Why are we all so perplexed by integrated marketing communications?

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Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is becoming increasingly more important with technological advances; it is however misinterpreted by many academics. IMC‘s evolving concept from 1989 has changed dramatically with the direction of business. Why? There is no specialty to it’s perplexing dynamic. IMC is so hard to define as the theory is a both a concept and a process.

So what is IMC exactly? Well, there are many definitions. IMC defined by Tim Duncan, A famous author in field of marketing, defines IMC to be the strategic co-ordination of all messages and media used by an organization to collectively influence its perceived brand. And if you were wondering, co-ordination refers to long term and strategic orientation of consumers. Now what does this mean? If you look at Duncan’s definition, it states that the ‘co-ordination’ is between all messages and media used by an organization.

All good and well, what is the concept behind IMC and how what does it actually do? Well, according to Harvard Business Review (HBR), ‘IMC is to manage effectively the mediated impression of and direct encounter with the brand so that synergism ensues among all the interrelated elements of IMC, including research and development, manufacturing, price formulation, channel arrangement, consumer service management, marketing message construction, and communication program execution.’, in a nut shell, IMC theory practices the use of synergy to create a congruent brand image through all business practices.

It all seems very simple, and it is. However, the problem arose with defining and clarifying IMC is due to its age and the direction that business has swerved. So prior to establishing that it’s both a concept and process, what does this mean? So concept is abstract, like a concept car – a great idea, but not possible to manufacture on a large scale. It was an unrealistic venture back in the mid 1900’s to have a congruent and consistent brand image across a campaign or entire organization. Therefore it could not be practiced. However, what do we have now? We live in an incredibly advanced world with technology, dramatic innovation and an economy that is growing. This is what makes IMC now a process. It is a tool now used by marketers as a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. The ‘end’ being a profitable brand image through integrated consistency. So, IMC has actually just grown. Where it was once a disabled concept, now it can be used because of the tools marketers have around them.

IMC was originally comprised of two principles. The first was that the campaign message is designed to speak and voice something, which is very generic indeed. The second principle is that the campaign will be designed in an attempt to elicit a measurable, behavioral consumer response, which can be measured. Communications professional – Kliatchko, elaborates on his theory of IMC and how it has evolved to be more of an effective tool in business operations, therefore not only a concept. His views are similar to my own, that it is split up into ‘old’ and ‘new’ concepts. The old being the two fundamentals (Stated above) which come together to create whole consumer orientation, and the new which is the rise in technology that has allowed the ‘old’ theory of integrated communications to actually be carried out.

What once was a strategic approach to planning and brand message consistency through channels, now has become a better perceived, specialized and more formal practice which is oriented around the three pillars of IMC. These three pillars established a benchmark of this very generic concept and process. The three pillars are Audience focus, channel focus and results driven. This is a modernized framework of IMC, and at least is set gaining recognition. However, this doesn’t make it bulletproof to critique and misinterpretation, this is just another academic opinion that will change again over time.

This is one of the easier areas to hypothesize. IMC is hard to define and practice. This boils down to its ability to be a concept and a process. The age of IMC means that it was once a concept, which could not be practiced. Now however, advancing capabilities in technology and communication mean that it has become an extremely popular process. But lets be honest, most organizations are integrating their marketing communications regardless of the definition. They are creating an image just like the ‘innovative leader’ we see apple to be. But they don’t even know it because it’s just what the market has demanded.


Follow me onTwitter: @connorjohh
Email me on: connorwells111@gmail.com

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