The goal of this essay, for the Fundamentals of Marketing class at Umass-Amherst, was to “Explain what it means to have “integrated marketing communications”. Include issues such as how to measure results. Pick a company and describe how you view their use of Integrated Marketing Communications…”. I’ve yet to receive a grade for this paper, but will update this post once I do (update 04.30.2007: I received a grade of 10/10 for the below essay).
In today’s world, a multitude of communication tools exist to connect people and promote ideas, services and goods. Marketing departments and companies must recognize their message will be transmitted via multiple channels, even if it is not their intent to do so. If a company has a particularly compelling or comedic video ad, it will make it’s way to youtube.com, where it can be viewed repeatedly and stored permanently. If a company makes a typo in a print ad or conveys an unintended connotation, bloggers will find the advertisement and critique it to no end. As a result, companies must practice and optimize a process called integrated marketing communications, through which all contact points an existing or potential customer interacts with are kept consistent and relevant to the targeted customer.
In essence, integrated marketing communications [IMC] focuses on controlling the messages that a company releases to the public to ensure that these messages do not conflict with each other and thus weaken the main message the company wishes to distribute. In other words, rather than having unique advertising departments for Europe and North America, companies now fuse the two together or at least encourage the two departments to communicate with each other. Companies using IMC also focus on providing each different customer base a message that is relevant to them. Thus, using the previous example, if government regulations force a product to be different in Europe and North America (for instance, cell-phone network standards) then the companies must ensure that each group receives the proper message, while also ensuring neither group would feel disadvantaged if seeing both messages (e.g., if an American saw the European version of an ad for a product with better features in Europe).
Not surprisingly, technology companies are very keen on using integrated marketing communications. For instance, Amazon.com will provide users a personalized homepage with products relevant to previously purchased products, send out e-mails for deals or new products that have some similarity to previously bought goods, and offer bloggers an opportunity to list their wish list or reviewed books on their blog. Public relations is a huge aspect of Amazon.com’s success. The site allows every user to post reviews on products they’ve bought, thus building a database of reviews and adding credibility to Amazon.com. If someone sees 500 positive reviews for a book on Amazon.com, they are much more likely to purchase that book than if they go to a site with no reviews and have to figure out on their own if it is worthy of their money. Bloggers are also a huge source of publicity for Amazon.com; for instance a blogger may review a book on their blog and then post a link to the Amazon.com listing for that book, thus giving a positive review to not only the book but also Amazon.com as a place to buy that book. I myself have given Amazon.com publicity via a post on my blog advising people of the various ways to save on college textbooks, such as searching for international versions or used copies on Amazon.com. Of course, the company cannot control what people say about them on their personal sites, but most references to Amazon.com are simply links to products, thus generating traffic without an opinion on the site itself.
A potential issue for Amazon.com is the potential for users to end up on a site discussing or linking to Amazon.com when the user actually was attempting to arrive at Amazon.com. The company must practice Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure that users can easily find Amazon.com, when that is their purpose. Still, users arriving at a blog or shopping portal would still potentially locate the link to Amazon.com, thus alleviating this issue. A greater issue is a user may become confused and assume the site is related to Amazon.com, unfortunately there does not appear to be much the company can do to prevent such mistakes, fortunately, most internet users tend to be educated on such matters.
Another aspect of integrated marketing communications is how the company treats their employees and potential employees. If an employee is dissatisfied with a company it will hurt the company in two ways; for one, consumers may become discouraged from buying that company’s products or services, thinking that if the employee is unhappy then the company must not be producing a good product, and secondly the company will have a poor public image which will increase the difficulty of recruiting new talent to the company. I personally know that Amazon.com has excellent human resources as one of my good, close friends had applied for a position there and had his flight to the interview and accommodations paid for. If he had accepted the position, Amazon.com would have hired someone to help him pack and ship his personal items to Seattle from Boston as well as paying for his flight and accommodations while he found a permanent place to live there. Treating potential employees so well ties into Amazon.com’s overall marketing strategy of providing consumers everything they need to make a purchase decision as well as providing a plethora of options to get their purchased product quickly.
Amazon.com can measure their results in a number of ways. As they are an online marketplace, most of their consumers arrive at Amazon.com either via a search engine, shopping portal, blog, or have previously used Amazon.com. Thus, Amazon.com can utilize a number of webmaster tools to track it’s visitors, such as whether a user has been to Amazon.com before, has made a purchased there before and from where the user is coming from (e.g. Google or Yahoo search or a review site with a link to Amazon.com). When the Harry Potter books were being released, Amazon.com decided they wanted to be the #1 stop for consumers looking to buy a Harry Potter book. To put this plan into action, Amazon.com set up specific sections on their site to lure Harry Potter fans to Amazon.com and teamed up with the book’s publisher as well as many other online sites, such as review sites, in an effort to lead consumers to Amazon.com. The effort was successful as Amazon.com became the #1 site on the internet for Harry Potter books and other related items.
With the increasing ease of publishing content and re-distributing existing content made possible by the growth of digital technologies and the internet, marketing departments are required to ensure their company’s message is interpreted in the same manner by a vast audience. As more and more methods are introduced for distributing content, marketing departments will have to focus on producing a consistent and similar message at its’ source, thus no matter how many times it is re-distributed, the message will hopefully be interpreted the same way by consumers.