IMC can be defined as:
A concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines. In other words, the message and approaches of general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, public relations, and personal selling efforts are combined to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.
IMC, thus, calls for a “big picture” approach to planning marketing and promotion programs and coordinating the various communication functions. It requires firms to develop a total marketing communications strategy that recognizes what the sum total of a firm’s marketing activities, not just advertising, communicate to its customers.
Consumers’ perceptions of a firm and/or brands are a synthesis of the messages they receive from various sources. These include media advertisement, price, direct marketing efforts, publicity, and sales promotions, as well as interactions with salespeople and other customer-contact employees.
In a global economy with international markets and instantaneous communications, no aspect of marketing can be studied in a vacuum or in isolation if one expects to be accurate and relevant. Marketing tools, used as planned business-building techniques are more likely to facilitate attainment of organizational goals than current “silo” approaches.
Advertising is but a part of this integrated marketing communication. One such tool within IMC is Direct or Database Marketing. This involves not just direct mail but also telemarketing & direct response advertising on T.V and radio and other media, in which ad aims to generate an action response (eg. Call center number). Direct marketing has two advantages over mass advertising.
- The ability to target specific individual consumers with an offer that is tailored to that consumer.
- The ability to directly measure response.
The goal of direct marketing may not be to generate awareness or change preference but it generates some action. It could be to get an order or request for some information, a visit to a dealer or a store and so on.
So direct marketing encompasses the following:
- Customization ability
This has become a major tool since many advertisers are combining direct marketing efforts with their regular advertising efforts. Primarily to retain loyalty of existing customers, to cross sell new products and services to these existing customers, and to increase the amount or frequency of usage.
The second important tool within the context of IMC is Sales Promotion. They are of two types:
- Consumer promotion (coupons, samplings, premiums, sweepstakes, low-cost financing deals and rebates)
- Trade promotions (allowances for featuring the product in retail advertising, display and merchandising allowances and the like)
These are used to get the consumer to try or to repurchase the brand and to get the retail trade to carry and to ‘push’ the brand. Retails in turn use promotions to clear their inventory of slow moving, out of season, shelf-unstable products (such as fresh produce). Price cuts, displays, frequent shopper programs and so on are few of the sales promotions done by the retailers.
So how does it play a role with IMC or advertising?
There are 3 ways in which it plays a role:
- It is a key element in inducing trial or repurchase in many communication programs in which advertising creates awareness and favorable attitudes but fails to spur action. The action comes about due to the limited duration of the program so the consumer must act quickly. The consumer may perceive this as a value for money purchase.
- In many retail outlet the companies are able to make out through scanners as to which brands are moving fast off the retail shelves and also try to understand as to which shelf does not receive much sales so that they could reduce the hiring or the display of merchandise from the shelf. This is done in order to be cost effective.
- In order to keep the brand equity of the brand intact especially for high involvement products and ‘feeling’ products, the advertising and sales promotion efforts must complement each other.