I appreciate your visit to my website. Thanks 🙂 This is a detailed guide to integrated marketing communications. The article is not finished and would be revised and edited.

The article is a good start to understanding marketing communication and brand communication if you have no formal training in business management.  At the moment, it is more conceptual but will include small business perspective and personal experience later. Hope, you can find something useful in it.

A) What does Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) Mean?

What is Integrated Marketing Communication (or IMC )? Why is it important for your business? These are two important questions to answer before crafting a brand communication strategy.

Simply put, IMC means you should have one consistent message at all customer touch points to build a brand. IMC is a useful marketing concept that helps an entrepreneur understand the dynamics of brand communication. It is at the heart of creating and building brand equity.

Branding is a commitment to certain quality standards. When a business communicates about its brand it essentially makes a promise to its target audience.

The importance of Integrated Marketing Communication: Most businesses claim a lot of things in their marketing communications but on their premises, their actions do not match. So there arises a gap between customer expectations and the value promised by the brand. This simply kills the brand!

It requires a great organizational culture to consistently keep a brand promise.

Further, Integrated Marketing Communication is more cost effective as well. Once you develop your communication material such as video and audiovisuals, you need to disseminate it through all outlets. Graphics or others assets are not duplicated. It is better to have one agency or team to handle everything and this can to your business strategy advantage,

what is integrated marketing communications?
Meaning of integrated marketing communications

B) What is Marketing Communication Process?

Let’s answer this question using a Macro Model :


what is Integrated Marketing Communication


As you can see in the above model illustration, encoding is translating ideas into meaningful symbols or terms that can be understood by the target audience. It could be a word, picture number etc. Decoding is the way receiver is interpreting the message. But there are other competing brand messages targeting the same audience creating ‘noise’. This leads to a clutter and your business needs to stand out with unique messages or experiences. (Even ‘noise’ could be ringing of phones etc at home, editorial etc.)

Look at this image below to see what clutter is:

What is integrated Marketing Communication?

     Clutter is bad for your message and it can cost you money!

Integrated Marketing Communication Tool

I should introduce the communication mix(the tools of IMC) before we move on to the next model. A typical communication mix is made of  8 elements listed below:

  • Advertising
  • Sales promotion
  • Events and experiences
  • Public relations and publicity
  • Direct marketing
  • online marketing
  • Word-of-mouth marketing
  • Personal selling

These elements complement each other. The choice of an element also depends on the nature of a business. Just think for a while, which element is going to be more relevant to a small business or mom & pop shop. 

The most critical element of communication mix is word-of-mouth, especially for small business. It can be both positive and negative.

Negative word-of-mouth is a direct threat to a brand image or survival. Recently, Galaxy Note 7 faced negative word-of-mouth due to its notorious malfunctioning.

For a management team, the challenge is how to maintain a consistent brand positioning statement/message through all the communication mix elements. Manipulation of these elements is the primary job of an entrepreneur in her firm’s communication department.

C) Communication Theory and Models.

From Macromodel to Micro model, it is a change of focus towards consumers’ response. There are some of the notable and established models given in the illustration below:

What is Integrated Marketing communications strategy?
Elements and Models of Integrated Marketing Communication

Hierarchy-of-Effects Model ( by Robert J. Lavidge & Gary A. Steiner)

Awareness – Knowledge- Liking- Preference-Conviction- Purchase

According to this model in the cognitive stage, the consumers develop awareness and knowledge of the brand. Therefore, the initial launch of a brand is focused on Awareness.

The next stage is affective stage where a consumer develops liking, preference, and conviction about the brand.

The last stage i.e behaviour stage (purchasing act), the consumer makes a purchase decision.

AIDA Model (by E.K Strong)

AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. In E. K Strong’s Model(AIDA), attention is Cognitive, interest & Desire is affective while purchase action is the ultimate behavior towards a brand.

Innovation-Adoption Model by Everett M. Rogers

Awareness- Interest- Evaluation-Trial-Adoption

Communications Model (by Philip Kotler)

Exposure- receptive-cognitive-attitude-intention- behavior. So in the three models, given above, the consumer travels from Cognitive stage to Affective and then arrives at the  Behavior stage (the act of purchase).

But in Kotler’s Communication Model, the potential consumer, in her stage of awareness, gets exposure first and then reception which leads to cognitive(or mental) response. This is followed by attitude formation towards a brand where the intention is revealed and it is the Affective stage of consumer response. Thus, the consumer has arrived at behaviour stage and the intention will result in a purchase.

D) How do you develop marketing communication?

The first thing is to determine who your target audience is and where you can find them. With the explosive growth of digital space & technology, it has become even harder to catch your target audience attention.

You can either have a strong brand power to pull demand or you can give incentives to your channel partners to push the product.

The first and foremost thing is finding out as much as possible about your target segment. Find out about the consumer behavior….. When, where and who buy the product. For example, kids will not have the money to buy but they can influence their parents. Likewise, in a company, a certain manager has the power to influence the company to purchase certain equipment or service necessary for effective operations.

This initial homework is critical because it will ultimately influence how your communication strategy is designed and executed.

Objectives of Integrated marketing communication(IMC)? 

Is the marketing communication about brand awareness, brand attitude or buy intention. You must clarify your goals before you develop your brand communication campaign. For example, Lux is about beautiful skin. Therefore, Lux attitude is built around solving skin issues and from there the consumer’s purchase intention develops.

Once the target audience is clearly understood. Your team is in a good place to set achievable goals for a brand communication program. You can enhance your goal setting process according to the SMART Framework.

Further, we need to pay attention to the life cycle of our product or service. If the product is in introductory stage, our communication goals should target a entirely different buyer readiness stage.

First, let us have a look at buyer’s readiness stage:

Awareness- knowledge-liking-preference-conviction-purchase.

So if the product is new, we need to focus on raising awareness and increasing knowledge about our offerings. For example, I would put both Periscope & Meerkat in the brand awareness and knowledge building stage now. They need to build their brand equity.

Now let’s assume that you already have some presence in the market. Now you need to find out how the target segment feels about your brand.

Do consumers prefer your brand? Let us assume that they do not.

It means your communication must tackle this issue because your communication might be flawed. Even if the potential customer has moved to the conviction stage, they might still be reluctant to buy.

For example, I have HTC and I need to upgrade to either HTC or Samsung latest models but I am pretty inactive about it. So I believe a good sales offer or brand cue might bring me into a buying mode.

How to design Marketing Communications?

The design stage of marketing communication includes three important tasks i.e message strategy(what to say), creative strategy(how to say it) and message source (who should say it).

Message strategy is really important and if you are an agency because your clients will not compromise on this. The main reason is that a message includes the business brand positioning statement.

A brand positioning statement is normally prepared to meet point-of-parity and point-of-difference. Point-of-parity is when you match the competitor’s offer and point-of-difference is when you surpass your competitor’s offer.

Creative strategy is about how the message is expressed in a memorable and distinct way so that consumer can be rightly influenced towards your brand. This can be done by drawing a comparison with other competing offers or by mentioning some more features. This is an informational approach to a creative strategy.

The other approach to creative strategy that carries brand positioning message is transformational. It means that the focus is not on the product itself but the type of person using the brand i.e. young, old or adventurous.

Message Source:

Message source is the business itself or a celebrity. In the case of a celebrity, the brand image should match the celebrity personality or attitude to make sure a consistent brand message.

An automobile that is meant for rugged terrain is best endorsed by an action movie star or extreme sports celebrity.

It sounds crazy but marketers believe that the brand has a personality which determines the kind of celebrity should endorse the brand.


To be updated with some of these ideas below and you can add your share as well. The article is more conceptual right now and also geared towards a bigger setup of a business. I would like to add the perspective of small business.

IMC today, still popular or not… share Google AdWord results.. google trends..

Barriers to IMC

the tone of the article is too professorial at the moment 🙂 The article would be edited and revised. It is not complete yet.

conclusion || coming soon

Reference: Philip Kotler and Marketing Models used by him in his Marketing Management. Plus, his chapter on communication has deeply influenced this article.