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What is integrated marketing communications?

At its core, integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a simple but powerful concept. Recently, Forbes called it more important than ever. IMC is the strategy of maintaining a thematic message across different communications platforms. IMC is based on the notion that communications tools are more effective when employed in tandem than in isolation. In other words, IMC is about integrating all your communications tools into a united system. The efficacy of IMC is determined by how well messages are passed across communications platforms to deliver a singular message, without ever feeling disjointed. The goal of IMC is increase a company’s profit margins.

What is an integrated marketing communications plan?

In essence, IMC is about the customer. Not only is IMC about maintaining a cohesive message across different platforms, but it is also about making the customer feel as though they have a personal relationship with your company, product, or service. Therefore, in developing an IMC plan, it is critical to determine who your target audience is. In characterizing your target audience, it helps to consider factors including age, education level, language ability, gender, income, and geographic location. By looking at how these factors inform consumer identity and decision making, you can create a message that feels individualized to the specific concerns of your target audience.

A cohesive message can also be accomplished in different ways. Here are some examples of IMC plans implemented using highly varied structures. Consider these categories and try to determine which one is right for your company’s needs.
  •  External IMC maintains a consistent message by outsourcing a campaign to a marketing or public relations firm, who are then tasked with the creation and maintenance of a consistent message.
  • Internal IMC involves marketing internally, in order to keep all employees on the same page about the goal of a campaign.
  • Horizontal IMC refers to a strategy that involves coordination between different teams, such as production, finance, and distribution. Horizontal IMC requires excellent communication; each team must constantly consider how their decisions relate to those made by other teams.
  • Vertical IMC maintains a consistent message by methodically relating marketing objectives to higher corporate missions. 

What are the tools of integrated marketing communications?

Because IMC is so all-encompassing, its tools include everything—advertising, sponsorship, social media, public relations, and more. Its personnel can include not only your production, finance, and distribution teams, but also may involve independent contractors, designers, and upper-level managers. In other words, the tools of IMC are potentially limitless!

Why is integrated marketing communications important?

IMC is so important because now more than ever, companies have access to an increasing number of marketing channels. As companies’ marketing departments grow, various channels might be led by different departments. While this proliferation of channels opens up opportunities for truly expansive, totalizing campaigns, it also increases the risk of having a disjointed, inconsistent message. 

IMC keeps everyone—employees, managers, contractors, and customers—on the same page. IMC is a strategic concept that requires a company to pay attention to every message it’s sending out and making sure that this message is unified, irrespective of which channel it might be going to. Ultimately, IMC is important because it has the potential to affect everything about marketing, from inter-business relationships, to interdepartmental communication, to the relationship between a company and a customer, to how employees understand and contextualize their own work. For more details about IMC, check out articles here and here.

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