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Integrated marketing communication is key

When using Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC), all of your promotional efforts communicate a unified, consistent message. This includes all of the elements of your promotional toolkit: advertising, personal selling, public relations, social media, sales promotion activities and even word-of-mouth communication. Why should companies care about IMC?

Unified communications using these elements demonstrates your brand to customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Everything communicates!

Marketers also need to remember that brands are more than just names or logos. Broadly speaking, your brand is the experience you offer to customers derived from experiences and information about your company. Remember that your company values must also be consistent with the brand values you are communicating to those outside of your organization.

Everything you do sends a message. McDonald’s™ can spend millions of dollars running carefully crafted “I’m Lovin’ It” ads, but if you go to McDonald’s and the food isn’t good or the employee who serves you is unpleasant, then you’re not loving it and that’s what counts.

Apple™ and Target™ are two brands that get it. When you hear the Apple brand name or see the Apple logo, those symbols stand for technology, freshness, simplicity and elegance of design. When you shop in an Apple store, this is the exact same experience. Their stores are clean, simple, sophisticated and high-tech. The Apple salespeople that I’ve encountered in their stores also exemplify these principles. Imagine if you visited an Apple store and you knew more about new technology than the salesperson. Ouch!

Target’s brand name and logo are also ingrained in us. Their upscale discount positioning has been very effective. We know exactly what to expect when we shop in a Target store and how it will be different from shopping in Walmart™. The Target experience is consistent every time.

A more local, current example is Hy-Vee™, which recently opened a new store in Kearney. When I see the Hy-Vee name, I think of “a helpful smile in every aisle” because of their advertising. When I shop in the store, their slogan is personified by their employees who seem genuinely pleased to see me and going out of their way to ensure my shopping experience is a pleasant one.

Hy-Vee has dietitians and nutritionists in the store to help customers with specific needs. The company website is full of helpful diet and recipe tips. Hy-Vee’s Facebook page also follows the “helpful” theme and customers can use it as a forum to share advice.

IMC planning should also include an emphasis on contact points, which is any way you interact with your customers. Continuing the previous example, typical contact points for Hy-Vee include advertising in traditional media such as radio, magazine, newspaper and television. Further, there are numerous contact points in a visit to the store, such as interaction with employees within aisles, at the cheese, meat, bakery and deli counters; at the checkout; and even while the bagger is loading our carts.

Again, Facebook and other social media provide additional contact points, as do television appearances by employees to discuss healthy eating or other newsworthy topics.

Organizations that understand IMC have coordinated promotion plans that communicate unified messages about their brands. Are you giving sufficient thought and effort to ensuring the consistency of your promotional activities?

About the Author

Greg Broekemier, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor of Marketing & MIS Department College of Business & Technology at UNK

Greg has won a number of teaching excellence awards and emphasizes experiential learning in many of his classes. Prior to his academic career, he worked in retail management for J.C. Penney Company, Inc. When not working, Greg enjoys spending time with his family.

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