This chapter investigates the particularities of integrated marketing communication in the online environment. The study starts from the premise that the specific characteristics of the Internet transform the application of IMC principles from an alternative option to an absolute requirement for online organizations. Based on the analysis of the specific characteristics of the online environment and audiences, and on the primary data collected through face-to-face interviews with 19 marketing or communication managers of UK consumer retail firms, this article explores the opportunities and requirements for implementing integrated online marketing communication, proposing a theoretical model of that can be adopted by Internet-active organizations.
In the last 10 years, the concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC) has achieved notoriety and legitimacy both in the academic and in the professional environment (Schultz & Kitchen, 2000). This situation is proved by the numerous studies and debates centered on the subject of IMC (Cornelissen & Lock, 2001; Gould, 2004; Percy, Rossiter, & Elliott, 2001; Schultz & Kitchen, 2000).
The emergence and the development of IMC has been determined by a number of evolutionary trends in the areas of:
Marketing—The increased fragmentation and segmentation of markets, relationship marketing, and direct marketing (Durkin & Lawlor, 2001; Eagle & Kitchen, 2000).
Information Technology—The development of new communication technologies and database applications (McKim, 2002).
Communication—Increased fragmentation of media audiences, multiplicity, and saturation of media channels (Smith, 2002).
From this perspective, the new paradigm of IMC can be represented as a strategic answer to the social and business conditions of the postmodern society (Proctor & Kitchen, 2002), which forced marketing organizations to move beyond functionally driven, internally focused approaches to marketing and communication (Cornelissen, 2003).
The concept of IMC was defined in many different, often contradictorial ways (Duncan, 2002; Shimp, 2000). The integration of marketing communication procedures was considered a result of centralized management, centralized budgeting, or message similarity across all communication channels, while other authors emphasized the integration of all the elements of the promotional mix in a coherent strategy (Pickton & Broderick, 2001). Many definitions emphasize that the integration of marketing communication should not be understood as a simple uniformity of the message transmitted across different channels (Kitchen, Brignell, Li, & Jones, 2004), but rather as the complex coordination and management of the information transmitted though complementary channels in order to effectively present a coherent image of the organization to the targeted audiences.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Communication Mix: The combination of various communication methods used by a company to transmit messages to its publics.
Online Communication Channel: Online application (e-mail, chat, discussion forum, etc.) used by firms to communicate with its publics.
Target Audience: A clearly defined demographic group for which the company develops and transmits various communication messages.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): The procedures, methodologies, and tools that help businesses manage customer relationships in an organized and effective way. Integrated
Marketing Communication (IMC): A management orientation that integrates the use of various marketing communication methods such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing in order to send a coherent and consistent message to its publics.
Marketing Communication: The messages and the related media channels used by a firm to communicate with its market.
Public Relations Communication: The messages and the related media channels used by a firm to communicate with various publics, in order to develop a positive and coherent corporate image.