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WHAT IS INTEGRATED MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS (PLANNING)?

Marketing communications is any means of communication used by marketing organizations to inform, persuade, or remind potential buyers about a product or service. To fulfill these tasks, an organization employs an integrated marketing communications mix comprising media advertising, interactive media communications, sales promotion, public relations, experiential marketing, and personal selling. IMC involves the coordination of all forms of marketing communications in a unified program that maximizes the impact of messages on consumers and other types of customers.

Marketing communications planning involves setting objectives, making strategic decisions on what components of the communications mix to use, and devising and justifying a budget for all activities that are recommended.

HOW DO MARKETERS MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT A BRAND'S MESSAGE AND MEDIA STRATEGY?

The primary decision areas involve message and media decisions. With regard to message (creative), the manager establishes certain objectives that must be achieved. The objectives focus on the key benefits the brand offers. The creative strategy is the responsibility of the advertising agency. They determine matters related to theme and appeal techniques that will have an impact on the target market. Their ideas are presented to the client manager for discussion and approval. Media d ecisions are a similar situation. The manager determines the objectives, which are basic guidelines for the plan to follow. The agency devises a detailed media strategy that considers the target market and factors such as reach, frequency, continuity, engagement, market coverage, and timing. The media plan outlines the media selected and how much money is allocated to each medium. The plan is submitted to the client manager for discussion and approval.

The challenge for marketers and media planners today is in determining the right balance between media advertising (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, out-of-home media, direct response, and Internet) with emerging media platforms such as social media, mobile communications, and video games. In the greater integrated marketing communications context, alternatives such as sales promotion, public relations, experiential marketing, and personal selling must also be considered.

HOW ARE EMERGING MEDIA (SOCIAL MEDIA, MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS, AND VIDEO GAMES) INFLUENCING MEDIA DECISIONS?

Simply stated, all media are converging on the Internet. Further, people are spending considerable time with social networks and smartphones. Marketers have to respond and adjust their media strategies accordingly, or be left behind. Figuring out how to capitalize on the emerging media is a work in progress.

Advertising on social networks to this point remains largely experimental, though most forms of Internet advertising are available on social sites. Marketers have had to adapt to the lack of control they have on social networks. It is a medium where participants join in the communications process and actually develop content on behalf of brands. A llowing such control is contrary to historical marketing wisdom. Nonetheless, brands do benefit when customers are so engaged with their brands. Brand and company blogs are perhaps the most common form of marketing communications in social media. Through blogs an organization can get feedback from customers on various brand-related issues.

Mobile media opportunities are in their infancy, but with so many people owning smartphones the opportunities for location-based marketing are significant. The ability to reach a customer in real time right when they could be making a purchase decision is an attractive proposition. Thus far, advertising on phones has been limited to text messaging and video messaging. Advertising in phone applications is becoming popular, but with so many applications available, in which applications does a brand advertise?

Video games are popular with all family members and represent a good opportunity to reach a wide cross-section of the population. An irony of video games is that ads in the games are acceptable—they add an element of reality to the game. Research indicates that brand awareness scores increase significantly when a brand advertises in a game.