Tip Sheet: Whatever Happened To Integrated Marketing Communications?

It's about connectivity." "It's about functions linking together." "It's about consumers." "It's about stakeholders." No wonder Integrated Marketing Communication isn't working: People can't agree on the definition. Given even a vague characterization, most businesspeople would agree with the concept of "integrated marketing communication" or "IMC" as a lasting business truth rather than a passing fad. What could be bad about integration? Unfortunately, in the first rush to IMC in the early 1990s, advocates showed more enthusiasm than commitment in seeking a thorough understanding of the underlying science. That, combined with fear and the territorial interests of those whose resources might be affected, served to push IMC to a warm, inconsequential spot on the back burner. IMC has a two-part definition: The premise is that all organizational communication - advertising, trade, employees, PR, etc. - should be "integrated" or aligned. The promise is that when communication is planned and deployed consistently across all channels and among target audiences, objectives are more likely to be achieved when compared to plans that are disjointed and discordant. The capstone is that all communication begins with the target audience in mind: using systematic, methodical research, the target audience will tell the communicator their preferences for the frequency, function and form of communication. The promise here is that the campaign will succeed because it is pre-tested for success and will be welcomed among and speak more directly to the target audience. As a result, effectiveness, efficiency and productivity improve. If no one argues with the rationale, why isn't Integrated Marketing Communication more widely practiced? Motivating IMC Behavior And Evaluating Integrated Marketing Programs The main obstacle to motivating IMC behavior is unwillingness (rather than the inability) to act unselfishly and for the benefit of the organization. Unfortunately, when integration is discussed, parochialism and territoriality emerge. As such, the biggest challenge facing Integrated Marketing Communication isn't incentives, disintermediation, connectivity or evaluation; the biggest obstacles are dispelling conventional wisdom and rousing the status quo. CEOs care more about meaningful business results than they do about how one constitutes IMC, PR or advertising. "Improving business performance" ought to be a sufficient motivation in its own right. But if you're looking for reasons, how about these: The relative return-on-investment of marketing and corporate communication can be quantified in general and at the program levels Integrated marketing programs deliver better results Public relations has the unique ability to elevate all forms of marketing...it is an integration activator. How? More and more of the world's leading companies and brands are quantifying the sales revenue generated by marketing using new forms of statistical analysis empowered by powerful technology known collectively as Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM). Marketing mix modeling incorporates enormous amounts of marketing and communication data (advertising expenditure, PR results, sales data, etc.) to uncover the extent to which each marketing agent impact sales, either positively or negatively. Evidence indicates two important facts for PR: PR works: In dozens of cases, PR delivers the best return on investment when compared to any other form of marketing - sometimes 800 times that of mass-market TV advertising. PR lifts all boats: When news coverage is positive, visible and frequent, all forms of marketing show improvement: The ads are more productive, the trade promotions are more efficient and the direct marketing is more effective. If yours is a company that invests in marketing mix modeling, the relative performance of each marketing agent - including PR - is being measured. With the performance evaluation in hand, those with responsibility over marketing investment decision-making can see not just what's working; they can also tweak the statistical analysis to experiment with allocation adjustments to see how performance might be affected through on-going marketing refinement and reallocation into the future. Preparing For The Next Step Until CEOs extend their expectations for accountability to the areas of marketing and communication, including public relations, integrated marketing will not take root and companies will suffer the consequences. Instead, let every marketing and communication professional reach out to their marketing peers to consider these questions before initiating their next big campaign: What are our organization's objectives? What are our department's objectives? What other programs are currently underway? What other departments will be affected? What marketing research do we have and what more do we need? Who are our target audiences? What are our key messages? What influences that audience? Which media do our target audience reach, watch or listen to? What are they preferences for marketing communication? The discussions alone will help to create a more integrated marketing communications environment. The outcomes from these conversations will lead to meaningful business results for now and into the future. CONTACT: Mark Weiner is Senior Vice President and Global Director of Research at Ketchum. He can be reached at mark.weiner@ketchum.com.

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