Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a highly disputed topic that involves discovering and labeling the means of which consumers behave that transcends value to a brand. Details about consumers are sought involving purchasing behavior, influences in purchasing, attitude during the experience, reactions to purchased items or services, and much more. Modern approaches to marketing weighs less on finding the consumer. Heavier pursuit is placed into satisfying consumer demand, which is a major characteristic of the IMC strategy (Canhoto et al., 2013; Mihart, 2012).
Marketers use several types of data integration when researching for an integrated Marketing Communications plan: directly matched data, unit-level ascription, and aggregate-level integration. All data planned through these means are pooled into a database marketers use for sorting and filtering (Hess & Doe, 2013). In the analysis, marketers attempt to determine the role of communication in the four aspects of the marketing mix: product, price, distribution and marketing communications (Mihart, 2012).
Communications programs that can use an array of communication platforms to attract different consumer segments will come out of the campaign execution phase requiring fewer options be pursued to reach the ideal segments. Variations gathered would funnel cultural groups, purchase behavior preferences, communication preferences, and other segment characteristics that relate specifically back to the brand (Keller, 2016).
Segmentation has the potential to increase targeting effectiveness and to improve response to changing consumer needs and behavior. The use of segmentation boosts opportunities for marketing strategies while increasing chances of a positive response and/or reaction from customers (Canhoto et al., 2013).
Directly matched data pull information using standard key names, such as name or address. Any personal data used in these sets would require privacy protocols for usage. Databases used for directly matched data are called single-source data.
Unit-level ascription is involved when data set can’t be directly matched. Instead, consumer data can be aligned with a relatable data set where direct relationships occur. This fusion is becoming common practice in research as there are no additional requests needed of the original individuals that provided the data, which alternatively would increase participation fatigue in future studies. There isn’t any privacy anxiety, which adds value to this approach. However, ascription can directly or indirectly be applied with bias from the analysis.
Aggregate-level integration uses segmentation to plan groups of data set. Types of segmentation normally found include user demographics and physical location. This approach spans a large data scope of subjects and relationships allowing alignment of consumer data with other groups who are connected by geography or demographics. In-depth analysis of branding combined with aggregate-level integration opens analysis up to another level of insight into areas such as advertising creative impact and media favoritism (Hess & Doe, 2013).
Segmenting audiences into actionable lists are used across all facets of marketing from advertising to managing customer experiences to e-commerce. The workflow involves selecting pockets of individuals based on their demographic and behavior characteristics specific to the goal, analyzing them for their potential to achieve, and developing them over time to increase their value to the brand (Canhoto et al., 2013). Identifying customer segments begins with an establishment of similar and different characteristic types. Understanding each customer may react the same, slightly different, or very different to the offering by a brand, segments are formed into groups and sub-groups based on these characteristics. Segments should be unique to their customer interests with each member of that list sharing the same interests (Canhoto et al., 2013).
Where product data is available by abundance, such as retail stores, segmentation can be organized by demographics, lifestyle purchases, and shopping behavior. Shared approaches across retail shops are found to use recency, frequency, the financial value of their shopping behaviors, and product structure (Sokol & Holý, 2021). Retail marketers strategize around collected segment data to plan promotional events and materials, and sustainable product shelf life.
According to Keller (2016), the choice IMC structure answers the questions of several facets for strategy. Communication coverage explains the reach to consumers through communications outlets and which platforms overlap. Cost to getting the IMC and executing against its strategy. Contribution of sales and communication to reach milestones. Complimentary talks about the effects still left not researched and its impact to the consumer journey. Cross-effects display the interlocking synchronization between communication platforms that work together. Conformability addresses the ability to reach segments without being hindered by competitor or alternative consumer communications.
The multitude of consumer groups, their environment, and fatigue of every-day life evaluated in the development of an IMC can skew analysis. Consumer demographics, technology used, and complete participation are examples of segments that have major affects to the data set used in the IMC development (Whitburn et al., 2020).
When developing the IMC plan, marketers should keep a neutral position with data evaluations and communication platforms. Consumers consistently revolve in the decision experience. Remaining neutral throughout the process brings to light the many options then available to become touch points to consumers. These professionals integrate the desired experience with the customer journeys to result in the corporate valued end (Keller, 2016).
An effectively built IMC plan creates a competitive advantage for a brand. The more an IMC plan is tried, evaluated, optimized, and communicated, its thorough capabilities grows to engage with consumers with a higher-level of effectiveness while dropping requirement costs. An effective IMC plan combines engaging relationship models, carefully determined resources, corporate values, and a technological foundation (Valos et al., 2017). To the marketing group, this style of an IMC plan is an unmatched resource amongst peers and competitors. A successful IMC plan has the potential to create correct segment targets with matched communications and media channels (Valos et al., 2017).
A successfully run IMC campaign requires the organizing group to pinpoint the valued response and brand perception given by its targeted segments (Oana, 2018). Doing so supports the communication strategy with long-term accomplishable expectations and resources. Internal professionals become more advanced in this scenario, and can incorporate the multitude of consumer segments and their demands into communications strategies that can be spread throughout the organization. The IMC is a systematic approach to develop consumers into reachable segments, taking customers through several levels of engagement to end in a purchase. Adding in competitors offering similar products, larger corporations heavily depend on the IMC to communicate to customers in new and innovative means where they may reinforce brand loyalty and trust.
One example of a successful IMC program spotlights Dove’s soap products and their “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Initiating as billboards in Canada and London, it displayed a multiple question ad on billboards. The questions were strategic to trigger a response to beauty opinions and portrayed to be interacted with by consumers. Planning for viral activity on social media, Dove captured consumer responses to the questions with a key insight into messaging that would attract segments in additional means of this campaign. The IMC plan resulted in a $1.5 billion increase in sales with market research conducted in two major markets (Integrated Marketing: 7 Successful, 2018).
Canhoto, A., Clark, M., & Fennemore, P. (2013). Emerging segmentation practices in the age of the social customer.Journal of Strategic Marketing, 21(5), 413–428.
Hess, M., & Doe, P. (2013). The marketer’s dilemma: Focusing on a target or a demographic? The utility of data-integration techniques. Journal of Advertising Research, 53(2), 231–236.
Integrated marketing: 7 successful campaigns through the decades. (2018). Digital Marketing Institute. https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/integrated-marketing-7-successful-campaigns-through-the-decades
Keller, K. L. (2016). Unlocking the power of integrated marketing communications: How integrated is your IMC program? Journal of Advertising, 45(3), 286–301.
Mihart, C. (2012). Impact of integrated marketing communication on consumer behavior: Effects on consumer decision – making process. International Journal of Marketing Studies, 4(2), 121.
Oana, D. (2018). Integrated marketing communication and its impact on consumer behavior. Studies in Business & Economics, 13(2), 92–102.
Sokol, O., & Holý, V. (2021). The role of shopping mission in retail customer segmentation. International Journal of Market Research, 63(4), 454–470.
Valos, M. J., Maplestone, V. L., Polonsky, M. J., & Ewing, M.(2017). Integrating social media within an integrated marketing communication decision-making framework.Journal of Marketing Management, 33(17/18), 1522.
Whitburn, D., Karg, A., & Turner, P. (2020). The effect of digital integrated marketing communications not-for-profit sport consumption behaviors. Journal of Sport Management, 34, 417–434.