How to develop an integrated marketing communications strategy

Implementing an integrated marketing communications strategy can provide a competitive advantage for your business. However, many companies still employ a linear direct marketing process in which products are developed, messages created and incentives are added to the mix. The products are then pushed through various media or a salesforce to consumers. This methodology relies on behaviour assumptions that all consumers follow the same decision process: Awareness – Knowledge – Evaluation – Purchase.

This strategy worked well a few years ago because targeting and smart advertising gave companies the edge over consumers with limited product knowledge. However, buying behaviour has become more sophisticated since consumers acquired access to technology such as the Internet, mobile phones, iPods, search engines and on-demand TV. This technology has made the traditional linear marketing and communications process (product/brand – channel – media – customer) redundant. Because consumers can now block out marketing messages using spam filters, pop-up blockers, remote controls, “do not mail” lists or the regular trash can.

  • Why do consumers need to learn about your product/service now when they can just Google it?
  • What are you going to tell consumers that they don’t already know or cannot find out for themselves via an online product comparison site?

A consumer-controlled communication landscape has emerged with a faster dynamic consumer learning process. The outcome is declining efficiency rates and increased costs from traditional direct marketing activity. Thus companies now need an integrated marketing communications approach that combines traditional media, online channels, PR, affiliate partnerships, products, people and social networks to be successful.


How can your organization develop an integrated marketing communications model?

Don Schultz, Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University suggests companies can coordinate their marketing resources and supply customers value-added information to create engagement and build long-term relationships. Start by using what I call ABCD resources -Audience, Brand (Product/Service), Content, Delivery. You then need to find the optimal mix based on your industry and competitive position.


Audience – a key ingredient is to use extensive data and analytics to understand your target segment. Creating pen-portraits of your core customers including demographic and lifestyle information will help optimize your media targeting strategy.

Brand – your product or service must have a unique selling proposition to provide a competitive advantage. It must deliver superior value for the audience and be clearly differentiated on features, service or price.

Content – with most competitors using the same linear marketing strategies targeting the same consumer segments, content can now become a point of competitive differentiation. When you supply value-added content you provide consumers a reason to engage with your brand and connect your products or services.

Delivery – You then need to connect new digital media channels with traditional channels to create a push-pull system. Consumers must become engaged with the media employed or your content delivery will be unsuccessful. To achieve this ensure the content is linked to your brand positioning to make the emotional connection with your product or services.

Traditional measurements systems do not work well with integrated marketing, but most companies have all the data and just need to align it. Problematic areas can include breaking down internal silos and defining measures of success –site traffic, new sales, revenue per customer, return on capital, NPS (Net Promoter Score) etc.

The customer experience now occurs during the interaction with your products, online channels, customer service and content. If companies can optimize the synergy between the ABCD resources and employ an integrated marketing communications strategy they can drive improved returns from their marketing investment.


6 thoughts on “How to develop an integrated marketing communications strategy

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