Simultaneously promoting a brand through different forms of media, otherwise known as integrated marketing communication (or IMC), is not a new concept. In fact, IMC is practically demanded in the current marketplace. With so many forms of media and communication at our fingertips, this methodology is the only way to increase the likelihood of message visibility. The original IMC concept, though, was developed far before the Internet had its stronghold on the global marketplace.
The idea was simple and logical: If you are unable to reach a certain part of your target market through one form of media, then you must use as many other forms as necessary to increase saturation levels. It was never a common practice, however, that a print ad would direct the consumer to a radio ad, which would in turn direct the consumer to a television ad. The messages were each implemented simultaneously, but individually: Each form of advertising would share the same message, each generating a call to action of inevitable product consumption.
These days are gone, and new synergies between communication methods are developing and arising in ways rarely, if ever, expressed before. While Internet advertising appeared to be the ultimate game-changer in terms of promotional-campaign necessity, few could have possibly anticipated the level to which social media would raise the bar. At this point almost no IMC campaign is complete without a social media component. And the IMC evolution is not stopping at social media.
The modern IMC campaign is no longer multiple media forms all promoting the same message, but has developed into a messaging treasure hunt of sorts, with one media promoting another form of media (with or without the branding message actually being included in the promotion).
For example, one can drive down the highway and read billboards (one of the oldest forms of advertising in existence). Billboards allow for very few words and must be extraordinarily creative to even be acknowledged, let alone effective. Upon them, it is nearly impossible to relay your entire marketing message. It is for this reason that some billboards now have nothing more than a brand name or logo with a URL (or, occasionally, no branding at all and only a URL, with no indication of what the product is).
The billboard directs you to the respective website, which hosts the commercial. After the commercial, you click on the posted link, which directs you to a landing page or another website with additional information.
At this point, you (the consumer) have already engaged in three different media, and each of the three implement different methods through which people remember information: auditory memory, visual memory, and cognitive (or reading) memory. You are now much more likely to keep this brand at top of mind when a buying decision has to be made because the message has been absorbed in so many different ways.
Virtually every car commercial, every movie trailer, and even ads for basic consumables promote not only their website at the end of their advertisements but often their Facebook fan site or their Twitter account. Fan sites are a very good way for brands to judge the level of consumer engagement; but, more importantly, “fan numbers” are recognition that the consumer is staying engaged in your product. If each form of advertisement leads the consumer to the next media form, then every subsequent level of absorption acknowledges a continued interest and a greater likelihood of purchase. Each level of media consumption now builds upon its previous message, creating a larger, more comprehensive picture rather than banking on repetition alone.
An alternative synergy, albeit a more unique trend in IMC development and communication partnerships, is one that would have seemed less cooperative and less likely to overlap: the hybrid communications of television and experiential marketing.
Experiential marketing allows the consumer to directly interact with the brand to build engagement, the most common example of which is sampling. After all, who can turn down a free food or drink sample?
The merger of experiential and television advertising seems unlikely and often contradictory, but a new twist on an old modality (brand X versus brand Y) has recently arisen in major campaigns: filming the experiential advertising and promoting the positive reactions as part of a television commercial.
Rather than stating how much money one would save by shopping at their grocery store, Florida supermarket Sweetbay actually set up checkout lines outside of competitor grocery stores (or so they claim) and checked out customers again using their own prices. Sweetbay now uses the true reactions of real customers as their form of television advertising, creating a secondary word-of-mouth promotion rather than traditional positioning and banal commercial copy.
While Kleenex made famous the aforementioned practice of integrating experiential and television communications with their very successful “Kleenex moment” campaign (featuring consumers literally crying on a couch in the middle of a city street), now both Clorox and Downy have taken a similar approach.
Clorox filmed their promotional team taking two white socks and asking people on the street which one is whiter. Similarly, rather than telling people how soft their fabric softener makes sheets feel, Downy placed a bed in the middle of a busy city sidewalk and had consumers lay down to feel the comfort and softness. The experiences of these potential consumers are now each brand’s current television commercials, creating buy-in through the real experiences of others.
While it is true that the effectiveness of any marketing campaign is premised on one’s ability to reach the consumer with your messaging in any way possible, it is important to recognize how synergistically media forms can work to not just generate initial interest, but continued engagement. It is no longer the job of each advertisement to individually create purchase intent with a consistent message, but for each ad to submit a piece of the greater advertising purpose and comprehensive message.
Jared Kohn is a marketing professional in Tampa, FL who spent five years studying consumer buying behavior with top companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Sprint. More recently, he has developed both regional and national new product launches for Coca-Cola. Contact him on LinkedIn or friend him on Facebook.