The idea of integrated marketing communications developed in the late 1980s, but as marketing strategies gained sophistication, the concept gradually evolved. In 1989, the American Association of Advertising Agencies defined integrated marketing communication as “an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other.”
The Journal of Integrated Marketing Communication has a similar definition, which focuses on different aspects. They refer to it as “a strategic marketing process specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communication strategies are unified across all channels and are centered around the customer.”
“Customer-centered” is one of the major catch-phrases of the millennium. In fact it is one of the 10, primary components of any integrated marketing communications strategy.
1. Client Centered
Many business owners measure success by their ability to attract new clients, but the ability to maintain the loyalty of existing clients is even more important. Client-centered business owners understand that “communications” is the essential keyword in integrated marketing. As such, companies that use integrated marketing communications plan interactive strategies across all of their marketing platforms.
2. Product Design
Since client-centered companies are always listening to consumers, they usually develop products that people actually want to buy, with features that clients say they need. Once they determine the requirements of their potential clients, they create the appropriate product.
The second part of listening tells you where your prospective customers “hang out.” Some will spend most of their time online, while others fall into the television addict category. Another subset of people takes public transportation, and is constantly exposed to billboard advertisement. An integrated marketing communications strategy would focus the advertisements in the places where customers are most likely to seem them. The other marketing channels would reinforce the major marketing platform.
Tracking the success of your promotions, either with sophisticated metrics or analytics, or by simply asking “where did you hear about us,” lets you determine your strongest marketing channel. Once you know this, you can leverage your integrated marketing communications strategies.
Every marketing channel has its specific strengths and weaknesses. Savvy marketers know how to leverage the strengths of one marketing channel, in order to offset the weaknesses of another. For example, a start-up with a limited marketing budget might not be able to afford a full page ad in the local paper. Instead, their integrated marketing communications plan would involve purchasing a smaller ad that features their distinctive logo and slogan, then set up social media pages with said logo and slogan.
6. Brand Identity
The stronger your brand identity, the easier it is to market it across a variety of channels. Geico, with its signature gecko, illustrates this point. Even in the commercials that do not use the gecko, the message remains the same: “Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent on car insurance.” Nike also does this well, with their “Just Do It” slogan.
A successful integrated marketing communications strategy has an overwhelming need for synergy. Every type of communication must sing in a single voice, which harmonizes with your brand identity. This implies that all of your marketing tools, including advertising, event sponsorship and social media pages must coordinate with your brand identity. Referring back to Geico, its ads are almost always funny. Unlike other insurance companies, they do not mention strife or calamity, because humor is essential to their brand identity.
8. Earned Media
Paid media is advertising that you pay for. This might even include social media, because you have to pay for your Internet access. Earned media comes from being newsworthy. Newspaper articles, television news, magazines and blog posts by others all constitute earned media. If you do something unique with your business, or if the history of your business is particularly interesting, you might earn media coverage. Then, you can use quotes from the media source as integrated marketing communications examples in your advertisements, and on your social media pages.
9. Educated Consumers
“Syms: Where an educated consumer is our best customer.” This advertisement appeared on television commercials during the 1980s, but how much can you educate your clients in a 40-second TV spot? Thanks to social media, you can stress the need for consumer education in a TV, print or billboard ad, then make a call to action, advising clients to go your website, and listing your URL. This is integrated marketing communication at its finest.
10. Event Sponsorship
Event sponsorship is a highly effective, albeit expensive means of marketing. As the sponsor of an event, you will be allowed to hang your banner, and give out company literature. Given the expense, it is best to use an integrated marketing communications strategy to inform customers of your sponsorship. Mention it in your ads and on your social media pages. Add a call to action, such as “come see us at such and such event.”