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Integrated Marketing Communication: Benefits and Limits Essay

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Updated: Jul 15th, 2020

The promotion of an organisation’s brand is important to the organisation’s success. Any communication that will affect the brand must therefore be carefully planned. Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is a tool that emerged toward the end of the 1990s. As the name suggests, IMC integrates all tools or channels that an organisation uses to promote its brand. According to Wehling (1996, p. 22), IMC refers to the strategic co-ordination of not only the messages that an organisation sends to the public, but also the media that the organisation uses to build its brand image.

Advertising as a promotional tool also seeks to create a good brand image for an organisation. Consequently, advertisers should have a good knowledge of the concept of IMC to effectively enhance the consistency and cohesiveness of released information that may affect the image of an organisation either directly or indirectly. This paper presents a critical analysis of the concept of IMC.

The benefits of IMC to an organisation

IMC enhances development of strong relationships between different departments of an organisation and customers. If effectively done, the customer will be able to ascertain information about purchasing an item. For instance, a customer will receive information about the various steps involved in purchasing a product or accessing a service, both essential to making informed decisions. The interaction between the parties in the purchasing process enables the organisation to nurture its relationship with customers and at the same time boost loyalty to its products and/or services.

IMC enables an organisation to send a clear message to its target market. It is usual that prior to implementation of IMC, the different promotional tools of an organisation framed messages in a manner deemed to be effective and appropriate for each individual tool used. The ultimate result of this approach was usually that customers received different versions of information for a specific product or service. Thus, the potential for confusion existed, as it would be difficult for a customer to decipher which version to believe.

In contrast, IMC provides a well-structured message as it ties together all of the promotional tools being used, thereby eliminating ‘promotional noise’ that may exist when messages are simultaneously sent out using different promotional tools. This strategy enables an organisation to remain competitive in the market and maximise its profitability.

Another benefit of IMC is that it enables an organisation to engage all communication tools available to create greater awareness of its products or services. Research has shown that use of images in advertisements and direct mail are instrumental in enhancing advertisement awareness (Wightman1999, p.20). When implementing IMC, an organisation can utilise a variety of communication tools to create more avenues for increasing market awareness of a product. A combination of several tools plays a fundamental role in persuading potential customers to purchase a product. Consequently, the result will be an increase in sales, which is the major objective for all advertising efforts.

The skilful co-ordination of messages facilitated by IMC helps increase the target market’s knowledge of the product. Timely reminders and continuous updates of product’s features changes help increase business-customer relations (Reich 1998, p. 27). It enables customers to make informed choices when selecting a product that best suits their needs. This has an impact on the customer’s perception of the company with respect to transparency and credibility.

IMC considerably reduces the cost of operations within an organisation. It prevents duplication of information dissemination through different promotional tools. Additionally, it reduces the number of marketing agencies that an organisation must rely on for building an attractive brand image. IMC also saves an organisation time, eliminating the need to hold numerous meetings with several agencies to provide updates about company operations (Rose 1996, p. 128). Ultimately, IMC reduces the workload of all major participants concerned with the promotional matters of an organisation.

Factors that limit the adoption of IMC

Most organisations will set goals before engaging customers. Once all internal aspects of the company are determined, an organisation will then seek customers to achieve its goals. Most IMCs require that the starting point in any organisation should be the customer (inside-out communications). Feedback from customers may be missing and this type of planning may therefore not yield the expected results since customer demands are bound to change in ways that may not favour a company (Gorning 2008, p. 46). For instance, a decrease in customer demand can lead to a decrease in sales since production in organizations that practice IMC is based on the number of potential customers that had shown interest in the product prior to its production.

Another shortcoming of IMC is that planning is for the short term. It seeks to influence behaviour of customers in the short term. In addition, its focus is the acquisition of new customers. Given these aspects, an organisation may lose some loyal customers since much attention is directed at new customers. For this same reason, IMC also weakens an organisation’s ability to establish a loyal customer base.

The implementation of IMC in any organisation is costly. The organisation must establish a database for its customers and ensure that it is run smoothly. This may require the adoption of new technology and knowledgeable personnel to run the database. For organisations that have used diversified promotional tools, incurring such expenses to meet the same need may be a burden they may not want to incur.

Adoption of IMC in an organisation may cause conflict between different departments. Departments may be reluctant to let go of their internal and external status. Research shows that organisational departments are reluctant to share their accountabilities – an aspect that may cause inter-departmental conflict (Lars, Firat & Torp 2008, p. 430). Such conflict lowers productivity and efficiency of departments and in turn affects the degree of customer satisfaction. This also lowers the efficiency of an organisation to meet all promotional needs in its efforts to build a good brand image.

IMC does not take into account the hierarchical structure of most organisations as it cuts across all departments. Organisations may need to restructure to accommodate the demands of implementing the IMC the system, a costly endeavour in terms of time and money. Conversely, organisations that already have a hierarchical structure may not enjoy the benefits of IMC (Gorning 2008, p. 47) simply because communicators have not yet devised a universal IMC model that accommodates the promotional concerns of organisations with different structures. This limits the ability of advertisers to embrace the IMC concept.

As with any promotional tool, IMC seeks to increase consumer awareness of an organisation’s products and services. Consequently, many organisations fear that by adopting the concept, they may not realise the promotional benefits enjoyed from their marketing communications built up over past years (Wightman 1999, p. 19). Such fears can be attributed to the inability of the proponents of IMC to prove the efficiency of the concept, in contrast to the marketing communications the organisation has tailored over the years in their effort to deliver cohesive and consistent messages.

Conclusion

Technological advancements have led to the development of many promotional tools for organisations. An IMC strategy enables an organisation to deliver clear messages to potential customers and simultaneously boosts the efficiency of creating product and service awareness. The use of a common mode of promotion reduces costs of operation to the organisation whilst enabling the establishment of new customer relationships. However, this strategy has been unsuccessful for several reasons, the key reason being the lack of a universal IMC model. In addition, IMC can be a possible source of conflict within an organisation, weakening an organisation’s ability to maintain long-term relationships as it focuses on the short-term benefits of acquiring new customers.

REFERENCES

Gorning, MP 2008, ‘Putting Integrated Marketing Communications to Work Today’, Public Relations Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 45-48.

Lars, TC, Firat, AF &Torp, S 2008, ‘The Organization of Integrated Communication: Towards Flexible Integration’, European Journal of Marketing, vol. 42, no.4, pp. 423-452.

Reich, K 1998, ‘IMC: Through the Looking Glass of the New Millennium’,Communication World,vol. 15, no. 9, pp. 125-139.

Rose, PB 1996, ‘Practitioner Opinions and Interests Regarding Integrated Marketing Communications in Selected Latin American Countries’, Journal of Marketing Communications, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 125-139.

Wehling, RL 1996, ‘The Future of Marketing: What Every Marketer should Know about being Online’, Executive Speeches, vol. 10, no. 6, pp. 20-26.

Wightman, B 1999, ‘Integrated Communications: Organization and Education’, Public Relations Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 18-22.

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