Harley David Rubin

A Look at Integrated Marketing Communications in the 21st Century

Integrated Marketing Communications
Vitalii Vodolazskyi/

Better hear me out on Integrated Marketing Communications. Why? Well, I’m an old man. I took Pascal in high school. (Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait.)

I typed my college papers on a typewriter/word processor hybrid. I hung out in MUDs and MOOs before there were chat rooms. And I’m lucky enough to have lived my bachelor days before the onslaught of social media.

One of the things that has stood the test of time – unlike my hairline – is Integrated Marketing Communications. But while IMC (that’s what us industry insiders call it – clever, huh?) is still an important concept for marketers, it’s had to change as our communications technology landscape has changed.

So, What is Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)?

Before we can talk about what it is today, let’s take a moment to talk about what it used to be.

Integrated Marketing Communications is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – the combination of many different forms of communication for marketing purposes. The idea is to create a focused, on-brand marketing campaign that uses every communication tool possible to market a company’s products/services.

For example, Hats by Harley (™ pending) might be introducing a new line of ultra-lightweight, breathable baseball caps that filter out UV rays. (This is especially helpful for bald/balding men.)

A couple decades ago, HbH would create an Integrated Marketing Communications plan for this new product line – with our “Conquer the Sun” theme (™ pending) – including all of the old-school channels:

  • Broadcast = TV and radio spots with media buys during pro sports broadcasts
  • Print = Ads in the newspaper sports and business sections; also in sports magazines
  • Direct mail = Postcards with 10% discount offers sent to purchased lists of men 21–65
  • Collateral = Brochures/handouts with 10% discount offers for sporting goods stores
  • Outdoor = Billboards in high-traffic areas along major commute roadways
  • Public relations = Press releases sent to trade publications, newspaper business editors
  • Events = In-store appearances by bald/balding pro athletes (current and former)
  • Point of Purchase = 10% discount offers given to purchasers to share with friends
  • Sweepstakes = Entries given to purchasers, winner gets trip to major sporting event

But that was then, and this is now.

There’s more info on these marketing classics in my previous piece on using old-school marketing tactics today, but for right now… Hello, Interwebs!

Integrated Marketing Communications and the Rise of the Internet

A funny thing happened over the past couple decades – the Internet. Digital marketing is arguably more powerful, more personal, and more cost-effective than most forms of traditional marketing.

Today’s IMC Plan

Let’s use Hats by Harley’s new product line as an example. The IMC plan would likely include all of the above, but also require the “new school” online marketing tools list below.

  • Websites = Add an entire section dedicated to the new product line onto the HbH website, and make sure it’s fully integrated/linked throughout and shareable
  • Email = Send multi-tiered email campaign to HbH subscriber list with discount offers
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) / Search Engine Optimization (SEO) = Maximize online presence by incorporating product line name everywhere, and promoting hashtags like #conquerthesun, #basebald and #protectyourdome.
  • Blogs = Add blog posts to HbH site, offer to write guest posts for online influencers’ sites
  • Banner Ads = Buy space on major sports news sites, team sites, fan sites, etc.

But wait – there’s #more.

Like, Share, Follow and Retweet

And then there was Facebook. And Twitter. And a few million others.

But for sheer “reach” numbers, Facebook and Twitter are probably the two you’d want to focus on for this particular product line. (Sure, you can promote baseball caps on LinkedIn, but that’s not really the best channel for it.)

The cool thing is that you can take a lot of your already-created marketing materials (print ad concepts, billboards, etc.) and adapt them for use on social media – taking into account the advertising rules for each channel. Cross-posting blogs and press releases is also an easy and cost-effective way to promote your product.

You might even consider creating unique accounts on Facebook and Twitter for the product line. But if you do, make sure you monitor them and have skilled specialists working to engage interested people.

Make Mine Mobile

Let’s not forget the all-important world of mobile marketing. More and more people are turning off their desktops and laptops in favor of their smartphones and tablets.

So you’d better make sure that your websites and emails use responsive design – which ensures that all your creative team’s hard work is readable and easy-to-navigate for users.

Of course, mobile advertising is also an essential tool in reaching today’s audience. If everyone is using mobile devices, then that’s where you need to buy ad space.

Integrated Marketing Communications Literally Puts it all Together for Businesses

Clearly today’s version of Integrated Marketing Communications has a lot more to, um, integrate. That’s why today’s marketers (like you, Dear Reader) have to be multi-talented, multi-skilled, and conversant in all forms of communication. Or at least able to hire people who are!

The bottom line: For IMC to work successfully, the messaging at its core needs to be both consistent and memorable. So when you’re taking that message and executing it through all of these media and channels, you’re creating an impactful campaign that will generate attention, interest, desire and action. And hopefully, lots of sales.

Are you using IMC without even realizing it? Feel free to post in the comments below.

Harley David Rubin

Harley David Rubin is a freelance copywriter, content creator and marketing strategist who has worked for both advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments for more than 20 years. He loves his family, pop culture, fantasy baseball and creativity in all its forms.

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