A Basic Overview of IMC: Part 1 Components

The following is Part 1 of a 3-part series providing a basic overview of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC).  

Reinold and Tropp (2012) defined Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) as “an audience-driven business process of strategically managing stakeholders, content, channels and results of brand communication programs” (p. 114).  The content involves communication to a recipient that is consistent, relevant and unique with channels that consider all touchpoints with which stakeholders may come into contact.  Smith and Houston (2010) added that IMC has “the potential for creating synergy through coordinating communications” (p. 48).  Jankovic (2012) further added to this by asserting that the unification of marketing communications, or the synergy created, “has always proved in practice to be greater than the effect of the action of each individual communication” (p. 95).

The channels available to the IMC practitioner are numerous, yet should be considered and selected according to the potential for reaching the desired audience and effectively delivering the appropriate message as well as other determining factors (i.e. cost, available resources, etc.).  In Part 1, I will present and define the following five channels, or components of an IMC campaign: advertising, direct marketing, digital/Internet marketing, sales promotions and public relations.  Although personal selling plays an important role in the promotional mix, Belch and Belch (2018) posited that, for most organizations “it is not a direct part of the IMC program… managed separately… and is not under the control of the advertising or marketing communications manager” (p. 27).  As a result, this promotional tactic was not included in the discussion.

In Part 2, I will discuss recommended evaluation strategies regarding the effectiveness of an IMC campaign, and Part 3 will revolve around the justification of the value for each component.

Various Components of an IMC CampaignComponents of IMC

Advertising is the oldest component of IMC.  This traditional form of communication is paid for by an identified sponsor as a one-way, nonpersonal type of communication that primarily focuses on reaching a mass market.  Keller (2016) defines the characteristics of advertising as pervasive, giving the advertiser complete control of the message which utilizes amplified expressiveness to “more easily create broader brand awareness across target market customers” (p. 291).  The role of advertising in the IMC process is to persuade, inform or remind customers of products, services, ideas or other offerings from the brand. There is a wide range of advertising tactics to include broadcast and print ads.  However, Keller (2012) offered additional tactics to include product packaging and inserts, cinema, brochure, posters, and out-of-home (OOH) displays.

According to Belch and Belch (2018), the use of direct marketing has proliferated in popularity over the past 20 years due to the increasing availability of TV, the Internet and mobile technology. This IMC component is a direct form of communication to a target audience in an attempt to generate a response or transaction from the recipient.  Consumers are finding this communication channel a convenient way of shopping especially through mobile devices.  Brands can use omnichannel retailing to provide a variety of options to purchase products to extend beyond the traditional retailer to allow customers to purchase directly from the manufacturer.  This can be accomplished by providing catalogs to the customer, using telemarketing, developing direct-response ads or selling through an online store. Keller (2016) includes direct mailing and telemarketing to the list of options to consider.

The newest component available to the IMC practitioner is digital and Internet marketing.  This form of communication may be paid for (i.e. banner ads) or free to the advertiser via social media platforms. What makes this communication so unique is the two-way, interactive quality that occurs in real-time. This outlet allows for customers to actively participate in the IMC campaign and build a relationship with the brand if they so choose. However, a challenge for this component is the fact that the consumer has complete control forcing the IMC practitioner to realize that they are limited to influencing the communication flow.  Other components of IMC are used to develop the tactics of digital and Internet marketing that may also include websites, e-mail, search and display ads, blogs, chatrooms and forums.

Sales promotions is a communication with a persuasive intent by providing value and incentives for the customer. Belch and Belch (2018) posits that some brands may allocate as must as “60 to 70 percent of the promotional budget” (p. 24) for sales promotions. A unique aspect of this form of communication is the dual role of focusing on the customer as well as having a separate trade orientation.  For customer-oriented sales promotions, tactics used may include contest or sweepstakes, premiums or gifts, sampling, coupons, rebates, trade-in allowances and low-interest financing.  For the trade-oriented sales promotions, brands may use fairs and trade show, exhibits, demonstrations, allowances for promotions and merchandising, sales contests and price deals.  Although wholesalers, distributors and retailers are the primary focus, oftentimes the consumer is the indirect benefactor of these trade-oriented tactics.

Public Relations (PR) is when a brand “systematically plans and distributes information in an attempt to control and manage its image and the nature of publicity it receives” (Belch & Belch, 2018, p. 26).  Publicity is a nonpersonal, one-way form of communication that comes from an unidentified sponsor and free to the brand.  The use of press releases and feature articles published in newspapers, magazines and other print and online periodicals provides this opportunity. Unfortunately, the lack of control over this tactic can sometimes create negative stories of which the brand must be cognizant.  Because of the media used, this communication is capable of reaching a mass market. In addition to publicity, Keller (2016) provides other forms of PR to include seminars, charitable donations, community relations (i.e. sponsorship of events, fund-raising), lobbying, and a company magazine.

Which of these components have you found more effective and why?  I would enjoy hearing about how you applied these tactics in a real-world IMC campaign.




Belch, G. E., & Belch, M. A. (2018). Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective (Vol. 11th). New York: McGrawl-Hill Education.

Jankovic, M. (2012). Integrated marketing communications and brand identity development. Journal for Theory and Practice Management, 63, 91-100.

Keller, K. L. (2016). Unlocking the power of Integrated Marketing Communications: How integrated is your IMC program? Journal of Advertising, 45(3), 286-301. doi:10.1080/00913367.2016.1204967

Kerr, G., & Patti, C. (2015). Strategic IMC: From abstract concept to marketing management tool. Journal of Marketing Communication, 21(5), 317-339. doi:10.1080/13527266.2013.786748

Luxton, S., Reid, M., & Mavondo, F. (2015). Integraed marketing communication capability and brand performance. Journal of Advertising, 44(1), 37-46. doi:10.1080/00913367.2014.934938

Reinold, T., & Tropp, J. (2012, April). Integrated marketing communications: How can we measure its effectiveness? Journal of Marketing Communications, 18(2), 113-132. doi:10.1080/13527266.2010.489334

Smith, B. G. (2010, Spring). Beyond promotion: Conceptualizing public relations in integrated marketing communications. International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications, 47-57.


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