Every brand seeks to establish a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Since the invention of the modern printing press to the evolution of the world-wide-web, communication has constantly become a critical success factor in the marketing/promotional mix.
With the emergence of digital mediums and devices, communication between brands and customers has become much easier – but much more sophisticated and complex. Due to the importance of effective communication through various media the term ‘Integrated Marketing Communication’ was coined to manage this process
Integrated marketing communication is the development of marketing strategies and creative campaigns that weave together multiple marketing disciplines that are selected and then executed to suit the particular goals of the brand (Bennett, Stirology, April 2013).
Borrowing Chris Fill’s DRIP model (2002), effective communication must:
- DIFFERENTIATE: by positioning the brand,
- REINFORCE: by reminding and reassuring customers about the brand’s credentials;
- INFORM: by making aware and educating customers about the brand’s benefits;
- PERSUADE: by encouraging customers to take action and engage with the brand.
Content is King
Every brand has a story to tell. But a compelling story mainly relies on good quality content. The popular phrase ‘Content is King’ has remained central to the marketing efforts of successful brands as a lot of time and resources are dedicated to create relevant and engaging content.
The phrase ‘content marketing’ has been coined to continue promoting the role of content in delivering effective communication. Content is not only a set of photos or artwork. It could be a video clip, an article, amongst many more assets which express and evangelize the brand story.
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action (Content Marketing Institute, USA).
It is not surprising to note the recent transformation of marketing departments from advertisers to publishers. Traditional advertising is no longer centre stage in a brand’s campaign. Ongoing two-way communication between the brand and its followers (customers) needs to be maintained and managed. This is how communication goes viral by disseminating the right content to customers. Customers become ambassadors and help in spreading the word. Nothing beats word of mouth marketing.
Your word is your promise
Consistency is essential to integrated marketing communication. You might seem like a tape recorder but whatever you say and how you say it must be communicated consistently through all media channels you use. As in product packaging and graphic design, communication must be identical from all touch points reaching consumers.
Would you trust a brand if it’s message is inconsistent? Wouldn’t that effect your perception of the quality and reputation of the brand? Trust is built with consistency. Make sure brand values are clear and not misunderstood. Be truthful to what the brand wants to be. Communicate in a reliable manner to ensure you are taken seriously. Most importantly keep it simple and easy.
Focus on your target audience
Who really bothers with what you have to say? Do you really know who you are communicating to? Know your audience and communication to your potential customers will be more successful.
Communication has become an organic conversation between the brand and customers. From prospects to advocates, there are many types of customers out there willing to interact with the brand.
Beware though as not all customers intend to interact with you in a positive manner. Constructive criticism is a reality and it is here where brands make the quantum leap in creating an open and candid conversation with its customers.
Find your audience. Target cleverly. Make the pitch and may the conversation begin.
Be in the right place at the right time
What’s the use delivering a sermon in an empty Cathedral? What’s the fun organising a party when nobody can come? Why bother fixing a poster in a dead alley? Don’t you want to hang out and mingle where the crowd is?
You have great content. Your reputation and integrity are intact. You know who you are looking for. Finally you need to ensure you are in the right place to start shouting out your message. As it might sound complex, this is actually where the fun begins. This is where your endeavors start to set in motion.
There are so many communication channels to choose from nowadays. From traditional to digital channels, the most important factor to take into consideration is selecting the right mix of channels which will sufficiently reach your target audience. All this of course within the limitations of your budget! This is where your communication becomes ‘integrated’. This is where it all comes together.
Certainly the size of your marketing budget makes a big difference in how widespread your campaign is. Digital channels though have made communication more frequent, cost effective, and efficient than ever before.
Digital communication does not start and end with Facebook! This is the common mistake done by many businesses that centre all their efforts on Facebook. There are many more channels to utilize especially when one considers the rapid increase in smart phones, tablets and other portable devices. Therefore e-mail, apps, and RSS feeds should not be underestimated. Other social and professional networks should be considered such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram amongst others. Also Google products such as adwords, maps, and remarketing lists should not be ignored.
Remain focused though on the customers you want to target with your communication. Integrated communication does not mean that you have to be everywhere for everyone. After all the definition of the word ‘integrated’ is the combining or coordinating of separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole. Therefore be an effective communicator by presenting engaging content in a consistent manner to the right customers at the right place and time.