The emergence of integrated marketing communications (IMC) has developed into one of the most significant example of growth and expansion in the marketing discipline (Kitchen, 2003). It has influenced acting and thinking among companies but also state owned companies, authorities and political parties, all facing the realities of rivalry in an open economy (Smith, 1996).
Today, integrated communications has developed into an expansive discipline that links marketing to a number of other grounds, including corporate culture, corporate design, corporate communication and public relations (Christensen et al., 2008).
IMC has received significant interest in both the practitioner and academic communities, since the beginning. The interest played to IMC is largely a purpose of its strong appeal which makes good sense. It’s been more than a decade since the concept was first introduced but however most major businesses have yet to fully apply the ideas contained in the IMC. In fact Schultz, et. al. (1992) state that recognition of IMC has not been as rapid as they thought.
The benefits of IMC that Smith et al. (1999) identified are the following:
All of the market communications are controlled and managed by the IMC.
IMC ensures that brand positioning, personality and messages are conveyed to each part of communication which are delivered from a single reliable strategy.
It is said that ‘Relationship Marketing’ strengthens a bond of devotion with consumers which can also protect them from the competition. It is a great advantage to keep a consumer for life.
IMC can increase the sales by extending messages across numerous communication tools to generate more ways for consumers to be aware of the product and to make a purchase.
IMC reduces duplication in photography and graphics as they can be shared in advertising and exhibitions. A single agency is used for all communications so the agency fee is reduced or even if many agencies are used, time is as meetings get all the agencies together for strategic planning or briefings. Thus, it decreases workload and stress levels.
Successful IMC campaign needs to find the firm a correct mixture of promotional techniques and tools that define their tasks and the level to which they should be used, and manage their use appropriately.
IMC helps in making the communications effective and efficient amongst companies through various concepts such as customer focus, customer empowerment, brand resonance, immersive marketing and emotional bonding. If correctly implemented, the IMC plan could collect data and implement response based on the previously gathered data. Marketing communications derived from the consumer need is able to build value into the service or product and divide it from the competition in the customers minds.
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BARRIERS TO IMC IMPLEMENTATION
Marketers appear to be tired when it comes to modifying the change and investment in their approach to marketing communications. The discussion concerning what marketing communications can be predictable to accomplish has been going on for very long ( Ambler, 2000). In the middle of the rising identification that advertising; mostly in the grown markets mainly carries out a reminder purpose focused largely on protecting the existing market-share. Both the agencies and clients have challenges in generating and implementing the efficient communications agenda. All areas of the diverse marketing communication business carry on to face instability among the media, declining audience and the internet (Douglas, 2003). All this are making the companies reconsider the blend of marketing communication tools with consequences for the usual mass media which may not be capable to gather the wants of the 21st century customers and find their market shares wear down despite of the synergies occurring from tactical associations in the media business (Davis and Craft, 2000). Another concern is regarding the advertising practitioners where an occurrence of “inside-out” idea and practice overcomes (Kitchen and de Pelsmacker, 2004). There are various tactical subjects of concern in the broader discussion concerning the development of IMC along with the long term involvement to marketing practice and theory (Gould, 2000). Duncan (2005) advocated the tactical forecasting and examining of brand relationships is who as well said that priority ought to be given to their most important consumers. But, so far, there is very little proof of purchaser value being resolute by any segment of IMC (Garber and Dotson, 2002). In spite of huge investments, the relationship amongst the multiplicity of IMC and customers is not well understood. Though, observed evidence of the effects of mixtures of media, like print advertising and television (Jin, 2004) is rising.
According to the consumer driven strategy, IMC is the main organization of all the brand contact points. Different levels exist, where such integration takes place. The different levels would be the following.
Level 1 – Tactical co-ordination
Level 2 – Redefining the scope of marketing communication
Level 3 – Application of IT
Level 4 – Strategic and Financial Integration
Key to success for implementation of IMC
IMC is a theory that must be implemented logically and simultaneously at all levels and functions of a corporation. Marketing functions and Public relations are not the only programs that are integrated which makes the company an example of IMC (Low, 2000).
The key tip is to be careful of companies with strong marketing cultures, because topics like corporate reputation will take a back seat to the provincialism of brand management (Pettegrew, 2000). Functional and Structural issues must become a critical part of any effective IMC series. Of particular importance is beginning with a communication czar who will become the principles and evangelist of the IMC implementation attempt (Reid, 2005). Any IMC program must be personalized to the unique character of a particular organizational culture. For an IMC program to work successfully, it must reflect the distinctive culture in which it must function well.
In spite of the demand, the IMC premise fails to take into account the way most companies are structured and functioned. Many corporations that are believed to be examples of IMC; fail to maintain the IMC principles on a company basis. The examples of Nike and Proctor & Gamble will disclose that neither of these companies are functionally or structurally integrated public relations and employee communications with their marketing roles.
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Nike- the athletic footwear and attire manufacturer, has been cited as an example of IMC excellence and marketing. In a cover story from Fortune, (Hamel, 1997) states: “Ask Nike- CEO Phil Knight what he likes to do best, and he does not falter a beat, he likes to break things….” then in the 1980s, he turned his booming athletic shoe corporation into a marketing machine, saturating the airwaves with drastic commercials that highlighted emotion rather than the product.” Schultz, et. al. (1992) publicized Nike’s success in their IMC book: “The thinking behind IMC is that every statement – logo, price, promotion, label, distribution should be created to help convince the intention of the competitive advantage.” Duncan and Caywood (1996) also include Nike among several companies that have been tremendously successful and based on observation, they are doing brilliant jobs of integrating their communication labors.
Nike’s breaking the marketing rules of the athletic footwear business which has come at a cost paid by its worldwide company reputation. Given these setbacks, one could argue that Phil Knight’s tactical wisdom for Nike is more alike to original advertising and horizontal integration than true IMC. There is a little proof that Nike’s victory was achieved by the tactical management of all messages and media used by an organization to jointly influence its perceived brand value (Keegan, Moriarty & Duncan, 1992).
There are missteps that suggest Nike’s marketing communications which may not be so ideal. For example, in 1997, Nike followed its patently bold and brash “in your face” marketing formula in an attempt to gain market share in an international soccer (Thurow, 1997). In Spain, an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, Nike introduced a commercial of Satan and his demons playing against a team of Nike endorsers. Spain refused to allow the commercial to air during primetime. Nike also placed an advertisement in Soccer American magazine saying: “Europe, Asia and Latin America: Barricade your stadiums. Hide your trophies. Invest in some deodorant, as Asia and Latin America have been crushed. So will Europe. The world has been warned” (Thurow, 1997). And finally, Nike ran an ad on British TV featuring a controversial French soccer player who detailed how spitting at a fan and insulting his coach had won him a Nike contract. Far from having an insight into the soccer market from the customer’s point of view and gaining ground against rival Adidas, Nike garnered a scathing editorial in the International Federation of Football Associations’ newsletter.
Another recent evidence that says Nike is hardly the quintessential IMC company. Nike groped and allowed accusations of child-labor sweatshops in Asia that subcontract the manufacturing of Nike shoes to fester. In 1999, a team of journalists went to document the conditions for themselves, but Nike shut the factories. Prior to this series of incidents, widely published news stories detailed incidents in which poor children in the inner-city were robbing, stealing and seriously injuring peers to obtain expensive Nike shoes such as Air Jordan’s. Publicly Nike ignored these charges for years. Considering these two incidents, there was a genuine public relation crisis where any company engaged in lawful IMC could have anticipated before it became a crisis. Instead, Nike just kept on marketing until crisis overwhelmed it.
Nike’s power as an IMC example is, at best overstated. Harris (1998) argues: “That master marketer of our times, Phil Knight, likes to point out that while an ad page in Sports Illustrated costs $150,000, no amount of money can buy the front cover where swoosh-bearing athletes appear with great frequency. The omnipresent swoosh has a 90 percent-plus awareness among consumers, enabling it to stand alone.” Many seasoned public relations professionals are quick to admit that companies that live by extraordinary market exposure can also die by the same token. In a recent effort to distance itself from its public relations problems, Nike first tried to eliminate its swoosh from its marketing campaigns and replace it with a “kinder-friendlier” marketing approach that emphasizes fair labor practices, the global community and environment.
PROCTER & GAMBLE
Procter & Gamble (P&G) is considered by academic scholars to be a world-class marketing company and is said to stand 6th in Fortune’s Most Admired Companies 2010 list (Wikipedia). Similar to the Nike brand, P&G possesses some of the most particular brands in the world like – Tide detergent, Duncan Hines cake mix, Jiff peanut butter, Crest toothpaste and Cover Girl cosmetics. It also has dominant market share with many of its leading brands.
Even though, P&G’s marketing command has a record of external & internal communication mistakes suggestive of Nike. P&G openly misused both the Rely Tampon crisis and allegations that their packaging sign recognized the company’s satanic links. It was said that P&G lost face openly and separated employees when it was exposed that the company had phone-tapped a few staffs they had assumed of revealing business information. This was followed by a job of dealing with some of the physiological effects of its new replacement, Olestra. Without bearing in mind the public comeback, they allowed their scientists to name the release of Olestra, “anal leakage” (Henkoff, 1996), raising an additional sign of public controversy. Recently, P&G shot itself in the business reputational base again. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) declared to the media that P&G anticipated to meet its earnings forecast for the end of the quarter. Few weeks later, new CEO, Durk Jager was forced to declare to the same media that they had incorrectly over-estimated their periodical income and that the business would fall very short of its periodical earnings forecast. Over the following week, the company’s stock fell sharply as financial markets and shareholders lost faith in the respected company. The Board of Directors of P&G then fired Mr. Jager. New CEO, A.G. Lafley must now try to recover the market share and end the defections of many of the company’s finest and brightest to the hi-tech industry. Regardless of Harris’ (1998) categorization to the opposite, these exemplars explain just how far away P&G has been working from the essential IMC state of speaking to all stakeholders with a single voice (Schultz, et. Al., 1992).
THE PROBLEM WITH IMPLEMENTING AT THE HIGHER LEVEL OF MANAGEMENT
Nike and P&G do a wonderful job with the marketing side of IMC without incorporating their employee and public relation functions, their company reputations have suffered. IMC theory has given a short shrift to the organizational barriers that often avoid companies from implementing IMC effectively.
BARRIERS BETWEEN THE COMPANIES [NIKE AND P&G]
I have argued that two companies – Nike and Procter & Gamble, fall far short of the IMC model. Neither company has effectively integrated its many communication functions seamlessly. Both companies are very strong in terms of marketing, but they remain weak in employee communications, public relations or both. The question is, how do companies like these miss the IMC mark? The answer would be to a great level in their organizational structures. Both- Nike and P&G are marketing organizations, organized around product marketing.
P&G demonstrates a “brand management” association where both staff and line functions are positioned within a company’s various brands or products. While, P&G’s organizational structure has developed over the years, staff communication functions such as public relations and employee communications are organized around and directly support each brand or group of brands. Brands get the most resources and use huge internal influence. Beginning in June 1999, P&G undertook a new organizational proposal that created a unit called “Global Business Services” providing a centralized staff support service across all of its Global Business Units (GBUs). Prior to this idea, each brand unit had it’s own communication staff functions with little company-wide centralization and control. While Nike uses another form of organization, its purpose and structure still highlight marketing its products and services. CEO- Phillip Knight is Nike’s marketing chief and until its recent reputational woes, exemplified its bold approach to the market (Thurow, 1997). Most of the marketing decisions are made by the heads of these business units without the kind of teamwork and central planning required by IMC. Staff communication functions like investor relations, public affairs and human resources have traditionally played support roles.
The concept of IMC is a good one but it only exists at lower level management and not the higher level management and reasons for it are very clearly stated in the passage above.
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