Integrated marketing communications, IMC, is typically what we think of as the promotional mix in the 4P’s or 7P’s – or even perhaps as communication itself in the 4C’s version of the marketing mix elements.
The to think that integrated marketing communications is simply the coordination of the firm’s promotional activities is quite limited in scope and not the intent of this concept, which is generally growing importance across most professional organizations.
It is true that when the concept of integrated marketing communications initially evolved, it was looked at as more of a coordination role, however, the concept has progressed and moved on. Let’s consider this by comparing an early definition of IMC to a more relevant and contemporary definition.
An early definition of integrated marketing communications (IMC)
The following definition is from 1989 and it was developed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies:
Integrated marketing communications is a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of variety of communication disciplines – for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations – and combines these disciplines to deliver clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.
Let’s explore this definition a little further. Firstly, it lists the main communication tools are available at that time (obviously before the time of online marketing and social media). At the end of its definition, it highlights that the goal of IMC is to act effectively in a synergetic manner and deliver consistency and maximum impact. This is consistent with the first stage of IMC development, which is discussed in a separate article on this site and is drawn from the Kitchen and Schultz model.
It assesses the strategic impact of IMC, as highlighted in the first part of the definition, by stating “evaluates the strategic roles of variety of communication disciplines" – while this sounds strategic, and is really suggesting that each communication tool has a different role to play in an overall communications plan.
A more current definition of integrated marketing communications (IMC)
Here is an IMC definition provided by Don Schultz, which more accurately reflects the current understanding of integrated marketing communications:
Integrated marketing communication is a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated, measurable, persuasive brand communications programs over time 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.