Of course, the primary goal of any IMC program is effective communication of the brand image, the product and the message intended to the consumer. Many will take a traditional view of IMC as spreading consistent marketing communications across multiple media. Fiene (2014) concluded that success of an IMC program requires going beyond the traditional components such as advertising, social media, direct marketing, sales promotions and public relations. He stated that it “isn’t just the sum of advertising, public relations and other communication endeavors, [but] the result of every customer touch and experience” (p. 26). As a result, brands should take a more holistic approach to communicate with the customer at as many touchpoints as possible. This can be accomplished through customer service, product packaging and internal marketing efforts (i.e. caring for employees and other stakeholders) that complement the traditional components.
An excellent example of successful IMC involves NIKE. As shared by Keller (2016), NIKE’s communication strategies include advertising, sponsorships of events and athletes, interactive digital communications and public relations as well as other strategies. Although it is believed that interactive media is the most relevant way to communicate and form relationships with customers, Keller (2016) posits that it is imperative that brand managers consider the fact that not all customers may want to engage with a brand. As a result, using consistent messages across a wide variety of media “may also offer different, complementary advantages or be designed with other communication options [for the consumer] in mind” (Keller, 2016, p. 290). Ultimately, a strategic management and blending of the communications offered at a variety of customer touchpoints will enhance a successful IMC program.
However, success does not come easy. Every marketing manager that implements an IMC program will be faced with challenges and possibly even failure along the way. One major challenge facing marketing managers today is the paradigm shift in the realm of marketing communications. Vernuccio and Ceccotti (2015) discussed this growing paradigm shift in IMC landscape as an evolution in media, a change in the role consumers play in the communication efforts, and gaps found in the ability for marketing organizations to respond in a continuously complicated and multifaceted market.
Marketing managers are challenged with the change in the roles of consumers today. With traditional media, marketing communication was a one-way, push strategy in which the advertiser had full control. However, in today’s world of interactive engagement, consumers have the ability to co-create a brand’s message, sometimes for the good, yet sometimes for the worse. This is fruition of the evolution of media, which proves to be a challenge for managers as well. The online community is ever changing and fragmented due to the myriad of channels available and the increasing potential of reaching customers worldwide in real-time. Platforms change often requiring marketers to stay adept through continuous training, or face the chance of lost opportunities or overlooked negative customer comments that can hurt the brand.
Reasons for Failure
As you can see, failure is bound to occur if marketing managers do not take these challenges seriously and work to overcome them. However, most barriers to implementing a successful IMC program start from inside the company. In fact, Ots and Nyilasy (2015) shared that one of the primary reasons for IMC failure is a lack of managerial cognition which is defined as “cognitive representations that allow an individual to categorize an event, assess its consequences, and consider appropriate actions” (p. 133). Contributing factors for this collapse may include a breakdown in internal communication, departments (i.e. advertising, sales and public relations) acting as silos instead of interdependently, marketers’ lack of skills and knowledge of new communication tools and methods, and a different creativity mindset between the marketing department and advertising agency.
IMC is an effective form of marketing communication if understood by the brand and used effectively. An IMC practitioner must continue to think outside of the box to identify all the different customer touchpoints available. Being prepared for challenges can help an IMC practitioner to avoid the possibility of failure. Keeping these aspects of IMC in mind while moving planning and executing an IMC program with help enhance success.
What additional thoughts could you add for enhancement of an IMC program?? Can you provide other challenges an IMC practitioner may face?