The review of IMC’s basic concepts in previous blog (http://armaniads.com/understanding-integrated-marketing-communications-imc/ ) identifies a set of basic principles. We’ll show how these principles are applied to IMC campaign planning and program management in the sections that follow. So to summarize, here are 14 principles that guide IMC:
- Interactive communication is the glue that joins brands and their stakeholders in respectful long-term relationships.
- Brand relationships drive brand value.
- Stakeholders overlap; so do their messages.
- Receiving messages is as important as sending them.
- Every part of the marketing mix sends a message.
- Integrating the MARCOM tools is futile if contrary and more powerful messages are sent by other brand actions.
- Everything a brand does (and sometimes what it doesn’t do) can send a message. You can’t not communicate.
- IMC planning is designed to maximize and leverage the good contact points and minimize the bad ones.
- Touch points are contact points that touch our emotions.
- Synergy happens when all the messages work together to create a coherent brand perception.
- Strategic consistency drives synergy.
- A brand is a unified vision (the art) and a complex system of message delivery and exchange (the science).
- You can’t be integrated externally if you are not integrated internally.
- Integration leads to brand integrity.
The IMC Planning Process
In developing an integrated marketing communications strategy, a company combines the various promotional-mix elements, balancing the strengths and weaknesses of each to produce an effective communications program. Integrated marketing communications management involves the process of planning, executing, evaluating, and controlling the use of the various promotional-mix elements to effectively communicate with target audiences. Planning plays an important role in the development and implementation of an effective integrated marketing communications program. This process is guided by an integrated marketing communications plan that provides the framework for developing, implementing, and controlling the organization’s IMC program. The process of an IMC planning encompasses six steps as mentioned below:
- Review of the Marketing Plan
- Promotional Program Situation Analysis
- Analysis of the Communication Process
- Budget Determination
- Developing the Integrated Marketing Communications Program
- Monitoring, Evaluation, and Control
1. Review of the Marketing Plan
Before developing a promotional plan, marketers must understand where the company (or the brand) has been, its current position in the market, where it intends to go, and how it plans to get there. Most of this information should be contained in the marketing plan, a written document that describes the overall marketing strategy and programs developed for an organization, a particular product line, or a brand.
For most firms, the promotional plan is an integral part of the marketing strategy. Thus, the promotional planners must know the roles advertising and other promotional-mix elements will play in the overall marketing program. The promotional plan is developed similarly to the marketing plan and often uses its detailed information.
2. Promotional Program Situation Analysis
After the overall marketing plan is reviewed, the next step in developing a promotional plan is to conduct the situation analysis. The situation analysis focuses on the factors that influence or are relevant to the development of a promotional strategy and includes both an internal and an external analysis.
- Internal Analysis The internal analysis assesses relevant areas involving the product/service offering and the firm itself. The capabilities of the firm and its ability to develop and implement a successful promotional program, the organization of the promotional department, and the successes and failures of past programs should be reviewed. The analysis should study the relative advantages and disadvantages of performing the promotional functions in-house as opposed to hiring an external agency (or agencies).
If a firm is not capable of planning and managing its advertising and promotional programs, it would be wise to look for assistance from an advertising agency or some other promotional facilitator. If the organization is already using an advertising agency, the focus will be on the quality of the agency’s work and the results achieved by past and/or current campaigns.
Other aspects of the internal analysis are assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the firm or the brand from an image perspective and also assessing the relative strengths and weaknesses of the product or service; its advantages and disadvantages; any unique selling points or benefits it may have; its packaging, price, and design; and so on. This information is particularly important to the creative personnel who must develop the advertising message for the brand.
- External Analysis The external analysis focuses on factors such as characteristics of the firm’s customers, market segments, positioning strategies, and competitors. An important part of the external analysis is a detailed consideration of customers’ characteristics and buying patterns, their decision processes, and factors influencing their purchase decisions. Attention must also be given to consumers’ perceptions and attitudes, lifestyles, and criteria for making purchase decisions.
A key element of the external analysis is an assessment of the market. The attractiveness of various market segments must be evaluated and the segments to target must be identified. Once the target markets are chosen, the emphasis will be on determining how the product should be positioned.
3. Analysis of the Communication Process
This stage of the promotional planning process examines how the company can effectively communicate with consumers in its target markets. The promotional planner must think about the process consumers will go through in responding to marketing communications. The response process for products or services for which consumer decision making is characterized by a high level of interest is often different from that for low-involvement or routine purchase decisions. These differences will influence the promotional strategy.
Communication decisions regarding the use of various source, message, and channel factors must also be considered. The promotional planner should recognize the different effects various types of advertising messages might have on consumers and whether they are appropriate for the product or brand. Issues such as whether a celebrity spokesperson should be used and at what cost may also be studied. Preliminary discussion of media-mix options (print, TV, radio, newspaper, direct marketing, Internet) and their cost implications might also occur at this stage.
Communication objectives refer to what the firm seeks to accomplish with its promotional program. They are often stated in terms of the nature of the message to be communicated or what specific communication effects are to be achieved. Communication objectives may include creating awareness or knowledge about a product and its attributes or benefits; creating an image; or developing favorable attitudes, preferences, or purchase intentions. Communication objectives should be the guiding force for development of the overall marketing communications strategy and of objectives for each promotional-mix area.
4. Budget Determination
In reality, promotional budgets are often determined using a more simplistic approach, such as how much money is available or a percentage of a company’s or brand’s sales revenue. At this stage, the budget is often tentative. It may not be finalized until specific promotional-mix strategies are developed. Determining the budget could be done in five manners such as Historical Method, Objective-Task Method, Percentage-of-Sales Method, Competitive Budgets, or All You Can Afford.
Here is where a media agency regularly gets involved. Many media agencies like Armani Media Agency create a strategic media plan helping their clients to better manage and allocate their media budget in an IMC campaign and also to better get their target audiences. One tool that we use it in Armani Media Agency to get this job done is BDI and CDI matrix which respectively stands for Brand Development Index and Category Development Index.
To create this matrix, Armani clients will tell us about their revenue in different cities and locations and then by some market research we reach data such as client’s market share. Having these data in hand, Armani Media Agency could help clients to optimize their ads budget and expose their prospects in locations which are the best for that product. We will discuss about planning the media in next blog.
5. Developing the Integrated Marketing Communications Program
Developing the IMC program is generally the most involved and detailed step of the promotional planning process. As discussed earlier, each promotional-mix element has certain advantages and limitations. At this stage of the planning process, decisions have to be made regarding the role and importance of each element and their coordination with one another.
Two important aspects of the advertising program are development of the message and the media strategy. Message development, often referred to as creative strategy, involves determining the basic appeal and message the advertiser wishes to convey to the target audience. This process, along with the ads that result, is to many students the most fascinating aspect of promotion. Media strategy involves determining which communication channels will be used to deliver the advertising message to the target audience. Decisions must be made regarding which types of media will be used (e.g., newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, outdoor, digital) as well as specific media selections (e.g., a particular magazine or TV program). This task requires careful evaluation of the media options’ advantages and limitations, costs, and ability to deliver the message effectively to the target market.
Once the message and media strategies have been determined, steps must be taken to implement them. Most large companies hire advertising agencies to plan and produce their messages and to evaluate and purchase the media that will carry their advertisements. However, most agencies work very closely with their clients as they develop the advertisements and select media, because it is the advertiser that ultimately approves (and pays for) the creative work and media plan.
A similar process takes place for the other elements of the IMC program as objectives are set, an overall strategy is developed, message and media strategies are determined, and steps are taken to implement them. While the marketer’s advertising agencies may be used to perform some of the other IMC functions, they may also hire other communication specialists such as direct-marketing and interactive and/or sales promotion agencies, as well as public relations firms.
6. Monitoring, Evaluation, and Control
Advertising and other marketing communication agencies are creating tools and techniques to help marketers evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of their marketing communication expenditures. The IMC planner wants to know not only how well the promotional program is doing but also why. For example, problems with the advertising program may lie in the nature of the message or in a media plan that does not reach the target market effectively. The manager must know the reasons for the results in order to take the right steps to correct the program. Here you can see the abstract of an IMC planning process as shown in Figure 1.
Until now we discussed about IMC and its implementation, as you see above, as an advertising agency, one of the jobs that you might have to do is to planning the media which are suitable for execution of a firm’s IMC campaign. So as you might guess, we’ll discuss about media planning in next blogs.
Belch, G. E., & Belch, M. A. (2015). An Introduction to Integrated Marketing Communications. In G. E. Belch, & M. A. Belch, Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communication Perspective (pp. 3-40). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
Moriarty, S., Mitchell, N., & Wells, W. (2015). Brand Communication. In S. Moriarty, N. Mitchell, & W. Wells, Advertising and IMC Principles and Practices (10th ed., pp. 558-588). London, UK: Pearson Education.