Integrated marketing communications is an approach to marketing that was conceptually defined in academic circles and practiced in professional settings. IMC approaches marketing communications in a way where everything is integrated: agencies tasked to a client work collaboratively on projects, messages are consistent across all media, coordination of marketing tools, all toward the purpose of breaking down silos that tend to form in agency structures and convey a clear brand for the consumer to influence purchase decisions.
There is some contention between the academic conceptualization and professional practice of IMC. While based in research published in academic circles, the academic focus on IMC theory may not fully encompass all the challenges that practitioners face, both at the tactical and strategic level. Among the factors that are involved include differing organizational structures of each agency, politics and business goals that could impede the implementation of IMC in campaign planning and execution. The brand teams, creative agencies, PR agencies and media agencies all have their own stakeholders, needs, and interests, which all come into play in the IMC process.
I believe there’s value in integrated marketing communications as an approach to developing a communications plan. From the academic perspective, it is important to develop at least a working approach toward a more cohesive and collaborative process that will create effectiveness and efficiencies not just for the agencies but also for the end consumer. It is essential to continuously refine theoretical understanding of IMC given the changing dynamics and pace of the marketplace. From the practitioner’s standpoint, it is valuable to have a multiplicity of perspectives on strategic planning and execution, especially those that are based on scientific research, peer-reviewed by other professionals in the space, and with strong industry support. The theory and practice of IMC provide the advertiser and its agencies a workable approach, historical knowledge, and understanding of proven practices that can inform current strategy toward a more effective and efficient communications plan.
All in all, while IMC as its core build on cohesiveness, it is an ever-changing concept that can be applied to most marketing communication practices. It is dynamic, robust and malleable; an exciting field in which the professional degrees offered by universities are constantly being developed, reflecting the changes in media usage, technology, business needs and economic environment that affect the marketer and consumer. As a number of corporations unbundle and look to emerging markets for growth, and as digital advancement frequently introduce new consumer and business tools, global marketing chatter is getting louder, and I definitely look forward to see and experience first-hand how the IMC process work in various settings, both domestically and abroad.
In a world where borders are also becoming more fluid, new segments– or even an entirely new approach to define the consumer– will emerge. New technology will give birth to new media behaviors, as well as influence social relationships and personal identities. We are learning that consumers are less homogeneous and becoming harder to segment because of myriad nuances between demographic similarities that are brought to the surface and apparent in the information consumers share about themselves– those they deliberately publish as well as the footprints they leave that speaks to their behavior digitally.
All of these excite me– more thoughts on this to come!