IMC: Theory, practice and reality.
University Paris IV – Sorbonne
CELSA – Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication
In this thesis, I am going to talk about Integrated Marketing Communications, known under the acronym of IMC.
Breaking down these 3 words
Before going any further and even before trying to define IMC, let’s take a step back and think about the breakdown of these three words.
“Integrated” |ˈintiˌgrātid| is an adjective coming from the transitive verb integrate |ˈintiˌgrāt|. Following are the three main definitions of the verb “to integrate” that can be read in the dictionary:
1. combine (one thing) with another so that they become a whole: transportation planning should be integrated with energy policy.
2. bring into equal participation in or membership of society or an institution or body: integrating children with special needs into ordinary schools.
3. desegregate (a school, neighborhood, etc.), esp. racially: there was a national campaign under way to integrate the lunch counters | [ intrans. ] cities’ efforts to integrate across urban-suburban lines.
While the first definition provides synthesis, the second is about individual participation, and the third definition is built in opposition to the idea of segregation.
The three approaches all rely on the notion of putting together separate elements, the idea of aggregating parts to make a whole.
The idea of integration can be found in many different areas. Hence our ability to use examples of economic, political, social, racial or regional integration. One of the biggest integration processes of the 20th century may be the one of the European integration. Robert SCHUMAN’s speech of May 9, 1950 officially launched this long and ambitious project of integrating European countries in a bigger and stronger institution. I will get back to this analogy later in my thesis since I strongly believe political integration has a lot in common with what I am talking about in this thesis.
“Marketing” |märkiti ng| is defined by The Chartered Institute of Marketing as:
”The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitability”
According to Philip KOTLER:
”Marketing is the human activity directed at satisfying needs and wants through an exchange process.”
“Communications”: |kəˌmyoōnəˈkā sh ən| – Here are the two basic definitions that can be found in the Dictionary:
1. the imparting or exchanging of information or news : direct communication between the two countries will produce greater understanding | at the moment I am in communication with London.
2. (communications) means of connection between people or places, in particular.
We looked at the words as separate entities, one should focus on the sense given by their association.
Defining Integrated Marketing Communication
Many authors have attempted to define the notion of Integrated Marketing Communications, and as we will see later on, the definitions vary a lot from one author to another, from one marketer to another. Like any term, IMC is subject to varying interpretations.
First, let’s have a look at the following two definitions (short and long versions) of the concept, from the book “IMC, The Next Generation.” by Don E. SCHULTZ and Heidi SCHULTZ:
“[IMC is] a process though which companies accelerate returns by aligning communications objectives with corporate goals.”
“[IMC is] a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute, and evaluate coordinated, measurable, persuasive brand communication programs over time with consumers, customers, prospects, and other targeted, relevant external and internal audiences.”
Angus JENKINSON and Branko SAIN, cofounders of the Centre for Integrated Marketing, talk about Integrated Marketing instead. I had the chance to interview Angus JENKINSON and I asked him what difference he made between the two terms. He answered:
”We see a difference between Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications. The difference is that Integrated Marketing involves thinking about what does the whole organization has to do, as an organization, in order to create sustained, developed, unique value-based identity… […] So it is much broader as a business challenge as it involves the whole executive board, not just the Chief Marketing Officer.”
“Integrated Marketing is a holistic discipline that involves the whole organization in developing congruent, sustainable and high-value brand experience for all stakeholders.”
Therefore, according to Angus JENKINSON, Integrated Marketing Communications is a part of a broader, more challenging, Integrated Marketing process:
“Integrated Marketing Communications is a phase in developing an integrated organization. And it may well be the other path of the organization on following parallel tracks. [It is about] combining those together in a jointed initiative supported by the Chief Executive.”
Despite the focus of this thesis being Integrated Marketing Communications, it is still important to consider Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications as two intrinsically interdependent processes. The one cannot happen without the other. Integrated Marketing Communications can never happen in a disintegrated organization, equally so, an integrated organization will make it impossible for communications to be disintegrated.
Defining (non) Integrated Marketing Communications
I think that defining what IMC is not can help understand what it is. Non integrated marketing communications is the absence of the strategic business process described above.
When the brand’s communication programs work separately and are isolated the one from the other, IMC is impossible to achieve. The result of non integrated marketing communications is inconsistency, lack of coherence and can be very harmful for a brand.
As Larry PERCY says it in his book “Strategic Integrated Marketing Communications. Theory and Practice.”:
“A lack of IMC, the lack of coordinated communications planning and the delivery of a consistent message, could lead to multiple portrayals of a brand in the market. Even if the brand positioning is the same […] there will be no synergy of ‘lift’ from the overall program.”
What Larry PERCY describes as the “lift” effect from the overall program is a key in understanding the concept of Integrated Marketing Communications. The absence of synergy doesn’t allow the different components of communications to support one another.
“The disintegration temptation”, expression borrowed to Angus JENKINSON and Branko SAIN, is unfortunately a reality. Organizations have been relying on siloed models for decades. Marketers have developed skills in very specific areas of expertise, leading to greater and greater specialty. Such a level of complexity makes it extremely difficult for organizations to think in an integrated way and the “disintegration temptation” is everywhere…
Process in simple words
One should be considerate of the fact that we are talking about individuals in here.
We are talking about organizations on the one hand: institutions, made of a group of people who don’t necessarily know each other but who work together and follow the same goal. In order to achieve this common objective, this group of individuals tries to affect the behavior of others: the consumers. To do so, the first group of people (constituting the organization) communicates with the other group of people (the consumers) through different channels.
These are the three part of the equation: a brand, a consumer, and communications channels to connect the one to the other.
We shouldn’t forget that each of these consumers has “one single brain” as Angus JENKINSON put it during our interview:
“What you have got to start with is that you have got a single person you are talking to, and the single person you are communicating with has got one brain, one mental operators, one soul one way of responding to the world… One set of consciousness. And in that one set of consciousness, they process everything that comes to them using the same mental framework. […] Whether it’s a product, a store […], a TV 30 second spot or whatever, what is actually happening is that something is meeting a person who is receiving that with his consciousness of mind.”
That is where the notion of integration takes place. All these different groups of people mentioned above represent millions of people who try to connect and communicate. I am not even talking about the infinite possibilities of messages and communications channels that make things even more complex. This all creates space for a massive cacophony. Both concepts (Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications) have the same opportunity: the one of creating sense of this noise, making it intelligible and digestible, organizing it.
In theory, all this seems rather logical. Nevertheless, the gap between IMC as theory and IMC in practice is massive. A study from the University of Louisiana is entitled ”We Like It, We’re Doing It, But Do We Know What It Is (Yet)?. An Exploratory Study of Integrated Marketing Communications”. Such a title expresses very well the intrinsic tension between IMC as theory and IMC in practice.
The challenge for the next few years will be to actually make it happen, and to bridge this gap.
The first part of this thesis will look at IMC as a theory. We will have a look at the origins and history of Integrated Marketing Communications as a concept. We will try to illustrate why IMC is much more than just an idea, and we will see that it is an organizing principle that deeply affect the way we think. We will see that the IMC proposition is subject to varying definitions and interpretations.
In the second part, we will analyze IMC practically. We will study the many barriers to the implementation of truly integrated marketing communications.
In the third part, we will look at the reality of IMC and how it manifests best and worse practice.
Part I – IMC as theory
Chapter 1 – The origins of IMC
According to some observers, the idea of Integrated Marketing Communications was first introduced by Leo BURNETT in a conference organized by the Association of National Advertisers sixty years ago.
Some other observers refer to the work of COULSON-THOMAS15 who, in the early 1980s, introduced the idea of interrelationship between communication vehicles.
The idea of Integrated Marketing Communications was conceived in the United States, at the end of the 1980s, early 1990s.Keith REINHART was then the Chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA). He has been one of the very firsts to formulate the need to integrate the different components of communication. He contacted Don E. SCHULTZ, and in 1989, the first research program on IMC16 was funded by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF).
This then lead to the birth of the Medill IMC university program in the United States with the first IMC students to be graduate from Northwestern University in 1991.
It is very important to understand the context in which IMC emerged as a discipline in order to better understand its later evolution. As we will see in this Chapter, the theory of IMC was born twenty years ago, in a very different context.
1- Understanding the context in which IMC emerged as theory
As Don E. SCHULTZ explained it to me during our interview, the idea of integrating marketing communications was born in a very different context:
“The thing that has changed so dramatically is that when we started IMC in 1989, there was no Internet, there was no Web, there were very few interactive electronic communications. So almost everything we did was advertising, PR, sales promotions, coupons and so on…”
It is important to take a step back and understand the context in which IMC emerged as a discipline in order to understand the concept itself. Understanding this will allow me to start from the following hypothesis: IMC came up at a time where the industry was not receptive. The forward-thinking proposition has been victim of its bad timing.
In the late 1980s, those components to be integrated were rather limited. In such a context, one hasn’t been able to fully measure the impact of what would later become an imperative.
What could have been a revolution at the beginning of the 21st century was no more than an smart proposition at the end of the 20th.
I strongly believe that the emergence of IMC as a discipline occurred too early. I think this is the reason-why this powerful and revolutionary way of thinking has been misinterpreted and badly implemented over the past twenty years.
Let’s observe what has changed since the publication, in 1993, of the very first book on the concept of Integrated Marketing Communications: ”Integrated Marketing Communications: Putting It Together and Making It Work” by Don E. SCHULTZ, Stanley I. TANNENBAUM, and Robert F. LAUTERBORN.
In their book published in 2004, “IMC, The Next Generation. Five Steps for Delivering Value and Measuring Returns Using Marketing Communication”, Don E. SCHULTZ and Heidi SCHULTZ highlight the many changes that occurred over the past decade. Their Preface puts it that way:
“George Herbert Walker Bush occupied the White House. Russian President Mikhail Gorbachov won the Nobel Prize. China was just beginning to open its borders and its economy to the outside world. Asia was booming, driven by the Tigers economies. The Internet and mobile telephony were still in the domain of computer geeks and a few academics, and not many of the rest of us even had E-mail addresses. No one had yet hard of dot.com companies.”
Over the past twenty years, the field of marketing communications has encountered a deep and dramatic revolution and created a whole ‘New Deal’ for IMC as theory.
2- A ‘New Deal’ for IMC
I think the expression ‘New Deal’ reflects the dramatic changes that our industry encountered over the past twenty-five years. It is a new deal because all the cards have changed. The three components of the equation mentioned in introduction have changed: brands are not the same, the media landscape is extremely fragmented, and a new type of consumer behavior has emerged.
The era of branding
In their book IMC – The Next Generation, Heidi SCHULTZ and Don E. SCHULTZ explain that the era of “Innovate and grow”, while it was the “theme” between the 1960s and the early 1990s, has now revolved. Contextually where any product or technology can be copied and duplicated, “innovation became a competitive rather than just a market-leader tool”. This is the reason why, according to the authors, a “new form of competition evolved: the brand”. Therefore, the brands’ identities now are a full part of the equation.
Fragmentation of the media landscape
In « Always On. Advertising, Marketing and Media in an Era of Consumer Control », Christopher VOLLMER and Geoffrey PRECOURT expose their vision of media fragmentation.
They talk about a revolved era of mass media where “the practice of marketing was focused largely on selling mass products to mass audiences via mass media [where consumers were] research constructs-soulless aggregations of demographic data, viewed only through the one-way mirrors of focus-group facilities”. In the past, marketers had access to a limited ‘shelf-space’ of media.
Times have changed, and the myriad of new channels are available for marketers to gain consumer’s attention. According to the Daniel Yankelovitch Group, an average urban citizen encounters up to 5000 advertising messages a day, that is an increase of +250% compared to the mid-1970s.
Christopher VOLLMER and Geoffrey PRECOURT quote an article from the New York Times:
“Supermarket eggs have been stamped with the names of CBS television shows. Subway turnstiles bear messages from Geico auto insurance. […]. And the trays used in airport security lines have been [promoting] Rolodexes… Consumers’ viewing and reading habits are so scattershot now that many advertisers say the best way to reach time-pressed consumers is to try to catch their eye at literally every-turn.”
This is what Christopher VOLLMER and Geoffrey PRECOURT call the “always-on age” where consumers no longer devote their attention to a single media and where“ every second, a connection is being made with a consumer somewhere.”
New faces of the consumer
In such a context of media fragmentation, consumers cannot be treated as they have been treated in the past. Consumers are different. They evolve in a radically different media landscape. Christopher VOLLMER and Geoffrey PRECOURT describe consumers of the 21st century as “selective, skeptical, and demanding.”
Henry FORD’s famous quote: “You can have it in any color so long as it is black” doesn’t make sense anymore in a world where the demand for customization is constantly increasing. In an article called “Making the perfect marketer” Paul HYDE, Edward LANDRY, and Andrew TIPPING transform FORD’s sentence into: “I want it in this color, in this configuration, at this price, and if you can’t deliver tomorrow, I’ll source it over the Web from any dealer who can within a 600-mile radius.” That is what customers demand nowadays, and marketers should be ready for that radical shift in the minds of their consumers.
VOLLMER and PRECOURT draw a very relevant portrait of who the consumer is in this new media ecosystem. In control, consumers “have greater access to information and greater command over media consumption than ever before”. Technologies such as portable media or on-demand devices allow the consumers to take control.
The authors refer to this famous quote from David Ogilvy fourty-five years ago: “The consumer is not an idiot. She is your wife.” They close their chapter entitled “Mediamorphosis: the consumer in charge” saying “If David Ogilvy were still alive today, no doubt he’d be saying “The consumer is not an idiot; she is your boss.’”
Another aspect of the consumer’s metamorphosis is the emergence of a mutlitask consumer who is interacting with multiple media at the same time.
Cie NICHOLSON, Pepsi-Coal North America’s Chief Marketing Officer, observes that:
“The 30-second commercial isn’t what it used to be, because television watchers now multitask. They are on the Internet and their cell phones at the same time they’re in front of their TVs. So while the number of television hours may have risen, people are no longer watching passively”.
As reported in the book –Always on-, while watching TV, 74% of people read a newspaper and 66% go online.
That’s what the multitask consumer is: an individual who no longer interacts with a single media and whose attention is constantly challenged by a multitude of messages.
All these changes happened in a very short period of time.
Between 2001 and 2006, consumers dramatically shifted their media habits as illustrated in the chart below.
As Christopher VOLLMER and Geoffrey PRECOURT say it: “In this type of media environment, marketers can no longer win simply though interruption. Consumers have been freed; they no longer have to sit through commercials to get the content they want.”
As we have witnessed, twenty years after the very first foray into IMC in 1989, the context deeply shifted and the whole media landscape evolved. More than ever, the concept of IMC resonates within the industry and reveals its strength. In a world where consumers are taking control, in a world where brand messages are everywhere, organizations need to rethink the way they market.
IMC can now present itself as a solution to a problem raised by these changes instead of just a smart way of thinking marketing communications. That is where the big difference relies. Today, the concept of IMC has, more than ever, a ‘raison d’être’.
Omid KORDESTANI, the senior vice president of global sales and development at Google, Inc observes: “The power of the consumer affects how you market, how you develop products, how you change your launch time frames, and how you price things.”
3- Drivers for IMC
In the first chapter of their 2004 book, Heidi and Don E. SCHULTZ underline the main drivers of IMC. According to the authors, three shifts occurred in the mid-1980s and have been key drivers in the development of IMC:
1- “The development and diffusion of digital technology across the entire spectrum of business operations”: computer technologies developed in the 1990s made it possible for companies to fully understand their consumer.
2- “The increasing emphasis on brands and branding as the major competitive differentiating tool”: in a world where anything can be copied and duplicated, and where Private Labels explode their sales, the brand is the “new form of competition”. We already mentioned that point earlier.
3- “The increasing focus on multinationalization and globalization as marketers spread across the traditional geographic boundaries”: in a world where brands are “able to operate in real time twenty-four hours a day […] around the globe”, brands need to rethink their communications across national boundaries to “Create unified, consistent and integrated brand strategy while remaining responsive to the unique needs of individual markets and cultures”. Only IMC can bring some clarity and help finding a balance between global consistency and local differences.
Many authors have been writing about the changes that lead to the emergence of IMC. For example, KIELY points out four main factors (as reported in Kim ILCHUL, Han DONGSUB and Don E. SCHULTZ’s article):
“a decrease in the effect of advertising through the mass media due to more diversified and fragmented social change”
“an increase in the number of advertising channels due to the introduction of digital communication and other diversified multimedia”
“an increase in the number of advertising agencies due to the diversification and specialization of the entire area of marketing communications”
“an increased expectation by clients of their ability to better estimate the efficiency of their advertising budgets”
In –“A Multi-Country Comparison of the Drive for IMC”-, Philip J. KITCHEN and Don E. SCHULTZ observe:
“IMC is very clearly a reaction by advertising agencies and their clients as a result of being affected by a multitude of factors such as new forms of information technology including development and usage of database, media fragmentation, client desires for interaction/synergy, and global and regional coordination.”
IMC would be nothing more than a reaction to a changing market environment.
In what Larry PERCY calls a “management nightmare”, IMC has, more than ever, a reason to be.
As we have seen in this first Chapter, at the beginning of the 21st century, IMC seems to be more relevant than ever. Today, not only the context allows the concept to be better understood, but also it creates a climate of receptivity. The dramatic changes of the past twenty years elevate the concept to a much superior level: the one of the need. IMC is an imperative in the complex context brands are now evolving in.
Most marketers today will agree that their approach needs to evolve, and most of them would like to rethink the way they market. IMC is here, as an answer, but still as a very theoretical answer.
Chapter 2 – IMC is more than just a new idea
Some academics have been calling into question the very theory of IMC saying it adds nothing new. HUTTON says that IMC is no more than “new wine put into old wineskins”. HUTTON’s misgiving is that IMC is a way to redefine marketing communications and a way to think differently in the era of complexity.
Some authors call into question the concept of IMC. CORNELISSEN and LOCK argue that IMC is no more than a managerial fad, a “simple rhetoric”:
“On the basis of the observation that IMC as a theory is quite shallow through its lack of definition, formal theory construction, and research, the hypothesis emerges that IMC is a management fashion.”
However, such an assumption is not necessarily right nor does it fully measure the impact of IMC as a way of thinking.
In his book entitled “Strategic Integrated Marketing Communications. Theory and Practice.”, Larry PERCY writes:
“Unlike many fads in marketing, the idea of IMC really was something new in marketing; at least IMC correctly implemented.”
Larry PERCY makes a very important point here. The concept of Integrated Marketing Communications should not be considered like any other trend, or buzz concept in our industry.
1- The initial misunderstanding
To better understand, one should go back to the late 1980s and take a look at the early definition of the concept adopted in 1989 by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and developed by Don E. SCHULTZ:
“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 (e.g. general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations) and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact.”
Such a definition lead to many misinterpretations. As pointed by Philip J. KITCHEN, Joanne Brignell, Tao LI and Graham SPICKETT JONES in their article – “The Emergence of IMC: A Theoretical Perspective”-, this definition was focused and weak, because, according to the authors, “such an approach can be managed internally (i.e., inside-out IMC), and this despite the word “strategic”.
Later in their article, they point what is, according to me, the key in understanding the history of the concept of IMC:
“Adoption by the AAA and the AMA in America, however, not to mention its inclusion in most American marketing texts, meant that across the Atlantic and any other ocean or sea, IMC has found some acceptance, even in this simplified form.”
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, such a “simplified form” of the concept rapidly gained interest and popularity amongst marketers. It was considered as an interesting approach in the context of a media landscape in evolution. In 1993, SCHULTZ claimed that IMC had become “one of the hottest topics in the whole marketing arena.” The emergent concept was, in fact, a hot and popular topic in the small world of marketers. One could think that all the ingredients for success were on the table but the problem is that IMC as a theory emerged in a very simplified form and in the wrong context.
The publication of -Integrated Marketing Communications: Putting It Together and Making It Work-, (first book fully dedicated to the IMC subject), in 1993, represents the very first steps of IMC as a theory. Its approach of IMC relied on a reality that has little to do with today’s world and realities.
The authors are not to blame for being too forward-thinking. One should have a deep respect for Don E. SCHULTZ’s work and I personally believe he is a great expert on the question. But this position puts the basis of a concept that was about to evolve in a context about to dramatically change.
Don E. SCHULTZ, during our interview, actually addressed it. He made an interesting observation about that book and its later consequences:
“In fact, I make presentations today and I show the first book I wrote on IMC from 1992 – 93. And I say you know this is the book I am sorry I wrote! Because it has created a real problem. People read that book and get excited and think that all integration is is getting communication programs to look alike, one sight and one sound. But that’s not true! It is certainly not true anymore and it is very hard to get people out of that habit. To get people to understand what IMC really is.”
This observation points to the heart of the problem. Badly interpreted as the “one sight and one sound concept”, the history of Integrated Marketing Communications as a concept started on the wrong foot.
IMC is much more than “getting communication programs to look alike”. Such a definition, more than just being restrictive, would be, in fact, counter-logical.
Integrated Marketing Communications should be considered as an organizing principle and process that affects the way the industry thinks and behaves. It is much more than just a new idea, and much more that a shiny new fun thing to do. The IMC proposition is as a radical shift that would affect everything we do.
2- Redefining marketing communications
As we will see in this second section, IMC is more than just a new idea. It is a revolutionary approach to marketing communications which redefines the discipline, and sets up radically new models of thinking.
In the third chapter of -IMC – The Next Generation-, Heidi SCHULTZ and Don E. SCHULTZ underline the four key implications of their definition of IMC. I think it is important to focus on this analysis showing all the main areas of change driven by IMC.
Area of change #1: Marketing communications as a business strategy
As the authors explain it “[IMC] clearly elevates marcom from its traditional role as a tactical activity to a strategic management tool.” Therefore, marketing communications is not just about making tactical decisions in terms of communications. It becomes about thinking and elaborating business strategies that will impact the entire organization.
Area of change #2: Marketing communications involving all the stakeholders
The second key element of the definition above is a product of the first one: it is related to the fact that “The new IMC involves the whole organization.” Thus, all stakeholders, no matter their level, have to get involved in the process of Integrated Marketing Communications. “[IMC] spans the entire spectrum of brand, consumer, product, and service contacts the firm has with all stakeholders at all levels.” says SCHULTZ.
Area of change #3: Marketing communications’ expanded scope of evaluation and measurement
As Don E. SCHULTZ and Heidi SCHULTZ state it, “IMC requires ongoing measurement and evaluation. Stewardship and evidence of return on the IMC investment are integral to the process and must be built into all communication plans.” Therefore, marketers have to rethink their whole vision of evaluation.
Area of change #4: Marketing communications for a long-term vision
The last area of change is related to the vision of time in marketing communications. When Heidi SCHULTZ and Don E. SCHULTZ refer to their definition of IMC, they comment: “the fact that IMC achieves results ‘over time’ separates it from traditional communication programs. Unlike the ‘campaign’ approach that represented communication efforts in the past, IMC is an ongoing process that boosts performance in the long term as well as the short term.” IMC requires a major shift in today’s behavior where marketers can only think in a very short-term perspective, building communication programs on a campaign basis.
In his article “Campaign Approach shouldn’t exist in IMC”, SCHULTZ explains that the concept of campaign is in contradiction to the customer-focused idea. Talking in terms of campaign doesn’t allow brands to think of their relationship with customers as long term building.
As we can see, Integrated Marketing Communications would redefine the very notion of Marketing Communication itself. In an article entitled “Beyond Brand Management”, Richard RAWLINSON quotes Don E. SCHULTZ:
“Marketing communications in particular is stuck in the late 1980s paradigm of tactical implementation, We keep planning on the basis of campaigns, looking for short-term returns, using measurement systems that don’t work. The real questions today are about how we can develop horizontal integrating processes and systems that work across disciplines, not just across communication formats. We need some new concepts and new approaches, not just rehashes of what we have been doing for the past 75 years.”
As SCHULTZ says it, we need to rethink our approach, and we need to seek new ways of thinking in the era of complexity.
3- Thinking the complexity
In this section, I would like to refer to the work of Edgar MORIN, a French intellectual, who is considered as the main thinker of complexity.
Firstly, let’s see how Edgar MORIN defines the notion of complexity.
“Complexus means that which is woven together. In fact there is complexity whenever the various elements […] that compose a whole are inseparable, and there is inter-retroactive, interactive, interdependent tissue between the subject of knowledge and its context, the parts and the whole, the whole and the parts, the parts amongst themselves. Complexity is therefore the bond between unity and multiplicity.”
Edgar MORIN explains that “Pertinent knowledge must confront complexity”. In our societies, we usually fragment problems in order to deal with them. This leads us to a situation of hyper-specialization where each specialist deals with a little piece of the issue on an individual basis. This is exactly what has happened to our industry. In the marketing field, we now have an array of specialists dealing with micro problems and micro opportunities, and working with fragmented knowledge.
Edgar MORIN points the dangers of such an approach:
“In fact, hyper-specialization keeps us from seeing the global (which it fragments) and the essential (which it dissolves). And it keeps us from correctly treating specific problems that cannot be raised and thoughtfully considered out of context. Essential problems are never fragmented and global problems are ever more essential.”
He defines hyper-specialization as: “[A] self-enclosed specialization that does not allow for integration into a global problematic or overall conception of the object of which it considers only one aspect or part.”
Here we are at the crux of the situation. This is a phenomena that the author calls “the principle of reduction”: a “principle of reduction of the knowledge of a whole to knowledge of its parts”.
This is the main issue we are dealing with in companies where you have experts in all disciplines. In marketing departments, you have experts for advertising, experts for promotions, experts for direct marketing… Such an organization has existed for a while and, as Angus JENKINSON told me during our interview: this is the easiest thing to do: “You have organizations that are structured in different disciplines, with different budgets, and it is very hard to get out of it because it is very convenient!”.
Isolation and compartmentalization of knowledge makes us blind, and “keeps us from grasping “that which is woven together.”. Therefore, “the whole of our knowledge forms an unintelligible puzzle.” says Edgar MORIN, and “Interactions, retroactions, contexts and complexities, lost in the no man’s land between different disciplines, become invisible. The major human problems disappear, obscured by specific technical problems.”
Thinking out of the “Jigsaw Mode”
As we divide the world into many different pieces, it is hard to think integrated. This is what Angus JENKINSON calls the “Jigsaw Mode” – described during our interview.
“The mental problem is what I describe as the Jigsaw Mode, and it is grounded in the whole analytical training that we receive in western scientific and western educational practice.”
Instead of trying to aggregate all the different pieces to make a whole, things should be considered an alternative way:
“I think that you want to turn that around and then think in a whole way about the process, which I would call for example the Egg Theory rather than the Jigsaw Theory.”
“Shouldn’t the coming century liberate itself from the control of mutilated mutilating rationality so that the human mind can finally control it? It means understanding disjunctive, reductive thought by exercising thought that distinguishes and connects. It does not mean giving up knowledge of the parts for Knowledge of the whole, or giving up analysis for synthesis, it means conjugating them. This is the challenge of complexity which ineluctably confronts us as our planetary era advances and evolves.”
Edgar MORIN’s approach echos the issues related to Integrated Marketing Communications. Many lessons can be taken from his book: “Introduction à la pensée complexe”.
Thinking things that way is not something natural in our Western societies where logics are very linear. “Well in Western countries, we break everything into smaller and smaller parts. We think we can understand how things work if we break them down.” says Don E. SCHULTZ during our interview. “If you look at Asian cultures, however, they are all holistic: everything is related. There are radically different thinking patterns between the East and the West.”
Don E. SCHULTZ is not surprised of the great receptivity of IMC in Asian countries: this way of thinking perfectly compliments with their culture.
“What I have seen is a great deal of acceptance and recognition of IMC in Asia. When I first started going to China, Japan and Korea, there was no “we don’t want to do IMC”. There was just “Sure. Of course. I understand.” But in the West, you have to explain everything, why it works and why it changes things. In Asia, everyone is just: oh yeah, OK, let’s go do that! And I think part of it is that it just fits the culture.”
Unlike Asian countries in which the theory of Integrated Marketing Communications seems pretty obvious and natural, Western societies struggle with the concept. This is what JENKINSON points as a key “mental challenge”.
This challenge needs to be overcome in order to bring to life the theory of IMC.
From multiple interpretations of a theory to the implementation of business processes
The semantic debate around the theory of Integrated Marketing Communications illustrates the varied interpretations of the concept itself. While some marketers will use the expression “360 communication” to talk about IMC and use the terms interchangeably, others might talk about “total touch points communication”, “Media neutrality”, or “Holistic marketing” for example.
The difference between those terms is unclear and there is a lot of confusion around the term of IMC itself.
“Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) seems to have passed through and still is passing through a conjectural storm as t its meaning and purpose.”
Such a confusion around the theory leads us to a key question: is IMC a theory?
SCHULTZ and KITCHEN point the lack of “formal agreed-upon definition” and this is the reason why, according to the authors, IMC cannot yet be considered as a theory.
Some authors, as we saw earlier, used this observation as a way to criticize and call into question the concept of IMC. CORNELISSEN and LOCK argue that IMC is no more than a managerial fashion.
If badly interpreted and taken for what it is not, if implemented in the wrong way, IMC might become no more than the “managerial fad” CORNELISSEN and LOCK are talking about.
I strongly believe that the heart of the problem is the coexistence of many different levels of understanding and acceptance of what IMC means and involves in terms of practice. Such a blurry and tired understanding may come from an initial problem related the definition of the object itself, but also to the history of IMC as a theory.
Looking at IMC as a practice, we will confirm the hypothesis formulated in the first part. We will see that the misinterpretations of the theory, and the confusion around the term IMC itself leads to multiple levels of implementation within organizations.
Part II – IMC as a practice
Chapter 1 – Organizing for IMC
In this Part, I will look at Integrated Marketing Communications through another angle: the one of practice. What are the key defining elements of IMC as a practice? What sort of challenges are organizations facing in implementing IMC processes?
As we will see, there are many obstacles to the implementation of IMC as a true business process… What are the barriers to the implementation of Integrated Marketing Communications? How can we address them?
In the following Chapters, I will focus on the two key challenges organizations are facing in order to bring to life IMC processes: the one of organizing for IMC, and the one of measuring IMC.
In the first Part, we have seen that Integrated Marketing Communications requires a new way of thinking in the era of complexity. Problems cannot be solved in a linear way, and fragmentation of knowledge is a massive barrier to integration.
Therefore, in order to think integrated, organizations need to rethink the way the function, because truly Integrated Marketing Communications cannot possibly happen in organizations the way most of them are structured today.
This is the business challenge Angus JENKINSON is talking about when he is talking about Integrated Marketing. As we have seen, the two notions of Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications are intrinsically linked.
1- The pillars for integration
Many different models have been developed, many consultancy firms offer very elaborated tools and solutions to rethink organizations and help them move towards integration.
My goal is not to create a new model. There is no set standard, no template, no ideal structure on how to best organize IMC.
I see two main organizational challenges for companies to truly integrate. Companies need to reorganize to be more consumer-centric and put more collaborative processes in place.
Pillar #1: Consumer centricity
Most observers agree that IMC requires to put the consumer at the center of the process. For example, Philip KOTLER, defines IMC as “a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the viewpoint of the consumer”.
What does a consumer-centric organization mean? What are the main challenges in such a task?
Heidi and Don E. SCHULTZ define consumer centricity in -IMC – The next generation- as the ability to “Understand and be able to respond to the needs of the consumers one wishes to serve”. The notion of “needs” here is very important. In the dictionary, one can read the following definition of need as “circumstances in which something is necessary, or that require some course of action; necessity: the basic human need for food.”
In a society where choices are infinite and we consume much more than we actually need, what is the true sense of a need?
I believe responding to the needs of a consumer goes far beyond just creating a product that might be purchased. Responding to consumer needs requires a true and deep understanding of who they are, what they want, what they aspire to be.
When Johnson’s Baby created BabyCenter.com, the idea behind the initiative was to understand mothers’ needs and their propensity to absorb information. It was about extending the conversation a step further, beyond just baby’s skin care, beyond the product itself. The Baby giant managed to understand the deepest need of every mother in the world: the one of being a good mom.
It is not that easy for an organization to become consumer-centric. Understanding the needs of the consumer and building truly consumer-centric processes and structures, organizations are facing massive challenges. Most companies are product-focused, which means that everything is structured and organized around product, with “product-managers” or “line-managers”. Resultantly, companies face a real problem in viewing their organizations in a more consumer-centric fashion. As Don E. SCHULTZ put it during our interview:
“The biggest problem that clients have is that they have an organizational structure centered around product management. They make stuff. It doesn’t make any difference whether anybody wants it or not. They have a factory or plant. They have to make products in those plants and then, they have to find somebody to buy them. In this type of situation, it’s very difficult for them to become focused on the customers”
As SCHULTZ states it, in such a situation, being consumer-centric is quite difficult since the process starts the wrong way. Instead of focusing on what consumers want while creating products, companies would force-sell existing products to consumers who, hopefully, might need it.
In an Booz Allen Hamilton publication, -« Making differentiation make a difference », Patrick BARWISE, and Seán MEEHAN, point a key problem in our industry:
“Marketers ardently care about […] little features because they believe the features make their products and services stand out. That’s why they try so hard to build their brand’s performance on tidbits like Mennen E (the deodorant with vitamin E), the cereal that proclaims it stays crispy in milk longer than the others, or the Web-enabled refrigerator. But customers hardly seem impressed.”
Patrick BARWISE, and Seán MEEHAN put the consumer back at the center of the process. According to the authors, “To start, companies need to know what consumers really care about.” They quote some successful examples of companies that managed to truly understand the deepest needs of their consumer: the example of the Unilever Mentadent toothpaste is a good one.
Launching the first superior dental hygiene solution in 1993, Unilever understood the true and deep needs of the consumer when he buys toothpaste: what he cares about is dental hygiene. Therefore, the combination of toothpaste, baking soda and peroxide echoed in the mind of the consumer. That is what he wanted and needed. BARWISE, and MEEHAN say “Unlike a meaningless pink stripe down the middle of the toothpaste, this was a differentiation that made a difference.” Two years after its launch, Mentadent was a $250 million brand and had a 12% share of the US market.
Clearly, the Mentadent example is more the exception than the rule.
BARWISE and MEEHAN refer to the statistics from University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, an index which aims at measuring satisfaction for 200 companies in 40 industries. Although this index can score a maximum of 100, it has never exceeded 75 and many industries rate lower today than they did in 1994.
How come consumer’s satisfaction decreased over the past decade in most of the industries? Consumers had more and more products at their disposal, and these products had more and more features, but they didn’t seem to really care about that. What they were actually looking for was not on the shelf.
According to Don E, SCHULTZ, there is a true lack of understanding of the consumer within companies. As he said during our interview, marketers refer to demographics to talk about their targets, but very often, the deep needs and wants of the consumer are not taken into account:
“The problem with consumer product companies is that they have no clue as to who their consumers are. They just know that they are a bunch of women 18 to 49. They think they would be a very interesting group to sell these things to!“
In an article entitled -“The Customer-Centric Organization: From Pushing Products to Winning Customers”- Paul F. Kocourek, Paul Hyde, John Jones, Matt Egol, Frank Ribeiro, and Andrew Tipping underline the difference between a truly consumer-centric organization and an organization that would pretend to be so:
“[consumer-centric organizations] moved beyond lip service and re-oriented their entire operating model around the customer, increasing customer satisfaction and their own profitability in the process.”
Further in the article, they add: “Customer-centric companies understand not only what the customer values, but also the value the customer represents to their bottom line.”
Paul F. Kocourek, Paul Hyde, John Jones, Matt Egol, Frank Ribeiro, and Andrew Tipping summarize the key differences between a product-focused and a consumer-centric organization – see chart below: “From Product-Focused to Censumer-Centric”.￼
Downloadable PDF: http://www.booz.com/media/file/141263.pdf
In their article, Kocourek, Hyde, Jones, Egol, Ribeiro, and Tipping focus on what they call the “The Building Blocks of a consumer-centric organization”. Here, I would like to focus on four of these building blocks listed by the authors: “Customer Life Cycle view”, “Solution Mindset”, “Advice Bundling”, and “Can-Do Customer Interface”
“Customer Life Cycle view”
According to the authors, being consumer-centric is about having a “holistic and continuous view of each consumer’s evolving life cycle needs”. Therefore, instead of viewing the consumer in terms of “a series of events”, consumers should be approached with a wider angle of view.
They quote Amazon.com as an example. Amazon.com manages to integrate continuity in its relationship with the consumer, through the recording of customer’s past purchase, or the analysis of consumer’s browsing behavior, or even the tool that allows consumers to see what similar customers have purchased.
For Paul F. Kocourek, Paul Hyde, John Jones, Matt Egol, Frank Ribeiro, and Andrew Tipping, marketers need to evolve in terms of mindset. They need to move from “selling products to solving problems”. In that approach: “Solutions replace products as the basic element to the customer value proposition”.
For the authors, it is key to “engage in a continuing dialogue with customers” which wouldn’t be limited to the purchase moment. This dialogue would “start before and end long after the sale”.
“Can-Do Customer Interface”
This is another building-block of a consumer-centric organization. For the authors, “distribution channels should be armed with the skills and authority to tailor solutions at the point of contact”. This has always driven me crazy, when at the restaurant for example, the waitress explains to me that the course can’t be served without the sauce! I want to run to the kitchen and show the cook that, even though, in the menu, the course comes with a sauce, it is actually possible to do things differently. This is what the authors call the “Can-Do Customer Interface”. They talk about the example of the Ritz Carlton Hotel where front line employees have been allowed to compensate guests on the spot in case of a problem.
The authors also mention another building block, which is the one of a cross-functional effort. This is what I defined as the second pillar for integration.
Pillar #2: Collaboration processes
This point is a consequence from the its predecessor: in order to be consumer-centric, organizations need to implement collaborative processes.
As Paul F. Kocourek, Paul Hyde, John Jones, Matt Egol, Frank Ribeiro, and Andrew Tipping say it in their article:
“Tailoring solutions to customer’s ever-changing needs requires a level of cooperation across functions, across product and service lines, and across company boundaries.”
Therefore, it is about moving towards a “Collective, Cross-Functional Effort”, what the authors also call “[creating] the linkages for esprit de corps”.
Inside a company, employees need to work together in order to achieve the same unique goal.
When I asked Angus JENKINSON to describe what the organization of the future looked like, he answered:
“I think in the first place, it is very conscious of itself as a unique place creating value for every stakeholder. It works from the principle that everything that it does has to create value for all stakeholders. So it has to create value for people doing the work, and for the people that it is done for.
This description resonates strongly and I firmly believe the idea of creating “value for every stakeholder” is what will lead to a true collaboration between actors.
As we will see in the following section, being a consumer-centric organization and allowing its members to truly collaborate requires dramatic structural change. Only with such change, organizations will allow truly Integrated Marketing Communications to come to effect.
2- Evolving the structure
Firstly, let’s define what we mean by structure.
Here is a definition from Booz & Company, in an article called “The DNA of marketing” by Edward Landry, Andrew TIPPING, and Brodie DIXON:
“Structure is […] the way the organization is designed -the layers of the hierarchy and the spans of control held by individuals within the layers.”
In their text, Edward Landry, Andrew TIPPING, and Brodie DIXON also define what changing a structure means. To their point: “Changing structure is not only about moving boxes and lines in the organization chart.”
Any structural change has to involve a much deeper approach to what is reflected as the “building blocks of organizational DNA”:
Downloadable PDF: http://www.orgdna.com/downloads/orgdna_exec_summary.pdf
“Changing structure requires changing decision rights; to make effective decisions, employees need new incentives and different information.”
“Stimulating the right attitudes”
A true and deep change in the way an organization is structured involves transformations in each of these four key areas. Therefore, according to the authors, it relates to “shifting the incentives that prompt action”, “articulating the decision rights in the right way” and “fluidifying information”. Only these major changes will allow organization to implement consumer-centric and collaboration processes.
Such changes will have an impact on the whole organization. It will, according to LANDRY, TIPPING and DIXON, “stimulate the right attitudes”. Stimulating the right attitudes is the only way to allow truly Integrated Marketing Communications to happen.
“Changing a company DNA means weaving intelligence, decision making capabilities, and a collective focus on a common goal widely and deeply into the fabric of the organization so that each person and each unit is working smartly and together.”
As Gary NEILSON, Bruce A. PASTERNACK, and Decio MENDES say it in their article – “The Four Bases of Organizational DNA”– “Employees respond quite rationally on the basis of what they see, what they understand and how they’re rewarded”. This is about rational behavior: the members of an organization respond to signals and act accordingly. If they are rewarded on the performance of their single department, why would they care about collaborative efforts? Each department becomes then a single business unit, with its own objectives and purposes, and integration cannot take place.
The right incentives need to take place in order to stimulate the right attitudes and behaviors. In an article entitled “Integrate Now! Break Down the Silos“, Gay GADDIS, president and CEO of T3 (The Think Tank), says:
“The way most clients’ businesses have traditionally been structured, online and traditional marketing departments are separate entities and are rewarded separately for their individual successes. With no incentive in place to encourage integration, it’s no wonder so many marketers are still working in their silos.”
“I say shoot the elephant. For any truly integrated marketing campaign to be successful, companies need to restructure their financial incentive plans. We have to take a macro look at the overall results of a campaign rather than a micro-view of individual components– and financially reward the combined team for its integrated efforts.”
The ripple effect of reorganization
We should keep in mind that what Gary NEILSON, David KLETTER and John JONES say in the article “Treating the Troubled Corporation”.
“In designing these changes, leaders must be mindful of the ripple effects that can cascade across an organization once one element of its architecture is altered.”
An organization is build on an architecture, and it is not possible to impact one of its elements without impacting the others. Therefore, the changes we are talking about should be affecting the entire architecture of an organization.
Facing “behavioral barriers”
During our interview, Angus JENKINSON mentioned a key challenge for integration to take place which he called a “behavioral challenge”.
Trying to better understand this behavioral barrier to the implementation of Integrated Marketing Communications, one could refer to the writings of HOBBES. The philosopher describes this “war of every man against every man” where the “state of nature” of human beings leads them to focus on their own self-interest.
Thinking about organizations, we should keep in mind that we are talking about a group of individuals who are defending their own self-interests. As Gary NEILSON, Bruce A. PASTERNACK, and Decio MENDES say it in their article – “TheFour Bases of Organizational DNA”-, companies are not “monolithic entities”. “They are collections of individuals who typically act in their own self-interest.”
As Angus JENKINSON said it during our interview:
“We are all human beings. We are a little bit vulnerable […] we are worried about doing well, we are worried about how things will work out… We all have goal targets and we try to achieve these targets. So if you are on the agency side, it is about getting more budget, because getting more budget means that you are successful and profitable and all of those things. And on the marketing side, each of the different departments wants as much budget as it can to do what it is trying to do.”
This is what Angus JENKINSON describes as a “built-in conflict model”. Since all the individuals are competing for resources, they are intrinsically in conflict -therefore, it is important to “encourage people to overcome that natural direction towards conflict into a real collaborative engagement.”
Such a challenge is, by definition, related to a question of “control”. As Don E. SCHULTZ said it during our interview, the main problem is that “Senior management knows how to run siloed organizations and they are not going to give that up.”
The individuals who work in organizations are specialists. They all have their own area of expertise which, in a way, represents their value-add.
Their specialty is their way of controlling a part of the organization and they don’t want to give up that control. They have their budget and their responsibilities, simplistically, they have ownership and vested interest.
“People, departments, and organizations want power and the rewards that go with it. Too often, managers and their staff believe they will be giving up too much if they implement effective IMCs planning. Prestige and position that have in many cases been hard-won, that the combining of responsibilities required by IMC seem to threaten.”
Moving towards a collaborative model, individuals might feel threatened. They might be afraid to lose what they own. Therefore, the only way to incentivize members of an organization to collaborate is to get them involved at a higher level of interest.
As long as people are judged on the performance of their siloed departments, as long as budgets are allocated by disciplines, it will be impossible to overcome these behavioral barriers.
If we elevate the debate, these behavioral barriers are related to the question of individual identities. In the integration process, people are afraid they might lose their identity. “The problem with integration is very simple: if you integrate something, the firm and the people lose their identity. Nobody wants to do that.” says SCHULTZ.
This leads us to another form of integration mentioned in the introduction: the European one. In this integration process, the identity issue is put in very similar terms. The European Integration process relies on this difficult balance to find in the management of local identities. The challenge is to integrate economics, politics processes at the bigger scale while preserving local particularism.
The European integration is and has been facing very similar problems. It has solved some of the issues, but there is still a long way to go for truly integration to take place. The identity question remains a burning issue, and the strength of nationalism shows that a lot of progress needs to be accomplished.
The European Union, same as the organizations we are discussing, have to deal with fears and insecurities. These insecurities need to be taken into account when implementing integrated processes.
Dealing with insecurities
I had the chance to speak to Sylvie GROSJEAN who is an expert in anything related to change in the organizations. Sylvie GROSJEAN is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, at the Department of Communication. She is a Member of the Interdisciplinary Research Group in Organizational Communication (IRGOC).
As Sylvie GROSJEAN explained it during our interview, societies have a very “functionalist” vision of the organizations. What changes is opposed to what remains “inert”. In the Western world, the idea of change is associated to the idea of progress, which leads to a situation where anyone who is resistant to change “will be considered as an anomaly, will be rejected.” For Sylvie GROSJEAN, “This is a criticism we formulate under the name of resistance.”
Sylvie GROSJEAN calls into question this very notion of resistance. What we pejoratively call “resistances” because of our predisposition to do so, might be nothing more that a “natural product of change”. Therefore, in her eyes, this natural product of change could be synonymous with a destabilization, rather than a behavior of resistance.
During our interview, she used a very simple image to illustrate what she said:
“If you come back home, and if someone you live with had been changing everything in the apartment, you will be destabilized, lost, insecure. This change will produce natural effects because you will have to deal with a environment that doesn’t make sense to you anymore.”
Sylvie GROSJEAN talks about this behavior in terms of “insecurities”. According to her, these insecurities are natural reactions to individuals who try to reorganize things and make sense of their environments.
The concept of sensemaking, developed by Karl E. WEICK, is very important. In an article entitled “Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking”, Karl E. WEICK, and Kathleen M. SUTCLIFFE describe sensemaking:
“Sensemaking involves turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words and that serves as a springboard into action.”
Therefore, according to the authors, “Sensemaking is, importantly, an issue of language, talk, and communication. Situations, organizations, and environments are talked into existence.”
For Karl E. WEICK, and Kathleen M. SUTCLIFFE:
“A central theme in both organizing and sensemaking is that people organize to make sense of equivocal inputs and enact this sense back into the world to make that world more orderly.”
Individuals need to make sense of their new environment. I think it is a key challenge organizations face when implementing Integrated Marketing Communications. The dramatic changes required for IMC to take place will obviously face insecurities, and management needs to be aware of them and take them into account.
As illustrated in this Chapter, there are numbers of barriers to overcome in order to implement truly Integrated Marketing Communications.
One can’t solve these issues with a “silver bullet”. Organizations need to be ready to tackle these many issues while also being good at managing change.
There have been so many publications, books and essays, articles and guides on the topic. The issue we have to keep in mind is that the change process will never be the same for different organization. Each organization needs to create a customized process, adapted to its history and reality. There is no universal change management guide that is right for any organizations. Some authors defined key stages and processes. Change management doesn’t have a universal chronology. Change management can only be thought in terms of principles and rules that can vary a lot as soon as it is about implementation.
In a Booz Allen Hamilton publication, John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE put together a list of the ”Top Ten Principles of Change Management” which I think is great and that I would like to refer to.
Principle #1: Address the “human side” systematically.
In order to deal with what the authors call “people issues” (resistance due to any transformation), “the change-management approach should be fully integrated into program design and decision making, both informing and enabling strategic direction.”
Principle #2: Start at the top.
According to John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE, “The leaders themselves must embrace the new approaches first, both to challenge and to motivate the rest of the institution.” Leaders have a key role in spreading change within the organization. This is why “They must speak with one voice and model the desired behaviors.”
Principle #3: Involve every layer.
John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE use the expression of change “cascades”. They say: “Change efforts must include plans for identifying leaders throughout the company and pushing responsibility for design and implementation down, so that change “cascades” through the organization.” The entire organization must be affected by the change process, and none of its layers should be left aside.
Principle #4: Make the formal case.
According to John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE, “Three steps should be followed in developing the case: First, confront reality and articulate a convincing need for change. Second, demonstrate faith that the company has a viable future and the leadership to get there. Finally, provide a road map to guide behavior and decision making.”
Principle #5: Create ownership.
The authors mention the importance of ownership in change management. They say that ”Ownership is often best created by involving people in identifying problems and crafting solutions. It is reinforced by incentives and rewards.” Therefore, a series of tools and measures can take place in order to involve the members of an organization in the change process itself. The more people are involved, the easier it will be for change to actually happen.
Principle #6. Communicate the message.
According to John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE, no one should presume that members of an organization feel the need to change. “The best change programs reinforce core messages through regular, timely advice that is both inspirational and practicable.”
Principle #7: Assess the cultural landscape.
The authors say that “Companies often make the mistake of assessing culture either too late or not at all.” Therefore, it is very important to go through a “cultural diagnostics” in order to “identify the core values, beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions that must be taken into account for successful change to occur.”
Principle # 8: Address culture explicitly.
For John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE, it is very important that leaders are “explicit about the culture and underlying behaviors that will best support the new way of doing business, and find opportunities to model and reward those behaviors.”
Principle # 9: Prepare for the unexpected.
As the authors state it: “No change program goes completely according to plan.“ Therefore, “effectively managing change requires continual reassessment of its impact and the organization’s willingness and ability to adopt the next wave of transformation.” The change management is a continual challenge.
Principle #10: Speak to the individual.
John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE say that “Highly visible rewards, such as promotion, recognition, and bonuses, should be provided as dramatic reinforcement for embracing change.”
This Top Ten list of Principles of Change Management seem very accurate. It doesn’t underestimate the emotional aspect of the process which is key to implementing change in organizations. The idea of involving people in the change process is extremely important. According to John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE:
“Most leaders contemplating change know that people matter. It is all too tempting, however, to dwell on the plans and processes, which don’t talk back and don’t respond emotionally, rather than face up to the more difficult and more critical human issues. But mastering the “soft” side of change management needn’t be a mystery.”
Many industries and institutions have already been going through that process, and their study is very inspiring when thinking about the implementation IMC. The construction industry has been facing very similar issues in the UK for example. The analogy is further developed in Angus JENKINSON’s interview.
During our interview, Angus JENKINSON explained how conflict was present in the construction industry in the UK:
“It was just like in marketing. It was based on a series of contracts and subcontracts. […] Each of them tended to be negotiated on a kind of win-loose, save money and on a bit of a conflict model.”
At some point, the construction industry realized it needed to change. It had a very bad reputation for being overpriced and always late. Angus JENKINSON describes this changing process in the construction industry:
“[It] realized that it needed to adopt a partnership model. As a result, it created new standards for itself across the industry. The industry bodies set out to train the main leading members of the industry: so that is the main suppliers and the main contractors who supplied services, and the main clients who were actually buying the big property organizations. And there was a systematic process across the industry to develop a partnership model. And there were even laws in Parliament that were changed about how things should work to make things easier to develop that kind of partnership model. And, as a result of considerable training, considerable skills of negotiation, new ways of structuring contract and new contracts, new contracts themselves, and procedures… They created this situation which established more of a win-win environment and shared responsibility.”
The construction industry managed to tackle this issue in the UK, and it is not the only one that has been going through that kind of process. Sylvie GROSJEAN developed the example of hospitals during our interview, which deals with similar problematics.
The barriers that organizations have to deal with in moving towards Integrated Marketing Communications are massive, but not impossible to overcome. Some companies actually started this process, with varying results.
All things considered, the barriers described in this Chapter may be the main reason why « Integrated Marketing is obviously common sense, but amazingly still not common practice.” as Peter FISK, CEO of The Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK puts it. These barriers are the main issue in taking IMC from theory to practice.
This leads us to the second Chapter of this Part dedicated to the second key challenge in implementing Integrated Marketing Communications: measuring IMC.
Chapter 2 – Measuring IMC
I had the chance to interview Bob LIODICE who is president and chief executive officer of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers). Bob LIODICE recently wrote an article in AdAge entitled “Essentials for Integrated Marketing”. In this article, he mentions the four imperatives to overcome in order to achieve truly integrated marketing communications: strategic consistency, common measurement process, functional silos and professional skills.
During our interview, I asked him how he would prioritize these four challenges. He answered:
“I would say that the notion of having a common measurement process […] is certainly critical. […] Once you do develop that common measurement platform, that will facilitate, I think, the level of strategic consistency across the communications disciplines, and start to break down some of the functional silos that exist. So I am not saying it is the most important thing, but I believe a common measurement platform could be very helpful in facilitating some of the other barriers.”
This is extremely important: correctly measuring IMC will be a key challenge since it will make everything else easier. Measurement will act then as a facilitator for the implementation of Integrated Marketing processes. It will help organizations overcome most of the barriers they are facing, even the mental and behavioral afore mentioned. Only being able to measure Integrated Marketing Communications will make its practice possible.
As we have seen in the first Chapter, organizational changes required for the implementation of Integrated Marketing Communications are massive and in such a context of change, individuals may feel lost or threatened. This is the reason why it is important to help them define new points of reference, so that they can give sense back to their environment. Offering new points of reference to the members of an organization is the only way to deal with insecurities.
John JONES, DeAnne AGUIRRE, and Matthew CALDERONE mention an important point in their article entitled “Ten Principles of Change Management”. They say:
“Individuals (or teams of individuals) need to know how their work will change, what is expected of them during and after the change program, how they will be measured, and what success or failure will mean for them and those around them.”
Members of organizations need to understand their changing environment. They need to reevaluate what is expected from them: they need to redefine both the criteria for their own success as an individual and the criteria for success of their organization.
The notion of expectation is very important. Individuals need to be aware of the new expectations due to the new IMC goal: they need to understand the new rules of the game. They have to know how they will be judged and evaluated, and what successful Integrated Marketing Communications means. Therefore, a key challenge is actually to evaluate the success of IMC. This is why the debate surrounding evaluation metrics is extremely important.
How can we evaluate the success of Integrated Marketing Communications? What are the difficulties we are facing in that measurement process?
1- Why measuring is important
One of the most famous quotes related to measurement is often attributed to John Wanamaker: “I am certain that half the money I spend in advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I do not know which half.” For decades, organizations have been evolving in that blurry perspective.
As we have seen in the first Part of this paper, times have changed. The time when marketers could be satisfied only looking at their GRP numbers is over. During the time when we had nothing more than TV, Print and Radio to reach our audiences, the industry was extremely different and we could only measure a few standard things. In a way, these decades of approximation lead us to a situation in which marketers got used to this approximation; and worse, marketers became satisfied with it.
In their article “The Better Half: The Artful Science of ROI Marketing.”, Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg describe what they call a “Cycle of assumption, approximation and acceptance”:
“Because companies believe they cannot tell which portion of their marketing spend leads to steady increases in sales, share, and profitability, they rely on imperfect metrics and anecdotes to guide their marketing programs, which today account for hundreds of billions of dollars in worldwide spending annually.”
The problem is that marketing has been living like this for decades, assuming correlations between things. Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg point that situation in their article. Has the correlation between awareness and sales ever been proved?
The root of the problem comes from this widely spread idea that “persuasion is an art”, as stated by Bill BERNBACH, the famous advertising advocate who used to “warn against believing that advertising is a science. » Bill BERNBACH put it this way: « Logic and over-analysis can immobilize and sterilize an idea. It’s like love – the more you analyze it, the faster it disappears. »
That this idea of persuasion being an art created a very restrictive approach in which measurement didn’t really matter.
According to Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg:
“Marketing executives, almost from the beginning of mass marketing, have believed that they should intuit the “Big Idea”, and all else would follow.”
In their article entitled “Making the perfect marketer” Paul HYDE, Edward LANDRY, and Andrew TIPPING observe:
“Companies [are] still predominantly using “surrogate metrics” instead of more disciplined financial-returns measures to assess the value of their contribution to the enterprise.”
HYDE, LANDRY, and TIPPING quote the vice president of finance at a CPG company who told them: “There is no consistent definition of ROI. We are using ‘rule of thumb’ guidelines.”
At the beginning of the 21st century, such an approach is no longer possible or effective. More than ever, marketers are asked to give hard proof that their investment is actually working and they are facing more and more pressure to do so.
Effectively measuring the impact of marketing communications is now an imperative. As Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg state it: “ROI marketing will become a requirement for survival as marketings ancien régime continues to crumble.”
Pressure on marketers
Marketing, more than ever, is facing the pressure of accountability. This is what Nikhil BAHADUR, Patrick W. HOUSTON, Curt MUELLER, and Martha TURNER observe in their article: -”Not Just Effective but Efficient. A New Blueprint for Marketing in an Era of Fragmented Media.”
“For chief marketing officers at big companies, the pressure has never been greater. To a large extent, this pressure is a function of proliferating media options. The CMO who once had to be well versed primarily in print and television advertising, and to occasionally immerse himself in a billboard campaign or sponsorship, now has to worry about newer types of advertising —starting, of course, with the Internet.”
Paul HYDE, Edward LANDRY, and Andrew TIPPING actually observe that marketing’s “inability to justify return on investment” is the “major reason why marketing is not appreciated by senior leadership.” To illustrate their observation, they use the findings of the Booz Allen Hamilton and ANA 2004 survey which says that for 51% of organizations interviewed, the fact that “measuring marketing performance is difficult” is a reason for pressure on marketing.
In their article “The Better Half: The Artful Science of ROI Marketing.”, Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg say that “Marketing activities constitute a rapidly growing portion of companies’ cost structure. Meanwhile, the returns are growing even more doubtful.” They make two observations:
The Marcoms spending is bigger than ever: “Advertising and media, trade promotion, and consumer promotion spending now account for as much as 20 to 25 percent of sales among consumer packaged-goods companies in the United States. (up from 15 percent in 1978.)”
“The return on marketing spending, historically quite low, is going lower.” They quote an example from automotive industry and use some data from a CNW Marketing Research: “At the Big Three automotive manufacturers, incentives have more than tripled since 1990, reaching nearly $3,800 per vehicle, or 14 percent of the average sales price”.
The measurement paradox
As Paul HYDE, Edward LANDRY, and Andrew TIPPING say it in their article “Making the perfect marketer”, “Although everybody talks about “marketing ROI,” limited progress seems to have been made on revamping marketing metrics.”
This is a fact, the measurement challenge is an extremely complex question that no one has really managed to solve yet.
Yet, we must balance this observation with another one: we have at our disposal extremely powerful tools to evaluate the impact of communications. A media like the Internet offers a quantity of metrics in order to better understand consumer’s behaviors.
Today more than ever, marketers have an amazing range of tools and metrics at their disposal; but one could wonder: are they used properly? Are they the good ones?
Although measurement seems easier than ever, it is still a major unsolved challenge for most companies. This is what I call the measurement paradox.
The situation is mostly due to the fact that we are not thinking measurement the right way.
2- A new way of thinking measurement
As Sharat K. MATHUR, a principal in Booz Allen’s Chicago office, puts it: “To truly measure marketing effectiveness, companies must engage in a new way of thinking.”
In a Strategy+Business article entitled “When Art Meets Science: the challenge of ROI marketing”, reference is made to the Wharton marketing professor Z. John ZHANG who says that “companies should always view metrics as a way to generate business insights and to bolster and invigorate their overall customer-focused strategies.”
The Disney example which is developed in the article perfectly illustrates what Z. John ZHANG says. When Michael EISNER’s became CEO at Disney, he put in place a new approach based on the vacationers’ total expenditure metric. His starting point was the following question: How much did a family spend on a vacation and what percentage of that money could Disney capture?
ZHANG comments: “This customer-focused metric, the share of vacationers’ total expenditure, generated some good business insights that helped Disney to formulate its growth strategies”.
Disney realized it was capturing only 25% of vacation spending, and in order to increase that share of vacationers’ total expenditure, the company extended its supply to a much broader range of product and services. Disney started building hotels and stores. Some partnerships were created with airlines in order to offer travel packages, with buses picking up visitors. Disney TV, Disney Radio, Disney Hotels, Disney Stores… This is what ZHANG calls ‘toll booths’.
In a few years, Disney dramatically increased its share of vacationers’ spending, capturing about 75% of vacation spending.
The Disney example illustrates what metrics should be used for. They should be connected with insights and use the consumer as a starting point.
With his comprehensive approach using the vacationers’ total expenditure metric, Michael EISNER redefined the entire strategy of the brand.
As Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg say it in their article “The Better Half: The Artful Science of ROI Marketing.”: “Typically, companies approach the marketing predicament from an isolated vantage point” but they say that “It is a problem of analytics, or systems”. This leads us to the first part of this paper when we were talking about “complex thinking”: things should be thought in a comprehensive way. In a 1999 article in the journal Marketing Science, ZHANG and three co-authors said “A profit measure which takes into account these important cross-effects is the most relevant performance metric for category management.”
According to Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg, it is about:
“Changing the century-old mind-set that posits, often explicitly, that marketing is solely an art, measurable only on the basis of customer attitudes, however tenuously they link to consumers’ activities.”
Leslie H. Moeller, Sharat K. Mathur, and Randall Rothenberg say: “ROI marketing is not a fix, but a philosophy.”
The expression “ROI Marketing” is now commonplace, but it doesn’t mean that it is yet applied by companies. As the Wharton marketing professor Peter S. FADER says: “ROI marketing is a legitimate and necessary idea but it’s terribly executed in most marketing practices.”
Measuring the return on investment is not an easy task, no matter the form of the investment to be measured. As LARCKER, the Wharton accounting professor, puts it:
“It’s very difficult for companies to figure out the return on anything — training, HR practices, marketing, innovation. If you do a marketing initiative and invest a certain amount of money in it, you need to figure out which portion of your cash flow is generated by that investment.”
When we talk about marketing, things are even more complicated. The main difficulty is to connect the “R” and the “I”: How can we attribute a certain return to a certain investment?
The biggest challenge actually is in measuring the “I” (Investment). As discussed earlier, today more than ever, we have many tools at our disposal to evaluate marketing communications and measure the “R” (Return). The true difficulty seems the one of measuring the investment itself, because so many different things are happening at the same time… Companies are investing on such a broad range of marketing communications that it is, sometimes, difficult to keep track. And it is impossible to attribute one sale to one specific components of the communications. If I visit the Nike Website today, I might not buy shoes right away. I might actually think about it for another week. Maybe I will see a stimulating billboard on my way back home, run into the store and buy a new pair of Nike. What impacted my purchase? Is it my online experience a week ago? Or is it the giant billboard I just saw by the store? Or is it the new pair of Nikes my coworker’s wore yesterday?
To this question Prasad A. NAIK gives a very simple answer. Of all the theories about how to measure IMC, NAIK’s approach is the one that resonates most strongly. NAIK suggests a “proactive” view of IMC which we will develop in the next section.
Measuring “media synergies”
For Prasad A. NAIK, it is not about thinking about activities as separate entities that don’t affect one another, it is about thinking communications in terms of what he calls the “media synergy”. In 2007, Prasad A. NAIK defined “media synergy” saying that “the combined effect of multiple media exceeds the sum of their individual effects”. Such a definition describes the fact that the whole is bigger than the sum of its part (2+2=5)
According to Prasad A. NAIK:
“ … the role of joint effects or synergies generated due to the orchestration of multiple activities.”
What NAIK says seems very simple at first: he says we should measure the whole. He suggests an approach to evaluating marketing communications looking at the overall. What we should measure is the combined effects of all marketing and communications activities at one time.
“ … IMC is much more than simply using multiple media concurrently as in the standard multimedia model, where the effectiveness of each activity does not depend upon any other activity.”
“ … the effectiveness of each activity depends upon all other communication activities used by the firm.”
In a presentation called “Competition or Collaboration, The Role of Online-Offline Media Synergy”, Prasad A. NAIK and Kay PETERS insist on the importance of these “media synergies” and demonstrate with several mathematic operations that “synergy enhances the effectiveness of the other medium”.
Looking at NAIK’s and PETERS’s estimation model, one should better understand their approach. According to the authors, spending dollars on an ineffective medium could actually be effective. This is what they call the “Catalytic Effect of Synergy”. Spending money on an ineffective medium can be a smart choice if this spending “exhibits synergy with other effective media”.
Prasad A. NAIK and Kay PETERS demonstrate that online-offline synergies exist empirically. They say that “Media effectiveness and cross-media synergies can be estimated using market data”.
The idea of measuring the whole and evaluating cross-media synergies calls into question the way we currently think measurement.
In an article entitled “Measure IMC’s whole—not just each part”, Don E. SCHULTZ describes NAIK’s approach as “the next stage in the evolution and development of IMC.”. He says:
“What Naik’s view does is make IMC a truly strategic approach to marketing and communications. It answers questions senior management is asking, not just what functional managers are interested in as they try to increase their individual budget and spending levels. Most of all, it forces a cross-functional view of marketing communications, such as what works in combination, not the old-hat argument about above-the-line/below-the-line or —worse still— the advertising vs. PR controversy some consultants are still flogging.”
NAIK’s vision of measurement is a radically new way of thinking about evaluating Integrated Marketing Communications. Such an approach would give new points of reference for members of organizations and help them understand what is expected from them. “Measuring IMC’s whole – not just each part” as stated by SCHULTZ is a giant step in making of IMC a reality, and a practice in organizations.
IMC requires more than the adaptation of our old system
As illustrated in this second Part, organizations are facing two key challenges in implementing Integrated Marketing Communications: they need to organize for IMC, and they need to find a new way to evaluate and measure marketing communications.
The necessary organizational and mental changes required are massive and involve the whole organization. Nevertheless, they are imperative for the implementation of IMC. It is no wonder that the implementation of such a revolutionary way of thinking and working will take a lot of time and effort… It is not only about adding layers to the existing system and it is much more than just an adaptation of the way we currently work. The whole industry is called into question.
More than just an evolution, it is a revolution, because the theory of Integrated Marketing Communications is revolutionary. As Angus JENKINSON said it during our interview: “I think revolutionary ideas take a while for people to actually understand them.”
After twenty years of existence, only a few firms can be considered as models for the implementation of IMC.
Part III – IMC in action
In this third part, I will focus on the implementation of Integrated Marketing Communications. What are the main barriers to bring this theory to life? How is IMC currently implemented in organizations? What are the best practices on the market?
I would like to start this new part by making an observation that seems obvious, but that has an real impact on the implementation of IMC. Integrated Marketing Communications is an interesting proposition for marketers and they value it! As Colin GREEN, Marketing Director at Land Rover UK put it: « Truly Integrated Marketing is the holy grail for the marketer.”
The problem is that it requires dramatic organizational and mental changes. This is obvious, but why would anyone be willing to change when things are going well? (especially when changes required are that massive)
If you ask a straight A student to dramatically change the way he works and studies, he might not understand. He will continue to use the same methods to repass his exams, and he might as well score high on the next exam!
This is the exact same thing with companies. They are successful, and therefore they don’t see any need for a change. “If the company has been successful using traditional approaches, that is, if your marketing programs are working or are perceived to be working, no one wants to change them.” said Don E. SCHULTZ during our interview. “As a result, today we have very successful organizations that sort of wandered along, doing the things that they have always done, and not being willing to change because they haven’t needed to change.”
It is important to keep this in mind while reading the rest of this third Part.
Chapter 1 – The two levels of implementation for IMC
In this Chapter, I demonstrate that there is a gap between what organizations do and what organizations think they do. Although organizations often think themselves as integrated, most of them, in reality, are not.
A study was conducted among senior marketing executives of package goods companies, back in 1991. This study aimed at observing the practices of Integrated Marketing Communications in these companies.
In order to make sure everyone was on the same page, the definition of the American Association of Advertising Agencies was utilized. This definition of Integrated Marketing Communications, formulated in 1989 was the following:
“A concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines and combine these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication’ impact”
Based on that definition, the study came to a very surprising number: two thirds of the interviewees said they were integrated!
This is what I am talking about when I say that there is gap between what organizations do and what organizations think they do. This gap between perception and reality adds another layer of complexity.
In this Chapter, I shall illustrate the difference between two forms of Integrated Marketing Communications. I have given them my own titles. I would like to propose two forms of IMC: a superficial one that I will call “tactical one sight IMC” and a true one that I will call “strategic behavioral IMC”.
This distinction comes back to the observation from Angus JENKINSON that was mentioned in introduction, when he made the point of the difference between Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications:
“We see a difference between Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications. Well, the difference is that Integrated Marketing involves thinking about what does the whole organization has to do, as an organization, in order to create sustained, developed, unique value-based identity… […] So it is much broader as a business challenge as it involves the whole executive board, not just the Chief Marketing Officer.”
As illustrated earlier, Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications can’t be thought of separately.
The problem is that these business challenges, when addressed, are treated separately. That is why I am making a distinction between these two levels of implementation.
I strongly believe these two levels of implementation actually correspond to two levels of understanding of the concept itself.
Going back to the works of SCHULTZ and KITCHEN will help us better understand the differences between these two levels of interpretation and implementation.
They describe the four stages in IMC development in –Communicating Globally: An Integrated Marketing Approach.
According to Philip J. KITCHEN, Joanne BRIGNELL, Tao LI and Graham SPICKETT JONES: “despite the focus on agencies serving client needs, this does not mean that IMC has passed to any level beyond stage 1.” – that is the “Tactical Coordination of Marketing Communications”. SCHULTZ and KITCHEN claim that the majority of clients are no further than the first or second stage.
This is what Philip J. KITCHEN, Joanne BRIGNELL, Tao LI and Graham SPICKETT JONES call the “marketing communications myopia”: “Stage 1 is a body blow to true integration and indeed to the discipline of marketing itself”.
This is the difference between a tactical approach (“tactical one sight IMC”), and the implementation of strategic business processes (“strategic behavioral IMC”).
1- Tactical one sight IMC
Tactical one sight IMC corresponds to a very limited and restrictive vision of what IMC means and can do for an organization.
Unfortunately, I think most organizations are not yet beyond this vision.
Tactical one sight IMC would be considering Integrated Marketing Communications as an end without putting in place the necessary processes of Integrated Marketing throughout the whole organization. Basically, it is the fact of pretending integration without implementing the necessary changes for it and without addressing the main barriers to it.
Because addressing these issues is very challenging and takes a lot of effort and time, some organizations would just keep the exact same structure and processes. They may add an extra layer to it, or they may create new boxes and lines in the organization-chart in order to pretend that they are, in fact integrated. But the heart of the problem remains unsolved and the same barriers to integration keep on making life of marketers harder.
The practice of tactical one sight IMC is linked with the initial misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the concept mentioned in the first part. It corresponds to what Philip J. KITCHEN, Joanne Brignell, Tao LI and Graham SPICKETT JONES call the “inside-out IMC” in their article “The Emergence of IMC: A Theoretical Perspective”.
Tactical one sight IMC is nothing more than making sure the brand is consistent in appearance. This is the “one sight, one sound” interpretation. Ads might look alike, creatives might look alike as well. Content might even be recycled from one place to another; but at the end of the day, nothing is done on terms of changing the process.
I have witnessed this as a young strategist at Naked Communications. On many occasions, I have been able to measure the barriers to integration within organizations. I have worked on brands where employees who are supposed to work together as a team don’t even know each other, or are not aware of what other departments have on their plate.
This is a tragedy. This is a tragedy because, while doing so, while pretending to be integrated, organizations are killing on of the greatest concepts in the history of communications. They are -consciously or not- making of it an empty, flat, and limited concept. They are using it as nothing more than a simple tactic.
Not only is tactical one sight IMC is the biggest threat to the concepts of Integrated Marketing Communications and Integrated Marketing themselves, but it also is the biggest missed opportunity in the history of the industry.
As Philip J. KITCHEN, Joanne Brignell, Tao LI and Graham SPICKETT JONES state it in their article:
“Certainly, if [the] meaning [of IMC] simply amounts to bundling promotional mix elements together to create the “one voice” phenomenon, then it is not saying much that’s new, relevant, or even interesting.”
Being interpreted in a very simplified, limited and restrictive form, the concept of IMC loses sense and impact. It becomes nothing more than an empty proposition and its revolutionary aspect gets totally lost.
In their 2004 Journal of Advertising Research article, Philip J. KITCHEN, Joanne Brignell, Tao LI and Graham SPICKETT JONES talk about an example that perfectly illustrates, according to me, the tactical one sight IMC model. It is the example of the UK brand Cadbury. The chocolate giant developed a campaign in which consumers could save special wrappers from Cadbury and win some free sporting goods. As the authors explain it, the campaign was actually integrating several components at the tactical level (advertising, sales promotions, sponsorship, package design, and PR). But this campaign was in contradiction with the business reality of the brand.
“There is a distinct unease in the minds of the customers, consumers, and industry experts on the links between chocolate and obesity, and chocolate and sporting prowess. The entire campaign, while ostensibly offering a consumer benefit is inside-out in its approach.”
The Cadbury example illustrates this tactical approach of IMC, limited to the first stage of SCHULTZ and KITCHEN’s four stages of IMC development. Making different components of communications look alike is one thing; being a truly integrated organization is another thing.
A study was recently conducted with members of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and fielded by CoActive Marketing Group in May 2008. According to the results of this research: 74% of marketers would “employ IMC campaigns for most, if not all, of their brands”.
This number has been quite stable over the past five years. 7-in-10 seems an incredibly high number to me and I think it perfectly illustrates the gap I was talking about earlier between what organizations think they do and hat they actually do. These figures show that many different levels of understanding coexist, and not everyone agrees on what IMC is and means.
Bob LIODICE, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, comments the results of this survey in an article entitled “Essential for Integrated Marketing” published June 9, 2008 in AdAge:
“Although 74% of firms we’ve surveyed say they are using IMC approaches for most or all of their brands, only 25% rated the quality of their IMC programs « excellent » or « very good » — underscoring the need to identify best practices and address the barriers that can impede IMC efforts, including a lack of strategic consistency across communications disciplines; the absence of a common IMC measurement process; the existence of entrenched functional silos inside marketing organizations, as well as within their agency partners; and the dearth of cross-discipline skill sets among marketing staff.”
These numbers show that the overall perception of the quality of the IMC programs is quite low, even though the degree of satisfaction slightly increased between 2003 and 2008.
Although a majority of organizations affirm they have IMC programs in place, most of them seem to remain unsatisfied with them, showing that there is still a long way to go before the implementation of truly Integrated Marketing.
In the survey, have been studied what marketers think are the ”key barriers to effective IMC”. Looking at the results is interesting:
Here are the first two barriers pointed by the interviewees :
The “existence of functional silos” comes at the top of the list – 59% of the marketers surveyed considered that functional silos are the key barrier to the IMC success.
42% of the interviewees point “the lack of strategic consistency across communications disciplines” as another barrier to effective IMC.
These shouldn’t be a problem in an organization where truly Integrated Marketing processes are in place.
It is also very interesting to see that these two barriers were already cited in earlier versions of the study, conducted by the ANA in 2003 and 2006. Therefore, over the past five years, these elements keep on rising at the top of the list of barriers for effective IMC. What does this mean? It means that organizations, year after year, keep on pointing to the same issues. It also means that organizations are aware of what should be done in order to achieve truly integrated marketing communications. Yet, they don’t seem to be successful in facing these challenges. Interestingly, according to a Booz Allen Hamilton study, between 60 and 84% of marketing organizations have been restructured between 2002 and 2005 (depending on the industry). Although a majority of the marketing organizations interviewed have been restructured, they don’t seem to have addressed the key issues.
Here I would like to mention some of the results of Booz Allen’s “Organization DNA” database which aggregated 50,000 surveys on organizational health, conduced between 2003 and 2005 in 100 countries. As reported in an article entitled –”the DNA of marketing”– by Edward LANDRY, Andrew TIPPING and Brodie DIXON, the main finding of this survey is the difficulty marketing organizations are facing in translating strategy into action.
75% of North American marketing organization interviewed said their team was lacking the markers of organizational health.
Only 29% of North American marketers said info moves freely over organizational boundaries.
The entire industry, worldwide, seems to be facing the same issue:
Looking at these numbers, one can easily understand how difficult it is for companies to truly implement Integrated Marketing.
Returning to the 2008 survey conduced by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and fielded by CoActive Marketing Group and to the barriers to IMC pointed by the interviewees.
As illustrated, the “Lack of a standard measurement process” and the “Lack of skill sets among marketing staff” also rank at the top of the barriers to IMC according to the interviewees, which illustrates that broader issues remain unsolved in terms of evaluation tools and training.
Let’s focus on another number that highlights the way marketers think IMC.
32% of the interviewees say that the “need to develop the ‘big creative idea’ that can be leveraged across different media disciplines” is a key barrier for their IMC to be a success.
How can the “need to develop the ‘big creative idea’ that can be leveraged across different media disciplines” possibly be a barrier to effective IMC? What does this actually mean?
The last number illustrates what, unfortunately, is the most common approach of IMC in the industry, which is a very superficial and limited approach, an approach to which I gave the name of tactical one sight IMC.
This is exactly what Paul BAY, former director of consumer communications at Levi Strauss, talks about when he says that:
“Being ‘integrated’ means the creative agency thinks of the idea and everyone else executes it. Changing that convention needs a lot of education. It will be very tough.”
Unfortunately, most brands think integration in these limited and restrictive terms nowadays.
While brands can hold on to that model for a little while, they will only postpone the problem, blinding themselves on an issue they refuse to address.
The main reason for the existence of tactical one sight IMC is the fact that organizations are naturally risk averse. Knowing that the turnover in most of the organizations is quite high, why would anyone challenge an existing model that has proved itself and that keeps on proving itself everyday with double digit growth rates?
As I told in the introduction of this third Part, the main issue can be summarized in a single question: why would anyone be willing to change when things are going well?
2- Strategic behavioral IMC
This leads us to a second model for the implementation of IMC: the one that I named strategic behavioral IMC.
Strategic behavioral IMC means that truly implementing integrated processes are in place and involve the entire organization and all its stakeholders.
It corresponds to the parallel implementation of Integrated Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications. It involves the organizational changes we have mentioned earlier, and addresses the main barriers to the implementation of these processes.
Strategic behavioral IMC is ambitious and it requires an approach that breaks with the usual habits of risk aversion. Only forward-thinking entrepreneurs and marketers can implement it. It requires a lot of work, time, and effort, but drives to immediate results.
Unfortunately, this model is not that commonplace. This is what PERCY, ROSSITER and ELLIOTT mean when they say: “truly integrated marketing communications is the exception rather than the rule”.
But still, some firms are putting a lot of efforts in tackling the issue. We will have a look at some case studies in the third Section of the Chapter, but before that, let’s try to give an overview of the most common practices of Integrated Marketing Communications.
Here again, I would like to use some of the results of the 2008 survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and fielded by CoActive Marketing Group.
According to the survey, 24% of the firms interviewed said their company had job titles specific to Integrated Marketing. About a half of the existing job titles have been created in the last two years.
The survey shows that the majority (65%) of those companies that have Integrated Marketing positions have budget and/or P&L responsibility.
￼It is also interesting to look at the performance review for both employees and agencies. In 2008, the use of IMC-related performance measurements is still quite limited: only 2-in-5 companies evaluate their employees on the basis of successful integration. The same proportions are reported for agencies’ evaluation. Only 40% of the firms interviewed say they use IMC-related performance metrics to review their agencies’ success in integrating the different components of marketing communications.
￼Of course, all these numbers can be analyzed the other way around, and we shouldn’t be too pessimistic looking at these numbers.
As Bob LIODICE put it during our interview:
“We are getting smarter… And at a very rapid rate. I think five years ago, if anybody said that the state of marketing would look like it looks today, we probably wouldn’t have believed it would have taken place! So let’s not just criticize the way we are, let’s take a step back and applaud for the progress that we have made, and know that we have more to do!”
As Bob LIODICE states it, lots of progresses have been made. Some firms really have an edge on the practice of Integrated Marketing Communications.
These models should inspire many other firms in the next few years. Although all brands are not equal in terms of IMC practices, some of them will point the way to truly Integrated Marketing Communications and the reinvention of our industry.
Chapter 2 – Receipe for success
In this Chapter, I would like to mention two keys for success that will make IMC possible. These keys for success are different from the ones mentioned earlier in this paper because they do not concern organizations at an individual level.
These challenges are much broader: they are macro-issues that need to be solved at the scale of the entire industry.
The first one is the one of empowering for IMC, and the second one is the one of training for IMC.
1- Empowering for IMC
Who will be responsible for IMC? Who can lead such a deep and long process of change within an organization?
In -”Making the perfect Marketer”-, Paul HYDE, Edward LANDRY and Andrew TIPPING highlight a key issue: although marketing seems to be more important than ever within organizations, “marketers are having a hard time keeping up”. The fact that the average CMO lasts just 23 months perfectly illustrates this situation.
The Rising importance of Marketing
Marketing seems to be rising in importance and it seems to have became a major factor to corporate success.
In fact, according to a 2004 ANA and Booz Allen Hamilton Marketing Organization survey, 78% of nonmarketers interviewed said that marketing has become “More important” or “Significantly more important”.
￼According to the survey, the “ferocity of competition” is “one of the top factors underlying the growth in marketing’s importance”.
Not only has marketing’s importance risen but also its role within the organization has evolved. Interestingly enough, “a high percentage of respondents believe the function’s most important contributions lie in zones not typically associated with marketing, such as driving innovation and encouraging cross-functional collaboration.” say Paul HYDE, Edward LANDRY and Andrew TIPPING.
The authors report the comments of the chief marketing officer of a bank who told them his work was focused on helping the company “break down the silos across our distinct lines of businesses, ensure an integrated, consistent customer experience, and help drive innovation.”
The authors also report a quote from the senior vice president of marketing at a global food company: “Marketing is about building new businesses, finding the white space, and leading the integration across the organization with sales and R&D.”
Therefore, marketing is seen as able to “orchestrate multifunctional collaboration”, and according to the ANA and Booz Allen Hamilton Marketing Organization survey, 79 percent of consumer packaged goods respondents felt that “marketing is best positioned to orchestrate across corporate functions to create and promote new products and ideas.”
Paul HYDE, Edward LANDRY and Andrew TIPPING add: “Executives in the retail, financial services, professional services, and technology industries also cited marketing’s ability to help create new products and services as being among its highest-value contributions.”
Marketing’s perceived role in orchestrating collaboration may let us thing that marketers are actually the best suited to tackle the Integrated Marketing Communication issue.
The problem is that, although marketing seems to be the best positioned to address these challenges, it seems to face multiple obstacles in its task.
Solving marketing’s malaise
I would like to mention another survey of 4,000 marketing executives conduced by Booz Allen Hamilton and the ANA in 2005. In this survey has been studied the DNA of marketing organizations. The results of this survey are analyzed by Edward LANDRY, Andrew TIPPING and Brodie DIXON in their article “The DNA of marketing”. According to the survey, “the poor functioning may be a part of marketing ‘DNA’”. The authors underline the “marketing’s malaise” which they say “derives from disorders in two of the four building blocks: decision rights and information flows.”. Edward LANDRY, Andrew TIPPING and Brodie DIXON say marketers are caught in the middle of a “seemingly intractable dilemma”:
“Despite the increasing investment of time, capital, and organizational resources, marketing efforts seem to be falling so short of expectations that marketing departments are in an almost constant state of churn, with chief marketing officers’ tenure averaging only 23 months, according to executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart.
According to Edward LANDRY, Andrew TIPPING and Brodie DIXON “The dysfunction may be sewn into the very fabric of marketing departments.”
Edward LANDRY, Andrew TIPPING and Brodie DIXON mention a key issue explaining the marketing’s malaise and dysfunction: the fact the Marketing and CEO agendas are not aligned.
The authors illustrate this lack of alignment in their article “Making the perfect marketer”-.
On the one hand, according to the Conference Board’s comprehensive annual survey CEO Challenge 2004, the CEO’s number one priorities are “top-line growth”, “flexibility”, “consumer loyalty” and “innovation”.
On the other hand, according to the 2004 ANA and Booz Allen Hamilton Marketing Organization survey, the CMO’s number one priorities are “branding guidelines”, “divisional counseling” and “sharing best practices”.
As Edward LANDRY, Andrew TIPPING and Brodie DIXON comment: “Marketing’s focus is heavily tactical, and disconnected from the CEO agenda.”
Edward LANDRY, Andrew TIPPING and Brodie DIXON say:
“Marketing, it’s clear, cannot concern itself simply with brand identity guidelines, good television commercials, and rising awareness scores. […] In the end, nothing will collectively build the credibility and legitimacy of a CMO more than standing on the front line, leading the charge in support of the CEO’s agenda.”
The key challenge is to match the marketing model with the company’s vision. According to the authors, this is the number one criteria for success and one of the most difficult things to achieve.
In an article entitled -“The organization vs. the Strategy: Solving the Alignment Paradox”-, Jeffrey W. BENNETT, Thomas E. PERNSTEINER, Paul F. KOCOUREK, and Steven B. HEDLUND say:
“It is not vision that makes a company successful. What sets top performers apart is the organizational models they develop to realize their aspirations.”
“For most companies, the number one problem is the organization’s inability to execute against strategy.”
According to Fortune Magazine, 70% of CEO failures are caused primarily by failure to execute, not by a lack of strategic thinking.
For some observers, we entered the era of execution in the 21st century. This is what Larry BOSSIDY and Ram CHARAN claim in their book -Execution: The Disciple of Getting Things Done-.
Randall ROTHENBERG interviewed Larry BOSSIDY, and asked him for his definition of execution. BOSSIDY answered “Execution is making things happen.” He said. “There are so many things in the world that are postured in terms of theory or strategy that don’t translate into action.”
I like BOSSIDY’s vision of execution as being the key challenge.
“Execution applies to companies that perform. It’s about people who pride themselves on executing. It’s about rewarding people who execute, rather than the philosophers who wander around organizations.”
It seems like Integrated Marketing is an execution challenge. In theory, everyone agrees IMC is the right thing to do, nevertheless, IMC as a theory has is struggling to be translated into action.
Marketing departments need to be empowered and to be given the chance to involve all stakeholders in the new era of integration. Marketers need to overcome their malaise and start orchestrating across functions and boundaries. Marketing needs to align with the rest of the firm:
Marketing communications should no longer be the reserved domain of a group of people within the marketing departments. Here is how Don E. SCHULTZ described the “structure of the future” during our interview.
“The marketing department becomes a coordinating function rather than a development function. Right now, marketing thinks that they own the customer, and they want to go out and do all these things to lead the firm. So, they go out and do them, but the rest of the organization can’t support them, won’t support them, or doesn’t even know about the programs marketing has developed until a customer tells them about it. So the challenge for the organizational structure is essentially creating processes and alignment.”
Everyone should feel concerned about marketing issues and everyone’s number one priority should be the consumer. No longer the consumer belongs only to marketers. It belongs to all stakeholders, and marketers are here to coordinate all that.
Empowering marketing to this new role and function is extremely important and this will only happen with the support of the rest of the organization, especially the CEO’s.
2- Training for IMC
Integrating Marketing Communications requires new skills for marketers. Many observers agree that a new generation of marketers is emerging: the one of “strategic marketers”.
The Harvard Professors John QUELCH and Gail McGOVERN talk about the emerging breed of a “Super CMO” capable of managing the entire portfolio of a company’s brands and engaging all functions of the organization.
This is also what Steve SILVER describes in his article “Bring on the Super-CMO” when he talks about the “new class of strategic marketer” which, according to him “will own the talents that, in recent years, have resided variously among consultants, agency executives, and senior strategists.”
“Strategic marketing requires people who combine the broad business perspective, cross-industry experience, cross-functional expertise, and deep analytical skills of management consulting with the subtle nuances of brand positioning and the action orientation of frontline marketing.” says Steve SILVER.
In his article “Beyond Brand Management”, Richard RAWLINSON describes what the evolving career path could be look like for marketers.
I tend to think that it will take time for the training question to be addressed. Agencies are facing the same kind of challenges since their focus is very often on a very small piece of the puzzle. They will have to question their model and adapt it to the needs of truly Integrated Marketing Communications.
Most of the big agencies have been trying to tackle the problem in different ways. Hence for example, Young & Rubicam launched an IMC training program back in the early 1990s. Y&R hasn’t been the only one to do so: Lintas Campbell-Ewald, a division of the Interpublic Group of Companies, trained its upper level managers to IMC, WPP created a three year fellowship training program.
The entire industry is evolving and will keep on evolving and adapting to the new Integrated Marketing Communications requirements.
While some companies are pointing the way and really “got it”, some other firms seem to have a very limited an restricted understanding of the concept.
While most no one can deny that Integrated Marketing Communications is common sense, and while it has became a priority for most companies, the concept is still facing different levels of understanding and implementation.
IMC needs to set standards for itself. It needs to fight its right to exist. It needs to show what it is not. Only a clear and universal definition will allow the concept of IMC to be implemented properly.
I strongly believe Integrated Marketing Communications is the biggest challenge companies will be facing in the 21st century. All brands deal with this challenge, no matter their size, no matter their revenue. After twenty years of existence, the concept is now at a defining moment.
Firstly misunderstood and misinterpreted in a context where it couldn’t expand its roots, the concept of IMC strongly reflects our industry of the 21st century.
Today, a massive gap needs to be bridged: the gap between IMC as a theory and IMC as a practice. Each member of the organizations need to be educated on what IMC really is and really means for all stakeholders. The concept needs to be clearly defined as a theory in order to be truly implemented in business practices. To me, this is the biggest challenge.
This gap, if not bridged, will be major issue for IMC as a discipline. It may actually reduce it to a simple tool or tactic, which it is not. The current perception of Integrated Marketing Communications is very limited compared to what it is.
I strongly believe there a semiotic issue behind this. As Don E. SCHULTZ stated it during our interview: “IMC is probably a bad term at this point.”
One thing is sure: all the ingredients are on the table: the revolution that took place in the media landscape and in the minds of the consumers makes it imperative for companies to rethink the way they function, the way they market, the way they work. No one can deny that the advertising and product-focused model is obsolete. No one actually will.
The revolution is at our doors, and the question is: who will open that door? Will that door be opened at all? Or are we just going to miss the biggest opportunity that has ever happened in our industry?
Maarten L. ABARDA, Global Director of Media & Communication Innovation at The Coca-Cola Company, uses an interesting metaphor to talk about Integrated Marketing Communications. He says IMC is like a pool of cold water. We are all in front of the pool, with our swimming suits on, waiting before the big jump. We all know that once in, it will be great, but this very first contact with the cold water seems hard to cope with.
It is time for organizations to understand what they need to do in order to implement Integrated processes. The organizational changes required for the implementation of truly integrated processes need to take place. We need to start thinking differently and force ourselves to do so. As we have seen, thinking that way is not something natural in linearity-driven Western countries. Of course, it won’t be easy, but who ever said revolution was a piece of cake?
Finally, after twenty years of existence, Integrated Marketing Communications has the chance to turn into a revolution. It will be a revolution because it will affect the entire system. Organizations on the client side won’t be the only ones to change. Agencies will have to rethink their models and adapt to their clients needs and wants. It is the law if supply and demand, isn’t it?
As Richard RAWLINSON says it in his article “Beyond Brand Management”:
“Each component in the system — each local agency, research supplier, or creative group — depends on others playing their established roles in the ecosystem. Change for one implies change for others. Yet with so much vested in the current ways of doing business, no individual supplier or department can be sure hat its individual change will be met with complementary changes in the others — and few can (or should) take the risks of changing their practices unilaterally. Thus, only a radical approach to innovation, affecting many of the players at once, will succeed.”
The good news is that the economic system is not doing that well at the moment. The climate of recession might help this revolution to happen a little bit faster… Bad economic times might be the perfect starting point for organizations to initiate the changes IMC is hungry for. As Don E. SCHULTZ told me during our interview:
“If you look at what’s happening in the economic system today, organizations are being forced to change. They don’t want to. Nobody wants to change. But the price of oil, the shortage of food products… All of those things are forcing organizations to re-think their entire business along with marketing and communication. That’s not happening because they want to change, but because they have to. And recession may be the best thing that have ever happened to IMC.”
Recession might be the best opportunity for organizations to initiate that movement of dramatic transformation. It might force organizations to call their model into question, and hopefully they will find in Integrated Marketing Communications the answers they are searching for.