The Integrated Marketing Communication seeks to have all promotional and marketing activities of an organization together, project a unified and consistent image of the organization to the target market. It has a centralized messaging function which focuses on a common goal and positioning.

‘IMC recognises the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of – Advertising, Direct Response, Sales Promotion and Public Relations – and combine those principles to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communications impact’ – American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Don Schultze of North Western University of USA has defined IMC as – “a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated, measurable, persuasive brand communications programs overtime with consumers, customers, prospects, employees, associates and other targeted relevant external and internal audiences.”

The goal is to generate both short term financial returns and build long term brand and shareholder value.


Learn about:-

1. Introduction and Meaning of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) 2. Definition of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) 3. Features 4. Components 5. Role 6. Importance 7. Factors Affecting the Growth

8. Tools 9. Implementation 10. Advantages 11. Limitations 12. Suggestions 13. Future 14. Golden Rules.

What is Integrated Marketing Communication: Meaning, Definition, Features, Importance, Tools, Implementation and Other Details

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Introduction and Meaning

In the past three decades, the perspective towards marketing communication changed from it being specific variable oriented to being more integrated where all promotional tools are given strategic importance at the same time.


This was the beginning of the phase where marketing communications planning which recognized the added value of a comprehensive promotional plan with all ingredients of promotion was accepted as a norm of effective communication with the customers. A combination of general advertising, direct selling, sales promotion and public relations was being recommended to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact.

The Integrated Marketing Communication seeks to have all promotional and marketing activities of an organization together, project a unified and consistent image of the organization to the target market. It has a centralized messaging function which focuses on a common goal and positioning.

It enhances the image of the organization as it sends all customers a consistent message about the company and its brands. The companies, who adopt this integrated marketing program over the traditional method of promotion where all elements of promotion are treated separately, are more effective in communicating all about themselves and their brands in the market place.

The fourth P of Marketing is Promotion, as termed by McCarthy. Promotion is the coordination of all the efforts, the company undertakes to aware and persuade the consumers to buy goods and services. Robert Lauterborn calls promotion as communication from the perspective of the consumer. Now it is widely known as Integrated Marketing Communications.


Earlier it was known only as marketing communications, as the media vehicles were few and doing promotion was simpler before 1980s. Now it has become more complex. Today, a company needs to integrate all the marketing communications activities to get the maximum reach to the target audience with minimum resources.

Earlier advertising was restricted to mass media vehicles like newspapers, magazines and television. Now there are so many options to choose from like Websites, Posters, Leaflets, Point of purchase Materials, Hoardings, Video Films, Directories, Sales Meeting, Fairs and Trade Shows, Online Shopping, Telemarketing, Catalogue Marketing, Contests, Events, Demonstrations, Seminars etc. besides Print Advertisement in newspaper and magazines and TV Commercials (TVC).

A marketer becomes confused to choose the right media vehicle among the plethora of choices available to promote a product. Here IMC can come to the rescue to formulate right kind of strategy for the company.

‘IMC recognises the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of – Advertising, Direct Response, Sales Promotion and Public Relations – and combine those principles to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communications impact’ – American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Don Schultz, referred as the ‘father of integrated marketing communications’, is of the view that IMC deals with all the Sources of brand and company contact that a customer or prospect has with a product or service. It takes ‘Big Picture’ approach to planning marketing and promotion programmes and coordinating the various communication functions. It requires that a company develop a total marketing communication strategy that recognizes how all of a firm’s marketing activities, not just promotion, communicate with its customers.

IMC builds the most effective platform to promote a product or service through its integrated usage of communication tools for selling soap or selling services to a job seeker. In both the cases, the promotional requirements are different. The promotional requirements of HUL are different from Naukri(dot)com.

In the case of HUL, all the FMCG products are meant for mass consumption and distribution, which in turn makes HUL depend more on TV Commercials than the other media vehicle. On the other hand, in the case of Naukri(dot)com, the users can only be internet literates, who can surf a website to find a job (now they also provide SMS messaging for the jobs).

That’s why most of the communication is done to target online people through ad banners on leading websites Yahoo(dot)com, Rediff(dot)com, Sify(dot)com etc. Here the revenue of Naukri comes from the companies, who place their job requirements and from the peoples, who have gone for premium services.

Besides giving a lot of emphasis on Internet marketing, it also advertises with ‘Hari Sadu’ Campaign on television to attract the people associated with the companies, who are using or may use their services, besides their target job seekers.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Definition

The discipline of integrated marketing communication has been recognized today as a discipline with a broader and more specific perspective. Marketers feel that it involves more effort than just coordinating the various elements of their marketing and promotional program into one integrated whole. IMC is today recognized as a business process that enables companies to identify the most optimal method for communicating and building relationships with customers and other stake holders.


Don Schultze of North Western University of USA has defined IMC as – “a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated, measurable, persuasive brand communications programs overtime with consumers, customers, prospects, employees, associates and other targeted relevant external and internal audiences.” The goal is to generate both short term financial returns and build long term brand and shareholder value.

The definition given by Don Shultze can be understood by analyzing its different aspects. The first aspect is that he sees IMC as an ongoing process rather than it being a static integration of various elements of the communication process. Second aspect is that the definition recognizes that there are a number of relevant audiences who are an unimportant part of this process, e.g., suppliers, investors, customers, prospective customers, interest groups and general public.

Third aspect is that the definition views internal audiences such as – employees as an important part of IMC. Fourth aspect of the definition reflects an increasing emphasis that has been put on the accountability aspect of the communication and measurement of the outcomes of the marketing programs and also marketing of the organizations brand.


There is a debate over the relevance of the IMC as critics argue that it merely renames and reinvents the existing ideas and concepts and question its significance for advertising and marketing practices. In spite of this ongoing debate, the proponents of the concept of IMC feel that it is far above the traditional communication concepts of marketing.

They argue that with the ever changing marketing environment, ‘new generation’ marketing approaches are relevant and not the old ones. The proponents of the IMC feel that all organizations should focus their efforts towards acquiring, retaining and developing relationships with consumers and other stake holders.

The integrated marketing communication refers to integrating or combining all methods and tools of promotion, this blend of all promotional tools is also known as promotion mix.



The Integrated Marketing Communication can be defined as under:

“A management concept that is designed to make all aspects of marketing communication such as – advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation.” – ‘The American Marketing Association’

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Top 5 Features

Features of the Integrated Marketing Communication Plan:

Feature # 1. Shift in Promotional Expenditure from Traditional Media to Non-Traditional Media:

Traditional media is more expensive and not as target oriented as the new tools of promotion. Consumers are less responsive to traditional media advertising and they may even avoid it by fast forwarding the recorded shows or by changing the channels at the time of commercial breaks. The best way to communicate with target audience is to integrate the brand with movies, shows or events. This is the characteristic which is far away from the traditional marketing tools.

Features # 2. Usage of Internet and Social Media to Communicate:

We are into the age of Internet revolution where every moment there are millions of consumers surfing on the Web. Internet has given rise to development and growth of social media which people use to share experiences, content, information and suggestions about products they have used. Today, marketing communication is characterized by usage of social media where there is regular and close interaction with consumers.

Features # 3. Growth of Database Marketing:

Companies in the modern times have extensive databases which contain the names, geographic profiles, demographic profiles, and psychographic profiles of customers. Information about purchasing patterns, financial resources and media preferences of customers is also available in the data bases of companies.


This enables them to target customers through a variety of direct marketing methods such as – e-mails, direct mail, and telemarketing and other direct response methods rather than traditional tools. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs which involve regular and systematic tracking of customer’s preferences and behaviors and modifying product or services to meet their needs are taken up.

Features # 4. Market Place Power with Retail Industry:

There has been a major shift in market place power from manufactures to retailers. The small and middle sized local retailers have been replaced by regional, national and international chain e.g., Reliance, More, Walmart etc. These retailers demand promotional fees from the manufacturers, which often siphons money away from advertising.

Technologies such as – check-out scanners provide retailers with all the information about the effectiveness of manufacturer’s promotional programs. This had led to the marketers spending more on promotional tools than before. Sales promotion is the tool which is used more than others these days.

Features # 5. Greater Accountability Asked from the Advertising Agencies:

The producers are demanding greater accountability from advertising agencies by asking them to give instant results. The marketers are also giving an incentive to the advertising agencies for increasing their profitability. Organizations are looking beyond their traditional advertising agencies and turning to other marketing communication firms to work on development of their integrated marketing programs.

Agencies which specialize in internet marketing, direct marketing, media planning, sales promotion and public relations are being used more now. These agencies realize that their future depends upon how able they are in developing their clients marketing program.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – 8 Important Components

(1) Corporate Image:

Corporate image can have positive or negative influence on customers when they make purchase decisions. Corporate image contains tangible elements such as goods and services offered for sale, corporate name/logo, package/labels, employees, advertising promotions and other forms of communication and intangible elements like media reports, personnel policies, culture of the company, etc.


Strikes and labour disputes have a negative impact on the image of the firms. The marketing, advertising and sales teams should try to understand the company’s image so that they can make decisions about how to overcome any misperceptions and build on the positive image of the company. Corporate image advertising is designed to build the firm’s reputation with general public.

(2) Branding:

A strong brand provides customers with assurance of quality and also allows the company to charge more for the products and earn higher gross margins. Two important aspects to be considered to create a strong brand name are- (i) the brand name to be promoted through repeated advertisements, and (ii) the brand name to be associated with an important characteristic of the product. Example- The name Coco-Cola is associated with refreshing.

(3) Buyer Behaviour:

Understanding how a buyer makes purchase decision will enable to company to develop effective methods of persuading people to purchase goods and services. Example: Consumer durables are purchased during festival season.

(4) Communication Market Analysis:

Communication market analysis includes five areas, i.e., competition, opportunities, target markets, customer and product positioning. Examples: Who are the key competitors and what are they doing in the area of advertising and communication, understanding needs of consumers, analysis of customers i.e., current customers, new customers and competitors customers.

(5) Finalising IMC Objectives and Budget:

Finalising IMC objectives and budget is based on specific objectives, determining the activities to be performed to achieve the objective and the cost involved in performing the activities. There are four popular methods used to decide promotion budget i.e., affordable method, percentage of sales method, competitive parity method and objective and task method.

(6) Advertising Design and Communication Channel Selection:

Advertising design and communication channel selection involve matching the message, media, and audience so that the advertisement reaches the targeted audience. Appeals such as fear, humour and anxiety logic can be used. The message should be conveyed through attractive, credible, and authoritative sources.


There are two types of communication channels i.e., Personal and Non-personal and within each are many sub-channels. Personal communication channels involve two or more persons communicating directly with each other face-to-face, person-to-audience over telephone or through e-mail.

The advantage is that the communicator is able to tailor the message to meet the requirement of the receiver and obtain feedback. Non-personal channel includes media (TV, Radio, newspaper, videotape, CD-ROM etc.). Events such as news conference, sports are very useful to communicate messages to target audience. While mass media create awareness among consumers, personal selling method is effective in closing the sale.

(7) Sales Promotion Programmes:

Sales promotion programmes should match with overall IMC objectives. They should be coordinated with advertising programme. Consumer and trade promotions are expensive and therefore expenses should be within the overall IMC budget. Example- In the case of FMCC products, personal selling, advertising and sales promotion activities are integrated to achieve the common objective of increasing the sales volume.

(8) Evaluation of IMC is Based On:

(a) Short-term outcomes (sales),

(b) Long-term results (Brand awareness),

(c) Awareness of the company,


(d) Product awareness.

Many marketers are concerned with short-term results without considering the long- term impact of the IMC. IMC programme should be considered a long-term investment for development of business.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Role

The shift from mass marketing to targeted marketing and the corresponding shift in the Communications mix do create a problem for the marketing organisation.

Organisations often send out different messages through different media of communication. However, the consumers look at these as a part of a single message about the organisation. As such conflicting messages from different sources create confusion in the consumers mind. The main cause for this is that Organisations more often than not, fail to integrate the communication sent through various communication channels.

The problem lies in the fact that communications often comes from different departments of the organisation. For example advertising messages are planned and implemented by the advertising department, personal selling communications are developed by the sales management department, and similarly Public relations communications are developed by the Public Relations Office and so on. This is where the need for integrating all marketing communications comes into the picture.

The Role of Integrated Marketing Communications:

The role of the integrated marketing mix is to help the organisation achieve the objectives of marketing communications by:

i. Creating a Consistent Message – A consistent message will help consumers identify with the organisation and its products without creating any confusion in their minds.

ii. Clarity – Integrated communications will not conflict with each other when being spread across various media since they are integrated and come from the same source. This will bring clarity in the message being sent across to customers.

iii. Building Loyalty – A consistent and clear message also works as an assurance to the consumers and builds greater Brand Loyalty.

iv. Meeting all the Marketing Objectives – Increase in brand loyalty and a larger customer base achieved through integrated marketing communications will help the organisation to achieve its marketing objectives.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Importance

Integrated Marketing Communication delivers many benefits. IMC can create a competitive advantage. It can boost sales and profits, while saving time, money and stress. IMC makes messages more consistent and credible. The main motto of integrated marketing communication strategy is to work towards the common goal of customer-focused marketing.

The importance of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) can be enlisted as below:

1. It Creates Competitive Advantages:

IMC can create competitive advantages. It can boost sales and profits, while saving time, money and stress.

2. It Makes Messages More Consistent:

IMC makes messages more consistent and more credible. More consistent and credible messages reduce risk in the minds of buyer which, in turn, helps to dictate the outcome of brand comparisons.

3. It Saves Money:

IMC eliminates duplication in area such as graphics and photography since they can be shared and used in, say, sales literature, advertising and exhibitions. In this way, IMC saves money.

4. It Cements a Bond of Loyalty with Customers:

IMC creates a bond of loyalty with customers which can protect them (firms) from cut-throat competition.

5. It Stimulates Buying Process:

IMC wraps communication around targeted customers and help them move through the various stages of the buying process. Simultaneously, an organization consolidates its image, develops a dialogue and flourishes its relationship with customers.

6. It Helps Increase Profits:

IMC helps increase profits through increased effectiveness.

7. It Helps in the Careful Link of Messages:

IMC helps in the careful link of messages. Carefully linked messages help buyers by giving timely reminders, special offers and updated information which, when presented in a planned manner, help them (buyers) move comfortably through the various stages of their buying process.

From the description, it can be concluded that IMC creates competitive advantages. It saves money. It eliminates duplicates in areas such as graphics and photography. Moreover, it increases profits through increased effectiveness.

Some Other Importance of Integrated Marketing Communications:

Ultimately, IMC is the strategic coordination of all marketing messages and the alignment of all methods of communicating to customers, be they consumers or other targeted, relevant (external and internal) audiences.

IMC has evolved as marketers have moved away from traditional mass media based communica­tions strategies, towards those that are more personalized, customer-oriented and technology-driven.

Perhaps the most useful way to define integrated marketing communications is to illustrate what happens when a marketing campaign is not integrated. The marketing communications activities of the personal computer and software markets provide such an example.

Companies such as Apple, Tiny, and Microsoft spend millions of pounds on advertising and direct mail in order to increase consumer awareness of their brands. The point of sale, usually with a dealer, is full of sales promotion activities designed to persuade the customer to upgrade their equipment or purchase more powerful programs, and to benefit from improved software support and other ancillary services.

However, once the purchase transaction has been completed, the consumer soon realizes that the marketing messages they received prior to the purchase concerning customer service provision do not ring true.

There have been many instances where customers have had to hold on a telephone helpline for over two or three hours to speak with a service operator, only to learn there is no opportunity for dialogue or redress, despite advertising campaigns to the contrary.

In this case, dialogue has been encouraged through promotion, but the company has failed to integrate its services and provide an effective feedback loop to deal with customer concerns and requests for help. The result is a seriously frustrated customer and a relationship heading for breakdown.

One of the main aims of IMC is to harmonize the promotional tools so that audiences receive a consistent and substantiated message. Integration within marketing communications works on two main levels- the creative and the strategic.

Creative Integration:

The shift from a transaction to a customer focus acknowledges that all marketing is about communication, for people form their images of brands and companies from information provided by a variety of sources. One of the most important aspects of IMC is that it encourages a view of marketing communications from the customer’s perspective, or as a flow of information from indistinguishable sources.

The IMC approach has been successfully used by Tango, the soft drinks company. Tango initiated a direct response campaign that invited television viewers to write in with comments about Tango products and promotions. The company received an overwhelming public response, which it then used to invent different media opportunities that had not previously existed.

For instance, consumers had written to Tango saying they wanted to communicate with the orange Tango can character, and consequently they received handwritten postcards from all over the world from the ‘travelling Tango can’.

Characters from Tango advertisements also appeared in unlikely places, underlining the idiosyncrasy and anarchic image of the brand message- for example, one character was seen standing behind a senior UK politician as he was being interviewed by ‘News at Ten’ in Parliament Square.

Actions like these have provoked thousands of letters from viewers, confirming brand awareness, and have encouraged consumers to be vigilant of further quirky Tango messages.

It is important to remember, however, that the ‘message’, as opposed to the delivery, has to be the central focus of IMC. If different types of marketing communications are used to support brand positioning, then they must work together in a synergistic fashion.

Strategic Integration:

As well as requiring creative synergy, there are also managerial implications to adopting an IMC strategy. Although IMC is now recognized as a distinct business process, the debate continues as to the role of IMC orchestrator. Should a client company place their entire marketing communications requirement with one agency, or should they instead engage a variety of specialists and retain control centrally?

The fact that agencies have been offering a range of communication services in-house is seen by many as a rush to diversify in order to retain profit margins as client spending shifts emphasis from advertising to ‘below the line’. This trend has led some to argue that IMC is merely a re-packaging of the full service agency ideal of the 1960s, similar to BBDO’s ‘seamless communications’ or Young & Rubicam’s ‘whole egg’ approach.

But these were really more of a ‘one- stop shopping’ strategy by the agency suppliers who understood that integration requires the overall marketing strategy, communication strategy and creative execution to be aligned. In the words of one commentator, ‘When you hear that some agencies have separate floors for the “integrated” people, you begin to suspect that not everyone has got to grips with the subject.’

What is beginning to emerge is that clients are managing the marketing communications process in ways that better suit their own needs. Research indicates that a variety of management approaches are being used. Innovative agencies such as HHCL and St Luke’s offer multi-disciplinary teams under one roof and focus on strategies for building dialogue with customers.

One client practiced what they called the ‘virtual agency’, putting together a team of marketing communications specialists while coordinating the communication strategy in-house.

Another client had designated ‘communication guardians’. These full-time representatives of the company’s eight international agencies worked collaboratively to ensure the consistency of the marketing message across the world.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Factors Affecting the Growth of IMC

1. Cluttered Media Environment:

Due to more number of commercial messages media environment is now more cluttered, which leaves lesser scope for single message to have some significant effect on prospective customers. Marketers are therefore increasingly adopting non-advertising route to reach their customers.

2. Fragmentation of Media:

More number of television channels, more AM and FM channels on radio, more magazines, and more newspapers with more supplementary editions is what is meant by media fragmentation. The result of fragmented media is lesser scope for having customer attention. This in turn requires more focus in communication in terms of targeted audience. As compared to advertising, other promotion tools, however, could be better targeted for their impact.

3. Media Cost:

The absolute media cost has increased manifold over the last few years particularly in the case of television. Due to its higher cost, marketers many times use other less costly promotion tools to justify their promotion spend.

4. Technological Advancements:

With the advancements in computers and software technology, data management has become greatly possible and even much simpler also. Companies either collect the data themselves or get the job done from the outside sources. At the same time, the cost of using the data has decreased immensely. With good data management companies can better segment their audiences and so there is now the possibility of more focus in the selection of target audience. In all, marketers achieve more effectiveness in reaching their target markets.

5. Client Expertizes:

In the age of information clients are now better equipped with the understanding of various nuances of communication planning. They expect better returns on their investment and accountability from the agencies they hire for advertising purpose.

Many companies are even doing away with commission based remuneration and instead the remuneration is based on some objective measure such as sales, or market share as an incentive. Responding to this change, agencies now consider a variety of promotion tools as a less expensive alternative to mass-media advertising.

6. Increasing Number of ‘Me-too-Products’:

Manufacturers are now better able to offer the products which are similar to the existing successful competitive products. The fact that products are not having much point of differences, communication becomes a real challenge for the marketer. Marketing communication needs to create a strong pull factor for the product either through building a strong brand image or an intense commercial message delivery to gain enough of attention and sales over the short period of time.

7. Increasing Power of Retailers:

The trend towards organized retailing is on rise due to more and more consolidation taking place in the industry. There are now large retailers having retail chains spanning across national and international boundaries. The sheer size and the capacity to address large number of needs have given more power to large retailers and they are using this to have better negotiations with the manufactures.

They seek better services and also better allowances from the manufacturer, which usually has an adverse effect on advertising, spend. Marketers are, therefore, shifting their focus towards other promotional tools like sales promotion which they find as capable of producing more short-term results.

8. Increasing Global Marketing:

Global marketing adds intensity to the competition for every company whether or not selling in other country. Companies, therefore, seek more efficiency in their operations including communication.

9. Increasing Pressure on Bottom Line:

Due to competitive pressures, companies seek more financial accountability in various marketing initiatives. The focus therefore shifts to short- term rather than long-term financial gains. This has its direct impact on communication planning involving the greater use of various promotion tools and not just advertising.

10. Rapid Growth of Internet:

Internet as an interactive medium is assuming greater relevance in companies’ promotion planning. Over traditional medium, particularly television and print, the digital medium offers various advantages like precision targeting, measurable return on investment (ROI), low entry-level fee and global reach.

Besides, this is the only medium which lets the company to build long-term relationships with the customer, get their feedback and talk to them at various stages across the consumer value chain. The change in demographic variables with a larger size of young population is further driving the growth of internet. Companies are increasingly using the potential of internet to reach target audience more effectively and efficiently.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Top 6 Tools (With Some Other Emerging Tools)

Integrated Marketing Communications uses six tools to reach its target markets and to build its brand equity.

These tools are:

1. Advertising

2. Sales Promotion

3. Public Relations

4. Direct Marketing

5. Personal Selling and

6. Digital Marketing

All these tools help a company to promote its products efficiently and effectively.

1. Advertising:

Advertising is a paid medium, as a company needs to pay for the advertising space in the newspaper or magazine or it needs to buy time on the TV channels. Sometimes, ad space or the time is donated by the newspaper or magazine or by the TV channel or by radio for public service announcement. Advertising is non-personal in nature, as it uses mass media like TV, Print and Radio to transmit the message to large number of people at the same time. Again the payment is made by some identified sponsor like HUL, Nirma, LG, Intex etc.

Advertising works best in the case of mass consumer products, when the message can be transmitted to crores of people at the same point of time in India. As it reaches more people, it also becomes a very cost effective medium for the advertiser. For example, in programmes like Balika Vadhu or Big Boss or Khatron Ke Khiladi, the ad cost ranges from Rs. 1.5 Lacs to Rs. 2.5 Lacs for 10 Seconds. It might sound costly, but with respect to viewership it will be less than even 1 paisa for one viewer.

Advertising is also used to create brand images, because it has got the ability to persuade consumers through the advertisements. By attracting consumers’, it can help generate sales. Advertising includes Print Advertisement, Television Commercials (TVC), Directories, Billboards, Hoardings, Banners, Posters, Brochure & Booklets, Audio Visual Material, Display Signs and POP Displays.

The objective of any advertising campaign differs from company to company. Sometimes it is aimed at generating immediate response Si action from the consumer or sometimes is meant to develop awareness about the product or service or a positive image over a longer period.

Most of the FMCG products like Soaps, Toothpaste, and Shampoo are meant for consumer’s immediate response. But in the case of cars, the objective of the advertising campaign is to achieve both the goals of influencing the customers to buy and have a positive image around them.

2. Sales Promotion:

Sales promotion is a very effective tool in the promotional mix. It helps to induce the sales on the consumer side as well as the marketing channel or trade side. Sales promotion is a variety of short term incentives to encourage trial or purchase of a product or service. Consumer-oriented sales promotion efforts are targeted towards the ultimate user.

It contains free samples, rebates, Gifts, Contests, More quantity, Low interest financing, Fairs & Trade Shows, Demos and Lotteries. While Trade-oriented sales promotion is targeted towards marketing channels like Distributors, Wholesalers and Retailers. It includes volume discounts, promotional and merchandising allowances, price deals, free offers, sales contests etc.

Most of the FMCG and Consumer Durable and Automobile companies like Dabur, Priya Gold Biscuits, Proctor & Gamble, Electrolux, Videocon, Onida, Samsung, Maruti, Chevrolet etc. go for consumer as well as trade promotion offers. While pharmaceutical companies give more emphasis on trade related sales promotion schemes towards Chemist Shops and Doctors. Organised retailers like Big Bazaar, Reliance Digital, Spencer’s etc. also come out with promotional schemes from time to time.

The sales promotion schemes should be used carefully by the company, as it has a negative impact on the brand image. Generally every year, leading apparel companies like Park Avenue, Arrow, Zodiac, Blackberry come out with the Stock Clearance Sale once in a year in the rainy season or twice in a year. On the contrary, brands like Koutons, Cotton County, and Priknit sell their apparels through discount offers almost all round the year. This leads to erosion in the brand image of these companies.

In marketing, the terms – promotion and sales promotion are often confused. Promotion is the part of the marketing mix, while sales promotion is a part of promotional mix. Promotion includes advertising, direct selling, personal selling, public relations, internet and interactive marketing besides sales promotion. Sometimes the term promotion is used alternatively for sales promotion.

3. Public Relations:

Public relations (PR) is gaining importance day by day as a communication tool in the promotional mix. The importance of Public relations has been well written by Al Ries with Laura Ries, one of the famous authors of ‘Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind’, in their book ‘The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR’. In the early 1900s, Edward Louis Bernays, the founding father of modern public relations, along with Ivy Lee has defined Public Relations as ‘the Management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organisation with the public interest and executes a programme of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.’

Public Relations is a variety of programmes systematically designed and distributed to promote or protect a company’s image or products. PR tools consist of Press Kits, Seminars, Speeches, Publications, Lobbying, Company Magazine, Events, Sponsorships, Donations and Annual Reports.

Philip Kotler has coined a term called PENCILS of PR, where he talks about publications, events, news, community involvement, identity tools, lobbying and social investments; as the tools of modern PR.

Public Relations always generate a ‘buzz’ around a new product or service. Generally the consumers are less skeptical toward the PR exercises. It also involves low cost, as there is no direct expenditure to buy the time or space in a channel or a publication. When Tata Motors showcased its Nano Car on 10th January, 2008 at the 9th Annual Auto Expo at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, almost all the leading newspapers, magazines, TV channels etc. from India and across the world covered the presentation.

The amount of coverage, it got from the channels and publications is unthinkable and worth thousands of Crores. On the same lines, in Bollywood, Aamir Khan always looks out for innovative means of PR for his upcoming films, whether it’s Ghajini or 3 Idiots. Taking a cue from this, even Salman Khan did a lot of activities for creating the right buzz for his film ‘Dabangg’.

On the eve of release of music of Dabangg, one of the leading television news channel devoted more than 20 minutes of its program for the event. In another smart move the music has been launched in Delhi instead of the usual Mumbai, probably owing to the fact that the notion of dabangai is more pronounced in Delhi and up the hinterland as compared to Mumbai and the adjoining areas where it is more of the Bhaigiri.

Again, Salman Khan was almost on all the channels to promote his film. It was a similar case for its sequel ‘Dabangg 2’ also.

Sometimes, Public Relations and Publicity are used intermittingly. But PR has a broader objective than the publicity. Publicity refers to non-personal communications regarding an organisation, product, service or idea not directly paid for or run under identified sponsorship.

It also includes News story, Editorial or announcement about an organisation and/or its product or services through news releases, press conferences, feature article, photos, films and videos. But there is a difference. Publicity is not always under the control of the organisation and is sometimes unfavourable.

The film reviews, which you see in Times of India, Hindustan Times or on the websites like Rediff or on Bollywood Hungama becomes a part of the publicity; as the reviewers are not under the control of the film production companies. It happened also in the debacle of ‘Chandni Chowk to China’, where everybody wrote the film off and it generated a bad publicity for the film.

The public relations and publicity space has also changed with the technological advancements like Internet and Mobile technology. Now there are more people, who are blogging, besides the celebrities and experts. Anybody can voice their opinion through blogs or through websites like Mouthshut(dot)com. Now you can also find online communities for various products and services on Facebook, Orkut or Twitter. A company needs to utilize these developments in technology to become efficient and effective marketer.

4. Direct Marketing:

With the success of Eureka Forbes, Aquaguard, Amway, Dell, Tupperware and Avon, direct marketing is becoming popular for many companies. In direct marketing, companies communicate directly with their target customers to generate a response and/or a transaction. Direct marketing is much more than direct mail and mail-order catalogs.

It involves a variety of activities, including database management, direct selling, telemarketing, and direct-response ads through direct mail, the Internet, and various broadcast and print media. Recently Hypercity Retail India has launched its catalogue shopping retail format called Hypercity – Argos.

With more importance on touch and feel by the Indian consumers, direct marketing companies are also taking the route of opening their representative stores to build reliability about their products. On these lines, Dell has opened its exclusive stores to offer the advantages of Dell’s direct model with the additional benefit of retail availability to browse touch and feel the product.

Dell’s channel model is also making it possible for the Indian customers to see the products on the retail shelves and then place an order for the preferred model with the choice to customise the looks and configuration of the unit. On the similar lines, Hypercity -Argos has also launched their first store in Mumbai.

After referring the catalogue, they can collect their products from the nearest store or have it home delivered. Thus, consumers can shop in three ways: by placing their orders over the phone, visit the stores or browse the entire range online at www(dot)hypercityargos(dot)com.

Direct marketing companies regularly advertise their products through direct response ads with mass media vehicles like Newspaper, Magazines, Radio and Television. Dell regularly advertises in computer and technology magazines like Digit, Chip, PC World and business magazines like Business World, Business Today besides through Times of India, Economic Times and Hindustan Times. Direct market companies are also gaining ground with usage of Mobile, Internet and online payment.

5. Personal Selling:

Personal selling involves two way communications, as the seller gets into face to face interaction with the buyer. The buyer may be a single person or there may be many buyers at the same point of time. Here the seller or sales representative from the company makes a presentation and answers queries of the buyers. If the buyer is convinced, the sales representative gets the order for the product.

As it gives an immediate feedback, the personal selling is a powerful tool in the promotional mix. It happens through sales presentation at home or offices, in Sales meetings and through Fairs and Trade Shows. Hindustan Unilever also sells its water purifier ‘Pureit’ through a direct marketing and personal selling exercise.

The only drawback is that it’s an expensive tool to promote a product, as you need to manage a sales force to get the desired results. But it is also the most flexible way of marketing communication with great results.

6. Digital Marketing:

In the last twenty years, the consumer behaviour has changed a lot with the proliferation of Internet all across the world. The advancement in technology has led to create a separate space of digital marketing as the promotional medium among the other tools available under IMC. Earlier it was limited to Internet marketing. Now, it has expanded too much.

In other promotional tools, the communication is one sided. Here the consumer can interact and can give feedback or response to the company. It has become almost mandatory for every company now to promote itself through a website on the internet. Internet is a unique promotional tool, as it can also execute all the elements of the promotional mix.

Internet itself can promote a product. It can also be used as a medium for advertising. For example, on www(dot)indiatimes(dot)com, an advertiser gets options like Shosh – Sttlilng, Slug Specs, Shosh – Flash Frame Spot, Video Banners, Monster Banner, Leader banner and Pop Ups to name a few. Internet also acts as a direct marketing tool by having a consumer response form on the web page or through a link. Tata Indigo Manza, Tata Indica Vista, ICICI Prudential, Dell, ICFAI Business School, Tata AIG advertises regularly through banner ads on, and, with either a consumer response form or once clicked, it leads to a consumer response form.

Internet also helps in sales promotion efforts of the company. Whenever a company likes to give a short term incentive to the consumer, internet also becomes one of the ways to reach consumers. Many companies also send their offers to the consumer mail boxes.

Internet also helps in Public relations and publicity exercises. Many companies and PR firms use Internet to build a public relations campaign. Now with the increased use of community websites like Facebook, Orkut, Twitter etc, consumers are connected through the Internet. That’s why even Bollywood is also using Internet for promoting its films.

Besides internet marketing, digital marketing also include mobile marketing through SMS and MMS, Social Media marketing using Facebook, Twitter etc., Search Engine marketing Or any other form of digital media.

Some Other Emerging Tools of IMC:

Apart from these tools, several new forms have taken shape in the market these days and they take care of everything like Road Shows, Social Marketing sites, Mobile Marketing, etc.

These are described below:

1. Road Shows:

Road Shows is a BTL (Below the line) activity that brands use to move closer to the masses and also to their target audience. In a road show the customer involves with the brand and its excitement and brand managers use it mostly in the launch of new brands, For example, Radio Mirchi used road shows when they launched their FM stations in cities like Pune, Mumbai, etc. Nokia also undertook road shows in rural markets when they launched their famous 1100 Mobile series handsets. The road shows are an excellent platform to involve, engage and keep customers interested in your brand till it translates into real purchase.

2. Social Media:

Social Media is having a huge fan following with many youngsters across the World. Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, etc., are adding users in millions everyday. The social media has the power of changing governments, influencing people, bonding relationships and networking business professionals.

The brands are carefully weaving their own social media networks like Harley Davidson’s HOG’s Club, AXE’s Academy from AXE, Gang of Girls from Sunsilk, Enfield Bikers Club, etc. The advantage of social media is to target the brand for a selective audience with high impact and sometimes which can also result in a sale of a product.

3. Mobile Marketing:

Emerging markets like China and India are creating new modes of communication to their population. China Mobile and Airtel are the two famous brands in the telecommunication market in their respective countries. Incidentally, these two markets are also the markets for the largest number of rich population, luxury brands like Rolls Royce, BMW, and Gucci are betting on these markets.

The size of the mobile market is estimated to be 700 million and still counting, and in China it is around 800 million. Short Message Service (SMS), WAP, Internet and a host of other features like paying bills on mobiles are changing the way people are using mobile communications beyond making calls.

Benefits of mobile marketing are:

i. Top of the mind awareness.

ii. Faster way to spread the brand communication.

iii. Excellent brand connect (sometimes with the help of service provider) the advantage of the device being with the user like a companion.

Nestle’s famous brand Nescafe tags itself along with the good morning message and asks, did you have your Nescafe today? The advantage was TOMA for Nescafe and the sender of the SMS did not have to pay any money.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Implementation (With Barriers)

Practice of marketing communication involves the use of formal/explicit ways of communication. The detailed top down process of marketing communication planning and implementation. Planning for integrated marketing communication involves the decisions on specific roles of promotion tools, development of strategies for each and implementation of the plan. Before that, overall marketing and business plan is reviewed to achieve consistency between the promotional and non- promotional plans.

Promotion is one element of business and marketing planning cycle is taken up for a product with the aim that:

1. Messages being communicated are consistent with an organization’s corporate and marketing activities.

2. Promotion activity supports and adds synergy to the overall business and marketing strategy.

3. Consumers hear the one voice and not a range of disparate messages and behaviours.

The communication value of other marketing and non- marketing decisions carrying implicit communications for the brand is in no way less effective. Marketers have strongly realized this fact and adopt integrated approach (IMC) to align both implicit and explicit forms of communications and generate synergistic effects of communication for the given brand.

Fill (2002) views IMC as a change of mind-set which has to be first embraced by the marketers. He also points out that certain barriers exist and hence steps have to be taken to overcome them. The progressive steps for the implementation of IMC throughout the organization.

The first step in an IMC approach is to focus on the promotional activities. The marketer needs to ensure that consistency and a thematic harmonization takes place among the promotional tools employed by the company. Next, the functional coordination needs to be looked after.

The different parts of the organization such as human resources, finance, corporate communications and the like have to be introduced to the idea of “internal marketing relationships” in order to implement an IMC approach throughout the company. IMC approach requires a cultural shift of values and beliefs which comes from within the organization in order for all the employees to act consumer-orientated.

Pickton and Broderick’s (2005) model demonstrated the implementation of IMC by an organization. Starting with assessment of current position of the company, the model specifies the stages of-audience selection; budget; objectives; strategy; tactics; implementation; and lastly an assessment of marketing communication campaign to understand the scope for required changes. Another model developed by Nowak and Phelps (1994) which demonstrates the steps for the implementation of IMC both at the strategic and tactical level.

IMC is implemented with the purpose of both image and behaviour orientation. These objectives are achieved with accurate and up-to-date marketing database regarding market, message, and media strategy at the strategic and tactical level. The model shows that when different promotional activities are used in an integrated manner, IMC can take place at the communication campaign (strategic level) and advertising (tactical level) level.

Barriers in IMC Implementation:

There have been immense theoretical insights on IMC as a concept, its process and implantation. But there are less empirical investigations on IMC implementation. IMC involves the entire organization. Whether organization adopts it at the tactical level or at the strategic level it determines the extent of organizational support and therefore the success of IMC. Total integration requires a change in mind set from top to bottom levels in an organization and for that reason there are not many organizations which could adopt IMC perspective to their communication planning.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Advantages

There are several advantages of Integrated Marketing Communications in the ever changing world. The biggest advantage is that it creates synergy among the various promotional tools. When the consumers are less responsive to traditional advertising, it tries to reach through different tools like Internet Marketing, PR and other tools. It also tries to create interactivity in the sales and promotional messages through the usage of technology.

As there have been decline in the audience size for many media, it helps to develop more efficient and effective marketing communications program. Many companies try to indulge customers in the teaser campaigns through Internet.

Maruti created a teaser page on its website for Alto 800, to create a curiosity around the product prior to its launch. Bollywood has also been effectively using Internet as a platform to promote its films like Ghajini, Blue, London Dreams, Wanted, Dev D etc.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – 5 Major Limitations

Despite the many benefits of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC), it has also many limitations. There are many obstacles which restrict Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).

These include:

1. Restriction on creativity

2. Limitation of Time Horizons

3. Limitation of Isolate Communication

4. Lack of Expertise

5. Limitation of Functional silos

Limitation # 1. Restriction of Creativity:

IMC can restrict creativity. Sales promotions programmes are not selected unless they fit into the overall marketing communication strategy. In this way the joy of rampant creativity may be restricted, but the creative challenge may be greater. Therefore, IMC restricts creativity.

Limitation # 2. Limitation of Time Horizons:

Time horizons create one more barrier to integrated marketing communication. For instance, image advertising is designed to flourish the brand value over the longer term but it may be conflicted with shorter term advertising or sales promotions which are designed to boost quarterly sales.

Limitation # 3. Limitation of Isolate Communication:

Another limitation of IMC is the limitation of isolate communication. Unfortunately, some organisational structures isolate communication, data and even managers from one another. For instance, the PR department normally does not report to marketing department. The sales force rarely meets the sales promotion people or advertising people and so on.

Limitation # 4. Lack of Expertise:

The lack of expertise is another limitation of IMC. In 1995, a survey was conducted which revealed that most managers lack expertise in IMC. The lack of expertise is not just in managers, but also in agencies. This lack of expertise is then compounded by a lack of commitment.

Limitation # 5. Limitation of Functional Silos:

The limitation of functional silos is a main and big limitation of IMC. Organizational structures are rigid and are infested with managers who protect both their budgets and their power base.

And all of this can be converted into internal power battles or turf wars where specific managers resist having some of their decisions and budgets changed.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Top 10 Suggestions for Effective IMC

Suggestions for effective integrated marketing communication are as under:

1. Integrate at Various Levels of Management:

For the effective IMC, an organization must integrate at various level of management. Put ‘integration’ on the agenda for different types of management meetings — whether creative sessions or annual reviews.

Horizontally — make sure that all managers, not just marketing managers understand the importance of a consistent message — whether on product quality or delivery trucks. Also, make sure that advertising, sales promotions and PR staff are integrating their messages.

2. Support of Senior Management:

For the effective IMC, initiating the support of senior management is quite necessary provided they understand the benefits of IMC.

3. Concentrate on a Clear Marketing Communication Strategy:

For the effective integrated marketing communication, an organisation must concentrate on a clear communication strategy. For this purpose adopt crystal-clear communication objectives and clear positioning statements. Organization must focus on the areas of sustainable competitive advantages.

4. Ensure the Design Manual:

For the effective IMC, organisation must make sure the design manual or even a brand book is used to maintain common visual standards for the use of colours, logos, typefaces and so on.

5. Customer-Oriented Thinking:

For the effective IMC, an organisation must think about its customers first. Ensure the selection of communication tools which are suitable for each stage. The organisation must develop a sequence of communication activities which help the customers to move easily through each stage.

6. Start with a Zero Budget:

For effective IMC, an organisation must start with a zero budget. Make start from a scratch. Make a new communication plan. Specify what an organisation needs to do in order to achieve its objectives. In reality, the sanctioned budget is often less than the ideal budget needed by the organization, so it may have to prioritise communication activities accordingly.

7. Build Relationship with Customers:

For the effective IMC, an organisation must build relationship with customers. All communication strategies should help to develop and maintain stronger and stronger relationship with customers.

8. Development of a Good Marketing Information System:

The development of a good marketing information system is required which defines who needs what information and when. A customer database, for instance, can help telesales, sales force and direct marketing. IMC can help to define, collect and share required or significant information.

9. Preparation for Change:

For the effective IMC, an organization must prepare itself for unexpected changes. Learn from experience. Regularly search for the optimum communication mix. Test, test and test for the improvement of the organization year after year.

10. Share Artwork and Other Media:

IMC gets extreme effectiveness in case the organisation goes hand in hand with the facility of sharing artwork and other media. Make emphasized observance of how advertising imagery can be used in fields like exhibition stands, mail shots, new releases, Christmas cards and websites.

From the description, it can be concluded that the organisation can beat barriers and enjoy the benefits of integrated marketing communication if it keeps these points in consideration.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – Future

Recent developments in the IMC theory recognize that all communications are an integral part of a company’s relationship with its stakeholders and that organizations need to reflect the importance of integration in all of their messages. Often, managers in separate departments control different commu­nications and rarely see each other’s input and output.

Traditionally, a brand manager would be responsible for the communication and promotion of a brand, and a PR manager would be responsible for communicating with non- trade organizations. This spreading of marketing responsibility among non- collaborating parties gives rise to uncoordinated (potentially inconsistent and unsubstantiated) marketing messages.

From a customer’s, supplier’s or employee’s point of view, if they are imparting information to a company, then they expect that ‘intelligence’ to be acknowledged and assimilated into all their future dealings with the company. 

This model emphasizes not only the corporate and marketing communications levels, but also the interactivity between the various sources of marketing messages, both internal (the organization) and external (its stakeholders).

There are two important points to highlight here. The first is the development of a cross-functional team to manage the marketing communications function. This organizational structure will make it possible to plan and monitor brand and corporate messages coming and going from all levels of the organization and to optimize their impact.

Any communication with stakeholders can then be identified and used as relationship building blocks. In the past, corporate messages were not always strategically aligned to brand messages and, as a result, conflicting messages were sent to the company’s stakeholders.

This often served to undermine understandings and erode relationships. The second important point is that by managing information throughout the organization via a central team, resources can be allocated more efficiently and effectively. Employees can then be empowered to deliver messages that are timely and more relevant to the stakeholder concerned.

Lexus, for example, has invested in the setting-up and daily maintenance of a database of all critical interactions with its customers, however small, so that everyone within the company has the same ‘memory’ and experience of the relationship as the customer.

When a customer calls at a dealership, the Lexus representative they speak to can retrieve on-screen the customer’s profile and detailed interaction history, making the current interaction more effective and the customer’s experience more valuable. It is then much easier to continue building the relationship with that customer.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – 10 Golden Rules for Successful IMC

Despite the many benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications (or IMC); there are also many barriers. Here’s how you can ensure you become integrated and stay integrated – 10 Golden Rules of Integration.

1. Get Senior Management Support for the initiative by ensuring they understand the benefits of IMC.

2. Integrate at Different Levels of management. Put ‘integration’ on the agenda for various types of management meetings – whether annual reviews or creative sessions. Horizontally – ensure that all managers, not just marketing managers understand the importance of a consistent message – whether on delivery trucks or product quality. Also ensure that Advertising, PR, Sales Promotions staff are integrating their messages. To do this you must have carefully planned internal communications, that is, good internal marketing.

3. Ensure the Design Manual or even a Brand Book is used to maintain common visual standards for the use of logos, typefaces, colors and so on.

4. Focus on a clear marketing communications strategy. Have crystal clear communications objectives; clear positioning statements. Link core values into every communication. Ensure all communications add value to (instead of dilute) the brand or organization. Exploit areas of sustainable competitive advantage.

5. Start with a Zero Budget. Start from scratch. Build a new communications plan. Specify what you need to do in order to achieve your objectives. In reality, the budget you get is often less than you ideally need, so you may have to prioritise communications activities accordingly.

6. Think Customers First. Wrap communications around the customer’s buying process. Identify the stages they go through before, during and after a purchase. Select communication tools which are right for each stage. Develop a sequence of communications activities which help the customer to move easily through each stage.

7. Build Relationships and Brand Values. All communications should help to develop stronger and stronger relationships with customers. Ask how each communication tool helps to do this. Remember – customer retention is as important as customer acquisition.

8. Develop a Good Marketing Information System which defines who needs what information when. A customer database For example- can help the telesales, direct marketing and sales force. IMC can help to define, collect and share vital information.

9. Share Artwork and Other Media. Consider how, say, advertising imagery can be used in mail shots, exhibition stands, Christmas cards, news releases and web sites.

10. Be prepared to change it all. Learn from experience. Constantly search for the optimum communications mix. Test. Test. Test. Improve each year. ‘Kaizen’.