What is integrated marketing communications?

Do you ever get the feeling that a brand is just everywhere? You see their ads on billboards and bus stops, they were mentioned in that article you read the other day, and their presence is dominating your social feeds. Whilst it might feel like the brand is everywhere, the chances are, they are running a very effective integrated marketing campaign.

The concept of integrated marketing communication campaigns is not new. However, it is a phenomenon that many businesses fail to truly get right. But, when you do nail it, they can have an enormous impact.

Take the infamous “you’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign from Snickers as a well-known example. From what was initially a TV advert that launched at the 2010 Super Bowl, Snickers evolved the campaign across online and offline channels including their website, social media, and creative out-of-home advertising. By tapping into what is a relatable human truth and associating it with their brand, the campaign been a success, running for over 10 years, spanning across 80 countries and winning awards at every creative gathering, including Cannes Lions.

Do you want to replicate that same sense of being ‘everywhere’ for your brand? Read on to learn more about integrated marketing communications and how you can build your own award-winning integrated campaign.

What is integrated marketing communications?

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the process of aligning all of your marketing channels, both digital and traditional, to promote your products or services. Integrated marketing usually takes the form of a strategic campaign delivered using your marketing channels and assets.

Why is integrated marketing important?

Integrated marketing communications are vital to ensure that your brand delivers a unified message to your target audience. With the continuing evolution of technology, there are infinite possibilities and channels that your end-users will use to consume information, and it’s important that your brand’s message remains consistent across all possible touchpoints.

For example, there is nothing worse than being targeted with an ad that piques your interest but, when you click through or visit the company’s website, what initially drew you in is nowhere to be found. As a user, you might feel a bit cheated, and rightly so – you were misled and this inconsistency has hindered your experience with that particular brand.

Integrated marketing exists to reduce these kinds of disparities that a user may experience when they interact with your brand. Aligning your marketing channels creates a united front and means your users don’t come up against any unexpected barriers on their quest for information, or more importantly, conversion.

The benefits of integrated marketing communications

There are many benefits of integrating marketing communications for your brand including:

  • It promotes one, consistent brand, or campaign, message
  • It is measurable at every level and you can see the impact across your marketing channels
  • It is adaptable – if something works you can repeat that across other channels. Likewise, if something isn’t working it can easily be switched off because the campaign isn’t solely reliant on it
  • It is repeatable – once you find a formula that works it is easy to repeat that and continue to drive results
  • It looks at marketing from the viewpoint of the target customer and their purchasing journey which subsequently creates a seamless user experience for them
  • It helps you build trust with your target audience
  • You can reach a wider audience through an aligned, multi-channel approach
  • It ensures your marketing (and sales) teams are aligned

The challenges of integrated marketing communications

Despite the obvious benefits and positive impact of integrated marketing communications, there is little done by marketers to align efforts, share learnings and work towards a shared goal. As the adage goes; the whole is more than the sum of its parts, so why are so many failing to make it add up?

Siloed marketing teams

If you Google the definition of integration like I did, you’ll see that a proponent of it is to: ‘bring (people or groups with particular characteristics or needs) into equal participation in or membership of a social group or institution’. This is the first hurdle that businesses need to overcome; integrating their people in order to create an integrated campaign.

Given the often siloed structure of many modern marketing departments, it’s no wonder that we aren’t seeing more fully integrated marketing campaigns. The typical structure of a marketing team sees each channel run by a different team or individual, or, in some cases, an individual may manage a number of channels. Often, each team has its own KPIs to hit and therefore is blinkered to their own activity and achievements.

How can you overcome this challenge?

Start small

Don’t dive straight in and plan a huge integrated campaign that you can’t manage. Start small and integrate a couple of channels that work naturally together. For instance, if your aim is to promote your new product launch, you will most likely have created a new page for this on your website. Think about how you might amplify this and get people to visit this new page. You could send out an announcement press release which is complemented by a targeted paid social campaign to drive your audience to your new product page.

Ineffective campaign message

Many businesses have mastered omnichannel marketing, understanding the need to project their brand across multiple platforms to reach their target audience. But few successfully manage to harness the power of an effective brand message that resonates with their audience and weave it throughout their cross-channel communications. Understandably so, as its no mean feat to develop both the digital and industry experience needed to pull off an integrated campaign.

How can you overcome this challenge?

Get professional help

Many digital marketing and PR agencies have naturally adopted an integrated mentality. Agencies have a wealth of knowledge across both digital and traditional channels and are experienced in aligning them to achieve business goals. Combine that with a deep understanding of industry verticals and audience insight; it’s an unbeatable pairing. Whether it be on a management or consultancy basis, it’s useful to have the support of an integrated marketing agency to develop the golden thread of your campaign.

How to build an integrated marketing campaign

Now that you know why they are important, how can you build your own integrated marketing campaign?

We’ve outlined below the questions that we work through when we’re building out an integrated campaign for one of our clients. If you can answer each of these, you will have a basic framework to build out your own integrated campaign.

  • What overarching goal are you trying to achieve?
  • Who will you target through each channel?
  • What message are you promoting?
  • Which channels will you use? And what are the goals for each of them?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What assets will you need to do this?
  • When will you launch?
  • How will you track and report the success of the campaign?

In today’s digital environment it’s important to remember that your audience will encounter your brand in a number of different ways; industry events (both on and offline), your website, social, search, and in their everyday lives. By running an integrated marketing campaign you will be using each of these channels to create a connection with your audience and effectively transition them through their journey with your brand, all the while building brand recognition, loyalty and advocacy.

For more advice and training on running a successful integrated marketing campaign get in touch: melissa.jones@aspectusgroup.com. We’ve helped to execute impactful, lead-driven campaigns for our technology clients including Breathe — who received over 26 qualified leads and 50+ pieces of media coverage from one piece of original content. Read more about their success story.

Mel Jones is an Integration Account Manager working in the technology team at Aspectus Group.

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