target audience; and (iv) the environment. This has led to the emergence of the concept called integrated marketing communication (IMC).

The concept of the integrated communications mix was introduced by Don E. Schultz, Stanley I. Tannenbaum and Robert F. Lauterborn in the early 1990s. Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn proposed that while the various tools of the promotional mix are looked upon as separate entities, they should be linked together to convey a clear, coherent, and consistent message to the target market, wherein one tool would support the others and obtain a better impact.

The IMC may be defined as a mix of both the message and the media strategy, so that the messages are transmitted via different media to the target segment(s) in a regular and consistent manner, and they reinforce each other, to achieve synergy and multiplier effects. It is the planning, execution, and coordination of a comprehensive plan that makes use of the various promotional tools, channels, and programmes so that a company can present a consistent and unified image, and can have a maximum impact, whether informational, emotional, or persuasive.

The communication objectives and the response sought the characteristics of the product or service, the audience characteristics, and the size of the budget are factors that determine the combination of various promotional tools that would be used.

The IMC is the integration of all marketing commu­nications tools into a programme with the purpose of achieving a two-fold objective – first, maximum impact on consumers by reaching with ‘one voice’ across different media; and second, with optimum utilization of resources and at minimum cost.

It ensures that the various traditional (newspaper, magazine, TV, and radio) and non-traditional tools (digital and Internet, outdoor and indoor display, and social media) of communication are linked together, and work together rather than as isolated and the messages that are transmitted across them are clear, coherent, and consistent as one message and voice, everywhere, every time, and all over, thus providing a synergistic impact.

The various tools are not used in isolation, but are linked together, are used in a judicious and coordinated manner, and are intended to complement each other. This results in optimum utilization of resources on the one hand, with benefits of synergy on the other. In this way, IMC can be said to comprise three elements, namely consumers (how consumers get information), channels (how effective each channel is), and evaluation of results (the impact in terms of results).

Various marketing communication theories and models have been proposed, which provide valuable insights for designing appropriate communication programmes.

Several models have been proposed, which, based on the cognition— affect-behaviour, may be arranged in a different manner, such as the AIDA model (attention, interest, desire, and action) by Lewis (1900s) and Strong (1925), AIDAS model (attention, interest, desire, action, and satisfaction) by Sheldon (1911), DAGMAR (Defining Advertising Goals for Measuring Advertising Results – Awareness, Comprehension, Conviction and Purchase/Action) by Colley (1961), Lavidge and Steiner’s hierarchy of effects model (awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, purchase) (1961), Rogers’ Adoption model (awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, adoption) (1962), Robertson’s model (problem recognition, awareness, comprehension, attitude, legitimization, trial, adoption, dissonance) (1971), and Rogers’ Adoption model (knowledge, persuasion, decision – adopt/ reject; implementation, confirmation – continued adoption, discontinuance, continued rejection) (1983).

All these models are illustrative of steps a consumer passes right from the initial exposure to information (an advertisement of a brand) to the final purchase decision. They help guide the communication message objectives for a particular brand, so that each of the stages (and the objectives, cognitive, affective, and behavioural) can be met until a purchase is made.

Of the various theories and models –

(i) Lavidge and Steiner’s Hierarchy of Effects model and

(ii) The brand experience theory

These are discussed here:

(i) Hierarchy of Effects Model:

As the name indicates, the hierarchy of effects model explains the various stages through which consumers pass while forming or changing attitudes and purchase intentions. Proposed by Robert J. Lavidge and Gary A. Steiner in 1961, this marketing communication model explains how the various stages of buying are influenced by communication (particularly, advertisement).

It illustrates the process by which an advertisement works and shows the series of sequential steps that consumers pass through from initial awareness to actual purchase, and how they move from a cognitive stage to an affective stage to a behavioural one.

Consumers must pass through each step sequentially before leading to a purchase. The term ‘hierarchy’ is used for two reasons; first, it represents the series of steps involved in a consumer’s initial awareness of a product and/or brand to its final purchase and second, the number of prospective consumers decrease as they through the various stages of the hierarchy of effects model.

According to Lavidge and Steiner’s hierarchy of effects model, the buying process can be broken down into six steps, namely awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and purchase. The six stages through which a consumer passes must be completed in a linear way, with fulfilment of one stage leading to the next stage in the hierarchy. Lavidge and Steiner (1961) propose that the six stages of hierarchy are illustrative of the three components of the classic psychological model, namely cognitive or thinking, affect or feeling, and conative or action.

a. Cognitive or thinking component – Awareness, knowledge

b. Affect or feeling component – Liking, preference, conviction

c. Conative or action component – Purchase

As per the theory, for marketing communication to be persuasive, it is necessary that the target audience be drawn across a series of stages, with the stages being arranged in a sequential hierarchy such that a particular stage cannot be reached until the previous has been completed. Consumers pass through each of the steps in the same order and in a sequential manner, but the speed in which they move through these stages differs from person to person. Due to personal characteristics and individual differences, it may be such that a person may not pass through all the seven steps and may even skip some of them.

Marketers must ensure that they successfully move customers from one step to another. Customers must be made aware of the brand, develop a good feel, and persuaded to buy. Further, each of these components and stages can also be related to psychographic elements.

a. Unawareness, awareness – Perception

b. Knowledge – Learning

c. Liking and preference – Attitude formation

d. Conviction and purchase – Decision

Let us elaborate on these stages:

a. Awareness:

The marketer must make the customers aware of the company, product and service offering, and/or brand, and so he/she advertises it. The objective is to create familiarity and recognition, without providing too much information. Through an advertisement, the prospect becomes aware of the existence of the brand, and recognizes and remembers the product and/or brand.

b. Knowledge:

In this stage, the customer comes to know about the features and attributes as well as the uses of the brand. The marketer must provide detailed information about the company, its products, and brands to educate the audience. The focus is on providing information about a particular product and/or brand, its features and attributes, uses, benefits, price, and quality, because all this information would help the consumer take a decision towards purchase. Today, customers also gain knowledge from the digital media, that is, via the Internet, through websites, social media platforms, and electronic word of mouth.

c. Liking:

The prospective begins to have a liking towards the brand, because he/she realizes that the product and/or brand provide a benefit and/or helps solve their problem. The prospect develops a positive attitude towards the brand. The marketer must ensure that a favourable attitude and a good feel towards the product and/or brand is created.

d. Preference:

The prospective develops a preference towards the brand either because of the features, USP, and value or because of the benefits that the brand provides. He compares the brand with other substitutes and competitive brands and develops an inclination towards a particular brand. Marketers must showcase their brands and highlight their superior quality, benefits, and overall value proposition as well as USPs (if any), so that the customers prefer their brands and not that of the competitors.

e. Conviction:

In this stage, the consumer gets convinced that the product and/or brand is the best in the market and that his/her choice is the right, leading to a desire to buy it. Conviction is also illustrative of a match between the cognitive state of rationality where the prospective understands the value of the brand, and the emotional state of desire where he/she develops a brand affinity and favourable feeling towards the purchase of the brand. Personal selling efforts by the marketer can help build conviction. Sales promotion techniques that encourage trial can also prove fruitful.

f. Purchase:

This is the stage that the marketer aims at. The consumer completes the physical activity of transaction and makes the actual purchase. He/she buys the brand. The marketer can play an important role at this stage, where he/ she can persuade the consumer into buying the product by stressing the brand attributes and benefits, quality, and performance as well as price, discounts, and terms of payment and delivery.

An Assessment of the Theory:

Hierarchical models provide a systematic view to how consumers respond in most cases. They are useful primarily for two reasons – they allow some prediction of behaviour and they help a marketer decide on his advertising strategy, by providing valuable inputs with respect to the strategy to follow across various stages. Lavidge and Steiners’s hierarchy of effects model illustrates how consumers exhibit cognitive, affective, and conative responses.

However, critics have argued about the ordered steps during the purchase process. They believe that consumers do not always move in a linear manner from a cognitive or thinking component to a affect or feeling component to a conative or action component, and that the order changes across high-involvement and low-involvement purchases as also impulse, emotional, and hedonic purchases. Critics have also argued that depending on the nature of the purchase situation, in terms of involvement levels, (high involvement or low involvement), the thinking-feeling-action sequence would change.

In the case of low involvement, the sequence would be thinking-action-feeling sequence; and in case of high involvement, the sequence would be thinking-feeling-action sequence. It has also been argued that not every buyer goes through all the stages in an ordered sequence, and the order may be changed.

A buyer may go back and forth, or bypass certain stages, or move several stages simultaneously, and, and so consumers do not always move in a hierarchical manner. Further, the end result of the hierarchy may not always be a purchase, because there is no surety that the awareness about a brand through a hierarchy of effects would culminate into its purchase.

(ii) Brand Experience Theory:

The brand experience theory acknowledges the impact of the cumulative effort of all the tools of the promotional mix on a consumer’s decision-making process. In doing so, it falls in congruence with the concept of the IMC programme.

Today, consumers are exposed to an enormous amount of marketing communication from various media and channels, and are affected simultaneously by all kinds of marketing communication efforts. Many a time, the information received is in orderly, sometimes conflicting, and thus, often confusing for the consumer. Thus, attention, storage, retention, and retrieval of information are highly complex. The brand experience theory seeks to coordinate the various media and the different messages so that the consumers can receive an integrated, coherent, and consistent pattern of information at the right time.

Further, as per the brand experience theory, the purchase process and consumer decision-making is a dynamic process. It is not essentially an orderly sequential progression from thinking to feeling to behaviour. Consumers can move back and forth amongst the various steps, and there is feedback. Thus, according to the theory, the message and the media must be integrated so that the consumers receive a consistent stream of marketing communication. There should also be a mechanism of feedback.

An Assessment of the Theory:

The brand experience theory proposes that consumers collect information, form attitudes, and make purchase decisions in varied sequences. Purchase is not always a sequential progression from thinking to feeling to behaviour. It also proposes that consumers are exposed to a wide variety of media and channels, and receive conflicting information.

Further, information received from the varied sources does not correspond or relate to stage(s) in the decision-making process. The theory provides a more realistic picture of how people are exposed to a great deal of information from varied sources, and proposes that the cumulative effort of all the tools of the promotion mix affect consumer’s decision-making process.


Integrated Marketing Communication in India and Other Countries

Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is one of the most important communications trends adopted by companies in the last decade. With an increase in global competition, technological advances and more informed customers, it is important for businesses to make a powerful impact on target audiences and markets. IMC is one such step towards an integrated approach to achieve efficiency by synergy.

With the change in communication practices and technologies around the world, integration in marketing techniques is inevitable for the companies to survive in this multi-national and multi­cultural world emerging globally. India, as one of the more economically advanced among developing countries, offers excellent opportunity for the study of concepts such as IMC and its need in countries outside the US and outside the paradigm of what is called ‘Western’.

India’s huge population and growing middle class presents promising potential for many US and European multinational companies focusing on the Indian markets. With more companies viewing India as an emerging market, competition in markets is growing and integration would become inevitable for communications in the developing world.

The economic liberalization and reform movement, started in India in 1991, has been one of the major contributors to the increase in its trade interactions globally. The open flow of communication with the rest of the world and the country’s ability to adapt to these changes has made it a very lucrative and promising land for many multi-national companies.

The growing purchasing power of India’s huge middle class makes it easier for companies to do business in India. However, the customer base in India is extremely fragmented. The huge geographic expanse of the country has resulted in an inconsistent distribution system that is radically different from that present in most other countries. Added to this is the cultural diversity of its inhabitants, differences in their tastes, habits, and requirements that make it very difficult for companies to market their goods in a streamlined and consistent manner. In the absence of well-developed departments for individual elements of marketing communications, a quasi-integrated approach might already be practiced among various departments in Indian companies.

The idea of IMC still manifests itself in a variety of local and situational ways, both for academics who study it and for managers who apply it in real world and real time situations.

Keeping in perspective a pertinent analogy of ‘Think globally, act locally’ with the concept of IMC, it is pertinent to examine the theories of culture and sub-culture, demographic, social class, and groups influences, with reference to India.

The concept of focused and massive marketing is fairly new to the Indian companies who have traditionally experienced a mixed economy and trade restrictions back home. In a protected economy, the companies had faced restricted competition and consequently did not realize the importance of targeted and more focused marketing.

IMC is a major strategic concept that is as evolutionary and discursive in its concept as other marketing and management tools. There is a strong need to explore the concept and phenomena of IMC directly in the real world of communication. Communication is the basis of all marketing activities. The purpose of integrated marketing communications strategy is to work toward the common goal of customer focused marketing.

To make this most effective, management must understand the characteristics of audiences, messages and media. Traditional cultures in different parts of the world are adopting Western-style consumerist tendencies while trying to retain their traditional and indigenous value systems. To understand these evolving consumption patterns, one needs to study social and cultural theories in context of consumers’ response.

As each national market is different, the multinational companies must concentrate on marketing strategies that suit local culture. The cultures of the advanced and developed economies place more emphasis on individualism as opposed to the collectivism reflected in less developed and traditional economies. The purchasing habits of people in India are a direct result of social networks and family structures.

For example- one television set would be considered sufficient for an entire family. It would be more appealing if the product is positioned as being durable and a great value. Most foreign firms encounter resistance from consumers because they position their products as an indulgence rather than an investment. Decades of simplicity and socialism have instilled a sense of ‘value’ in the country that cannot be ignored by any successful marketer.

The differences and similarities in cultural values of countries influence the different demographics and contribute to the requirement of a very different marketing communication plan as compared to other regions. What is the cultural composition of the organization’s markets and how does it respond to varied marketing needs for same products?

The history of industrial and economic development of India stands out as a unique process, not only because of its geographically heterogeneous demographic traits, but also because of its colonial history.

The predominant demographics contributing to this uniqueness are:

1. Rural-urban mix – Industrialization in India emerged as the result of poor agricultural conditions and dwindling handicrafts. The push from land and craft generated to some extent a pull toward industry.

2. Occupational diversity – Even though the population of India is and has been overwhelmingly agricultural, there had always been a variety of non-agricultural occupations such as handicrafts and arts involving various types of skills.

3. Diversity in economic conditions – Despite the overall poor image, extremes of poverty and wealth have always co-existed.

4. Colonial rule – Even though the British rule destroyed the indigenous industry in India by means of market competition, there has been continuous improvement in the means of transportation and communication contributing to the advancement of the economic scenario.


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