The progression of marketing — moving beyond traditional to include interactive, consumer driven, social marketing has spread like Ebola. It’s often referred to as Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). IMC is ushering in a new era in which marketers blend communication messages across all available media channels into a continuous brand experience. As part of a successful integrated marketing strategy, IMC integrates public relations, advertising, online, social media, etc; and other communications elements into one cohesive entity all sharing the same message.

Many organizations today are now embracing this concept of IMC. Instead of dividing marketing communications into separate groups that rarely communicate; organizations are now integrating all marketing disciplines under one umbrella; thus, making every communication consistent with one message, sharing the same strategy. This also allows marketers to execute marketing campaigns more efficiently without having to jump through hoops to get approvals for creative, content, messaging, etc.

The key to effective integration is the cohesiveness between various marketing messages, and the understanding that marketing is fundamentally a conversation between a company and its prospective customer. It is not one specific marketing campaign or press release; rather, how the blending and execution of such disciplines convey a message synergistically, and at every possible customer touch point.

IMC includes the various tools such as advertising, public relations, personal selling, sales promotion, direct & database marketing, sponsorship, event marketing, social media marketing, and online marketing (search, banner advertising, affiliate, etc.). Since the purpose of marketing is to generate revenue, increase market share, drive preference to purchase, and/or build brand awareness, marketers need to find ways to do this effectively; and embracing an integrated marketing strategy is the first step.

Integrated Marketing At Work

Nike is a great example of a company that has fully embraced the concept of integrated marketing. Their integrated approach includes traditional advertising (billboard, magazine, and television); sponsoring sporting events and players such as the Superbowl and Tiger Woods; and engaging in online marketing initiatives by allowing consumers to customize their Nike shoes. They also spend a great deal of money in search marketing. Nike’s approach allows them to communicate their message consistently across all media outlets; and at the same time share that message at every customer touch point; that is, use Nike products and you will increase your performance regardless of what sport you are involved in.

Another example is HP’s “The Computer is Personal Again” campaign. They utilized many forms of media with great consistency, and capitalized on each of the media’s individual strengths. Television shared real-life stories, print detailed many of the same stories and online extended each into a positive experience with which the customer could interact with HP. The campaign also used paid search to capture queries about HP products and services.