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What is IMC?

The American Marketing Association defines Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) as “a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time.”

The IMC planning process has been compared to composing a musical score. In a piece of music, while every instrument has a specific task, the goal is to have them come together in a way that produces beautiful music. It’s the same in IMC, where advertising might be your violin, social media your piano, public relations your trumpet and so on.

Why IMC?

Five major shifts in the worlds of advertising, marketing and media have caused an increased interest in (and need for) IMC. These include:

A shift From… To…
Traditional Advertising Digital/Interactive Media
Mass Media Specialized Media
Low Agency Accountability High Agency Accountability
Traditional Compensation Performance-Based Compensation
Limited Internet Access Widespread Internet Availability


These shifts are forcing organizations to look at the whole marketing picture, re-aligning their communications and seeing things the way the consumer sees them – as a constant flow of information from indistinguishable sources. Those who practice IMC are avoiding duplicate messages, capitalizing on the synergy among promotional tools, creating more effective marketing programs and maximizing ROI.

IMC in Action.

Who uses IMC?
Federal Express. Hewlett-Packard. Target. Apple. The list is long and getting longer. One recent example is Saatchi and Saatchi’s 2010 campaign for the Toyota Sienna which debuted during the Winter Olympics.

In a quest to change the image of the minivan and those who drive it, Toyota launched its “Sienna Family” campaign. The campaign features a married Gen X couple trying to balance the reality of having two young children and a minivan with their desire to remain part of the cool crowd, emphasizing how the Sienna makes it all possible.

For the campaign, Toyota integrated social media into its traditional mix from the outset, inviting those who saw the ads on TV and in print to learn more at the company’s YouTube page. And then, on May 2, came “Swagger Wagon”—the now-famous music video in which the Sienna parents perform a hip-hop song about their minivan. The video, which was Toyota’s first viral marketing success to date, has received over 8 million YouTube hits and counting.

iMedia’s Greg Bardsley, who named “Sienna Family” one of the top IMC campaigns of 2010, had this to say: “Car manufacturers are no strangers to integrated campaigns, but few are done with such spot-on execution. Toyota manages to wow us with a family-focused, funny-yet-sweet campaign that succeeds across multiple platforms.”

Spot-on execution. Succeeding across multiple platforms. Now that’s IMC at work.

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