INTRODUCTION1.1 Background to the Study
The need for an organization to properly coordinate its marketing communications strategies in order to deliver a clear, consistent, credible and competitive message about itself and its product has become a challenge today for every result oriented firm. Effective marketing communications should therefore be an integral part of every efficient and result driven organization. How innovative and creative marketing communications practitioners are inappropriately combining, coordinating and efficiently using marketing communication tools will have great impact on their companies’ products/services and by extension, on such products’ market share. This again could pose serious challenge to competing companies across markets in the country.
The Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) approach believes that a company must leave no chance for error, no patience for miscommunication, and no time for confusion. Picton and Broderick, (2005). The IMC approach placed much premium on the consistency of messages, that by this, it posits that communications effort of a company through its different products must project a unified voice. Business (companies) must be able to deliver the right message in the right medium to elicit the right results. Schultz and Kitchen, (1997).
A simple argument for IMC is that there are financial, competitive and effective benefits to be achieved through the synergy afforded by the process of integration Peltier and Schult, (2003); Smith, (2002); Shultz and Kitchen, (2000); Thomas, (2001); Picton and Hartley, (1998).
Rather than being considered as a revolution in marketing thought, IMC is gradually emerging as a natural evolution in marketing communications brought about by drastic changes in at least three main areas, which are:
(i). The market place;
(ii). The media and communications;
(iii). The consumers. These changes have been driven primarily by advancement in information technology; and have caused a major shift from the mass marketing, product centred theories of marketing popularized in the 1950s and 1960s to the more customer cantered, database-driven interactive and measurable approaches of integrated communications, Schultz, (2003).
The development of IMC can be traced to the early 1980s when many Americans advertising agencies started to feel threatened by their clients’ attempt to save money through direct media buying and patronage and creative boutique operations. Added to these forces were the inclinations of many advertisers to shift money from advertising to more immediate and effective aspect of marketing. These developments came to a climax towards the early part of 1990s when advertising agencies started to offer more than their traditional functions of just producing and placing advertising in the media.
The advertising agencies then saw that their survival in the turbulent decade of the 1980s depended on providing integrated strategies. The question one might ask here is “were advertising agencies not adding value to their clients’ programmes before IMC?” Of course, they were but not in ‘an integrated sense’. In this respect, Kliatchko (2005) opined that value added services need not start and end in only advertising messages and strategies. But now, in an expanded view of advertising, advertising agencies must positively evolve specific promotional mix to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact.
In a similar vein, a number of scholars observed that coordination is a powerful element of an integrated communication strategy. And that many companies might find integration difficult to adopt due or owing to tough battles on how to allocate resources and reluctance to invest in the needed database. They also observed that different departments were responsible for different elements in the communication strategy (i.e. an advertising department; direct mail department; and a trade show or an event management department). In many of these cases, they are usually reluctant to give-up control over their respective area and fight each other for a piece of the marketing budget. The result will be that the communication strategy will be fragmented rather than integrated. What happens when interactions with customers are fragmented? Belch and Belch (2004) opined that if customers are fragmented then, they would get annoyed because different parts of the company don’t know what others are saying. Consumers might feel that they are talking to many different companies instead of one, which is not the way to build relationship.
In the opinion of Akande, (2001) he raised the concern that marketing has moved from customer acquisition (winning new customers) through ‘customer relations’ (keeping customers for life) towards customers’ deselection (dumping unprofitable customers while selectively seeking and keeping the profitable ones). He listed other forms of marketing communication strategies which are media; proliferation, audience fragmentation, advancement of information technology and the internet, consumer empowerment, increased advertising, cluster, shift in channel power and the desire for more accountability. All these underpin the driving forces leading toward integrated marketing communications.
In their work on marketing communications, Duncan and Everett (1993) asserted that IMC is both a concept and a process. The IMC perspective can be interpreted as “meaningful integrative” of “Holistic thinking” i.e. looking at marketing communication in a way by which various marketing communication tools are strategically employed in a complementary fashion after a careful analysis of customer needs and review of market situation. Schultz and Kitchen (2002) equally viewed integrated marketing communication (IMC) as a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated measurable persuasive brand communication programmes over time with consumers, prospects and other targeted relevant external and internal audience.
Duncan (2002), in his contribution to the literature on evolution of IMC believed that the above definition of IMC by Schultz and Kitchen, forecasted the trend of the development of IMC in the future. He therefore noted that this new definition indicates that IMC has moved from (or has the potentiality to move from) a “marketing planning process” to a “strategic business process”. Schimp (2000) summarized five facts of IMC as:
(i). Aims to affect behaviour
(ii). Starts with customers or prospects
(iii). Uses any and all forms of contents
(iv). Achieves synergy and
(v). Builds relationships.
Low (2000) opined that integrated marketing is simply a step further from IMC or the highest stage of IMC by focusing on conveying unified messages to customers via the correct blending of the promotional mix.
In the Nigerian marketing environment today, many organizations have not appreciated the importance of the strategic blending of the promotional mix elements so as to produce cohesive, consistent, clear, precise and efficient messages. The common explanation is that through IMC, a firm or a manager can attain synergy between all the firm’s marketing communications activities and decisions. This synergy in turn improves performance.
With the pace at which globalization is moving, there is need for Nigerian Advertising Agencies to wake-up to a new reality in the marketing world. Clients, world-over, now demand integrated solutions rather than thinking in the old-style of above or below the line statement. Client needs to create a sustainable competitive advantage to meet up with the demands. This cannot be done with advertising alone with a seamless marketing communication programme.
Many clients (advertisers) are now asking themselves questions such as “How do I allocate the marketing budget over a variety of promotional tools”?. Here, many rely on the professional advice from advertising agencies. Today some advertising agencies are trying to become marketing consultants, independent media purchasers and multi-dimensional communication practitioner – (Kallmeyer and Absatt, 2001). The words of these scholars revealed the need for these advertising agencies to become total marketing oriented professionals rather than just advertising driven in order to convince clients that they can add value to their marketing efforts.
The Growing Importance of IMC: The move towards integrated marketing communications is one of the most significant marketing developments that occurred during the 1990s and this approach is growing daily as this new millennium continues to advance. Belch and Belch (2004) believed that the IMC approach to marketing communication planning and strategy is being adopted by both large and small companies and has become popular among firms marketing consumer products and services as well as business-to-business marketers. Some of the reasons why marketers are adopting the IMC approach according to Belch and Belch, (2004) are:
“The understanding that the strategic integration of the various communication functions rather than having them operate autonomously would bring many added benefits to clients and customers. Advocates of IMC believe that it will help company maximize returns on their investments. The move towards IMC reflects an adaptation by marketers to a changing environment with respect to consumer’s technology and the media. Today many consumers are tired of being bombarded with different sales messages.”
These factors according to Belch and Belch, (2004) are capable of promoting marketers towards the development of alternative ways to communicate with target audience.
Another reason responsible for the growth of IMC according to Belch and Belch (2004) is the growth and development of database marketing. Many companies are building database containing customers’ name, geographic, demographic and psychographic profiles; purchase patterns; media preferences etc. Advocates of this approach believed that database marketing is critical to the development of effective use of IMC. A shift of marketing dollars from media advertising to other forms of promotions, particularly consumer – and trade-oriented sales promotions.
Many marketers are also of the opinion that traditional media advertising has become too expensive and not cost effective (Thomas, 2001).
Finally, there is demand for greater accountability from advertising agencies and changes in the way agencies are compensated. Many companies are moving towards incentive- based system whereby compensation of their ad agencies is based, at least in part on objectives measures such as sales, market share and profitability. The rapid growth of the Internet services, which is changing the very nature of how companies do business and the interest with the consumer, could also be seen as a major reason for the growing importance of IMC in today contemporary marketing environments.
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