Brands that develop Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) capabilities are improving brand attitudes and the financial bottom line. We explore the concept of IMC and show how it is done.
The media challenge
IMC is the discipline of presenting a brand identity as one voice, irrespective of the medium used to communicate the message. IMC is crucial due to the fragmentation of the media market. Previously, consumers received advertising from brands through mass media outlets such as TV, print or radio. The communication model was called push and the messages were “one to many”, with the company retaining control of the messaging.
In the current digital landscape, audiences are spread out thinly across more media channels. This has changed the dynamic to one where “communication is interactive, and consumers are more active multi-taskers and are increasingly interconnected and ‘ubiquitous’”. As a result, consumers are engaging with brands at new touch points and have a co-creating role in brand identity. Brands that do IMC poorly present a divided and fractured voice.
So what is IMC?
IMC has three elements. Firstly, it includes the concept of “one voice” or a consistent brand image. Secondly, it includes integration of advertising to strengthen brand image and influence consumer behaviour. Thirdly, it involves coordination of the various communications tools to execute a holistic campaign.
Big brands see the benefit of IMC
Nike’s 2012 “Find your greatness” campaign is a successful case study of IMC. The concept was that greatness was not just for elite athletes but something we can all aspire to. Advertising goals differ based on the product life cycle. Being one of the world’s most recognisable brands in a mature market, Nike’s advertising objective appears to be to remind consumers they remain the pre-eminent brand preference for quality sporting goods.
Nike chose a multi-channel approach that included television, online video, outdoor, print, social media and a customised app. The scheduling was timed to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics, when sport would be at the forefront of consumer’s minds. It chose an “emotional appeal” advertising format, using image ads and endorsements. Emotional ads seek to create emotional attachments between the consumer and the brand. The Nike advertising sought to evoke feelings of pride in the everyday users of their products. Adverts used compelling images of ordinary athletes as endorsements of the brand.
A key feature of successful IMC is effective integration of messaging across all touch points. Nike successfully applied all the elements of the campaign to the various touch points. The creative “look and feel”, colours, typography and tone of voice are consistent across all its communications.
Nike also used public relations to lead the “most active day in the history of Nike”, leveraging its 8 million users of exercise tracking technology to take part in the campaign.
IMC helps the bottom line
Measuring the effectiveness of advertising campaigns is difficult due to its effects being subsumed by the broader impact of the marketing mix. But recent research suggests there is a strong link between effective IMC as well as brand reputation and financial performance. This research indicates “a IMC capability contributes to brand performance by facilitating the development…of more effective IMC campaigns resulting in positive brand-related performance outcomes”.
In other words, the more brands harness their IMC capabilities, the more benefits for their reputation and bottom line.
 Vernuccio, M, & Ceccotti, F 2015, ‘Strategic and organisational challenges in the integrated marketing communication paradigm shift: A holistic vision’, European Management Journal, no. 6, p. 438.
 Ibid., p439
 Ibid., p439
 Kliatchko, J 2005, ‘Towards a new definition of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)’, International Journal of Advertising, vol. 24, no. 1, p3
 Iacobucci, D. (2014) Marketing Management (MM), 4th Edition, South-Western, Cenage Learning, Mason, Chapter 11, Advertising Messages and Marketing Communication, p 147
 Iacobucci, D. (2014), Marketing Management (MM), 151
 Luxton, S, Reid, M, & Mavondo, F 2015, ‘Integrated Marketing Communication Capability and Brand Performance’, Journal of Advertising, vol. 44, no. 1, p 7