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Integrated Marketing Communications

Abstract

In less than 20 years, IMC has spread all over the world and has become the most accepted business practice. IMC has transformed how communication marketing takes place. The complexities of application of IMC lie in the inability to evaluate the programs effectively.

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Kitchen, Kim and Schultz (2008) argue that this problem will negatively impact on the application and further development of IMC.

Several theories have been suggested in an effort of developing an integrated approach to measuring IMC. Some of these theories include measurement of absolute IMC effect, regression models, and IMC measurement over time. Analysis of these arguments, it is evident that none of them provide an effective way of measuring UMC due to the complexities that result from the interactions between different IMC tools.

As much as this argument is founded based on the complexities that arise when trying to develop an effective way of evaluating IMC, it is still one of the most current topics that are under scrutiny providing enough data that prove its effectiveness. More so, the measurement of the tools of IMC independently provides data that can be used in the evaluation of IMC. Therefore, this paper concludes that the various measures of the IMC tools is substantive enough to provide a measure and hence determine the effectiveness of IMC

1.0 Introduction

The surfacing of IMC is the most important illustration of development that has been realized in the marketing discipline (Kitchen, Kim & Schultz, 2008). The increased openness in the world economy has fostered increased competition, which has directly affected the thinking and decision making within many organizations. The idea of integrated marketing was developed around twenty years ago when professionals and academicians were developing an approach that is realistic enough to avail a competitive strategic position within an organization. The onset of 1990s witnessed the advancement of IMC as a hot topic in analysing marketing strategy of many organizations (Belch & Belch, 2004). As much as IMC has advanced as a marketing strategy, Kitchen, Kim and Schultz (2008) argue that, the effectiveness and hence further development of IMC is undermined by the lack of evidence on evaluation or measurement of the IMC. This paper will critically analyse this argument to ascertain the credibility of the conclusion that was derived from the above authors’ study.

2.0 Integrated Marketing Communication as a Theory

As earlier mentioned the concept of IMC is still new, and most of the theories that explain its application are still under development and scrutiny. When the concept of IMC was first introduced, marketing and advertising theorists were in favour of the concept, believing that it offered advantages for both fields. On the other hand, educators in public relations were out rightly opposed to the concept (Reid, 2005). A good number of scholars in the public relations field argued that not only was IMC a form of imperialism in marketing, but also an encroachment (Belch & Belch, 2004). This notion was developed since IMC perceived advertisement as part of marketing utility while public relations as a management function. This argument continued and resulted in several research studies being conducted in the analysis of IMC. Measurement of IMC has been quite challenging with some authors agreeing with the statement that there are no credible measurement techniques for IMC, while others suggesting that it is quite possible to measure IMC effectively.

The lack of effective and acceptable measurement of IMC programs is a major area of criticism. Several authors have argued that most measurements that are applied in the measurement of IMC programs are based on indirect measurements through measurement of the output of the programs rather than measuring the outcomes of communication activities in marketing, which provides a better understanding of the effects of measurement. Schultz and Kitchen (2000) argued that it is impossible to measure many marketing activities directly. More so, it is even more complex to ascertain the value and impacts of communication effects. Therefore, measurability as a problem affects both all marketing communication activities and IMC programs. To fully integrate this concept of un-measurability of IMC, this paper analyses the available theories that provide measures for measuring IMC.

2.1 Measuring absolute IMC Effect

This is one of the main theories that try to support the argument that IMC is measurable. However, the nature of the marketing environment limits the measurability of IMC. This is because of the openness of the marketing environment to competing effects and a variety of stimuli from around the globe. Therefore, measuring the true effect of IMC is only achievable in a closed environment such as a laboratory. This involves participants in an experiment that has a controlled group of participants to be able to measure the effects of different IMC programs.

2.2 Regression Models in measuring IMC

This is also a major postulate that tries to provide an applicable measure for IMC. This is the most frequently approach used in the measurement of IMC. Lee and Park (2007) are credited for developing a multidimensional tool for measuring IMC. This tool was designed based on regression analysis for validating the scale. On the other hand, Reid (2005) analysed the link between brand outcomes and IMC process. The application of multiple regression analysis enabled the researcher to analyse the effects of marketing variables effectively that are affected by the level of IMC consistency within an organization. However, the problem of the application of regression analysis applied to IMC limits the measurements to a specific channel of marketing communication. IMC involves integration of diverse ways of marketing communication, which limits the practicability of regression analysis as a means of measurement. This is so since multicollinearity is inevitable in IMC while unsupported by regression analysis.

For instance, if a regression analysis measure of sales and brand value of a product such as BMW cars in the UK is developed, the risk of multicollinearity is inevitable due to the diverse communication channels applied in IMC (Reid, 2005). Therefore, it is impractical to develop a regression measure of IMC for BMW cars in this country due to the availability of various types of IMC tools through which the customer can be reached such as direct marketing, personal selling, event sponsorship, media advertising, sales promotions, and the internet limiting the application of this tool since it is hard to tell how each of these factors affect the customers behaviour in an integrated form (BMW Group in the UK, 2013).

2.3 Measurement of IMC over Time

The interlinks in the marketing communication results in a circular process. It is obvious that behaviour influences attitudes and vice versa. For instance, a consumer’s positive familiarity with a brand may force the customer to change the attitude and previous networks or strengthen the positive network that was in existence. Therefore, IMC is based on a long-term synchronization of promotions and messages (Katrandjiev, 2000). IMC is distinguished from the other marketing activities in that it influences the behaviour of the target groups. This happens since IMC is planned, created, implemented and assessed through analysis of consumer behaviour in terms of current and future prospects of purchasing a product or a service. The application of a longitudinal study provides an effective measure for IMC. Since a time factor is a necessity in measuring IMC, accommodation of time as a factor has high chances of providing acceptable and practical results. To develop a measure of effectiveness of IMC a comparison between it and the traditional marketing communication (TMC) is necessary. Practicability of this measure in the business world is complex since it is complex to apply both TMC and IMC in order to develop the effectiveness of IMC in a specific organization.

Several theories have been developed in the recent past in an attempt to develop the concept of IMC (Duncan, 2002; Schultz, Tannenbaum and Lauterborn, 1993, p.16). However, most of the developmental theories are founded on explanations involving advantages, definitions and acceptance. The main problem facing IMC is the measure of its effectiveness.

Several approaches to providing metrics that can be used for measuring IMC have been developed. Many of the theories of measurement of IMC are developed based on the work conducted by Schultz and his colleagues. They conducted a study in 1993, which concluded that the IMC’s main objective is to create communication platforms that support the current purchasing capabilities of all customers or even change future behavioural prospects. Shultz et al concluded that the process of measuring IMC should involve measurement of all behavioural aspects of the customer that is in proximity to the actual acquisition behaviour as possible, and the process of measurement should be developed as part of the planning process. However, the authors did not succeed to measure IMC effectively due to the approach they adopted that measurement focused on output as earlier discussed.

Kitchen and Schultz (1999) and Shultz et al (1993) advocated for the use of outside-in planning advance as a way of dealing with the challenges of measuring IMC. This process is designed to be initiated at the customers tracking backward based on the decision to purchase, so as to determine the point where the customer made the decision to purchase the product or service. This approach requires an utmost attention on the customer and the various opportunities where purchase message is delivered to them during the process. Analysis of the impacts of different messages at different points provides an effective way of measuring the impact and hence IMC. Some of the IMC tools through which the customer can be reached are the internet, sales promotions, media advertising, event sponsorship, personal selling, and direct marketing. Since IMC deals with integration, the tools should be monitored so as to determine the impact of the integrated system on consumer behaviour.

Developing a tool to measure the integration is quite complex. For instance, it is impossible to measure the absolute IMC effect of coca cola products in the UK due to various competing effects such as price, brands, a variety of promotional strategies, huge number of advertising, as well as the effects of communication which it intertwined between the consumers and the suppliers (Coca Cola, 2013). These results to a very complicated marketing effect that is integrated with cases such as sales promotions affecting brand as well as sales and vice versa. Developing a measure that can integrate these factors is very complex and can only be achieved if conducted individually limiting on determining the effect of integration.

3.0 IMC is Measurable

From the analysis above it is obvious that direct measurement of IMC is quite challenging, but there are various ways in which other elements of IMC can be measured and the resultant normalization of the measure be used as a general measure of IMC. Therefore, measurement of IMC is not as ineffective as the argument presented to validate it from derailed development. To fully comprehend this argument, consideration of the effects of various tools of IMC interact and the impacts. This will provide an insight into how various IMC tools can be used in the measurement of the impact and effectiveness of IMC. Therefore, this can be used to plan, execute, and evaluate any IMC program.

3.1 Effects of Advertising

Most theories around advertising as IMC tools revolve around how customers perceive advertising messages. The focus of advertising effect is based on measuring the immediate response to the message as a cognitive reaction form of persuasion (Wright, 1980) and significance accessibility model (Baker and Lutz, 2000). Of most significance is the analysis of the effect of advertising over a prolonged period of time. The analysis of the effects of advertising is illustrated in the response hierarchy model (Vaughn, 1980). Therefore, by application of these models, advertising as an IMC tool can be measured effectively and applied in the interpretation of the effect of IMC programs in an organization.

3.2 Sales Promotion Effects

In application, promotion of sales accounts for an equal or sometimes even larger budget as advertisements and yet very little has been done regarding measuring the impact of direct sales promotions as an IMC tool (Belch and Belch, 2004). The current marketing field has witnessed increased dependence on direct sales promotions as a marketing tool. This has resulted in increased demand for development of effective tools for quantifying and hence measuring the IMC tool (Neslin, 2002). Sales promotion’s impact is measured by analysing the impact on sales. Most marketers perceive direct sales promotion as a catalyst that increases sales. This limits many marketers to the analysis of the short-term impact of sales promotions on sales. However, sales promotions can also be used in the development of the brand image by influencing consumers’ purchase intentions, attitudes, image, and beliefs. For instance, the difference between brand-building or franchise sales promotions and non-franchise sales promotions can well be analysed by developing a measure for sales promotion (Spethman, 1998). This develops an effective tool for measuring how customers maximize on their efficiency and utility in economizing their purchases.

3.3 Interactive communication effects

This is the fastest growing tool of IMC. The interactive media allow for a two-way traffic communication mechanism. This allows consumers to participate in the product or service development. Through interactive media, consumers become active participants in the marketing process. An integrative processing model developed by Rodgers and Thorson (2000) analyses how consumers perceive online advertisement processes. This tool provides data that can be used in quantifying the measure of online advertisement, which can in turn be used as a tool for measuring IMC programs even in an integrated model. For instance, the time consumers spend online can be used in the assessment of the level of consumer interests and participation in online advertisements. The application of traditional advertisement measurement tools can enhance the process of measuring the online advertisements. This approach limits but does not completely hinder the measurement of the impact of interactive media to the consumer behaviour.

3.4 Synergistic Effects

To comprehend the measure of IMC fully, consideration of the effects of multiple marketing tools is essential. This is because most consumers interact with more than one marketing tool before reaching the final decision. According to Naik and Raman (2003), IMC approach is distinguished from the conventional one because IMC analyses the impact of each marketing medium on other mediums. This results to the combined effect of various marketing tools. The development of a measure of Synergistic effects of the marketing tools provides an effective avenue for developing an acceptable measure for IMC programs and their impacts.

To highlight on the success of measuring IMC by developing measures for the different IMC tool, this paper will analyse its application at Red Robin, a leading Burger producer in the USA. The success of this company is as a result of application integrated marketing communication in reaching out to its customers. The company applies both online and offline marketing tools this has made it reach most of its consumers as well as attract new customers due to the effectiveness of the IMC tool applied. According to the company’s chief marketing officer, the success of the IMC is entrenched in the application of measurable tools such as advertising, sales promotion, and interactive communication (Red Robin, 2013). With the application of consumer driven marketing strategies, the company has successfully managed to be competitive.

4.0 Conclusion

The future of planning and execution of marketing is fully dependent on the IMC approach. The current rate at which IMC is being analysed has proved to be substantive enough to overcome the threat of reduced application of IMC due to its complexities in terms of evaluation. This paper has analysed the most applicable measures for measuring IMC identifying the possible impracticality of the measures. The conclusion is that there is no one single measure that can provide effective IMC effectiveness evaluation. However, its effectiveness can be measured by analysing IMC tools and effects of application of IMC programs as a result of specific tools. The argument presented by Kitchen, Kim and Schultz over the possibility of the hindrances of development of IMC due to lack of measures for evaluating it, is disputable. It is possible to measure the impact of IMC by observing specific tools and quantifying the results by integrating and hence develop a Synergistic effect measure of IMC tools. The continued study and experimentation of IMC will enable it to continue to develop as it poses a positive future as an effective marketing communication tools.

The theories have provided information on how the IMC concept has quickly undergone a transformation and acceptability due to the success witnessed in organizations where IMC is applied as a marketing communication tool.

References

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Wright, P. 1980. Message Evoked Thoughts, Persuasion Research Using Thought Verbalizations. Journal of Consumer Research, 7, 151-75.

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