Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is just one aspect of a holistic marketing plan; albeit it’s an important one because it seeks to tie together the communications efforts of a company into one seamless message that can be streamlined into a variety of different channels at once. A company without an integrated marketing communications plan cannot, by definition subscribe to a holistic marketing perspective because without integrated communications, the company has not acknowledged the fundamental shift in communications that has occurred between companies and their customers.
In a presentation given at the Reno Tahoe American Marketing Association luncheon this past July entitled “Social Media for Business,” University of Nevada, Reno management professor Dr. Bret Simmons discussed this phenomenon. He explained that we have moved from a paradigm of one-to-one interaction (picking up the phone and calling a customer service representative), to a one-to-many paradigm (companies advertising products or services via television, radio, and/or print to a mass audience), to a many-to-many discussion taking place simultaneously across a myriad of communication outlets between countless numbers of people (consumers tweeting about their bad customer service experiences, sharing stories on Facebook with their social networks, etc.). He writes:
Your customers and employees are embracing the ability to participate in many-to-many conversations via easily accessible tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp!, blogs, and now Google +. This is a paradigm shift in the way people communicate, and that means it’s a strategic opportunity for businesses willing to fundamentally rethink how they treat and communicate with their customers and employees.
Below is a short video clip from the luncheon:
One way for companies to address these changes in communication can be achieved through formulating a successful IMC plan that effectively reaches consumers. Every year, students who enroll in the IMC competition class at the University of Nevada, Reno create an IMC plan that they present at a regional competition. The student team has placed 1st regionally in six of the past 11 years. In 2011, Chelsea Hejny’s team earned 3rd place at the national competition for their IMC plan to Nintendo. When asked what she thinks constitutes a good IMC plan, she stated:
The strongest portion of your IMC plan should be the research done because that’s what supports every pitched tactic. The research is the both the meat and selling portion of your IMC plan … The reason we came in 3rd place rather than 1st was because we lacked actual design implementation. We had amazing IMC tactics and great advertising concepts, yet we didn’t pursue them.
In short, structuring a solid IMC plan as part of holistic marketing approach requires these three important steps:
- Help business leaders and decision makers recognize that business-to-consumer communication is dynamic and ever-changing. Don’t be afraid to let go of old tactics or experiment with new ones.
- Conduct a market analysis that includes researching competitors, opportunities, target markets, customers, and product positioning.
- Establish communication objectives and craft a strategy to carry out such messages based on research in an appealing and creative way.