The case example clearly points to one of the most difficult problems facing marketers. How can a marketer clearly and effectively communicate the story (message) in a society that is so over communicated that the typical consumer is both overwhelmed with the vast number of messages and annoyed at the thousands of messages that have no relevance whatsoever to that person's needs and wants? The amount of sameness, and the amount of communication clutter is so excessive, that the approach employed by American Express appears to be the only answer. Yet, as we have noted throughout this text, the needs and capabilities of marketers vary, and not all marketers are blessed with a creative genius like Jerry Walsh. Nor do all marketers require a multimillion dollar national advertising campaign in order to reach objectives. All marketers, however, must learn to communicate their strategy to their target market.
The concept of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is offered as a general framework, which can be employed by marketers in order to design a comprehensive and effective program of communication. It acknowledges the inherent differences between marketers and builds upon the reality that "every company is cast in the role of communicator". Ultimately, it is the choice of each company whether this communication process will be performed in a haphazard, unplanned way, or whether it will be guided by stated objectives and implemented through effective strategies.
This chapter introduces the concept of IMC, a framework for organizing the persuasive communication efforts of the business. Because of its visibility, many consumers feel that they already know a great deal about IMC, or at least about advertising. Most hold either a somewhat positive or negative attitude toward advertising, aggressive salespeople, coupons, and so forth. This is a case when a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing.
This chapter also provides a discussion of four of the IMC mix elements—advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and personal selling. We begin our discussion with an explanation of the role IMC plays in the marketing strategy.