What is marketing communication, its key concepts and its application in the real business world?
One of the most important advances that humans achieved was the establishment of a market system. The Barter system existed among traders or in technical terms, it is the mutual exchange of goods. This paper talks about the concepts in relation to a specific case and relates it to some more cases existing in the industry, and discusses the meaning, the theory, the usage and the practicability of IMC or integrated marketing communications in its application in the real world and how to use it in the advantage of the business. From this exchange, comes the evolution of different marketing styles in order for the traders to get what they really want. From the Barter system, the traders that time developed the concept of money to better exchange of goods and for easier travel, as often; in Barter system traders must carry loads and loads of goods for more exchange. It then came to the point of feudalism, capitalism and other concepts. With the growing population, people developed different styles in marketing and exchange to widen their target markets and profit. From this, humans were able to appreciate and realize the concept of market, its philosophies, theories and most especially its applications.
The Marketing Communication and IMC
In marketing, the most important thing to be discussed and managed is the market. Without it, the concepts and theories we have today regarding marketing communication will be useless. In definition, the term market refers to the group of consumers or organizations that is interested in the product, has the resources to purchase the product, and is permitted by law and other regulations to acquire the product ( 2005). With the existence of the market comes the existence of marketing communication. It is true that marketing is not a new concept to us. In fact, it has been one of the major ideas, which dominates the business world. However, it is not true that it only serves to give profit to those who would want to use and apply it. Marketing serves as a good venue for different strategies, application and communication. Alongside the concept of marketing is marketing communication. (2001) points out that marketing communication widens the scope to embrace the idea that healthy relationships between customers and suppliers are the basis for the prosperity of each; but its challenge is to ensure that expressive communicative activity is clear, consistent and coherent, while enabling and facilitating impressive communicative activity that aids judgment and decision-making ().
In relation to this is the concept of integrated marketing communications. IMC or Integrated marketing communications is a management concept that is designed to make all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation (2006). The reason for the growth of this concept depends on the changes in the marketplace, consumers, communication and organizational structure. It is also a process of using promotional tools in a unified way so that a systematic communications effect is created ( 2006).
The implementation of the different disciplines of the IMC strategy in a company depends on how their strategies are defined. These disciplines are usually those of the marketing mix such as advertising, public relations, promotions, direct marketing and package design. This idea came to life in the 1970’s, and since then, other agencies have tried to employ more of their diverse marketing services on each client’s business. The promise of IMC strategy was to integrate traditional advertising, direct marketing, interactive, public relations, event marketing and other services sensibly on behalf of clients (2006). The practicability of using IMC strategies brought about significant and pervasive changes in the business world and became very popular over the last two decades of the 20th century. It is not only an idea discussed in meetings and among marketing associates, but was given enough emphasis in different situations and incidence when needed. This is mainly because of the communications environment, which has contributed to its growing prominence. Some pervasive changes are the following:
- The Fragmentation of media.
Media options available to marketers have proliferated at an astounding rate. Broadcast media now offer “narrow-casting” so specific that advertisers can reach consumers at precise locations, such as airports and supermarket checkout counters. The proliferation and fragmentation of media have resulted in less reliance on mass media and more emphasis on other promotional options such as direct mail and event sponsorship.
- Better audience assessment.
More sophisticated research methods have made it possible to more accurately identify and target specific market segments such as Asian Americans, teenagers, Hispanics, and dual-income households with no kids. This leads the marketer away from mass media to promotional tools that reach only the segment that has been targeted.
- Consumer empowerment.
Consumers today are more powerful and sophisticated than their predecessors. Fostering this greater power are more single-person households, smaller families, higher education levels, and more experienced consumers. Empowered consumers are more skeptical of commercial messages and demand information tailored to their needs.
- Increased advertising clutter.
Not only are consumers becoming more sophisticated, they are becoming more jaded as well. The proliferation of advertising stimuli has diluted the effectiveness of any single message. There is no end in sight to this “message” proliferation.
- Database technology.
The ability of firms to generate, collate, and manage databases has created diverse communications opportunities beyond mass media. These databases can be used to create customer and non-customer profiles. With this information, highly targeted direct response and telemarketing programs can be implemented.
- Channel Power.
In some product and market categories, there has been a shift in power away from big manufacturers toward big retailers. The new “power retailers,” such as WalMart, The Gap, ToysRUs, and Home Depot, are able to demand promotional fees and allowances from manufacturers, which diverts funds away from advertising and into special events or other promotions.
In an attempt to achieve greater accountability for promotional spending, firms have reallocated marketing resources from advertising to more short-term and more easily measurable methods, such as direct marketing and sales promotion.
To justify this claim, we have to take for example the case of Singapore Airlines. This company has proven a lot in terms of their marketing strategies and has incorporated the concept of IMC in their business, but not only to make profit, but also to render service to their clients. Reisender (2006) reports that one of the world’s most successful airline marketing campaign belongs to Singapore Airlines, as it has the reputation for excellence that it created for itself over the years. The author reports that right from the beginning, the management of Singapore Airlines has set out to be an industry pacesetter, making it Asia’s youngest fleet, and concentrated on being the first in Asia to bring their passengers such amenities as in-flight faxes and telephones. Its airline management not only has to look ahead at which company they have to beat, but also constantly look over their shoulders to see which company is catching up fast. The bottom line is that, over the years, Singapore Airlines has built an enviable reputation, made bumper profits, has had the cash flow to purchase the latest new aircraft, resulting in a very large number of brand-loyal Singapore Airlines frequent flyers (2006).
The value of money has become very important to every consumer these days. (2006) stated that in choosing an airline, safety and service are very important aspects, and it is a comfort to any air traveler to know that the airline they choose has a reliable record. It was reported that Singapore Airlines (SIA) began in 1947 as Malayan Airlines in a joint venture between the Malaysian and Singapore governments, serving primarily the South East Asian region. In 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia, and later the two governments agreed to set up separate airlines. With this separation, in 1972, the new Singapore Airlines was born (2005). The distinction of Singapore Airlines with other airlines is that it has no domestic routes, and started competing with international airlines for routes, getting access to airports, securing flight slots and landing rights, and attracting a new customer base. The author also added that throughout the course of its 32-year history, Singapore Airlines has remained true to their brand attributes, as they have pioneered many in-flight experiential and entertainment innovations, and strived to be best in class. Singapore Airlines decided on a fully branded product and service differentiation strategy from the very beginning; and innovation, best technology, genuine quality and excellent customer service were the major drivers of the brand.
In addition,(2005) stated that while other airlines have also pursued high service and quality brand strategies, none has been able to match Singapore Airlines in consistency, commitment, and true permeation of the brand in every facet. It has been able to maintain their brand advantage by not wavering from their brand strategy, from the commitment and dedication from the board, CEO and senior management team, and strong faith in the brand’s ability to pull through bad times. With this, the management team and shareholders must maintain a longer-term outlook to avoid making short term, reactionary decisions which dilute the brand (2005). The author also added that on the technology side, Singapore Airlines still maintains the youngest fleet of aircraft amongst all major air carriers, and keeps to the stringent policy of replacing older aircrafts for newer and better models. They have always been first in line to take delivery of new aircraft types like Boeing 747 jumbo jets, Boeing 777, and they will become the first airline to fly the Airbus Super Jumbo A-380 in 2006. The author explained that the strategy behind the technology program is to enhance cost efficiency to use the latest aircrafts and for marketing purposes. Singapore Airlines recognizes that each innovation has a relatively short life span, so once another airline adopts it, it is no longer considered innovative. Therefore, the airline continues to invest heavily in Research and Development, innovation and technology as an integrated part of the business strategy to further differentiate itself from others ( 2005).
One way of evaluating its performance is through its services. As reported by (2005), Singapore Airlines was the first to introduce hot meals, free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and hot towels with a unique and patented scent, personal entertainment systems, and video-on-demand in all cabins. We must not also forget the clever imagery of the Singapore Girl, attractive and unflappable, smiling at every situation in every corner of the world that has been a winner for the airline (2006). The author also added that the Singapore Girl strategy turned out to be a very powerful idea and has become a successful brand icon with an almost mythical status and aura around her. The Singapore Girl encapsulates Asian values and hospitality, and could be described as caring, warm, gentle, elegant and serene. It is a brilliant personification of Singapore Airline’s commitment to service and quality excellence (2006).
IMC in Other Aspects
Aside from the example discussed above, the concept to integrated marketing communication can still be applied in other aspects. It has been reported that communication is a crucial activity in the organizational management and development, and certainly is one of the most common internal marketing applications in the constructing of internal communication strategies ( 2005). However, many people think that marketing is all about selling and promotion, but the main idea of marketing is matching the product’s offerings with the wants and needs of customers in order to achieve both goals. In this case, we will take the school as an example, where the product is the school and the customers are the students and parents.
It has been stated that all schools market to a better or lower degree, even with many doubts and concerns about marketing, most schools acknowledge that it would most probably take an important part in determining their success. Schools market to boost or maintain enrollments, increase financial resources and improve the school’s reputation or image (2005). Furthermore, marketing activities in schools have increased, although the existing approach mainly reflects the idea that marketing is promotion, public relations and fundraising. Schools promote their marketing activities through prospectuses, advertisements in newspapers, letter drops, school videos, word of mouth, advertising, promotional visits, shopping and by using the school homepage, which is a recent development in advertising tools (2005).
Though the application of integrated marketing communication is very extensive, some firms cannot totally maximize its use due to a difference in approach, nature and market. Some of these include the scientific sector, the hospitals and the church. IMC can still be applied but not totally, as compared with marketing as associated with business. We can evaluate this by citing the services offered by the examples mentioned.
The goal of hospitals and other health-related centers is to serve the people regarding their disease or health. Marketing, in its strictest sense may not be properly used in this aspect, as it is generally about goods and services in relation to its target market. The service that the hospital offers is not particular with its target market. According to (2006), here are some of the services that the hospital offers, to give us an idea how the concept of IMC cannot be totally utilized.
- Hospitals improve the accuracy of patient identification.
- Improve the effectiveness of communication among health care providers.
- Improve the safety of using medications.
- Reduce the risk of health care-associated infections.
- Accurately and completely reconcile medications across the continuum of care.
- Reduce the risk of patient harm resulting from falls.
- Encourage patients’ active involvement in their own care as a patient safety strategy.
With these enumerated services of hospitals, we can deduce that marketing may have nothing or little to do with it, due to a difference in nature and application. Another example is the role of the church in the society. According to (2004), there are several missions of the church. Among the mission of the church are the following: the indigenization and contextualization of the gospel worldwide; the campaign for collaboration and cooperation; the emphasis on justice and reconciliation; and making disciples, particularly the members of other religions and persons with no belief in God. From this, we can understand how marketing cannot be used in its aspect. Both of these examples are service-oriented and the marketing concept will not be applied as desired.
According to (2005), integrated marketing communications involves identifying the target audience and shaping a well-coordinated promotional program to elicit the desired audience response. Too often, marketing communications focus on overcoming immediate awareness, image, or preference problems in the target market. However, this approach to communication is too shortsighted. Today, marketers are moving toward viewing communications as managing the customer relationship over time.Because customers differ, communications programs need to be developed for specific segments, niches, and even individuals, and given the new interactive communications technologies ( 2005).
Thus, the author adds that the communications process should start with an audit of all the potential contacts target customers may have with the company and its brands. For example, someone purchasing a new computer may talk to others, see television ads, read articles and ads in newspapers and magazines, visit various Web sites, and try out computers in one or more stores. The marketer needs to assess what influence each of these communications experiences will have at different stages of the buying process. This understanding will help marketers allocate their communication dollars more efficiently and effectively ( 2005).
We have to consider three criteria to determine the practicability of the integrated marketing communication concept. These are advertising, sales promotion and public relations. These can be considered, as they can become indicators of how the IMC concept is effectively implemented in a business.
According to (2005), advertising can be traced back to the very beginnings of recorded history. He added that archeologists working in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea have dug up signs announcing various event and offers. However, modern advertising is very different from these early efforts, as technology can now be used to effectively advertise products. In fact, U.S. advertisers now run up an estimated annual advertising bill of more than $237 billion; worldwide ad spending approaches an estimated $470 billion. Advertising is definitely a good way to inform and persuade, whether the purpose is to sell Coca-Cola worldwide or to get consumers in a developing nation to use birth control ( 2005).
Another is sales promotion. Sales promotion consists of short-term incentives to encourage the purchase or sales of a product or service ( 2005). In comparison to advertising and personal selling, sales promotion offers reasons to buy the product immediately. A good example would be an email from Amazon.com offering free shipping on your next purchase over $35 ( 2005).
Lastly is personal or public relations. It builds good relations with the company’s various publics by obtaining favorable publicity, building up a good corporate image, and handling or heading off unfavorable rumors, stories, and events ( 2005).