Integrated Marketing Communications: What consumers want and your brand needs
One thing I’ve learned over the last two years is that the only thing you can depend on is change. For brands, everything is different now – from where you find leads to what (and how) your target market wants to hear from you. Things don’t happen the way they used to a few years ago.
So, what do consumers want now?
Consumers want businesses to connect with them through consistent messaging where they are most active, whether on social media, through a brand’s website, or elsewhere.
How can you give your customers what they want?
In my honest opinion, now is the time for brands to embrace integrated marketing communications (IMC). Mastering this new way to share your brand with your customers means you’re meeting their needs on the platforms where they’re most active. With IMC, you’ll show your audience you understand what they want and that you have what they need.
What does IMC mean for you and your brand in the real world?
I can tell you, as someone who has watched the market change rapidly in recent years, IMC helps brands keep their communications consistent across all channels. But maybe an example would paint a clearer picture.
Recently, McDonald’s launched its ‘Plant a Lettuce Seed with Every Happy Meal’ campaign, incorporating an IMC strategy. It used social media (with a dash of influencer marketing) as well as its website and out-of-house advertising to reach customers and deliver consistent messaging across a range of channels whilst maintaining the brand’s tone of voice and aesthetics. As a result, two things were always clear to customers: what was being communicated and who was communicating it.
How can you get started?
First, to help you understand what your customers are thinking, let’s go through some stats from the Public Relations and Communications Association’s (PRCA) 2018 and 2019 DIMENSIONS reports.
The PRCA is the world’s biggest professional public relations organisation, and its studies found some significant shifts in how consumers think about brands. They discovered:
- 64% of connected consumers think every message published by a brand is advertising (whether that is PR, digital marketing, or social media – you name it, it’s all the same to them!).
- The average consumer consults three communication channels to gather information about a brand.
- The prevailing attitude among consumers is that ‘it’s all advertising,’ regardless of the source.
IMC takes this shift in consumer perception into account. In essence, IMC helps you build a plan designed to ensure your brand connects with consumers in relevant and consistent ways over time and across multiple platforms. Because IMC uses a mix of social media, traditional advertising, public relations, influencer marketing and more, you’ll need integrated strategies working together on- and offline to ensure your message always hits the right note, no matter where consumers may find you.
Where can you find help?
Like just about everything else, the internet has plenty of online resources where you can learn more about IMC.
You can take a course or get a certification if you need an extra boost! And if you’re looking for a deeper dive into what IMC is, how it operates, or some examples where IMC has made an impact, there are plenty of examples to check out.
Of course, you can choose to DIY your brand’s IMC strategy, but as you do a bit of research, you’ll probably notice how many sources say IMC is a strategic process used by specialists in the PR/marketing industry to support their clients. And that is an important point – IMC specialists are better positioned to support businesses and help them give consumers exactly what they want.
Where can you find the specialists you need to get started?
An integrated comms agency can help you develop an IMC strategy to bring your brand into a new era of consumer communications. Essentially, an integrated communications agency combines branding, creative development, design, strategy, marketing (traditional and digital), public relations, and more in one place with a team of professionals ready to help brands connect with their target audiences.
At SOCIATE, we give our clients new, innovative solutions that consistently connect with consumers. Some of our IMC projects include integrating social media strategies, event planning, traditional PR, and influencer activations to launch a high-end furniture brand in Dubai and revamp a hotel’s website whilst utilising conventional PR to help a client reach number one on Tripadvisor.
Whilst specialist agencies such as digital marketing, PR-only or advertising may be the best choice for some tasks – like developing a single brochure or advertising a one-time event – it’s no longer what works over the long term. An integrated comms agency provides a brand with a fully integrated campaign where the present and future are both important. Brands develop a unified message with a unique tone of voice across different platforms, giving consumers the consistency they need.
If IMC sounds like something you’d like to explore for your brand, get in touch with me at [email protected].