What is Integrated Marketing Communication? Broadly, IMC is a marketing communication, business process that is customer-centric, data-driven using analytics, technically-anchored, and branding effective. All stakeholders in an IMC-focused organization must systematically engage IMC for it to be successful.
Don Schultz of Northwestern University over time has become the undisputed guru of the IMC business model. He promotes the following IMC definition:
Integrated marketing communication is a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated, measurable, persuasive brand communications programs over time with consumers, customers, prospects, employees, associates and other targeted relevant external and internal audiences. The goal is to generate both short-term financial returns and build long-term brand and shareholder value.
Schultz explains that this definition has four key elements:
IMC is promoted from marketing tactic to business strategy
IMC involves the whole organization and spans the entire spectrum of brand, customer, product, and service contacts the firm has with all stakeholders at all levels.
IMC requires ongoing measurement, evaluation, and accountability for return on the IMC investment.
IMC is an ongoing process that boosts performance in the long term and builds relationships with customers over time.
IMC educators Hutton and Mulhern say that regardless of how it is accomplished organizationally, the key to truly integrated marketing communication is the integration of marketing communications at all levels.
Integration at the tactical level
Integration at the strategic level
Integration at the organizational level
Integration at the education and training level
Integration at the interpersonal level
Integration at the theoretical level
Integration at the process level
Northwestern’s Clarke Caywood says IMC is a concept of marketing communications planning that represents the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines – general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations – and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact.
University of Colorado’s Tom Duncan and Sandra Moriarty push (or pull) IMC to the next level when they say: The fuel that drives any relationship – personal or commercial – is communication. There is no way to have a relationship without some form of communication. For this reason, communication is the lifeblood of integrated marketing.
Marketing consultant Thomas Harris says IMC is, in a word, synergy. When all product and corporate messages are strategically coordinated, the effect is greater than when advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, public relations, and the other tools and tactics of marketing are planned and executed independently, with each area competing for budgets and power and, in some cases, sending out conflicting messages.