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Integrated Marketing Communications

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Integrated Marketing Communications

Integrated marketing communications is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the viewpoint of the customer."

- Philip Kotler

Have you ever looked at an advertisement and thought, "Wow, that is smart marketing!" whereas other times, you might not even bat an eyelid at boring TV commercials? This differentiation comes down to one of the well-known marketing mix factors - promotion. Promotion may include advertising, personal selling, or even digital marketing. Together, they make up the communication mix companies try to integrate to form an effective communications strategy. Read along to find out how organisations can develop integrated marketing communications strategies.

Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy

Communication is an essential element of any marketing strategy. A company could have a great product with unbelievable pricing, but customers need to understand the value the product brings them. Organisations need to engage customers by communicating with them effectively. This is why an integrated marketing communications strategy is essential to the marketing mix.

Integrated Marketing Communications Definition

To define integrated marketing communications, we first have to look at the definition of the marketing communications mix.

The marketing communications mix, in other words, the promotion mix, combines various tools a company uses to engage and communicate value to customers.

The promotion mix may include a combination of advertising, sales promotions, digital marketing etc. As a result, an integrated marketing communications mix combines the various communications methods effectively to persuade customers of the value of a product and create longstanding relationships with them.

Introducing the Promotion Mix

The promotion mix is a vital part of marketing communications. A company may blend the following promotional tools to construct its communications mix:

  • Advertising - a paid form of promotion aiming to sell an organisation's product or service. For example, a TV commercial or a billboard.

  • Personal selling - when the firm's sales team directly contacts customers to increase engagement and build relationships.

  • Digital marketing - any form of marketing that takes place online and engages with a specific group of target customers.

  • Public relations (PR) - any efforts made by a company to shape public opinion. PR is used to create a positive brand image, address unfavourable events or scandals, etc.

  • Sales promotions - short-term efforts made by a company to encourage a purchase. For example, a 15% off discount is available for a limited time only.

Integrated Marketing Communications Model

To understand the integrated marketing communications model, it is essential to look at how marketing communications are changing.

Consumers - First of all, due to our digital age, consumers have access to immense amounts of information through the internet and social media. In other words, consumers no longer rely on the company/brand to provide information on a product or service.

Digital technology - New technologies are also changing how consumers and businesses interact due to the vast number of information and communication tools available. This has altered marketing communications models.

Marketing strategies - Most businesses focus on creating strong and engaging relationships with their target market online rather than through mass marketing strategies. Companies also have new tools to target and reach small market segments through focused marketing strategies.

As a result, the role of marketers is shifting from creating TV ads and billboards to becoming content marketing managers who engage with customers across various channels through various media.

Content marketing can be defined as engaging and communicating with customers through a diverse communications mix over earned, paid, owned and shared channels.

However, due to the nature of marketing communications, customers receive many marketing messages through several different channels, which is why companies must integrate their marketing communications. The integrated marketing communications model can be visualised in Figure 1, which shows a curated mix of promotional tools.

Integrated marketing communications Integrated marketing communications model StudySmarterFigure 1. Integrated Marketing Communications Model, StudySmarter

Integrated Marketing Communications System

Marketers need to understand how integrated marketing communications systems work to develop an effective communications plan. The communications process is made up of the following elements:

  1. The sender - or the party trying to communicate a message to another party.

  2. Encoding - the form through which the message is conveyed, for example, an illustration or words.

  3. Message - the set of encodings the sender is communicating.

  4. Media - the communication channel the sender uses to convey its message to the receiver.

  5. Decoding - the process through which the receiver interprets the encoded message. For example, a consumer watching a TV ad interprets the words and the video.

  6. Receiver - the person receiving the message sent by the sender.

  7. Response - how the receiver reacts to the message after exposure. For example, the receiver buys the product the TV ad was trying to sell.

  8. Feedback is when a part of the receiver's response gets communicated to the sender. For example, the receiver complained to the company that their TV ad was offensive.

  9. Noise - the distractions that may occur during the communications process. These can distort the message. For example, the receiver's young child crying during the TV commercial could lead to the missing receiver half of the advertisement as they were distracted.

Therefore, for a message to be successfully received by the receiver, the sender must ensure that the encoding and media chosen are well suited to the receiver's decoding process. Figure 2 below shows the overall communications process.

Integrated marketing communications The communications process StudySmarterFigure 2. The Communications Process, StudySmarter

Now that we understand the communications process let's look at how marketers can develop effective marketing communications. To do this, it is essential to follow a marketing communications plan.

The steps to follow when coming up with an effective marketing communications programme are:

  1. Identify the target audience - choose which markets and customers to target with the message.

  2. Determine the communication objectives - what is the desired response? Frequently, this might be a purchase.

    Remember the buying-readiness stages: awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and purchase.

  3. Design the message - the message should ideally grab the audience's attention and lead to action (e.g. a purchase). To do this, the marketer needs to pay special attention to the message content, structure, and format.

  4. Choose a communications channel and medium - These may include personal communications channels (e.g. face-to-face or e-mail - but can often also come through word-of-mouth or opinion leaders, such as influencers) or non-personal communications channels (e.g. print or broadcast media).

  5. Choose the message source - Marketers should choose sources that the receiver will view as credible and persuasive. For example, receivers can often consider promotion through doctors or celebrities a compelling source.

  6. Collect feedback - Marketers should collect feedback to see whether the communications plan was successful or not. Feeback results in practical insight that marketers can use for future communications efforts.

Another critical aspect of the communications mix is deciding on a budget. Marketers can use the following methods to set the total promotional budget:

  • The affordable method - what can the company afford?

  • The percentage-of-sales method - for example, the promotional budget will be 10% of forecasted sales.

  • The competitive parity method - setting the promotional budget to match competitors' budgets.

  • The objective-task method - to use this approach, the company has to determine the campaign's objectives, select the tasks needed to achieve the goal, and calculate the costs of conducting each task.

Integrated Marketing Communications Examples

Now that we understand the marketing communication process let's look at some integrated marketing communications examples.

For example, British Airways (BA) and the Ogilvy group came up with an impressive communications campaign involving digital billboards. The campaign was called 'Look Up' and included interactive billboards that showed a little boy standing up and pointing to an aeroplane flying above the billboard in real-time. The billboard was programmed to know precisely when a plane would pass by the location. It would then show the audience exactly which plane it was, the flight number, its destination, and the lowest fare available for flying to that destination with BA.¹ This is an engaging way of promoting a product/service. BA used an emotional and interactive appeal that caught the audience's attention and added an informational element, encouraging viewers to travel with BA.

Another example of an integrated marketing communications campaign can be observed through Spotify, which used 'meme culture' as an inspiration for one of its campaigns. This campaign was used to strengthen the company's relationship with customers by creating engaging meme billboards.² One example of a billboard depicted the text "Me: It's okay, the breakup was mutual" side by side with the text "Also me:" and an image of a 'sad indie playlist' available on Spotify. The campaign attempted to engage customers in a fun and relatable way, ultimately strengthening customer awareness, recall, and relationships with the brand.

The examples mentioned above demonstrate how marketers have a wide range of communications tools they can implement into their promotion mix to form an integrated marketing communications strategy.

Integrated Marketing Communications - Key takeaways

  • The marketing communications mix or the promotion mix combines various tools a company uses to engage and communicate value to customers.
  • An integrated marketing communications mix combines the various communications methods effectively to persuade customers of the value of a product and to create longstanding relationships with them.
  • Content marketing can be defined as engaging and communicating with customers through a diverse communications mix over earned, paid, owned and shared channels.
  • The communications process comprises the following elements: sender, encoding, message, media, decoding, receiver, response, feedback, and noise.
  • A marketing communications programme involves identifying the target audience, determining the communication objectives, designing the message, choosing a communications channel/medium, selecting the message source, and collecting feedback.
  • Another aspect of the communications mix is the budget. Marketers can use the following methods to set the total promotional budget: affordable, percentage-of-sales, competitive parity, and objective-task.

References

  1. Jennifer Miller. These Interactive British Airways Billboards “Point” To Planes Flying Over In Real Time. The Fast Company. 2013
  2. AdNews. New Spotify campaign seeks inspiration from "meme culture". 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions about Integrated Marketing Communications

An integrated marketing communications mix combines the various communications methods effectively to persuade customers of the value of a product and create longstanding relationships with them.

Communication is an essential element of any marketing strategy. A company could have a great product with unbelievable pricing, but customers need to understand the value the product brings them. Organisations need to engage customers by communicating with them effectively. This is why an integrated marketing communications strategy is essential to the marketing mix.

The five main components of the IMC include advertising, personal selling, sales promotions, direct marketing, and public relations (PR). 

The marketing communications mix combines various tools a company uses to engage and communicate value to customers. The communications mix may include a combination of advertising, sales promotions, digital marketing etc. As a result, an integrated marketing communications mix combines the various communications methods effectively to persuade customers of the value of a product and create longstanding relationships with them.

For example, a company might use a mix of advertising and sales promotion to encourage consumers to purchase a product. However, the communication style used by the company (message and purpose) should be cohesive throughout all channels for the communications to be effectively integrated. 

Final Integrated Marketing Communications Quiz

Question

The term 'marketing communications mix' and 'promotion mix' are synonymous.

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

Define the marketing communications mix.

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Answer

The marketing communications mix, in other words, the promotion mix, is a combination of various tools a company uses to engage and communicate value to customers.

Show question

Question

A(n) _______________ combines the various communications methods effectively in order to persuade customers of the value of a product and to create longstanding relationships with them.

Show answer

Answer

integrated marketing communications mix

Show question

Question

What are the five main promotional tools?

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Answer

  1. Advertising
  2. Personal selling
  3. Digital marketing
  4. Public relations (PR)
  5. Sales promotions

Show question

Question

Personal selling is when the firm's sales team makes ____ contact with customers to increase engagement and build relationships.

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Answer

direct

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Question

_______ are short-term efforts made by a company to encourage a purchase.

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Answer

Sales promotions

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Question

As a result of the digital age we currently live in, mass marketing strategies are more frequently used.

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Answer

False

Show question

Question

Define content marketing.

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Answer

Content marketing can be defined as engaging and communicating with customers through a diverse communications mix over earned, paid, owned and shared channels.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not part of the communications process?

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Answer

Recoding

Show question

Question

Which of the following statements is correct?


I. Decoding is the process through which the receiver interprets the encoded message.


II. The distractions that may occur during the communications process are called 'sound'.

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Answer

Statement I. is correct, statement II. is incorrect.

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Question

_____ is the form through which the message is being conveyed, for example, an illustration or words.


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Answer

Encoding

Show question

Question

What is the first step of a communications plan?

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Answer

Identifying the target audience

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Question

The __________ are awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and purchase.

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Answer

buying-readiness stages

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Question

Name one method used to set the total promotional budget.

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Answer

Any of:

  • the affordable, 
  • percentage-of-sales, 
  • competitive parity, 
  • or objective-task method.

Show question

Question

Name an example of feedback related to the communications process.

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Answer

For example, the receiver filing a complaint to a company about their TV ad being offensive.

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Question

Noise is defined as the distractions that may occur during the communications process.

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

Through __________, companies communicate product/service value to customers. 

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Answer

Advertising

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Question

Define advertising

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Answer

Advertising is a paid communication tool to promote goods and services by an identified sponsor. 

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Question

The three main purposes of advertising are to inform, ________, and remind customers about an offering. 


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Answer

Convince

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Question

What are the four types of advertising? 

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Answer

Broadcast, outdoor, digital, and print advertising

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Question

Advertising done via television is called ___________ advertising. 

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Answer

Broadcast

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Question

Marketers can not reach a wider audience via broadcast advertising. 

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Answer

False

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Question

Advertising done via digital channels is called __________.

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Answer

Digital advertising 

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Question

Advertising channels such as newspapers and magazines are used in _______. 


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Answer

Print advertising 

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Question

Setting objectives, allocating budget, and executing and evaluating strategy are the main advertising decisions. 


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Answer

True

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Question

Name the three advertising objectives. 

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Answer

To inform, convince, and remind customers. 

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Question

__________ advertising is used to inform customers about a new product/service, build brand image, and communicate customer value.


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Answer

Informative

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Question

Define advertising strategy. 

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Answer

Advertising strategy refers to how to reach advertising objectives. It depends on the message and the channels used to communicate that message. 

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Question

Name the three advertising strategies. 

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Answer

Above the line, below the line, and through the line. 


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Question

What does "above the line" refer to? 

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Answer

It is an advertising strategy used for mass media advertising to reach a wider audience. It includes advertising via electronic and print media such as television, newspapers, and billboards.

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Question

What is below the line strategy? 

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Answer

This advertising strategy is used for niche advertising i.e., to reach specific target audiences. Sponsorships and paid campaigns are examples of BTL advertising.

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Question

__________ refers to the various media and channels marketers use to promote their products and brands.

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Answer

Advertising media

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Question

The _______ mix comprises advertising, sales promotions, public relations, sponsorships, and direct marketing.

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Answer

communications

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Question

Advertising media can be broadly classified into three categories based on their form, function, and source. 

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Answer

True

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Question

________ comprises marketing communications in the form of text, audio, video, animation, etc., on digital platforms.

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Answer

interactive media

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________ involves marketing communications using displays and experiences in physical stores. 

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Answer

In-store media

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Question

Advertising media types can be grouped based on function.


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Answer

True

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Question

What is the difference between linear and interactive media?

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Answer

Linear media involves one-way communication. On the other hand, interactive media refers to two-way communication in which multiple parties can exchange information.

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Question

What are the three sources of advertising media?

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Answer

Paid, owned, and earned.

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Question

________ is any form of media that belongs to the brand/company

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Answer

Owned media

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Question

Creative execution is how an advertising appeal is communicated to the consumer.


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Answer

True

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Question

Marketing agencies always take care of a company's advertising creative.


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Answer

False

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Question

A(n) ________ is a creative communications strategy marketers use to capture consumers' attention and influence their attitudes towards purchasing a product.


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Answer

advertising appeal

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Question

___________ involves finding the right platform for the brand's content to reach its target customer segment at the right time.


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Answer

Advertising media planning

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Question

The process of advertising media planning involves:


  1. __________________,

  2. Selecting the media type,

  3. ___________________,

  4. Determining media timing.

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Answer

  1. Determining reach, frequency, and engagement,
  2. Selecting the media type,

  3. Selecting the media vehicle,

  4. Determining media timing.

Show question

Question

_______ includes the percentage of the target market seeing the advertising campaign in a given period.


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Answer

Reach

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Question

What is a media vehicle?

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Answer

The media vehicle is a specific media type within broad media categories. For example, the advertiser might select Instagram (within digital media) or television ads (within broadcast media)

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Question

An essential aspect to determine in media timing is whether the marketer wants _______ or ________ .

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Answer

continuity or pulsing

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Question

The promotion mix is also referred to as the ______ mix.

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Answer

communications

Show question

Question

The __________ stands for: differentiate, reinforce, inform, and persuade.

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Answer

DRIP framework

Show question

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