Role of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) in the Brand Building Process
The advent of 21st century has marked a sharp change in almost all fields of life, including business strategies. The old strategies, beliefs and tactics of marketing and selling a product are no longer valid in todayâ€™s world. New techniques and technologies have emerged on the surface of the business arena and have become eminent for effective marketing strategies. In the following paragraphs, we will be highlighting one of these strategies that is Integrated Marketing Communications which is currently in practice by all big multinationals and the role it is playing in enhancing business approach.
Duncan defined IMC as a process of making good relationship with customers and other stakeholders. This involves that all messages which are being sent to different groups should be controlled and should encourage data driven technique (Duncan 2002, p.8).
In another instance, Duncan quoted that relationships that build brands are based on IMC (Duncan, 2002). Thus from these two definitions, it can be concluded that IMC is that component of business planning and marketing that is responsible for the organization of data related to brands in such a way as to create a mutual relationship between customers and stakeholders.
The following figure illustrates the characteristics associated with IMC process:
(www.audiologyonline.com) The above figure shows that the process of IMC is circular and uninterrupted, and information in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database is used to interact with target markets. Marketing Communication (MC) components mentioned in the box can also be used by IMC.
Several advantages of IMC make it the choice of every industry. Customers have an ease in buying due to IMC, thus making a good image and reputation of the organization. It creates an everlasting bond between the customer and the organization. Moreover, this relationship on one end secures a customer and on the other proves to be fruitful in making profit since that customer will only trust that particular organization. Keller states that voice of a brand is represented by marketing communications (2001, p. 823).
Discussion on IMC would remain incomplete without talking about brand. The goal of all IMC processes relies on better understanding relationship between customer and organization to meet its target objectives which is quite common to brand building process. The strategies devised by IMC builds and create brands. Pam Danziger (2006) iterates that the costumers’ happiness should be the focus of one’s attention and be paid prime importance specially in the case when marketing messages are being developed and products are being designed.
Let us now examine a company that has been able to build and maintain a positive brand image by using a broad range of IMC tools. In this regard, we will discuss Canada’s largest tobacco manufacturer ‘Imperial Tobacco Limited’ (ITL). The company has used three key IMC processes vis-à-vis cross functional planning and monitoring, brand communication and data driven targeting and communication (1970). In the preceding paragraphs, we will see how these three processes of IMC have helped ITL build a successful brand.
One of the premier trademarks owned by ITL is Player’s. The organization’s structure revealed that there was no position of ‘brand managers’. However, later the offices of public relations, media relations and marketing departments were in place. In due course of time, ITL’s market share rose making new records as compared to its progress in the past 30 years. Premier trademark Player’s captured the market due to its strong brand strategy. The delivery of a consistent and effective message was the result of a clear understanding of the market being targeted. According to Ricard, ITL’s market share increased comprehensively during the mid 1970s period primarily due to the fact that the organization transformed itself from a brand management process to a brand planning process, thus focusing more on cross
functional approach and secondly, it adapted the techniques of positioning their products, thus creating s better image for their products (Ricard, 2002).
Implementation of Psychographics was another important step used in the marketing strategy of Player’s brand. It was revealed in the ITL’s documents that its management decided that all the advertisement of Player's brand would make use of lifestyle imageries for its marketing (1980a, p. 2). According to Mills, Bates & Spitzer, the key to the brand's positioning is related to a relevant lifestyle (1977, p. 12).
ITL’s trademark Player's marketing plans revealed that its marketing strategy since 1971 was to label its products as a masculine trademark for young males. They used lifestyle imageries to market their products in such a way so as to convey a feeling of freedom and independence highlighting the individuality which is specific to mature young males (ITL 1983, p. 39472).
Thus, the company made full use of the components comprising of cross functional planning and monitoring, brand communication and data driven targeting and communication as illustrated above. These three aspects were crucial in company’s success and increase in market share.
To conclude, all aspects of Marketing Communications are used by IMC’s strategic marketing model for building a strong brand through reliable and interactive communication between organizations and their target markets. As the relationships advance between organizations and their customers, brand building activity continues by creating databases that continuously monitor and respond to market needs. This in turn helps organizations in
maximizing their profits. The same is evident from the case study of ITLâ€™s trademark Playerâ€™s which captured the market through its interactive marketing strategies.
Audiology Online. [Internet]. Available from <www.audiologyonline.com> Accessed March 16, 2010 Danziger, Pam (2006). [Internet]. Available from <www.unitymarketingonline.com> [Accessed March 16, 2010] Duncan, Tom (2002), IMC: Using Advertising and Promotion to Build Brands, New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin. Imperial Tobacco Ltd. (ITL) (1980a), "Alan--Creative Guidelines F'82," Exhibit AG-29, RJR-Macdonald Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General) Imperial Tobacco Ltd. (ITL) (1983), "F'85 Marketing Plan for Player's," Exhibit AG-219, RJR-Macdonald Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General). Keller, Kevin Lane (1993), "Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Managing Customer-Based Brand Equity," Journal of Marketing, 57 (January), 1-22. Ricard, Ed (January 23/24, 2002), "Interrogatory in the Quebec Superior Court," JTIMacdonald Corp., Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. v. The Attorney General of Canada (500-05-031299-975, 500-05031306-974, 500-05-031332978), 7/8, 1278-1485, 1495-1713. Spitzer, Mills & Bates Ltd. (March 25, 1977), "The Player's Family: A Working Paper," prepared for Imperial Tobacco Ltd., Exhibit AG-33, RJR-Macdonald Inc: v. Canada (Attorney General).