If we go back in time, the prime communication tool for most organizations was some form of advertising. Large companies and brands could afford major TV advertising, whereas small businesses advertised in the local newspaper or on local radio.
Companies use to structure their marketing area as primarily a promotional arm (in the sales/promotion era), where advertising was the prime in most effective communications tool.
However, since the late 1990s there has been a transition away from an “advertising only" approach to what is known as integrated marketing communications. The differences between these two extremes are outlined in another article on this site, where advertising and integrated marketing communications are compared side-by-side with the use of two videos 45 years apart, as well as an article addressing the additional marketing communications challenges in today’s media environment.
However, the purposes this article is to discuss the key drivers for companies to adopt an integrated marketing communications approach.
Reasons why integrated marketing communications (IMC) has evolved
A wider choice of communication tools
With the advent and adoption of the Internet and social media, business organizations have a much broader range of communication tools that can be effective. It is possible in today’s world to build a strong brand using online means without the aid of advertising support – and Google would be a good example of this phenomenon.
This means that firms need to have a greater understanding of the array of communication tools available to them, understand their individual roles, understand how they can work together in synergy, and structure them together appropriately.
Less effective mass media
Along with the shift towards other media and communication choices, the overall impact of mass media (primarily TV advertising) has reduced. In the old days, it was possible to have a TV commercial exposed to a large proportion of the overall population through TV advertising alone. However, as media consumption has fragmented and people are consuming a greater diversity of media, this is no longer as effective and requires the use of additional communication tools.
Smaller market segments
Not only has media consumption fragmented, the so have market segments. The traditional family structure has given way to a greater diversity of household and family structures – in addition, there are greater variations in lifestyles and consumer needs. This means that the average brand needs to more selectively target small market segments. This obviously creates the need to use more specialized media and communication tools to more directly target the end consumer.
Customer databases and marketing insights
Technology is not only provided people with broader access to information and alternatives to shopping behavior, but it has provided companies with an enormous amount of information and data about consumers, their behavior, and their responsiveness to marketing mix changes. This means that the communication strategy can be more based on research and database analysis, than a creative big idea as would have been the case in the past.
Two-way messages with customers influencing brand equity
Finally, the combination of technology and customer lifestyle has changed the control of the brand. As you have probably read about and have perhaps studied, communication messages are essentially a two way interactive media in the current world. In the past, brands would push out appropriate communication messages to try and persuade consumers to buy and like their products.
But in today’s world of social media, bloggers, forums and lobby groups – much of the forming of the brand has passed to consumers and influencers. Therefore, it is vital companies understand this and consider this new market structure when developing an integrated marketing communications plan.