Integrated marketing communications: What it is and why it matters
If you’ve perused the Fabrik Brands blog before, then you probably already know how we feel about branding. If you’re new to our slice of the internet, then let us start this article with a quick explanation. A brand is more than just a name and a logo. Your brand is the holistic perception of your company. It’s the recognition of your business entity that helps you to stand out from your competition.
In today’s over-saturated, and overwhelmed marketing environment, building the right reputation for your brand is more difficult than ever. There are so many communication channels to choose, from apps, to online content, to radio, and print. That means if you want to access the largest chunk of the market, and develop a truly effective brand, you need to learn about a little something called integrated marketing communications.
Integrated marketing communications is a term that’s used to refer to strategies that focus on keeping communications consistent in terms of language, messaging, imagery, and feel. An integrated marketing communications plan is about bringing all of your marketing and branding techniques together to develop a tight, seamless, and professional nature for your company.
With a disciplined integrated marketing communications approach, you can work on building your brand into a house-hold name, increase chances for cross-pollination among marketing strategies, and deliver better customer experience. In other words, this technique can give even small businesses the chance to jet-power their branding and marketing strategies.
So, how do you make the most of integrated marketing communications?
What is integrated marketing communications?
Before we give you a template for building your own integrated marketing communications plan, let’s take a closer look into the definition of “IMC”.
The answer to the question “What is integrated marketing communications?” is one that might be answered differently by various companies across the web. However, when it comes down to a basic definition, most experts agree that integrated marketing communications is just about making sure that all the information your brand puts out into the world is consistent with your brand identity.
Basically, this strategy is all about integrating the different promotional tools, strategies, and materials that you use, so that they work together as a “branding suite”, rather than a loose collection of ideas. After all, when all of your company marketing elements work together in harmony, you create a more seamless journey from one communications channel to the next. That’s better for your company, and your customers.
The duo responsible for most of the literature surrounding IMC, David Pickton, and Amanda Broderick, distil the strategy into four “C’s”, these are:
- Complementary: Every element of your brand communication plan supports the others.
- Continuity: Communications are consistent and connected through all spaces.
- Consistency: Multiple messages within your brand reinforce and support each other.
- Coherence: All communications are logically connected.
If we look at traditional approaches to marketing communications, most agencies and businesses plan separate campaigns for press releases, advertising, sales promotions, and direct marketing services. In other words, they get everything they need, but their strategies are disjointed.
By cultivating an integrated marketing definition that’s respected by your entire brand, you can bring the same communications tools together to reinforce each other and boost effectiveness. Because everything supports the same message and image, your integrated marketing communications reinforce your brand in advertising.
For instance, you can create an online campaign, then use direct mail and email to follow up inquiries from that advertising. You could help to convert prospects into customers by encouraging them to download an app that supports your website, or contact you through social media channels.
An integrated marketing communications definition: The components of IMC
An integrated marketing communications plan, whether conducted with an integrated marketing agency in London, or constructed by your sales team, can join the dots in branding. Your blog posts feed directly into your email marketing campaign, and supplement your activity on social media. When you create promotional material offline, those elements link into your online content, with literature referring to social media pages, and so on.
People approach integrated marketing communications from different angles, but three of the key points you’ll need to address when preparing to construct your plan are:
1. Your branding and brand message
Your branding needs to be the same across all channels, from your social media voice, to your website backstory, and your offline brochures. Whatever communications you’re using, you need to be supporting the same image. That doesn’t mean that you can’t create segmented campaigns for different audiences and products. Rather, it means that no matter what you create, everything links back to the fundamental experience that makes your brand unique.
2. Relevancy and personalisation
Integrated marketing communications naturally connect with personal and relevant communication solutions. If you’re targeting a particular group on social media by crafting a personalised ad, you can also ensure that wherever you direct your customers after they click on that ad speaks the same language.
3. The customer journey
For the most part, an integrated marketing communications plan can simplify your branding efforts by ensuring that you provide a seamless experience for your customers. However, that means that you first need to understand exactly where your customer is coming from, and where you want them to go. A deep knowledge of the customer journey is crucial for your personal integrated marketing communications definition.
The benefits of integrated marketing communications
By now, we’ve hopefully begun to answer the question: “What is integrated marketing communications?” However, the chances are that you’re wondering why these strategies are so important in the first place. If your disjointed marketing practices have worked for your brand in the past, why can’t you just keep plodding along with the same old strategies?
Simply put, employing integrated marketing communications campaigns allows you to create a unified marketing strategy that potentially delivers incredible benefits. Not only does it boost sales and profits, but it also sharpens your competitive edge, and improves brand loyalty. Here are just some of the biggest benefits of integrated marketing communications.
Integrated marketing communications build trust
Trust is basically the holy grail of all marketing strategies. When it comes to modern advertisements, customers are bored, sceptical, and ready to tear brands apart at the slightest hint of a mistake. By integrating your messages across all channels, and maintaining consistency, you’ll build a higher level of trust with your intended audience. If customers trust you, then they’re more likely to buy from you – it’s that simple.
Integrated marketing communications eliminate confusion
Whether you’re a small business, or a huge enterprise, it’s very easy to get in your own way when reaching out to customers. If you’re sending out marketing messages that aren’t consistent, there’s always a chance that your message will go over the heads of your target audience. By pulling your campaigns into a more cohesive bundle, your messages remain clear, improving the way your customer sees you.
Integrated marketing communications are effective
Connecting your campaigns with the help of an integrated marketing agency can help to make your strategy more effective. Because you’re communicating consistently through a range of channels, you reinforce your message to a wider audience. Uniformity in your image increases trust and awareness. For instance, a Gartner research survey found that lead management campaigns that integrated four or more channels outperform single-channel campaigns by around 300%.
Integrated marketing communications are efficient
One particularly obvious benefit of creating an integrated marketing communications plan, is that it helps you to streamline your process. Once you’ve decided on the approach you want to implement across each channel, you’ll find that your campaign becomes simpler. After all, you can use the same messaging and imagery across your campaign, and reduce everything from resource usage, to meeting, and planning time.
Integrated marketing communications save money
Graphics, photography and content can be expensive for any business. However, when you integrate your campaigns, you eliminate any unnecessary duplication, sharing across various channels. Not only do you save money on creating campaigns, but you can also cut down on budget wasting that might occur due to disjointed and confusing campaigns. This means you get a better return on your investments.
Integrated marketing communications improve morale
Finally, though an integrated campaign can offer a lot in terms of building brand loyalty and boosting awareness, it can also benefit your corporate culture. Running integrated campaigns pushes different parts of your team to work together towards the same, aligned goals. You can create better consistency and understanding among your workers, which often enhances morale and productivity.
Designing an integrated marketing communications plan
Now you know how effective an integrated marketing communications plan can be, you might be planning to contact your own creative partner or an integrated marketing agency in London. For now, let’s start by taking a look at what the average plan entails.
Most integrated marketing communications strategies are focused around using the same thematic message across a host of promotions. The idea behind your message remains consistent regardless of whether you’re using magazine ads, company websites, or blogs. The strategic nature of these plans means that a lot of research and careful consideration is involved. Here are just some of the steps you might need to cover when building your integrated marketing communications plan.
Step 1: Understanding your audience
Identifying, and understanding your target market is crucial to creating any successful marketing plan. You might begin by conducting a customer analysis to get a deeper look into your target market. Alternatively, you could consider building a range of buyer personas that help to inform your marketing campaigns.
Remember to look at both demographical features like income, age, gender, geographical location, and educational level, and psychographic features like attitude, interest, and behaviour. The more you learn about your audience, the more prepared you’ll be to create a comprehensive integrated marketing plan.
Step 2: Define your identity and goals
Once you know exactly who your customer is, you’ll be able to use that information to adapt and improve your brand identity. Creating a unique identity, and positioning your brand is crucial to distinguish your product or service from the competition. Your identity will also help you to create a consistent “image”, from your logo, to your messaging, photography, and even colour usage.
You can also make changes to your marketing strategies based on the goals you’re striving for as a business. Knowing your specific goals will help you to choose which communication channels you should integrate to get the best results. For instance, if your goal is to get more customer engagement, you might focus on delivering more people to your customer service pages.
Step 3: Pick the right channels
Remember, not all your customers can be found in a magazine or on Facebook. Most of the time, you’ll find that you’ll get better coverage of your target market if you can connect with your customers from different platforms, and that’s what integrated marketing communications is all about. Your analysis of your customers will have given you the information you need to start thinking about where your consumers spend most of their time.
Wherever you choose to market yourself, make sure that you have enough man-power and planning to keep on top of the specifics. Ensure that your team understands exactly which voice and imagery to use with a comprehensive branding guide. Usually, your platforms will include:
- Social media.
- Sales promotions.
- Content marketing.
- Offline advertising.
Step 4: Review your plan
Finally, review your integrated communications plan carefully before you decide to put it into action. Reviewing with various members of your team will help you to gain a different perspective on the various elements that you’ll need to think about during each branding effort. Keep in mind that your plans will often evolve and change with your brand, so you will need to create a new strategy every time you’re integrating a new marketing campaign.
During your integrated campaigns, you’ll also need to ensure that you have methods in place to track your results. Putting the correct attribution and analytics methods in place can help you to better understand how you’re achieving results and conversions, so that you can drive-up sales, and optimise your efforts for the future.
Using an integrated marketing agency: Examples of brands doing it right
Integrated marketing communications strategies combine both outbound traditional marketing solutions, and inbound marketing methods to promote the success of a business. We’ve already given you a pretty in-depth insight into what an integrated marketing communications plan is, but sometimes the best way to expand your understanding of a subject, is to see some examples.
Here are just a few brands who used an integrated marketing agency to take their campaigns to the next level.
1. Compare the market
Remember when the whole “Compare the Meerkat” phenomenon started? Back in 2013, the company introduced a new character in the form of “Baby Oleg”, and the campaign quickly went into full-swing, developing an advertisement that promoted a cuddly toy of the character, and even a blog of his musings.
Connecting the character from the advertisement with various communications solutions meant that the company could build emotional resonance with their audience, driving a lot more engagement from the market.
2. Mike’s Hard Lemonade
Mike’s Hard Lemonade in 2015 decided to incorporate their average marketing solutions with their social media campaigns, to get customers more engaged with the brand. The result was the introduction of “Mikehacks”, a campaign all about sharing unique ways of using the drinks can to do unusual things.
The campaign successfully included both videos from the brand itself, and user-generated content shared by their customers on social media. To further their integrated marketing communications strategy, there were even in-store retail displays.
3. Coca Cola
Coca-Cola are a brand that are often renowned for their marketing efforts. When they launched a campaign for their new “Coca-Cola Life” drink, they further demonstrated their innovative style by employing a range of inter-connected communication channels, from digital screen solutions, to billboards, point-of-sale advertising and social media.
The multimillion-pound phenomenon even included a competition where customers could upload a photograph featuring the #CocaColaLife hashtag.
4. Snap Inc.
Another fantastic example of integrated marketing communications with a special twist, Snap Inc. made an effort to combine their offline and online efforts by making specs more accessible to the masses. The brand situated “Snapbots” across several cities, that worked as vending machines for their product.
The unique nature of the specs meant that you could create a 10-second Snap from your perspective with the press of a button, and send it wirelessly to Snapchat. Obviously, this meant that customers could instantly connect their offline experience, with their social media accounts.
5. Red Bull
Finally, Red Bull is always going to be a fan-favourite among marketers and brands. Their integrated marketing communications include everything from online blogs, to social media, television events, and sporting competitions. Whether Red Bull is giving wings to animated characters on TV, or to extreme sports competitors, their branding remains the same.
The Red Bull Stratos experience with Felix Baumgartner is still the most powerful marketing Red Bull has used to date. The space jump consistently reminds us of Red Bull’s presence as the extreme energy drink.
Some final integrated marketing communications advice
Integrated marketing communications plans are one of the easiest and most effective ways to upgrade your communications strategies. With the right plan in place, you can simplify your campaigns, while improving their ability to make a real impact on your target audience.
Remember, to get the most out of your integrated marketing communications:
- Always appeal to emotions: Try to find ways that you can make your message more personal and engaging to your customers. Address your audience directly, and stay away from anything that strays too far from your brand image.
- Merge internal and external brand building: Developing your brand is one of the most important things any company can do. It’s just as important for your employees to understand your brand as it is for your customers. Remember, every time you launch a new campaign, connect with your employees and make sure they understand your company image.
- Measure everything: Whenever possible, put a metrics system in place that helps you to see which tactics work, and which aren’t worth the budget. It’s far smarter to focus your energy on a few high-quality marketing techniques, then spread your resources across failing strategies.
- Do your research: Always create marketing strategies that can delight and engage your audience. If you’re not sure how to give your customers the best experience with your new integrated marketing communications strategy, do your research. Check out what competitors are doing, or speak to your audience through social media.
- Write and design well: Remember, effective communication is everything. Whether you’re building an attractive website campaign or writing for a blog post, everything from your words, to your graphics need to be attractive. Making use of the best possible design strategies will help to capture the reader’s attention, while your words help to move them along the sales funnel.
Integrated marketing communications are crucial
Although integrated marketing communications may be nothing new, they’re still essential in today’s world. There are now more marketing channels to choose from than ever before, and integrated marketing strategies can help to pull all the different strands of your messaging together to ensure that your communications aren’t disjointed or confusing. Integrated marketing communications require us to pay attention to each detail of our branding efforts. That means that every marketing initiative we engage in is consistent – regardless of the channel or medium.
In simple terms, integrated marketing is the holistic approach to communications. It’s about making sure that you’re consistent in your appearance both online and offline. Whether you do this with the help of an integrated marketing agency in London, or you seek out guidance online, IMC is crucial to any modern strategy.
After all, consistency is key to any brand. Without it, your customers are less likely to understand your message, trust your company, or buy your product. Integrated marketing overcomes those problems, and optimises each of your campaigns for a stronger bottom line.
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