What is Integrated Marketing Communications?
What do Nike and Chic-fil-A have in common? At surface level, it may seem as though there isn’t much. Their products aren’t similar, and their audiences aren’t identical. Despite this, their marketing efforts are similar.
Nike’s controversial “Just Do It” campaign in 2018 wasn’t just a social campaign, although it was a hot topic of discussion on social media. This campaign included an out-of-home (OOH) ads such as its San Francisco billboard, paired alongside a television ad and social media campaign.
Chic-fil-A takes a different approach to marketing, often focusing on promotions and events. With their branded phone app came a rewards system and email campaigns focused on customer relationships with “just because” rewards sent on behalf of local brand managers. In addition to their digital communications, the brand has recently run a “The Little Things” TV spot campaign paired with related blog posts (yes, they have a blog).
These well-known companies and many others convey the same messages across different media. This means their point is not only made with their audience but builds a lasting impression through multiple exposures.
Integrated Marketing Communications Defined
Integrated Marketing Communications is a mouthful, but it isn’t nearly as confusing as it sounds. Many companies, large and small, are moving their marketing efforts in this direction. Digital media has become one of the most valuable and affordable tools in the Integrated Marketing toolbox.
According to Data & Marketing Association, integrated marketing is…
An approach to creating a unified and seamless experience for consumers to interact with the brand/enterprise; it attempts to meld all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, and social media, through their respective mix of tactics, methods, channels, media, and activities, so that all work together as a unified force. It is a process designed to ensure that all messaging and communications strategies are consistent across all channels and are centered on the customer.
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Steps to create an Integrated Marketing Communications strategy
If you are interested in making your marketing efforts more integrated, the following steps can help you make the shift. It can also be helpful to seek the help of a professional marketing agency.
1. Determine the purpose and goals of your integrated marketing plan
The first step toward effective integrated marketing is to know what the marketing campaign is meant to do. What is your mission? What exactly are you aiming to achieve through this campaign?
2. Who will your integrated marketing campaign reach?
Determining your target audience is one of the key steps in effective marketing. The marketing tools you use will be determined by a large extent on who you hope to reach. Here’s a way to determine that audience, from Forbes’ Ahmad Kareh: “Always ask yourself, ‘If I would be charged a dollar for every person who would watch my ad, who would I choose to show it to?’” For your current campaign goal, who is the most valuable viewer?
3. What makes your company stand out?
Setting yourself apart from the competition is essential. Whether this is by an explicit comparison (Mac vs PC, for example), or subtly highlighting your strengths. Consider your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats through a SWOT analysis; this is a great starting point that can provide you with answers and direction. Don’t forget to consider your competition. How does your company differ from its competitors? What sets you apart? These answers will help you craft your marketing message.
4. Coin a memorable marketing message
Your message is of the utmost importance, you can use as few as three to four words to build a powerful, memorable slogan or motto like Nike’s “Just Do It” or the Salvation Army’s “Doing the Most Good.” The best messages are clear and clever. They get the point across quickly and effectively.
5. An Integrated approach uses multiple marketing tools
Consider your audience when you determine how you will reach them. Remember that most valuable viewer you defined earlier? Where can you reach them? Determine the most likely and effective mediums for communication for this particular audience.
A combination of media is what truly makes this an integrated effort. Some will be low-cost or nearly no-cost, like blog posts or messages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Others will require an investment, such as direct mail, advertising billboards, paid social ads, banners or brochures. Your public relations team should also be involved, disseminating press releases and other announcements. Using multiple forms of marketing communications to express the same message allows you to reach your audience multiple times, which reinforces your message and solidifies your company’s relationship with new and existing customers.
6. Make sure your sales team is on board
Your sales staff is also critical in the success of an integrated marketing communications plan. Make sure your sales team knows key messages and relays them to new and existing customers. Keeping sales in the loop on promotions may seem like an obvious suggestion, but making them aware of additional communications is helpful as well. This aids them in their interactions with potential and current customers.
7. One message sent many ways is most effective
Ultimately, integrated marketing communications is a more effective way to get the word out about your organization and products/services or mission. By coming up with a central message that can be tweaked and used different ways depending on the marketing platform, an organization’s message is strengthened. Everyone, from sales to the CEO, is on the same page communicating a cohesive message and brand visibility is heightened.
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