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Introduction to IMC Objectives and Approach

    Introduction to IMC Objectives and Approach

    What you’ll learn to do: explain factors to consider when selecting marketing communication methods to execute the strategy

    It’s clear that with the growing proliferation of communication tools and methods,  integrated marketing communications are the way of the future—and now. Seemingly every day brings a new social media tool or digital marketing technique to engage people in new ways. Traditional marketing communications methods and media are also stepping up their games, offering new ways to create value for companies trying to connect with their target audiences. For example, old-school conferences and trade shows now feature active mobile and social media elements that have been incorporated into their design. TV shows can sell ad space and sponsorship on air, online, and even on social media feeds. Radio programs publish their podcast counterparts, complete with ads and sponsors.

    For marketers, all this is great news: plenty of choices and ample opportunity to connect with customers in new ways.

    But is it great news? The variety of marketing communication methods and tools can be overwhelming. How do you even get started designing an IMC program? And once you have picked an approach, how do you know you’re on the right track?

    These are big questions marketers ask themselves regularly. Because marketing is a constantly evolving field, the right answer on one day might be different six months later. However, there are time-tested models that can help you apply a systematic approach to defining what you want to accomplish with IMC and how to select an approach that is best suited to your objectives.

    Determining IMC Objectives and Approach


    • Discuss the AIDA model and the role of marketing communications to help move contacts toward a purchasing decision.
    • Describe push vs. pull marketing strategies
    • Explain the S.M.A.R.T. model for developing IMC goals and objectives
    • Discuss the process of selecting marketing communication methods and tactics to fit the target audience and marketing objectives

    Laying the Foundation for Effective Marketing Campaigns

    To use integrated marketing communication (IMC) effectively in marketing campaigns, marketers go through several planning steps to define precisely what they want to accomplish and with whom. Only with this information can they be sure they are identifying the right message and promotional mix to achieve their goals.

    Standard marketing campaign planning steps include the following:

    1. Determine the target market
    2. Determine purpose and objectives for the IMC campaign
    3. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
    4. Define the message
    5. Select marketing communications methods and tools
    6. Determine the promotional mix: which tools to use, when, and how much
    7. Execute the campaign
    8. Measure results and refine approach, as needed

    1. Determine Target Market

    In the segmentation and targeting module, as well as in other sections of this course, we’ve discussed the critical importance of clearly identifying the target market or the set of market segments an organization plans to focus on. A marketing plan may include one or more campaigns focused on one or more target segments. Some campaigns may focus on achieving specific goals for a single segment. Other campaigns may focus on a common set of goals using a variety of IMC activities targeting different segments.

    In any case, clearly defining the audience for IMC activities is an essential input. This is because different market segments use different types of media, and they may have other distinctive characteristics that impact the effectiveness of a marketing activity. For example, in 2014, 71 percent of all Internet users were also Facebook users, but only 56 percent of adults aged 65 and over used Facebook. Meanwhile, among young people aged 18–29, Facebook usage was near universal at 87 percent.[1] Your decision about whether to use Facebook in an IMC campaign should depend, in part, on what proportion of the target audience you can reach with this tool. Understanding your target segment(s) and their communication and media habits will make a huge difference in your ability to design IMC programs to reach the people you want to reach.

    2. Determine Marketing Campaign Objectives

    Once the audience is defined, the next essential step for a successful marketing campaign is to define what the campaign will accomplish with its IMC efforts. Although many marketing campaigns may be oriented toward a single objective, it is possible for an IMC program to accomplish more than one objective at a time, so long as this doesn’t create confusion for your target audiences.

    The objectives should explain 1) the impact of campaign activity on target audiences, and 2) the ultimate results or outcomes that align with the organization’s marketing strategy and corporate goals. While the objective of a marketing campaign often involves increasing sales, this does not necessarily have to be an objective. An entire campaign might focus primarily on building awareness and persuading people to engage with a product or brand in some way, as a stepping-stone towards generating demand and increasing sales.

    A good place to help with thinking through campaign objectives is to consider the cognitive stages a customer goes through as they become aware of and eventually decide to buy a brand, product, or service. Many marketers use the AIDA model to guide this thinking and help them pinpoint campaign objectives for a given audience.

    Communicating with Target Segments: The AIDA Model

    AIDA is an acronym marketers use to help them develop effective communication strategies and connect with customers in a way that better responds to their needs and desires. Credited to the American advertising and sales pioneer, Elias St. Elmo Lewis, the model originally applied mainly to advertising. AIDA describes a common list of events that occur when a consumer views an advertisement or other marketing communication. As marketing communication methods have evolved, the model has been used to encompass other marketing tools and channels as well.

    The letters in the AIDA acronym stand for the following:

    • A represents attention or awareness, and the ability to attract the attention of the consumers.
    • I is interest and points to the ability to raise the interest of consumers by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
    • D represents desire. The advertisement convinces consumers that they want and desire the product or service because it will satisfy their needs.
    • A is action. Consumers are led to take action by purchasing the product or service.

    The system helps guide marketers to refine their objectives and clarify what they want to accomplish with a target segment. As campaign objectives become clearer, marketers gain insight into ways of refining their marketing messages and deciding which tools they can use to deliver these messages effectively.

    The table, below, identifies typical campaign objectives associated with each stage of the AIDA model. Note that the largest group of prospective customers appears in the first stage of the model: Awareness. As the sales cycle progresses, a percentage of prospects is lost at each stage.

    AIDA Model Stages Typical Campaign Objectives
    Awareness:Build awareness to motivate further action Develop brand awareness and recognitionIncrease traffic to physical or virtual stores, Web sites, or other channels

    Remind customers about a brand, product, service or category

    Interest:Generate interest by informing about benefits; shaping perceptions Differentiate a product, stressing benefits and features not available from competitorsProvide more information about the product or the service because information may be correlated with greater likelihood of purchase

    Increase demand for a specific product or a product category; generate enough interest to research further

    Desire:Create desire; move from “liking” to “wanting” Build brand equity by increasing customer perceptions of quality, desirability, and other brand attributesStimulate trial, an important step in building new brands and rejuvenating stagnant brands

    Change or influence customer beliefs and attitudes about a brand, product, or category, ideally creating an emotional connection

    Action:Take action toward purchasing Reduce purchase risk to make prospective customers feel more comfortable buying a new or unfamiliar product or brandEncourage repeat purchases in the effort to increase usage and brand loyalty

    Increase sales and/or market share, with the goal of broadening reach within a time period, product category, or segment

    Car marketing is a prime example of using the AIDA model to narrow the target market and get results. Marketers in the automotive industry know their advertisements and other marketing communications must grab the attention of consumers, so they use colors, backgrounds, and themes that would appeal to them. Next, automotive marketers pique interest by showing the advantages of owning the car. In the case of the Mini-Cooper, for instance, marketers imply that a small car can drive the consumer to open spaces and to fun.

    A Mini car drives down a road on a beautiful sunny day by some scenic hills. Text says Wide Open Spaces, Meet Wide Open Fun.

    Advertisers can target a precise market by using the AIDA model to identify a narrow subset of consumers that may be receptive to the product offering. Car advertisements are especially made to grab attention, pique interest, meet desires, and evoke action in consumers.

    Third, automotive marketers speak to what their consumers desire. For Mini-Cooper drivers, it’s the “fun” of driving, while for Prius consumers it may be the fuel economy or the environmental friendliness. Only after evaluating consumer desires are marketers able to create effective campaigns. Lastly, marketers use advertising and other methods, such as sales promotions, to encourage consumers to take action by purchasing the product or service.

    Push versus Pull Promotion Mix Strategies

    Push and pull strategies are promotional strategies used to get the product to its target market. A push strategy places the product in front of the customer, to make sure the consumer is aware of the existence of the product. Push strategies also create incentives for retailers to stock products and put them in front of the customer. Examples of push tactics include:

    • Point-of-sale displays that make a product highly visible to consumers
    • Product demonstrations to show off a product’s features to potential customers at trade shows and in showrooms
    • Retailer incentives to stock and sell products, such as discounted bulk pricing
    • Negotiations with a retailer to stock a specific item in limited store space, along with proof points the product will sell
    • Creating a supply chain for distribution that ensures retailers can obtain the product in sufficient quantities

    Push strategies work best when companies already have established relationships with users. For example, cell phone providers proactively send (i.e., push) advertisements via text messages to mobile customers regarding promotions and upgrades. This permission-based marketing can become particularly effective when push tactics and offers are personalized to the user based on individual preferences, usage, and buying behavior.

    pull strategy stimulates demand and motivates customers to actively seek out a specific product. It is aimed primarily at the end users, rather than retailers or other middle players in the value chain. Pull strategies can be particularly successful for strong, visible brands with which consumers already have some familiarity. Examples of pull tactics include:

    • Mass-media advertising and promotion of a product
    • Marketing communications with existing customers to make them aware of new products that will fill a specific need
    • Referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations from existing customers
    • Product reviews from opinion leaders
    • Sales promotions and discounts

    Using these strategies creates a demand for a specific product. With pull tactics stoking demand, retailers are then encouraged to seek out the product and stock it on their shelves. For instance, Apple successfully uses a combination of pull strategies to launch iPhones or iPads. The music industry has shifted strongly toward pull strategies due to digitization and the emergence of social networking Web sites. Music platforms such as iTunes, Grooveshark, and Spotify all reflect a power shift toward music consumers exploring and demanding music they want, rather than music producers controlling what is available to whet music lovers’ appetites. Likewise, music retailers have adapted their strategies toward pulling in consumers to seek out products.

    Most businesses use a combination of push and pull strategies in order to successfully market their products, services and brands. As marketers define the objectives they want marketing campaigns and IMC to accomplish, they can determine whether “push,” “pull,” or a combination of both will be most effective. This helps guide their choices around which marketing communication methods and tools to use.

    Engagement Strategies

    In the age of IMC, it is essential for marketers to think creatively about what they are trying to accomplish with target customers through the campaign. Beyond just “pushing” a product through channel partners or “pulling” a customer in through advertising and awareness-building, marketers should consider how the campaign will draw attention, make an impact, and invite target audiences to take action amidst a crowded marketplace. Exposure alone is no longer sufficient to create brand equity and loyalty; interaction is now the name of the game.

    Marketers today have many different avenues for creating engagement opportunities focused on making a desired impact in the mind–and behavior–of the customer. By thinking through campaign objectives at this level, marketers can better pinpoint not only a winning strategy for the campaign, but also the types of IMC tactics and tools to help them deliver the desired results. For example:

    Campaign Strategy Well-suited IMC Tactics, Tools
    Interact Social media, events, guerrilla marketing efforts
    Engage Word-of-mouth recommendations, viral sharing, social media
    Embrace Brand community, social media, events, sales promotions, viral sharing
    Influence Public relations, thought leadership activities, personal selling
    Convince Case studies, testimonials, comparisons, free trials, samples
    Educate Advertising, thought leadership activities, public relations, website and other content marketing
    Inspire Testimonials, guerrilla marketing, events, advertising, case studies
    Nurture Email marketing, content marketing, personal selling

    3. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

    After determining campaign objectives, marketers should set specific goals for their IMC programs using S.M.A.R.T. criteria aligned with the marketing strategy. S.M.A.R.T. is acronym organizations and managers use to set clear, measurable goals. Used in the business world inside and outside marketing, S.M.A.R.T. comes from the work of George T. Doran.[2] He proposed that each level of the organization should set goals that are:

    • Specific: target a specific area for improvement
    • Measurable: quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
    • Assignable: specify who will do it
    • Realistic: state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
    • Time-related: specify when the result(s) can be achieved

    S.M.A.R.T. goals help ensure clarity about what will be accomplished with a marketing campaign or other activity. They also contribute to good communication between managers and employees, so that there are clear expectations on all sides about the focus of attention, resources, and results.

    Consider the following example of a S.M.A.R.T. marketing campaign goal:

    The California Campaign, implemented by the marketing team in conjunction with the California sales lead, will use customer referrals, conference appearances, content marketing tactics, and personal selling to identify and develop five new medium-to-large businesses to pilot our new technology product by September 1, 2016.

    This goal is:

    • Specific: It focuses on identifying new business opportunities to pilot a new product in California
    • Measurable: It specifies a goal of developing “five new medium-to-large businesses” to pilot the new product
    • Assignable: It designates the ownership of this goal between the marketing team and the California sales lead
    • Realistic: It states the resources and techniques that will be used to achieve the goal, and the size of the goal appears to be well proportioned to the time and resources available
    • Time-related: The end date for achieving the results is clear: September 1, 2016

    Using the S.M.A.R.T. format helps marketers map IMC activities directly to broader marketing goals and strategy. It also sets the stage for being able to monitor progress and adjust the campaign’s approach and tactics midstream if the initial efforts are falling short or getting off track.

    4. Define the Message

    With the marketing campaign’s objectives determined and goals defined, marketers can revisit and refine campaign messaging to fit the approach they have selected. Refer to the “Defining the Message” section of this module for further guidance and recommendations around developing a messaging framework and getting the messaging right.

    Part of the messaging is the call to action. As marketers home in on the marketing communication methods and tools they will use, each touch point should include a call to action aligned with the campaign strategy and goals. The calls to action should be appropriate to the AIDA model stage, the audience, and the tool being used. For example, as a prospective customer progresses through the sales cycle, the following set of appropriate calls to action might be built into Web content:

    • Awareness: Click on a paid search ad to visit a Web site and view a product description and comparative product review
    • Interest: Download a white paper outlining how a product offers a novel solution to a common business problem
    • Desire: Request a product demonstration
    • Action Stage: Request a proposal and price quote

    5. Select Marketing Communication Methods

    As marketers consider marketing communication methods, several factors shape their choices:

    Budget: What is the budget for the marketing campaign, and what resources are available to execute it? A large budget can incorporate more expensive marketing communication techniques—such as mass-market advertising and sales promotions—a larger scale, a broader reach, and/or a longer time frame. A small-budget campaign might also be very ambitious, but it would rely primarily on in-house labor and existing tools, such as a company’s Web site and content marketing, email marketing, and social media capabilities. It’s important to figure out how to get the biggest impact from the available budget.

    Timing: Some IMC methods and tactics require a longer lead time than others. For example, email and Web marketing activities can usually be executed rapidly, often with in-house resources. Conference presentations and events require significantly longer lead time to orchestrate. It’s important to choose the tools that will make the biggest impact in the time available.

    Audience: Effective IMC methods meet audiences where they are. As suggested above, the media habits and behaviors of the target segments should guide marketers’ choices around marketing communication. For example, if you know your target audience subscribes to a particular magazine, visits a short list of Web sites to get information about your product category, and follows a particular set of bloggers, your IMC strategy should build a presence in these media. Alternatively, if you learn that 60 percent of your new business comes as a result of Yelp and FourSquare reviews, your marketing campaign might focus on social-media reputation building and mobile touch points.

    Existing Assets and Organizational Strengths: When considering marketing communications and the promotional mix, marketers should always look for ways to build on and make the best use of existing assets. For example, if a company has a physical store or space, how is it being used to full effect to move prospective customers through the sales cycle? If a company has a well-respected founder or thought leader as an employee, how are marketers using this asset to generate interesting content, educate prospects, differentiate the company, and create a desire for their brand, products, or services? Does the organization have a Website and, if so, how does it support each stage of the AIDA model? Organizations should be aware of these strengths and design IMC programs that use them to best advantage. Often these strengths become competitive advantages that competitors cannot easily match or replicate.

    Advantages of Various Marketing Communication Methods: Different marketing communication methods lend themselves to particular stages of the AIDA model, push vs. pull strategies, and ways of interacting with customers.

    • Advertising is particularly well-suited to awareness-building
    • Public relations activities often focus on generate interest, educating prospective customers and sharing stories that create desire for a product or brand. Similarly, experiential events can create memorable opportunities to interact with product, brands and people.
    • Personal selling typically focuses at the later stages of the model, solidifying desire and stimulating action
    • Sales promotions, depending on their design, can be focused at any step of the AIDA model. For consumer products, they often focus on point-of-sale touch points to induce buying.
    • Direct marketing can also be focused at any step of the AIDA model, depending on the design. It is often used to generate interest, providing information or an offer that motivates prospective customers to dig a little deeper and learn more.
    • Digital marketing offers a plethora of tools that can be deployed at any stage of the AIDA model. Paid digital ads, search optimization and social media word-of-mouth all support awareness-building and generating interest. Blogs, newsletters, digital case studies and customer testimonials can be powerful tools for stoking desire. How the website engages customers through the purchasing process is key to persuading prospects to become customers.
    • Guerrilla marketing, like digital marketing, can be designed to impact any stage of the AIDA model. It is often used by newcomers for awareness-building, to make an impact in a new market. Marketers also use it frequently for engaging experiential activities that solidify desire and create an emotional bond with the consumer.

    Marketers should think creatively about the methods available to them and how they can come together to deliver the overall message, experience, goals and objectives of the campaign. Fortunately, if marketers plan well, they also have the opportunity to evaluate effectiveness and revise the approach to improve outcomes.

    6. Determine the Promotional Mix

    Once marketers have selected marketing communications methods, the next step is to decide which specific tools to employ, when, and how much. IMC programs are very powerful when they layer communication channels and methods upon one another—it’s an approach that amplifies and reinforces the message. The next section of this module goes into much more detail about marketing communication methods, common tools associated with each method, and when/how to use these tools most effectively.

    7. Execute the Campaign

    The final sections of this module provide recommendations for how to create effective communication and marketing plans that simplify execution and follow-through.

    8. Measure Results

    Later in this module we will also discuss the process of identifying the best means of measuring the success of IMC efforts. Tracking and understanding results is how marketing teams and managers monitor progress and know when they need to adjust course.

    As marketers design their IMC activities and marketing campaigns with an eye toward results, accountability, and outcomes, they will benefit from an approach that emphasizes alignment between organizational strategy, marketing strategy, and the day-to-day marketing tactics that execute this strategy.

    Prioritizing Marketing Communications

    Given all the different marketing communication tools and opportunities out there, it can be hard to prioritize and choose where to focus your attention and marketing efforts. In this TEDx talk, Google’s Nick Scarpino provides a common-sense framework to help you make the biggest impact with whatever marketing resources are available to you.

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