The underlying question is what is integrated marketing communication? It is a development of the late 20th century as indicated by academic interest and the plethora of academic articles on the subject that began in the 1980s and peaked in the 1990s after which academic interest in the subject waned based on the number of publications with dates much after 2001-2 discovered in the research for this project. The academic interest in marketing communications integration was spearheaded in the 1990s by the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, led by Professor Don Schultz. The interest was further builtby leading academicians and marketing organisations such Philip Kotler and the American Marketing Association (AMA).
The key drivers of the movement were:
1.0 The adoption by advertising agencies that responded to a new reality, which included not only traditional communications, channels such as newspapers, magazines and television, but the evolving Internet. Their underlying interest was in survival in a rapidly changing environment.
2.0 The major global companies that responded to integrated approaches, which make sense to businesses, and to their agencies.
3.0 The locus of promotion moved from internally driven by a marketing philosophy of separatism in which each promotional element in the marketing mix had its own foci and dynamics. This evolved into a consumer oriented and consumer driven environment that was also the basis of the concept of customer centric marketing. (Kitchen & Pelsmacker. 2004)
This however still does not provide a coherent definition of the subject, “Integrated Marketing Communications.” Kitchen & Pelsmacker fall back to the work of integrated marketing pioneer Don Schultz, who stated,
“MC is the process of developing and implementing various forms of persuasive communication programs with customers and prospects over time. The goal of IMC is to influence or directly affect the behaviour of the selected audience. IMC considers all sources of brand or company contacts which a customer or prospect has with the product or service as potential delivery channels for future messages. Further, IMC makes use of all forms of communication which are relevant to the customer or prospect, and to which they might be receptive. In sum, the IMC process starts with the customer or prospect and then works back to determine and define the forms and methods through which persuasive communications methods should be developed.” (Schultz, 1993)
Kitchen & Pelsmackeralso cite Tom Duncan what said that IMC is, “…a process for managing the customer relationships that drive brand value. More specifically, it is a cross-functional process for creating and nourishing profitable relationships with customers and other stakeholders by strategically controlling or influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data-driven, purposeful dialogue with them.” (Duncan, 2002 p. 14)
This is an explanation of the relationship between integrated communications and relationship marketing. An excellent example of the use of integrated communications to differentiate product and the company producing them is the ability of Apple to make its customers not only users, but also something approaching a cult. Owning and using an Apple product, particularly a computer, and to only a slightly lesser degree an iPhone or iPad sets the user apart from the general run of humanity as something special. For the dedicated Apple user, Steve Jobs is an icon only a step or two below the great religious leaders of history.
What is clear here is that the combination of globalization and advanced communications techniques, particularly the Internet, have produced a new environment for marketing. What is under consideration here is the final step in the marketing process, convince the buyer to select your offering as opposed to the myriad of alternatives for both the customer’s spending and the selection of the specific offering of your company as opposed to those of the opposition. What is being communicated by the company is first, why the customer should have any interest in the product offered, and after succeeding in this effort why the customer should choose the communicating company’s product. Burberry must not only convince the a woman buyer that she needs a trench coat, but that it is worth spending £1,095 on a Burberry trench coat as opposed to an XYZ trench coat at half the price.
Discussion of the effect on communication agencies
The basis of integrated marketing communications is the coordination of all the available marketing tools into a seamless entirety. It encompasses all the communications tools, avenues, functions and sources the company uses into a unified program that has the greatest possible impact on consumers or end users while involving minimum costs. (Clow & Baack 2007) In the “good old days”, the early days of scientific marketing in the 1920s and 30s the available media were newspapers, magazines and billboards and catalogue sales and direct mail marketing.All of these still exist, but are relatively unimportant in 2010 as communications mediums. What is interesting is that modern Internet marketing is in many ways similar to the old catalogue sales approach. Even Harrods has an online catalogue, and spam is the modern equivalent of direct mail marketing when promotional brochures filled mailboxes regularly. Then along came radio as an advertising media and following World War II television arrived and made the entire question of media mix both complex and expensive. The question of media mix became important, but there were known parameters and variables.
The agency prepared “integrated” advertising programs using much the same material in print and television while radio was almost forgotten by the major national companies. As companies became increasing international the programs from the home countries, usually the United States, were applicable and translated into foreign languages. IBM simply translated its brochures and advertisement along with its manuals into French, German, and eventually even Farsi and Japanese. The point is that the material was virtually identical, only the language changed. There was no attempt, at least in the initial years to adapt the message to the values of the society that comprised the market. Coke found ways of using its trademark on a global basis and it was possible for an exclusively English speaker to recognise the Coca-Cola name almost anywhere. Conversely, many non-English speakers learned to recognised Coca-Cola in English as written in the US. (Varey, 2002)
In the 21st century the problem and the opportunities have changed dramatically. The Internet has revolutionised marketing and promotion, and the advent of social networking has revolutionized Internet marketing and promotion. The reaction of the advertising and media agencies is to restructure, acquire other operations with capabilities they lack, orbuild those capabilities they lack. The Chief Executive of Seal Communications in a 2005 article from the Birmingham Post describes an example of the type of mergers discussed here.
“Birmingham’s newlyexpanded PR and marketing agency Seal Communications has set its eyes on the national market for its services.The agency completed its restructuring after last October’s purchase of PR agency The Warman group with a move to new premises just before Christmas.Chief executive Steve Dann and chairman Bob Warman insist that the merger is just the beginning of a new era.’The challenge is to compete on a national basis,’ said Mr. Dann. As a full-service agency he feels is can offer the sort of services needed in the present business environment, an experience Mr. Dann can confirm.He said: ‘Often we win business on the basis of PR, but clients then take up the other services we offer’.” (Sidwell, G. 2005 p. 29) It is clear that this is a relatively small operation in a city that is less the pivotal in the global economy, but it is simply and example of the type of thing that must happen for agencies to survive in a increasingly complex and competitive marketplace. A review of the leading agencies on a site such as allbrands.net.uk reveals the number of mergers and combinations that have occurred in the past five years in the UK market alone. A review of the descriptions of the UK’s top 30 advertising agencies on the site clearly shows the number of mergers, splits or spinoffs, and new agencies developed in the past 10 years. (Adbrands.net, 2010) This is clearly a reaction to the pressures in the market to build new capabilities within the agencies. It also reveals that some of the top agencies are specialists in direct sales, which implies a considerable Internet operation.
The newest element in the integrated marketing or communications mix is the development of the social networking sites. The first social networking site found in research for this project is Classmates that apparently dates from 1995. The number and variety of sites that has developed in the past decade or so is staggering. What they are doing is revolutionizing communications. There are so new that little has been written about them and they are changing so rapidly that what little has been written is out of date almost before it is published. One of the few books discovered that is relevant is, “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World” by Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta, They look at the reinvention of the web following the dot-com meltdown of 2001. The contend that the web had to be reinvented and cite search engines such as Google that transformed the Internet into a networked platform into, “No longer a push medium to post information, send e-mails and sell books, the Web was being radically transformed into a dynamic network harnessing creativity and collective intelligence.” (Frazer & Dutta, 2008 p.2)
The Cluetrain Manifesto as early as 2000 proclaimed an end to business as usual. This was the beginning of the rejections of the web as an almost purely commercial venue that was nothing more than a vast global shopping centre. Levine, Locke ET Al portray the web as a sort of Greek agora, a virtual gathering place where people not only traded goods but ideas and stories. At the same time the Cluetrain challenged the classic concept of the pyramidal corporate structure. Cluetrain effectively challenged traditional capitalistic business structure with the concept of flat non-hierarchical organizational forms where “…respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority,” (Levine, Locke ET Al. 2000 p.151)
Even as the Cluetrain Manifestos challenged traditional business organization, and global capitalism there was a serendipitous development of the phenomena of social networking and the ways in which people interacted. Sites such as Friendser and MySpace began to develop large numbers of user in the US. The concept of the “law of network effects” was developed that states that networks become increasingly important as the number of people involved in them grows. According to the Facebook site, it has more than 500 million active users and the average user has 130 friends. This provides some insight into the scale of the Facebook. There is a so-called “Law of Network Effects” which postulates that networks grow increasingly effective as their memberships grow. That supports the contention that social networks are transforming the way people interact. There are networks for virtually every group conceivable, Dogster for dog lovers, Flickster for movie lovers, green activists have Care, and the original Classmates reunites old friends. Linkedin is a site devoted to building business connections. (Frazer & Dutta, 2008)
It should be obvious that such networks provide an almost immediate “segmented” market, and as such, virtually every company providing any sort of product now has or soon will have a Facebook page and probably several other social network sites. What the Internet has done is allowed people to assume more control over their lives and empowered them as individuals. As part, albeit an important part, of the way that the Internet has touched the lives of everyone, even people in developed societies that lack a computer, they must be considered by advertising agencies and marketing departments. It would be almost impossible for any media agency to operate without a virtual marketing capability.
SPECULATION AND REASONING ON IMC
There are still newspapers, magazines, television, billboards, paper catalogues, and even an occasional direct mail solicitation. A few days ago there was even a promotional flyer under the windscreen wiper of the author’s car that had been parked in a supermarket parking lot. How quaint. About the only advertising medium that has totally disappeared is the village crier. Modern marketing chains must include the Internet as a primary channel of communications with the customer. This trend will only accelerate as the computer moves from the desktop into our pockets. The portable phone has already morphed into the “smartphone” which is rapidly becoming a pocket computer, albeit one for users with good eyes and small fingers. The iPad and similar devices are already becoming common and will become increasingly popular as time passes. They will simply accelerate the trend that is already in place and meet at least some of the problems with finger size and eyesight alluded to above. There is also the alternative of voice communications with electronic devices that is still relatively exotic, but clearly exists. The computer on which this is being written responds to voice commands at the option of the user.
The circulation of print media is clearly declining rapidly. An Associated Press report in the Huffington Post of October 3, 2010 reported that circulation of Newspapers in the US was off 8.7% in the six months ending March 31, 2010. This was actually a bit less than previous declines, but still indicates that print media are suffering. (Vanacore, 2010)
It is possible to watch television on a computer, but statistics indicate that television is still a very viable channel for communicating with potential customers. The guardian.co.uk indicates that Britons watch four hours and 18 minutes of TV a day. This provides about 48 advertisement exposures per day per potential customer. The figure is actually up somewhat from the three hours and 56 minutes or about 8% in the prior quarter. There is however a greater fragmentation of viewing that in the past as the available viewing options grow. Television advertising will probably continue for some time, but the format of the advertising and the criteria for slot selection will change with changes in viewing habits. It also seems likely that the television industry will make an effort to move into the virtual world more aggressively in the years to come. As it becomes possible to view television on the pocket devices that portable phones are becoming the entire dynamics of the situation may change.
What is abundantly clear is that as the Internet evolves that the problem of integrated marketing communications will become increasingly complex. The nature of the use of the Internet will change as social networking becomes increasingly complex and common. It offers an ideal venue for many products to reach specific target audience with highly specialized messages and expand the concept of relationship marketing that is one of the cornerstones of all integrated marketing. The ability to establish what amounts to a one-to-one communication with the client is one of the potentials of the new era. It is interesting to consider it as a great technological leap backward to the door-to-door brush and vacuum cleaner salesman of a long past era that allowed the company to establish a one-on-one relationship with the client.
Adbrands.net (2010) United Kingdom Agencies: The UK’s Top Advertising Agencies in 2009 by billing. Recovered 10/2/2010 from: http://www.adbrands.net/uk/top_uk_advertising_agencies.html
Clow, K & Baack, D. (2007) “Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications” Upper Saddle River, NJ/. Pearson Education
Duncan, T. (2002) IMC: “Using Advertising and Promotion to Build Brands” Boston, McGraw Hill P. 14
Facebook (2010) Facebook: Statistics. Recovered 03/10/2010 from: http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php? statistics
Frazer, M. & Dutta, S. (2008) “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World” Chinchester, UK. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Kitchen, P & Pelsmacker. P. (2004) “Integrated Market Communications: A Primer.” London, Routledge,
Leung, R. (2003) “in Search of the Past” CBS News, UG 20, 2003. Recovered 02/10/2010 from: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/05/05/60II/main552363.shtml
Levine, R. Locke, C. Searls, D. Weinberger, D. (2000) “The Cluetrain Manifesto: The end of Business as Usual” New York, Perseus Books
Schultz, D.E. (1993) ‘Integrated marketing communications: maybe definition is in the point of view?’Marketing News, 18 January: 17.
Sidwell, G. (2005) “Merger Marks New Era for Seal”. Birmington UK, The Birmington Post, 01/17/2005
Sweney, M. (2010) Britons “watch four hours of TV a day”. Guardian.co.uk Recovered 03/10/2010 from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/may/04/thinkbox-television-viewing
Vanacore, A, (2010) “Newspaper Circulation Down 8.7% in US” The Huffington Post 03/10/2010. Recovered 03/10/2010 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/26/newspaper-circulation-dow_n_551628.html
Varey, R. (2002) “Marketing Communication: Principles and Practice” London. Routledge
 The author admits to be a long time Apple user