Concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC) tends to be one of the most challenging and controversial areas of the marketing business, because it is a concept that ensued from a narrow view of elaborating communication mix and coordinating communication tools to a complex strategic process.
Although not fully part of the marketing mix, but a holistic concept that uses marketing mix elements to create and strengthen relationship with consumers, it could be regarded as a synergistic action of product, price, placement and marketing communications focused on the consumer behavior.
Starting from the consumer-centric view of the modern marketing, it can be stated that the main goal of Integrated marketing communication is to affect the consumer behavior and implicitly its structural processes: perception, attitude, information, motivation and actual behavior. Therefore, this article aims to identify the ways in which Integrated marketing communication could influence the consumer behavior, starting from the hierarchy of effects concept, seen as a result of the whole IMC process, rather than only an outcome of advertising.
The highlighting of the Integrated marketing communication impacts reflected in its effects on the consumer and further evidenced in the structure of consumer behavior processes is made using a conceptual model built on this purpose. In a competitive economic system, survival and development of the companies involve existence of accurate and detailed information about consumers, so the concept of modern marketing highlights the need for having detailed and correct information about the consumer needs, motivation, attitude and actions. In the contemporary era, it is a universally accepted idea that the main purpose of marketing is not finding and persuading people to buy what a company produces, but satisfying the consumer, which is the essence of consumer orientation.
Adopting the approach accordingly with integrated marketing communication is not part of the marketing mix, but a holistic concept using marketing mix elements to create and strengthen relationships with consumers and to send a unified message
Communication effectiveness is determined both by understanding the message and getting the desired reaction from the part of the receiver. In essence, the Idea is not just to pass the message to the recipient (The Customers) but to ensure that their own messages (which reveal their intention) is also well received, genuinely interpreted and given adequate response and action. Marketing communications occurred during the last decades of the twentieth century, as a result on the marketing outstanding development during that period.
Although so far, there is no consensus of opinion in terms of concept content, we can talk about a consensus on the role and importance of marketing communications.
In a global market characterized with a high rate of dynamism and serious competition, organizations try to find the most efficient way to get their word out so that customers can fully grasp and understand the benefits that can be obtained by consumption or use products or services.
Consequently, marketing communications have become a fundamental aspect of marketing, a business vision propeller and an essential factor in achieving a successful marketing result. Its importance has drastically increased in recent times having realized more that the game of marketing and communication are inseparable. This has eventually propelled most organizations business areas to use various forms of marketing communication to make their offer and to meet financial or non-profit targets.
The Integrated marketing communication concept has evolved overtime from a limited view of coordinating communication tools to a strategic process. The multiple facets of integrated marketing communication have been analyzed by many specialists whose opinions outline two major thinking directions. According to the first direction, Integrated marketing communication is a new paradigm and a new way to develop marketing communications. This vision has embraced several stages, each one having a particular field of analysis and research The second perspective of Integrated marketing communication is based on the opposite view that argue and considers Integrated marketing communication as a management fad or fashion, with weak theoretical foundation, not more than a collection of specific concepts traditional marketing, presented in a new form.
Integrated marketing communication has however proven to be much more than an alternative to the planning methodologies, supporting the implementation of consumer information technologies such as CRM (customer relationship management) and loyalty programs.
A more recent approach of the Integrated marketing communication concept sustains the idea that it incorporates every elements of the marketing mix (product, price, distribution, marketing communications). This article shares the point of view according with integrated marketing communication means and involves much more than a coordinated action of marketing communication tools.
The importance of the Integrated marketing communication vision and strategy is generated by its main goal, focused on affecting consumer behavior. If initially the concept of integrated marketing communication took into account the consumer needs and interests, based on the assumption that integrating communication elements would be a value to both consumers and organizations.
Today is a certitude that consumer attitude especially as it relates to strategic communication is a major driving force in the marketplace.
Basically, the study of consumers helps firms and organizations improve their marketing strategies by understanding issues such as the psychology of how consumers think, feel, reason, and select between different alternatives and how marketers can adapt and improve their marketing campaigns and marketing strategies to more effectively reach the consumer. It has been argued that the heart of marketing management is to understand consumer psychology and that for marketers to successfully communicate with their customers they need to study the behavior of consumers.
Understanding consumers has become the focus of attention in the business world due to the fact that the prosperity of companies is heavily dependent on satisfying customers and keeping them loyal. One problem in connecting a purchase to a marketing communication message could be that other marketing-mix factors may improve or decrease the chance for a positive response .The price may be in contradiction with the quality perceived by the consumer or his preferred brand may not be carried in the store where he/she is shopping.
Approaching IMC as a complex system that influence consumer response using the communication potential of elements of marketing mix, solve the problem of perceived difference between the marketing communications message and the message incorporated in price, package, brand or distribution channel.
Consumer response could be studied using various models of effects that help marketers to set marketing goals, structure objectives and analyze message impact as a series of steps called response hierarchy models. There are certain structures have been developed to depict the stages a consumer may pass through in moving from a state of not being aware of a product or brand to actual purchase behavior and could be used in a broader framework to analyze the impact of IMC on consumer behavior.
It has been discovered that consumers seem to progress through three basic stages: cognitive (thinking), then affective (feeling) and finally conative (doing).
Integrated marketing communication refers to the ways in which communication is found in all components of marketing some of which are succinctly explained as follows;
Product- This is the good and the services for which the customer is willing to give their stake and is mostly expectant about. The expectation spurred in customers as a result of this is usually kicked off by communication and also settled by the same communication system especially when sufficiently taken care of.
Price- This simply refers to the value attached to the goods or services in which the customer is willing to offer as the stake for his demand.
Marketing communications- The mean(s) by which requisite and relevant information is conveyed and possibly interpreted to the both the intending and non intending customers with a aim of getting a desired marketing result.
The instruments which support and organize the integrated marketing communication activities are integrated communication strategy and integrated communication plan. The integrated communication strategy is reflected in market positioning based on the objectives aimed by the company and on communication axis. The integrated communication plan is focused on choosing the specific components, taking into account their effective correlation in terms of optimizing costs.
Consumer response to integrated marketing communication describes the response process the consumer goes through in moving to a specific behavior (purchasing a product). Consumer behavior is composed of five processes which includes; perception, learning, attitude, motivation and actual behavior. These basic processes of consumer behavior are also used by the real marketing, through the definition of operational endogenous or exogenous variables, as appropriate.
On a conclusive note, it needs be reiterated that the concept of communication in the marketing game is not just an end in itself but a means to an end hence the importance of the integrated marketing communication as a business developed technique can never be underemphasized hence the need to recurrently revisit this subject and possibly find a way of training business experts about it. This is because almost every business has an iota of marketing and an element of communication would certainly be needed to keep it a going concern with utmost relevance.