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Integrated Marketing Communication

Paper Outline

Introduction
Understanding the origin and development of integrated marketing communication

The framework of integrated marketing communication

Benefits of integrated marketing communication to firms
Integrated marketing communication in business firms – problem of implementation
Conclusion

References List

 

 
Integrated Marketing Communication
Introduction
Research shows that many business firms are adopting integrated marketing communication to enhance marketing in their firms. This is because of the realisation that integrated communication in marketing helps to improve marketing efficiency besides helping firms to reduce costs of marketing. Integrated marketing communications assembles all components of marketing thus helping customers to code and understand the product in an effective manner. These marketing functions include advertising, public relations, sales promotions, internet and social media communication. The use of information and communicational technologies serve as one of the main motivators of the development and use of integrated marketing communication. The main objective of integrated marketing communication is to establish a codified product experience to customers. In other words, integrated marketing communication is a strategic way of managing brands in business (Cornelissen and Lock, 2000). The integrated marketing communication (IMC) is attained through proper coordination of marketing communication functions in marketing so that the ultimate objective, which is customer understanding, can be attained. It is argued that, in spite of being run by the marketers of firms, the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing is determined by customers and not the marketers or advertisers. This is due to what is regarded as the role of receivers in a communication process.
Customers keep codding and making meaning out of the diverse functions of marketing and the communicative means used in implementing these functions. The concept of integration in marketing is thus considered to lie with the customers. This is irrespective of the fact that it is borne out of the marketers. This paper evaluates the practice of integrated marketing communication. The paper analyses the essence of integrated marketing communication and the role of both the marketers and customers in the process. In addition, the paper highlights aspects of success and failure in integrated marketing communication.
Understanding the origin and development of integrated marketing communication
Kitchen (2004) noted that marketing is a process that makes full use of communication. With the presence of many channels of communication, including the wide adoption and usage of information and communication technologies in communication, marketing can either be simplified or made complex. The diversity of communicative tools is argued to have paved way for the development of integrated marketing communication to simplify branding of products and services of firms. For example, the internet has totally transformed the manner in which business is conducted including the way marketing is conducted. Integrated marketing communication is a concept that was developed from the early 1980s. This concept of marketing management emerged because of three major things. These are the changing demands in the marketplace, media and communication, and the changing behaviour and demands (Pickton and Broderick, 2005). It is important to note that all these factors relate to one another in as far as the application of the concept is concerned. Advances in information and communication technology are argued to have set precedence for the emergence of the concept. Consumer-centred marketing approaches could be developed easily by utilizing communication technologies. The relationship between customers and brands is given much attention in the definition and a real sense of the concept (Cornelissen and Lock, 2000).
Research in the field of integrated marketing communication has shown the determination of researchers to understand the whole concept of integrated marketing communication. The understanding of the definitional and communicative concepts underlying the concept is an aspect that should be regarded with the greatest concern. Marketing researchers have also been researching on how best the concept can be applied to marketing in the sense that marketing functions are completely integrated for effective understanding (Kitchen, 2004). The other thing that has been of interest to marketing researchers has been the understanding of the impact of integrated marketing communication for firms. The impact is looked at from two angles by researchers. This includes the effect that integrated marketing communication has on both customers and marketers. According to market researchers, this impact is dependent on the way in which integrated marketing communication is applied by marketers and the level of integration of marketing functions. Integrated marketing communication is a strategic process of managing in marketing. It pays a lot of attention to what is referred to as content in marketing (Pickton and Broderick, 2005). Content means the messages that are carried in individual sub-process of the larger marketing process within an organisation. These sub-processes have to be linked properly to bring efficiency to the entire process of marketing. Integrating these communicative processes has been found to be effective in enhancing marketing (Kliatchko, 2008).
Marketing is often dependent on diverse relationships that can be better understood through the understanding of the role played by communication in sustaining marketing. Communication is applied in modern marketing more in post-modern marketing than it was used in marketing during the ancient times. Integrated marketing communication is considered a post–modern approach to marketing and brand management by firms. It is important to highlight the components of integrated marketing communication in an effort to open into the essence of this concept to markers and customers. Marketing is made up of several definitional concepts. The first concept of integrated marketing communication is the brand focus. Branding is one of the main objectives of marketing. Brands are built by an understanding of the products and services of the firm and are portrayed in a number of things. Among them is the corporate identity of a firm, a firm’s logo, branding style, and tagline among others. The second aspect of integrated marketing communication is the consumer experience (Kitchen, 2004).
Marketing focuses of attracting the customers to a product or service of a firm. Therefore, firms seek to engage in marketing processes that aim at ensuring that customers get to understand and enjoy the product that thy release to the market. Customer experience is mostly attained through the design of products and the manner in which products are packaged and delivered to customers. There is also the wide usage of communication tools in integrated marketing communication (Belch, 2009). The common used tools in this concept are online communicative tools such as using the social media. The other communicative tool that has a common usage in IMC is advertising using different modes. Promotional tools form the other component of IMC. Promotional tools entail many business communicative processes. These processes include personal selling, customer relations management, trade promotions, public relations, as well as corporate social responsibilities. Corporate culture should be on the forefront to communicate and bring an understanding of brands. This can be achieved through communication of the vision, personality of the organization, and its capabilities among others. Integrated marketing communication is also made up of integration tools. The main basis of integration tools in IMC is information and communication technologies. These include customer-tracking software that is used in tracking and monitoring the behaviour of customers, as well as monitoring marketing campaigns. The customer relationship management communicative software and marketing automation are all included in the integration tools of marketing (Shimp, 2012).
According to Kitchen (2004), all aspects of the marketing mix are included in the integrated marketing communication. This means that marketing mix is not a completely new concept in marketing, but an improvement to marketing communication. This is meant for customers to link with brands or products in an easy way. It is a booster to the efforts by firms to capture the attention of customers through their brands in a comprehensive manner. This reduces the fragmentation of marketing functions, which have been prevailing in marketing for a long time. The fragmentation in marketing was found to have a negative effect on branding because of the inability of customers to make sense of the real products (Kitchen, 2004). Consumers have always been integrating the communication that are made by advertisers and marketers in order to understand brands in the market. However, this was not a swift exercise. This is because of gaps that existed within the marketing processes. Integrated marketing communication is thus a sigh of relief to consumers because it brings together all the marketing process and ties them into one bunch for ease of understanding. Largely, the communicative integration initiative is the responsibility of marketers because it comes as one of the best means of full attainment or marketing goals. This can be best executed when all the information concerning the consumer is availed and codded in integrated marketing. The information about customers, which is included in the communicative aspect of marketing, includes motivation, needs, actions and attitudes of customers. Integrated marketing communication influences the behaviour of consumers and vice versa (Shimp, 2012).
The framework of integrated marketing communication
According to Schultz and Pilotta (2004), marketing managers should have an understanding of the fact that consumers combine the information that is received from diverse media. This happens irrespective of the firm being involved or not being involved in integrating the messages across these media. The main issue here is the prevention of wrong or inconsistent interpretation of media marketing messages by consumers. Consumers have to be made to be considerably proactive by being put at the centre of integrated marketing communication. In this respect, integrated marketing communication represents a new approach to planning and utilizing media communication in marketing. All marketing activities, which influence profits and sales, as well as brand equity, are represented in IMC. The concept of IMC is much complex in the sense that it goes beyond the simple aspect of using multiple channels of media in integrated marketing. In IMC, all aspects of communication used depend on each other (Pickton and Broderick, 2005).
The effective of marketing communication is thus dependent of the effectiveness of each of the single communicative means that are used in marketing. Each communicative aspect is important because it has a more or less direct impact on the other communicative aspects, and thus impacts on the entire process. Consumers who form the main target of marketing management influence the end outcomes of the integrated process in IMC. IMC is meant to enhance the understanding that exists between a firm and consumers of products that are produced by a firm. IMC does not only apply a push strategy in marketing communication as was in the old forms of marketing, but also makes use of pull strategies. The most successful companies in the world are reported to use both the push and pull strategies. They include Nike, the Coca-Cola Company, and Intel Corporation. Success and the real influencer of integrated marketing communication process between the marketers and consumers can be best derived from the cases of application of integrated marketing communication. The adjustment of products in order to meet the demand of consumers is done through the incorporation of feedback in integrated marketing communications. This denotes the relevance of both consumers and the marketers in integrated marketing communication (Raman and Naik, n. d).
Different kinds of media are involved in marketing communication. The marketers often make choices on the kinds of media that are used by a firm in marketing. The marketers also choose the way to present marketing messages in these media forms. However, marketers are advised not to impose marketing communications to consumers. Consumers are the main interpreters of the information that is carried in marketing communication. Marketers help in integrating the different messages representing different functions so that a consumer can understand them (Pickton and Broderick, 2005).
Zahay, Peltier, Schultz, and Griffin (2004) observe that consumers follow up information on different brands from different kinds of media including the social media. By doing this, they can be updated on the latest development in brands. They remain linked to the brands, and through their views and remarks, companies are able to know the modification to add to products. Companies have thus been encouraged to developed customer clientele using the available forms of media including the social media and the internet. This speeds up communication or the flow of information and comments on brands, which results in greater integration in the market (Belch, 2009). It becomes easier to assemble the different opinions in order to achieve brand satisfaction. Many firms have achieved positive brand outcomes. These firms have been able to capture integrated marketing communication in totality within this technological era where many channels of communication exist. With the aid of communication technologies, customers have become more proactive in the determination of the nature of products that reach them. They are no longer passive as was in the old forms of marketing. In the past, customers had limited channels of raising their opinions on products and could not determine brands. The more new consumers gain access to new forms of communication, the higher the impact they will continue to have on the integration process in integrated marketing communication. At this point, it can be noted that consumer influence on integration is proving to be positive for most firms that are using IMC (Swain, 2004).
Benefits of integrated marketing communication to firms
Integrated marketing communication aims at developing best means through which the needs of customers can be addressed by firms in an effective manner (Shimp, 2012). As mentioned earlier in this paper, integrated marketing communication is a process that starts from the marketer and ends with the consumers. It has emerged as a strong concept in marketing as it guides better development and the subsequent implementation of communications in marketing. Integrating the marketing communication processes of an organization is beneficial to both the marketers and the customers. Distinct marketing communicating functions can be merged appropriately to facilitate organisational brands to be understood from a single angle by the consumers. Marketing efficiency is improved through integrated marketing communication hence helping in bettering the understanding of the brands. Therefore, dialogues and relationship between consumers and brands are enhanced thus helping firms to benefit from the market. All types of marketing communication are planned and executive using integrated marketing communication. Unison and connectedness is easy to achieve when firms employ integrated marketing communication. The overall benefit of integrated marketing communication for firms that have employed this management concept in marketing is the rise in competitive advantage of firms. Competitive advantage is attained through increased understanding of firms leading to increased sales of brands (Ul-Rehman and Ibrahim, 2011).
Pickton and Broderick (2005) observed that IMC seeks to eliminate weaknesses that are portrayed in individual marketing communicative functions. By integrating these functions, the weakness that may be inherent in any of the marketing functions are dissolved in the strengths of the other communicative functions. Integration increases the strength of each of the marketing functions thus improving the marketing exercise completely (Keller, 2003). IMC increases brand equity because of the perception of customers regarding the product or service being marketed is easily attained.   Consumers can predict with precision the brands that will be produced by a firm thereby promoting trust amongst the consumers of the brands from a given firm. Integrated marketing communication encourages dialogue amongst the consumers, as well as dialogue between consumers and the firm. It is easy to build a long-term relationship with customers using integrated marketing communication because customers develop a deeper understanding of the brands of a firm. Markets make use of coordinated communicative practices to link customers to brands (Mihart, 2012).
Integrated marketing communication in business firms – problem of implementation
Despite its relevance in modern marketing, the prevailing regulatory environment challenges integrated marketing communication. There exist problems in merging all the traditional communicative functions entailed in marketing. These are public relations, as well as advertising. These factors are important in building the corporate image of an organization that is portrayed in corporate messages. Corporates messages are often accorded legal protection as they express the commercial interests of a firm. Therefore, the customers are not wholly left to interpret the corporate messaged or corporate functions even if they are integrated through IMC (Pelsmacker, Geuens& Bergh, 2006). Firms will often strive to separate these messages or explain them. This is quite common even when the firms have been fully integrated with other marketing functions for the interpretation and understanding by customers. The marketers of firms interpret the corporate messages to customers so that the messages can be understood from both the inset ad the outset of an organisation. Integration can thus be argued to be also influenced by the marketers as they identify and interpret some aspects of communication in the already integrated processes (Fitzpatric, 2005).
Fill (1999) ascertained that IMC is inhibited by a number of factors some of which are generated from customers who are presumed to be the major determinants of IMC success. Customers may choose to jeopardize the use of integrated marketing communication by holding certain stereotypes about brands. The withheld stereotypes can be very damaging. This is especially when they are extended to other marketing functions because of integrating the stereotyped aspects with others components of marketing. Effective integrations call for all components of marketing to carry an equal measure or value. However, this can hardly be the case, when customers have long withheld perceptions on a number or any of the marketing functions of a given firm. Integrated marketing communication may also be sabotaged from within the organisation. Poor linkage between the departments that are bestowed with the responsibility of implementing IMC is one of the problems of implementing IMC. For a firm to begin implementing IMC in a logical and consistent manner, there has to exist an agreement amongst all departments involved people and departments. Inconsistencies are likely to occur when managerial loopholes are prevailing in a firm (Pelsmacker, Geuens & Bergh, 2006). Marketing managers may also fail to coordinate messages in the integrated process in an efficient manner. This results to the dilution of the effectiveness of the messages that come out of the process of integrating marketing functions. In such scenarios, consumers become more frustrated with the overall process that leads to misinterpretation or poor coding of marketing in a firm (Kim, Han and Schultz, 2004).
The cost effectiveness of the tools used in marketing communication tools that are used in marketing do vary. Awareness is built through advertising that brings about customer comprehension. The conviction of consumers is highly influenced by personal selling, which is commonly practiced in marketing implementation. This is a delicate stage in marketing communications (Fill, 1999).
Conclusion
The integrated marketing communication was developed in the 1980s. This is a concept that seeks to put together the marketing functions to facilitate the branding exercise. Integration reduces the fragmentation of marketing functions, which further eases the creation of brand awareness for firms that have employed IMC. Although initiated by marketers, customers play a big part in the integration process of integrated marketing communication. This is due to the wide adoption of different tools of communication by customers helping them to access firms and influence the process of marketing integration.


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