Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is an approach that incorporates all the marketing communication strategies and launches them at the desired target audience. This approach allows the maximum impact on the target audience as all the marketing mix is strategically employed for the marketing campaign.
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Although IMC has become a popular jargon among practitioners, its applicability is low among companies, even though, they technically are using IMC. This is because most companies end up utilizing one or two of the marketing mix and omitting the rest in launching their marketing strategy.
This paper is a case study of the IMC employed by Debenhams in the UK. The paper takes a portfolio approach in understanding the degree of adoption of IMC by the company. This paper will first provide a brief background of the company. Then the paper provides an understanding of the marketing strategy employed by the company through portfolio approach.
Debenhams is a leading retailer in the UK. Established in 1778 by William Clark it was listed on the London Stock Exchange on 2003 (Debenhams, 2011).
The company has 147 across the UK and Ireland and has an e-commerce section that operates a completely transactional website (Debenhams, 2011). The company operates in the mid-market retail segment of the country. The retailer sells a total of 21 brands in its stores. In 2010 the company enjoyed a turnover of £2119.90 million that has been constantly increasing through 2007 (Hemscott, 2011).
The company mainly sells apparel for men, women, and children, cosmetics, and house wares. 70 percent of the overall sales of the company are accounted by the in-house brands such as Debut, Maine New England, and Red Herring (Yahoo Finance, 2011). Apart from the third party brands, Debenhams sells label brands, Designers at Debenhams. The company has embarked on a multi-channel business that allows it to consolidate its in-store and online selling strategy.
The company manages its sales through three channels – company stores, franchising, and online stores. In order to expand its global presence, Debenhams entered into franchising with various international partners.
According to the annual report of 2010, the company’s newly adopted multi-channel strategy helped in increase of sales by 88.4% (Debenhams, 2010). Apart from this the company has undertaken an aggressive expansion plan through acquisition of departmental stores in Denmark and expansion of retail space. Further, the company has launched newly owned brands and extended the Designers portfolio.
From the annual report it is clear that Debenhams is less competitive in casual wear market, while it is a much larger market than formal wear. Therefore the company intends to expand in this market category. Further in shoe market, Debenhams lags behind in women’s shoes sale than competitors. Therefore, the company aims to exploit the opportunities available in this market.
Given this background of the company, the paper will now demonstrate the integrated marketing strategy of the company through portfolio approach.
Integrated Marketing Communication
Integrated marketing approach aims to unify all the communication strategies of marketing and handle them in a unified manner. Traditionally, these communication strategies operated separately, with no interconnection between each other. However, recent marketing trend has shown that with integration of the marketing strategies results in better performance.
Debenhams follows an integrated marketing strategy that takes into account all the different channels of marketing. This section will first provide a detailed understanding of the communication schemes undertaken by the company using portfolio approach and then provide a detailed understanding of the company’s multi-channel model.
For the portfolio analysis of the marketing communications of Debenhams, the marketing communication strategies that are considered are advertising, sales promotion, events, public relations, and direct marketing. Table 1 will provide the different campaigns that were undertaken by the company under these strategies.
Table 1: Integrated marketing Communication Portfolio
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|Campaign Portfolio||Advertising||Sales Promotion||Events||Public Relations||Personal Selling||Direct Marketing|
|TV advertisements||Retail stores||Special Events||Social media||Shopping experience to customers||E-mail marketing|
|Print advertisements||Online store||Competition||Reporting – Financial and Social Audit||Social media presence|
|Online advertisements||Loyalty Scheme||Pop-up stores||CSR activities|
|Mobile advertisement campaign||Seasonal Sales|
|Sponsorships||Online sales promotions|
In 2008 the company had spent £1.7 million on promotional activities (Debenhams, 2010). The company adopted a multi-channel marketing strategy that is described in the company Annual Report as the process of producing “clear and consistent messaging across our stores and all customer communications” (Debenhams, 2010). Following this strategy, the company has adopted various strategies to integrate all of their communication channels.
Figure 1: Multi-channel strategy (Debenhams, 2010)
The company has undertaken advertisement campaigns through all available media channels like television, print (i.e. newspaper and magazine), online, and mobile advertisements. The multi-channel strategy of Debenhams demonstrates in figure 1. The company aimed to integrate the sales and promotional activities in its stores, websites, kiosks, international franchise stores, mobile campaigns, and promotional videos.
In 2011, the company launched its latest Mother’s Day campaign on television (Debenhams, 2011). It also launched its campaign for targeting all possible customer groups of various shapes and sizes in an advertisement campaign that featured disabled, petite, tall, and black models (Debenhams, 2010).
Debenhams also launched a print campaign targeting older customers (Debenhams, 2010). In 2010, the company launched its new iPhone application to launch its first effort into mobile marketing as shown in figure 2 (Debenhams, 2010). Apart from this, the company undertakes e-mail marketing directly to the customers. The company has enhanced its presence in Facebook and Twitter in order to increase their online presence.
Figure 2: Mobile application (Debenhams, 2010)
Other advertisements are done through sponsorships of TV shows like Neighbours in Channel Five and Sex and the City 2 (Debenhams, 2011). Other than this Debenhams actively participates in fundraising functions and social issues campaigns like Breast Cancer Campaign. The company also sponsors fashion events.
Sales promotion is a vital aspect for retailers. On the spot promotions in retail shops increases sales largely. Debenhams have integrated the sales campaigns for the online stores and retail shops. This can be seen through the campaign pictures presented in figure 3. Other store events that are provide Apart from this, the company provide customer loyalty schemes in form of Plus Card.
Debenhams also started beginning of season sale that is unusual practice in retail as sale is usually given on end-of season or during festivities like Christmas. This start-of-season-sale campaign of the company was done through all media channels as like TV and print advertisements and online in the company website and Facebook.
Figure 3: Sales Campaign (Online campaign on left and in store sales campaign on right) (Debenhams, 2011)
The company undertakes various events to support its marketing campaign. Debenhams presently undertakes three events – Half the Price sale in all of its stores in the UK and online, Edition pop-Up Store, and Free Coffee with Foursquare (Debenhams, 2011). The first is a sales promoting event that allows customers purchase products at half the price. The company held this event on both its physical and online stores.
Pop-up stores are boutique like stores that are opened by the company as a promotional event to sell its designer brands. These are stand-alone stores with a small boutique feel and sell high fashion products at low prices.
Other events held by the company are competition for its customers. One such competition currently held by Debenhams is “April Review”. This competition asks customers to provide a review of any product. The company chooses a winner every day and gets a gift card of £25. In order to promotion Debenhams’s travel insurance, the company offered a prize of a trip to Berlin for those who bought travel insurance before 31st March (Debenhams, 2011).
Further, in another attempt to increase its customer information and database, the company asks customers to sign in for company newsletters and win a television set (Debenhams, 2011). Such events not only increases sales, but also increase customer engagement and customer database. Other events are staged on specific occasions like Christmas Spectacular Competition, Valentine’s Day Competition, or competition during Easter (Debenhams, 2011).
Debenhams has increased its presence in social media websites like Facebook and Twitter in order to maintain its public image through social websites. Further, the company has been providing financial disclosure and governance disclosure since 2003.
The company provides information and pledges to maintain an ethical supply chain, maintain environmental safety standards, and responsively act toward its workforce and community. The company also provides corporate social relations (CSR) report to demonstrate the social endeavours of the company. In order to maintain its public image Debenhams donates in fundraisers and participates in social awareness events (Debenhams, 2011).
In all retail companies personal selling is important as salespeople become a company customer interface. Therefore, it is important for Debenhams to maintain a personal selling standard. However, this personal selling is experience is becoming less important with increase in online sale. Recognizing this, Debenhams has launched Debenhams Direct that allows customers to purchase products online from select UK department stores (Debenhams, 2011). This definitely enhances customer experience and convenience.
The direct marketing strategy of the company is through its online marketing strategy like e-mail marketing and online store www.debehams.com. The customers get direct purchasing opportunity and comes across marketing promotions online and can buy products from department stores online using Debenhams Direct.
Further, the company’s email marketing allows it to directly reach to the customer. Further, the customer management program of the company gathers information regarding customers in a database allows direct marketing to the customer possible.
Debenhams has integrated its marketing channels through multi-channel marketing strategy employed by the company. This strategy has reaped financial success to the company (Debenhams, 2010). The online store of Debenhams gained sales by 88.4 percent in 2010 indicating the great success of the integrating program (Debenhams, 2010).
In 2010, Debenhams.com has become the company’s largest store and they have made an online presence (Debenhams, 2010). Without an integrated marketing strategy that could combine the online and in-store marketing communication and deliver it simultaneously, this would not have been possible. Therefore, the integrated marketing strategy has been employed by Debenhams and it has enhanced its performance.
Debenhams, 2010. Annual Report. Web.
Debenhams, 2011. Debenhams. Web.
Hemscott, 2011. Debenhams PLC (LSE:DEB). Web.
Yahoo Finance, 2011. Industry Centre – Department Stores. Web.