Evolution process of IMC, Messages evaluation20th February 2021
During the 1980s, many companies came to see the need for more of a strategic integration of their promotional tools. These firms began moving toward the process of integrated marketing communications (IMC), which involves coordinating the various promotional elements and other marketing activities that communicate with a firm’s customers. As marketers embraced the concept of integrated marketing communications, they began asking their ad agencies to coordinate the use of a variety of promotional tools rather than relying primarily on media advertising. A number of companies also began to look beyond traditional advertising agencies and use other types of promotional specialists to develop and implement various components of their promotional plans.
Since 1993, when the first book on integrated marketing communications first appeared (Schultz et al 1993), medias and technologies have accelerated, expanded and further fragmented (Kitchen, 2010; Kitchen and Uzunoglu, 2015). Measuring return on investment has become more straightforward on-line via mobile, yet more complex as many more channels (medias) have proliferated. Consumers are more streetwise, savvy, and sophisticated. Markets have further demassified and fragmented. Real audiences are more smudged than ever before. Meanwhile, the world has passed through a major economic crisis, admittedly not without serious damage, and its aftermath will be felt and paid for, over many years.
Many agencies responded to the call for synergy among the promotional tools by acquiring PR, sales promotion, and direct-marketing companies and touting themselves as IMC agencies that offer one-stop shopping for all their clients’ promotional needs. Some agencies became involved in these non-advertising areas to gain control over their clients’ promotional programs and budgets and struggled to offer any real value beyond creating advertising. However, the advertising industry soon recognized that IMC was more than just a fad. Terms such as new advertising, orchestration, and seamless communication were used to describe the concept of integration. A task force from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the “4As”) developed one of the first definitions of integrated marketing communications:
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 for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.
The 4As’ definition focuses on the process of using all forms of promotion to achieve maximum communication impact. However, advocates of the IMC concept, such as Don Schultz of Northwestern University, argue for an even broader perspective that considers all sources of brand or company contact that a customer or prospect has with a product or service. Schultz and others note that the process of integrated marketing communications calls for a “big-picture” approach to planning marketing and promotion programs and coordinating the various communication functions. It requires that firms develop a total marketing communications strategy that recognizes how all of a firm’s marketing activities, not just promotion, communicate with its customers.
Consumers’ perceptions of a company and/or its various brands are a synthesis of the bundle of messages they receive or contacts they have, such as media advertisements, price, package design, direct-marketing efforts, publicity, sales promotions, websites, point-of-purchase displays, and even the type of store where a product or service is sold. The integrated marketing communications approach seeks to have all.
Many companies have adopted this broader perspective of IMC. They see it as a way to coordinate and manage their marketing communications programs to ensure that they give customers a consistent message about the company and/or its brands. For these companies, the IMC approach represents an improvement over the traditional method of treating the various marketing and communications elements as virtually separate activities. However, as marketers become more sophisticated in their understanding of IMC, they recognize that it offers more than just ideas for coordinating all elements of the marketing and communications programs. The IMC approach helps companies identify the most appropriate and effective methods for communicating and building relationships with their customers as well as other stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, investors, interest groups, and the general public.
IMC has become one the most influential marketing management frameworks during the last twenty years. It is the overarching theme of every marketing communications text, it heads the material for chapters in marketing management texts, it is the theme of many professional books and articles, trade and academic conferences, academic journal special issues and editorials (i.e. Journal of Advertising, Journal of Advertising Research, International Journal of Advertising, Journal of Marketing Communications), the trade literature, and the ongoing adoption and usage of IMC by companies and agencies of all types.
The challenges facing today’s marketing and brand managers concern the interface between traditional sales, marketing and communications and new, interactive sales, marketing and communication. These brand activities are focused upon customers and prospects with the need to measure or show marketplace results. A few years ago, Don Schultz (arguably the IMC guru) spoke of transitioning from old to new ways of communicating, based upon the needs associated with the new world of the 21st century. How does the firm or brand move from where they are now to where they need to be in this dynamic global marketplace? The old 4Ps (product, price, promotion, place) approach was essentially outbound, linear, and driven by a supply orientation. The reality is of course, that markets are not, and perhaps never have been product, production, or even marketing–driven. Now, more than ever before, markets are driven by customers, consumers, and prospects. And, the day may come when businesses will be customer-driven. The business that really understands its customers and works with them, with the recognition that business is demand-driven should have access to an enormous source of ongoing information that leads to competitive advantage. Hence, customer insight and integrated brand marketing strategy are keys to winning the marketing game, a game fought in every country, and in every market, all over the world.
It would seem that the road to integration of messages is now complete, as the ideal of one-voice, one-sight, one-sound has become the standardised norm. What started as a single track, in 1993, has now become a superhighway for all companies. However, the journey toward integration from a consumer perspective has scarcely begun. Thus, what Don Schultz and I (2000) regarded as a four-stage process, for the majority of companies, has to all intents and purposes stalled at its very beginning. Yes, we have ‘message integration’ but not necessarily ‘consumer integration’. Most companies carry out poor, ineffectual market research, or none at all. There is an insufficiency of real understanding of markets, marketplaces, or marketspaces. Most messages are still outbound and linear, with the added virtue of looking or sounding the same via all media. Integrated brand marketing, where one measures behavioural outcomes in response to marketing communication, is still a far-fetched dream for most companies. As we may see in the papers to be submitted, there are techniques, processes and workable techniques for after-the-event evaluation of integrated marketing communications. Few work with immediacy.
However, a more realistic picture of IMC may be gradually emerging from the maelstrom of debate, conceptualisation, and currently available evidence. IMC seems to be situation-specific and context-dependent. While IMC is a widely accepted model and paradigm, actual use depends on what clients want and need in terms of communications.
There remain difficult and problematic issues. IMC, in terms of its major tenets, design, contribution, and benefits, has gained academic and, as evidenced here, practitioner acceptance throughout the world. One can already make out the bones of what could be termed a ‘central theory’, which most IMC researchers and practitioners would accept. Around the edges (i.e. of PR, of turf battles, of a stages theory of IMC etc), there will always be healthy disagreement, conjecture, and criticism. IMC has already proved to be remarkably robust; it is no passing phase or passing fad. However, the time has come for more evidence to be presented from companies and for more sophisticated questions to be asked and answered. Only then, will the theoretical framework be strengthened. Current barriers seem eminently capable of being understood, corrected, and overcome. The crucible of practice, where integrated marketing communications was born and grew, is the crucible where IMC continues to undergo change.
This special issue aims at opening the debate on the meaningfulness of, and challenges pertaining to Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) in the 21st century.
gain some understanding through data collection with the right tools.
- Did the audience receive the message sent? Companies like ContactMonkey or Politemail provide email tracking services to help a communicator determine how many of your readers opened your message. If you use a collaborative intranet platform to share your messages, a web tracking program like Google Analytics can give you myriad insights as to who is “landing” on your message.
- Did the audience consume any of the message? If your message is encouraging a reader to click through to a video or webpage, this can help you understand better if the reader engaged with the content. How many readers clicked through to watch the video?
- Did the audience understand the message? This is where it gets dicey. Certainly if you’ve requested a behavior of your audience and they’ve responded accordingly, then you know your message was understood. For instance, if you requested that customers update their passwords, you can tell how many audience members understood the message by measuring how many customers changed their passwords. However, if your message was about company strategy, about strengthening employee engagement, or about increasing customer confidence in the company, it’s not as easy to gauge the effectiveness of these more nebulous messages. Long-term, you’re likely to see the results of these messages (whether positive or negative), but you likely want to know relatively quickly if your message was successful. You can use tools like surveys to determine if you’re on the right track.
- Pre-test and Post Test:
Pre-test implies testing advertising message before it is sent to specific media. Post-test implies testing impact of advertising message after it is published in any of the media.
- Communication and Sales Effect Test:
Communication test measures communicability (ability to communicate) of the message. Whereas sales-effect test measures advertising impact on sales volume.
- Laboratory and Field Test:
Clearly, a laboratory test is conducted in a controlled environment in a limited scale. Respondents are invited in a laboratory to state their response. Quite opposite, a field test is conducted in original setting, artificial climate is not created. It is similar as conducting survey to measure what customers think about company’s advertisement.
- Experimental and Survey Test:
Experimental test involves testing advertising effect by conducting test by manipulating independent variable (i.e., advertising efforts) and measuring the effect of the manipulation on other dependent variables like sales, profits, consumer satisfaction, etc. Experimental test may be laboratory or field test. Survey test involved knowing consumers’ view’s through a survey method.
- Message and Media Effect Test:
While message test involves measuring clarity, contents, believability, action ability, etc., of the message, the media test measures effectiveness/ suitability of one or more media.
Mostly, a company is interested to measure advertisement’s communication effect and sales effect. Therefore, it is worthwhile to discuss communication and sales effect test.