History of Integrated Marketing Communications


The term Integrated Marketing Communications was first coined in 1989. Since that era, marketing communications has shifted from a dominance of advertising. The American Association of Advertising Associations (4 A’s) defined IMC as “an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other.” At that time the 4A’s recognized the importance of various mediums including advertising, public relations, sales promotion and direct marketing for delivering consistent messages across marketing channels.

The need to focus beyond advertising predominately was due to several factors. It was becoming increasingly difficult for a single message to have a significant impact; there were other ways to effectively reach customers; and technology advances made audience targeting and database marketing more efficient and cost effective.

As with any concept, integrated marketing communications has evolved. The concept is now more centered on the customer, specifically customer shopping and buying preferences.  Based on the theory that it takes between 7 and 12 impressions before a message is effective at moving a customer to purchase, integrated marketing communications leverages the opportunity to place messages in front of the customer at various stages of the buying cycle.  Depending on the customer, a different series of integrated product messages will tell the full product story and effectively reach the customer.

Integrated marketing communications uses the principles of the four Ps (product, price, promotion and place) to pull together all aspects of marketing communications. These include advertising (broadcast, outdoor, online, direct marketing), online/digital media (e-commerce, email marketing, social media, mobile marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing), public relations, promotions, sales, customer service, trade shows/events and product promotions.

In today’s world, organizations not only push out messages but also use technology to reach their target audiences. Businesses and organizations rely on Internet presence to tell their story and provide the ability to purchase products, when appropriate.  Organizations also use social media to interact with customers and prospective customers. And since the Internet is so highly used as a source of information, organizations and businesses strive to rank in the top listing of an Internet search.

Overall, it’s not enough to just reach the customer. Integrated marketing communications at its best is the most cost effective and efficient mix of mediums to move a target audience through the buying process, based on the organization’s goals, objectives and budget.

For more information about Integrated Marketing Communications, refer to the 13 books written by Don Schultz, author and Professor Emeritus Service at Northwestern University’s Medill School. Don Schultz is often referred to as the “father of integrated marketing”. I heard him speak several times years ago and appreciated his practical as well as technical knowledge and expertise.   

Stay tuned for more posts on a similar topic to the one you’ve just read. 

Leave a Reply