This is already the last blog post in a series of five posts about different marketing strategies that can make your marketing effort go viral. This post is about integrated marketing communication (IMC) and the importance of synergy and consistency, two words you will see repeatedly in this blogpost. I will explain what IMC means, why it works and what barriers there are. Integrating all your marketing efforts helps with getting the word out and spread it. So, whatever marketing strategy you choose to do – if it’s crowdsourcing, user-generated content, a gamification (scavenger hunt), guerrilla marketing or any other marketing technique – make sure to integrate all your efforts.
Defining Integrated Marketing Communication
Let’s start at the beginning with defining the term ‘integrated marketing communication’. It has been defined multiple times in different ways. However, in the end they all share the same core idea:
“Communications instruments that traditionally have been used independently of each other are combined in such a way that a synergetic effect is reached, and the resulting communications effort becomes ‘seamless’ or homogeneous.” – P. De Pelsemacker, M. Geuens & J. Van Den Bergh (2013).
As I mentioned before, synergy and consistency are two very important aspects in IMC. Synergy in IMC is about designing your marketing mix instruments in such a way that the effects of the tools are mutually reinforcing. The one complements the other. Consistency is about working your marketing instruments in the same direction so they do not conflict with each other.
Consistency and synergy go hand in hand and apply to all marketing instruments or combinations of marketing instruments. Communications become more effective and efficient as a result of the consistency and synergy between tools and messages. Before, it happened that people got confused by the different, sometimes conflicting messages from different sources. This is very likely to happen when marketing efforts are dispersed throughout the company. With IMC one consistent message is created and communicated to the right customer, at the right time, through the right channel. Confusion is prevented and people are exposed to the same message multiple times through different channels which makes it stick better. This is the main benefit of IMC.
Levels of Integration
Smith et al (1999) have defined seven stages, or levels, with corresponding degrees of integration. This tool is supposed to show marketing integration as occurring in one or more of the seven levels.
- Vertical Objectives Integration – The communication objective of your campaign fits with the marketing objectives and the overall corporate objectives.
- Horizontal/functional integration – Marketing communications activities fit well with other business functions such as manufacturing, operations and human resource management.
- Marketing mix integration – The four P’s of marketing are consistent with each other. Product, price and place are consistent with the communication message (promotion).
- Communications mix integration – All communications tools are used to guide the customer through each stage of the buying process and they all portray a consistent message.
- Creative design integration – The chosen positioning of the product and the creative design and execution are consistent and uniform.
- Internal/external integration – Internal departments and external employed agencies are working together to an agreed plan and strategy
- Financial integration – The marketing budget is being used in the most effective and efficient way so long-term investment is optimized.
The first level is considered to be the most fundamental level of IMC. However, the more levels you have integrated the more consistent your marketing communication strategy is.
Barriers to IMC
The main barrier to IMC is that people within the company and agencies outside the company are highly specialised in one field of marketing communications. In order to integrate your marketing efforts, all communications activities need to be physically integrated into one department or agency. In practice, different marketing instruments are applied in different departments or even by different agencies outside the company. This traditional hierarchical structure a company can have is incompatible with IMC. Besides, people are reluctant to change.
A mid-way would be to at least the sharing of all information, the communication across departments and the co-ordination of all communication activities have to be organised. The combination of the perceived complexity of planning and co-ordinating this and the lack of internal communication are also barriers to IMC.
Let’s Look Back
Let’s look back at the marketing strategies I wrote about in my previous blog posts and see if they all used integrated marketing communication. If you didn’t yet read them check them here. Did the marketers for each marketing strategy keep synergy and consistency in mind? Is the message throughout the different channels consistent? The table below is an overview of the marketing strategies discussed.
Besides social media as a common channel throughout all the examples, another thing they all have in common is that the messages are consistent throughout the marketing campaigns and are consistent with the corporate objective. The different channels were used to reach a broad audience but the message stayed the same. This created synergy among the channels. The consistent message keeps confusion out of the way and makes it easier to remember the it.
Some Last Words
If you are talking about integrated marketing communication, consistency and synergy are the two terms that grasp what it, in its essence, is about. Looking back at the example viral marketing campaigns for each marketing strategy, besides social media, integrated marketing is something that is a recurring theme. A key into getting your campaign to go viral is integrated marketing communication. Have a clear and consistent message throughout the different marketing efforts and channels in your campaign in order to create synergy.
This was my last post in the series of five blogpost about marketing strategies that can make your campaign go viral. I hope I informed you enough about these marketing strategies. I hope I inspired you to make ‘virality’ one of your objectives in your next campaign. Lastly, I hope I made you enthusiastic about these marketing strategies and that you will try them out if you haven’t yet.
Let me know what you think about this blog post and the series of posts on viral marketing techniques. If you have questions or suggestions make sure to leave a comment. I want to thank you for reading my post(s) and I hope you enjoyed them.
- De Pelsmacker, P., Geuens, M., & Van den Bergh, J. (2013). Integrated communications.Marketing communications: a european perspective(5th ed., pp. 1-28).
- Olof Holm, (2006) “Integrated marketing communication: from tactics to strategy”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 11 Iss: 1, pp.23 – 33