Technology is everywhere. From the first pot of coffee to setting our alarm clocks for the next day, it permeates every moment of our waking lives and, in many cases, becomes a deeply personal part of our day. Social media has only deepened this link into our personal space, and this fact of modern day life has not been lost on marketing experts. As such, they increasingly target social media to communicate their offerings to the public. As different as this frontier is from the traditional avenues of print, television, and radio, some believe that a different message will work better in social media than in other marketing communication channels. Unfortunately, this thinking is erroneous. The technology and social media explosion makes integrated marketing communications more important today than ever before.
Integrating an organization’s marketing communications, while not a new concept, is a somewhat recent one. Before a study completed in 1991 “there appears to be little or no formal discussion or even description of what is now called Integrated Marketing Communications” (Schultz & Kitchen, 1997, pp. 7-8). This does not necessarily indicate that the concept did not exist; it simply was not defined. So how do we define it? One possible definition is taken from Schultz and Kitchen’s survey sent to members of the American Association of Advertising Agencies:
IMC is a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communications disciplines (for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations) … and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact. (Schultz & Kitchen, 1997, p. 12)
More recently, and perhaps more clearly, Tanner and Raymond offer the following: “Integrated marketing communications (IMC) provide an approach designed to deliver one consistent message to buyers across an organization’s promotions that may span all different types of media—TV, radio, magazines, the Internet, mobile phones, and so forth” (2010, p. 217) Separated by nearly 20 years, this definition and the older one share a common notion: a single consistent message targeted across all channels is the core concept of IMC.
By 2004, the growing importance of IMC was clear and not limited to simply consumer products and services. Even colleges were investigating IMC programs. Black’s article in College and University stresses that a university’s IMC strategy should begin with the first contact made with a prospective student and last through that student’s lifetime (Black, 2004, p. 1). This extends not only to the message communicated, but also to the design of all media the university students, donors, and other partners interact with. As a marketing department does not necessarily generate all communication consumed by the outside world, all departments communicating beyond the campus...