From the variety of tools of IMC like advertising, public relations, personal selling, direct marketing, sales promotion, road shows, sponsorship, events, point of purchase, some tools are identified as the most-influential ones that have greater impacts on consumer behavior. According to Francis (2010), advertising is the most-dominant tool that can change the consumers’ perception about the product. Most often, advertising encourages consumers to make a purchase as it bluntly communicates to the consumer to get the product. Moreover, advertising the product creates an emotional attachment of consumers with the product that also manipulates their buying behavior.
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Secondly, public relations also serve the purpose of changing consumer behavior. This IMC tool is important for creating a good reputation and image of the brand, which will help to bring more consumers to buy their product. Public relations focuses on communication channels that support goodwill between the company and consumers. Manufacturing companies most often use the advertising tool to cater the attention of target groups directly, in the most influential way. Also, sales promotion is another effective way that is widely used by manufacturing companies. On the other hand, service based companies give greater stress upon personal selling and direct marketing to divert the consumer behavior to make a purchase.
Marketing communication is a way to enhance all means of communication between the firm and the customers. It increases the existence of the product-service combination and helps to convince the customers. First, communication is a two way process because it does not only means the actions taken by firms to communicate, but also requires continuous feedback from the customers against the efforts put by the firm. Secondly, the services are not in the absolute sense and are intangible therefore; the images and the words in the communication will help the customer to see the firm’s efforts in bringing the physical manifestation. The relational marketing model has many important features and ensuring communication activities that drive towards effective long-term achievement of the objective is one of its important features. Therefore, analyzing the factors that affect the marketing communication is also essential. The customer’s attachment is an important and a broad factor, which refers to emotional nearness between the firm and the customer, which may be different according to the nature of the relationship. Factors that affect customer’s attachment may be positive and negative in nature (ERCİŞ, 2011).
Schiffman and Kanuk (2009) have identified four models, which are based on the general view to identifying why a consumer behaves in a certain way. However, many research experts have criticized this model because nobody has a perfect knowledge for decision-making and this model does not portray many purchase decisions. Olshavski and Granbois, (1989) proposed that consumers are the object and are not able to play an important role in buying decision.
Numerous factors can impact the Integrated Marketing Communications strategy and plan of the organization. Smith & Taylor (2004) stated that there are different factors that influence IMC of the organization and these include the organizational strategies, organizational culture, organizational policies, along with the marketing experts that the company has. In addition to this, the value or the price of the product influences their process of decision making and if the price or the value of the product is too low then consumers may not spend too much time in taking the decision (Suri, & Monroe, 2003). Therefore, the price of the product is another important factor that could influence the IMC plan of the organization. Minhart (2012a) has also stated that the pricing strategy along with the distribution strategy of the organization influences how the organization uses IMC. Minhart (2012b) proposed another model regarding the IMC and he further added that the organizational IMC plan should also consider the likings and disliking of the consumers as well. So, IMC plan of the organization can be influenced by different factors including the type of consumers the organization is targeting, the demographics of the consumers and their profile (Fill, 2000), Unique Selling proposition of the organization (Mulhern, 2009) and several others.
Integrated Marketing Communications is a critical and hard approach to follow, and marketers are facing numerous challenges in developing such integrated communication plans. Keeping effective marketing as their priority, is also a big challenge. According to a survey by world federation of advertisers, multinational companies spent $32 billion annually and identified that 80% of advertisers keep IMC on the top priority (McClellan, 2013). The research highlighted some of the areas, which are challenging faced implementing effective IMC approach. The following are some challenges faced by firms in relation to integrated marketing communication.
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IMC is often observed as an approach that belongs to marketing experts rather than to the organization as a whole. On the contrary, public relation experts consider it, as a limiting approach as marketing does not cover all the aspects of public relations. Mostly all the marketers appreciate the IMC approach whereas the practitioners belonging to public relation side are not in the favor of IMC approach. This opinion can be further added according to the statement of Smith, & Taylor, (2004) as they stated that the organizational strategies, policies and culture along with the marketing experts of the organization are critical in how the organization makes use of IMC. However, this might be due to the opinion of public relation practitioners who think this is an attempt to bring public relation under the domain of marketing. In short, for the public relation practitioners IMC is not an effective approach to business, however, for the marketers it has many challenges but still IMC is a better-integrated approach.
Creating an Integrated Marketing Communications plan can be decisive for the organization as there are number of challenges that need to be addressed. A marketer while devising and formulating the IMC plan has to consider all these important aspects. if these aspects and challenges are overlooked, then it could negatively impact the overall marketing strategy of the organization. Researcher has identified several challenges that the marketers need to addresses. The major challenges include; understanding the culture of the consumers (REF), language of the consumers (ref), demographics and their profiles (Fill, 2000), what the organization has to offer and how the organization can differentiat its products and services to the consumers (Mulhern, 2009), price of the product (Suri, & Monroe, 2003), organizational culture and policies (Smith & Taylor, 2004), competitors and industry dynamics (REF), and others. Moreover, REF added that the type of the product is also critical and can become a challenge for the organization when it is formulating its IMC plan as for some products it is very difficult for the organization to differentiate or engage the audience. On the other hand, some products may be good enough to meet the needs and wants of the consumers, however they may have a higher price, therefore this could also become a challenge for the marketers while formulating the IMC plan (REF).
Formulating and devising the IMC plan and strategies may not be as easy as one could think of. Marketers need to consider these challenges and if these challenges and factors are not considered or kept in mind while formulating the marketing strategies then the failure becomes the fate of the organizational IMC. For instance, since the initiation of the social media even the big brands have failed in conquering the always hit or average successful strategy for their IMC. For example, Snickers had to undergo investigation for its campaign in which Snickers required celebrities to post their pictures on Twitter in a posture of eating Snickers The ad campaign not only failed to capture the attention of the target audience but at the same time it faced investigation for overlooking the fair trade rule of the UK that requires companies to openly and explicitly spell its collaboration with the celebrities for endorsement (Fiegerman, 2012). Similarly, an Ad campaign from the electronic industry giant Sony drove away sales when the company used the ethnic distinction of White Americans and African Americans for its launch of PlayStation Portable’s white version. These add raised the anti-racist campaign again Sony (Business Pundit, 2013).
On the other hand, when marketers are able to address these points in a well-defined manner then successful IMC plans such as Coca cola, Starbucks and several others could come up and these successful IMC plans are able to not only achieve the objectives of the IMC plans but at the same time, consumers are able to recall these communication tactics and messages in the future (Shimp, & Andrews, 2013).
The first research objective of the dissertation required identifying the impact that elements of Integrated Marketing Communications mix of the firms produce on the consumer behavior. From the study, it has been concluded that IMC is having wide ranging impact on consumer behavior. This impact is reflected in the actions of the consumer with respect to the change in the decision-making process. Importantly, Tsai, (2005) stated that IMC can produce a holistic impact on consumer experience. The core mission of influencing the consumer behavior socially, functionally, emotionally, as well as intellectually, is the guiding principle before IMC management in an organization. Consequently, it requires producing a holistic structure of the brand value with the customer.
In reference to the research objective of exploring and defining the elements that have a higher impact on the consumer behavior than other, the study has found mixed results. Considering the complexities in IMC, it is difficult for the marketers to formulate a single specific strategy or plan that can be successful in every situation. Thus, it is important to understand the situation, factors, consumers, offerings and market dynamics and then formulate the IMC plan accordingly. It is important for marketers to analyze the challenges and factors of formulating a successful IMC plan. The importance of each single element varies from industry to industry as well as from company to company. For instance, at one place the role of social media is widely penetrating in IMC recipe, Elder (2013) while on the other hand Social media failure is noted to drive the sales of the business. On the other hand, Keller (2001) has discussed that IMC, in order to produce an effective mix, shall adhere an attention toward micro and macro IMC elements. Hence, there is not specific response to the objective about the impact of a single IMC on driving consumer as compared to other. On the contrary, an effective and holistic mix is critical and it has to be produced in specificity to the business and target audience (Keller, 2001).
However, it is also important to understand that in order to produce the desired level of impact on the consumers, companies and businesses are required to give the aspect of marketing a strategic level of importance. It is critical to strike a right balance among all factors such as price, product, place, promotion, consumer research and other related factors. On the practical grounds it is noted that the challenges that are accompanied in developing a comprehensive IMC that also ensures the considerable probability of success, are well realized by organizations. This is inferred from the statistics provided by Marketing Charts (2008) which states that around 87% of the companies have hired external agencies for the development and implementation of IMC that is able to connect to the company, its products and services offerings and the most importantly the target audience, successfully.
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Marketing and consumer behavior are the domains of the research that are constantly evolving and developing. Researchers and practitioners are assessing various aspects of IMC and consumer behavior in order to identify the factor that can create clearly defined link between the marketing and consumer behavior. Hence, in reference to the fact that above study has concluded that marketing communication factors have direct as well as indirect influence on consumer behavior, future research should be focused onextending the already developed domains. For instance, some of recommendations for future research are listed below:
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