Integrated marketing communications
Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is a term that first emerged in the late 20th century. The term has varying definitions, depending upon the source cited.
- The first definition for integrated marketing communication came from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (also 4As) in 1989, defining IMC as "an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other." The 4As definition of IMC recognizes the strategic roles of various communication disciplines (advertising, public relations, sales promotions, etc.) to provide clarity, consistency, and increased impact when combined within a comprehensive communications plan. Basically, it is the application of consistent brand messaging across both traditional and non-traditional marketing channels.
- The Journal of Integrated Marketing Communication from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University refers to IMC as "a strategic marketing process specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communication strategies are unified across all channels and are centered around the customer." IMC is used practically to allow one medium's weakness to be offset by another medium's strength, with elements synergized to support each other and create greater impact.
- A more contemporary definition states, "True IMC is the development of marketing strategies and creative campaigns that weave together multiple marketing disciplines (paid advertising, public relations, promotion, owned assets, and social media) that are selected and then executed to suit the particular goals of the brand." Instead of simply utilizing various media to help tell a brand's overall story, with IMC the marketing leverages each communication channel's intrinsic strengths to achieve a greater impact together than each channel could achieve individually. It requires the marketer to understand each medium's limitation, including the audience's ability/willingness to absorb messaging from that medium. This understanding is integrated into a campaign's strategic plan from the very beginning of planning - so that the brand no longer simply speaks with consistency, but speaks with planned efficacy. This concept inherently provides added benefits that include: a singular/synchronized brand voice and experience, cost efficiencies generated through creativity and production, and opportunities for added value and bonus.
First defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies in 1989, IMC was developed mainly to address the need for businesses to offer clients more than just standard advertising. The 4As originally coined the term the "new advertising," however this title did not appropriately incorporate many other aspects included in the term "IMC" - most notably, those beyond traditional advertising process aside from simply advertising.
Overall, an influx of new marketplace trends in the late 20th century spurred organizations to shift from the standard advertising approach to the IMC approach:
- Decreasing message impact and credibility: The growing number of commercial messaging made it increasingly more difficult for a single message to have a noteworthy effect.
- Decreasing costs of databases: The cost of storing and retrieving names, addresses and information from databases significantly declined. This decline allowed marketers to reach consumers more effectively.
- Increasing client expertise: Clients of marketing and public relations firms became more educated regarding advertising policies, procedures and tactics. Clients began to realize that television advertising was not the only way to reach consumers.
- Increasing mergers and acquisitions of agencies: Many top public relations firms and advertising agencies became partners or partnered with other communication firms. These mergers allowed for more creativity, and the expansion of communication from only advertising, to other disciplines such as event planning and promotion.
- Increasing global marketing: There was a rapid influx in advertising competition from foreign countries. Companies quickly realized that even if they did not conduct business outside their own country, they were now competing in global marketing.
- Increasing media and audience fragmentation: With the exception of the decline of newspapers, media outlets, such as magazines and television stations, increased dramatically from 1980 to 1990. Additionally, companies could use new technologies and computers to target specialized audiences based on factors such as ethnic background or place of residence.
- Increasing number of overall products: Manufacturers flooded retailers with a plethora of new products, many of which were identical to products that already existed. Therefore, a unique marketing and branding approach was crucial to attract customer attention and increase sales.
Model & Stages 
Similar to the definition of IMC, models of the IMC approach vary according to the source cited. Frequently, models stress the importance of blending various marketing tools to maximize the customer experience and value. IMC models also often emphasize the lack of a specific hierarchy of importance in the IMC stages: all components of the model play an equally important role and a company may or may not choose to immediately implement any or all of the integration strategies.
- Stage one: Awareness: Knowledge of changing business, social, political and cultural trends creates the demand for a new approach to marketing.
- Stage two: Image integration: Having a consistent image, message and feel to an organization is crucial. The image reflected in corporate symbols serves as an important element for maintaining consistency in an organization.
- Stage three: Functional integration: Analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each functional area of communication (public relations, event planning, media, etc.), and determining how the different areas can come together to create an effective campaign.
- Stage four: Coordinated integration: All communication functions become equal in their potential to influence company marketing efforts and many integration barriers cease to exist.
- Stage five: Consumer based integration: The elements of the different communication functions begin to work together. The campaign begins to achieve greater marketing effectiveness because only fully targeted consumers are exposed to the strongest and most effective forms of marketing and media.
- Stage six: Stakeholder based integration: Beyond just the customer, there are stakeholders who depend on the positive outcome of marketing campaigns. Companies carefully identify stakeholders, determining who can or will be affected by the success or failure of their campaign. At this stage of integration, the IMC expands from a sales-driven goal to a broader communication goal. This means that a company needs to enhance past marketing efforts through clear, correct and open communication between all parties involved.
- Stage seven: Relationship management integration: A fully integrated communication strategy exists that brings customers and stakeholders into direct contact with the business.
- Business Dictionary Online
- Journal of Integrated Marketing Communication
- Kitchen, et al 2004, p. 20
- Bennett, Stirology April 2013
- Bennett, Stirology April 2013
- Duncan and Caywood p.18
- Duncan and Caywood p.24
- Business Dictionary online 
- Journal of Integrated Marketing Communication 
- Clow, Kenneth E., Baack, Donald E. (March 22, 2006) Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications, p. 108. Prentice Hall PTR. ISBN 978-0-13-186622-5.
- Duncan, Tom and Clarke Caywood."The Concept, Process and Evolution of Integrated Marketing Communication." Integrated Communication: Synergy of Persuasive Voices. Ed. Esther Thorson and Jeri Moore. 1st ed. New York: Psychology Press, 1996. 13-34.
- Schultz, D. E., “Integrated Marketing Communications: Maybe Definition Is in the Point of View.” Marketing News, January 18, 1993a, p. 17
- Kitchen, et al, “The Emergence of IMC: A Theoretical Perspective,” Journal of Advertising Research, March 2004, p. 20