Thursday, March 25, 2010

Perspective On Changing Techniques of IMC

When considering a perspective on integrated marketing communication, it is important to realize that in an age of 24/7 digital media consumption, transparency is playing a major factor in a constantly changing game of how target publics view brands. Protecting the quality of a client’s brand has never been more critical. All integrated communications resources must be taken advantage of to benefit both the client and consumer.

With an ever increasing social media based communications concept, consumers no longer desire the “one way street” approach of communicating. Especially with the use of social media, there is a drastic need for an integrated marketing strategy of not only online ad campaigns, but also consumer engagement.

For many brands that have actively implemented the use of these online communications, consumer engagement has proven a positive tool in helping to develop a stronger, more improved relationship between the brands and their publics. Social media has been a remarkable tool in protecting brand reputations. This concept has mostly taken shape in the form of blogs and recently through Twitter.

Brands without efficient response to this form of dialog within the past year have in turn suffered drastically negative exposure at the hands of consumer social media. After a Southwest Airlines flight unknowingly asked “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” director Kevin Smith to leave the plane because he was deemed over weight, Smith and his over 1.5 million Twitter followers made sure Southwest was aware of his dissatisfaction. Musician Dave Carroll’s frustration with United Airlines' due to a nine-month refusal to compensate him in repairs after he witnessed baggage handlers literally tossing guitars, including his own, led to a YouTube music video about the experience with currently over seven million views.

Both incidents have cost the two brands considerable negative publicity. Stronger social media and consumer engagement by both companies could have prevented the magnitude of these situations. As a result, customer relations and public relations are becoming more intricately mixed, and brand reputation has become highly transparent and damageable.

This is why all our clients must seriously consider integrated communication as a crisis management tool. This concept of operation demands fast, proactive communication equivalent to the speed of consumer response. A rapidly developing consumer social network requires more listening on the part of the brands we represent. Today, timeliness is everything.

When YouTube footage of Domino's Pizza employees defiling food was posted last April, the two days’ time it took for the company to respond to the video was more than enough to cost severe damage to the brand. Had Dominos responded quickly and effectively, harm could have been minimal in comparison.

In addition to the concerns of reputation management, this new era of consumer engagement provides the opportunity for brands to excel in creative innovation. Various Facebook and iPhone applications (apps) have already proven a key component in the promotional techniques of differing brands. A personal favorite of mine, the Burger King “sacrifice 10 friends” Facebook app’s sharing ability, incentive to use it, and humor all contributed to making the campaign a widely received success.

Amid the tech-savvy glamour of using online marketing tools, it is important to refrain from the dismissal of older forms of media. Despite critics’ declarations that print is “dead,” it is merely evolving. Some print aspects have and will change radically from what they were. Print’s new form will either become more directly focused or complementary in integrated marketing techniques. In the wake of what print will become, the great point is to understand what role it will play in effectively amplifying a client’s communication strategy.

Developing a focused method of using older mediums in today’s integrated communication can hold a significant impact in conveying a brand’s message. Working in conjunction with South-Africa based agency TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, The Zimbabwean newspaper developed a campaign to promote accountability of Zimbabwe’s government for the collapse of the country’s economy. Across the city of Johannesburg, murals, billboards and flyers were designed and covered with Zimbabwe’s 100 trillion dollar bill to demonstrate the worthless of the bill due to the Muagabe regime. The unique, innovative tactic of this campaign was paramount in carrying The Zimbabwean’s message.

The most important perspective in embracing integrated communications is to understand the demand for consumer engagement. Utilization of integrated communications will only increase over time and the keys to maximizing its potential are creative innovation and proactive reputation management. Fortifying our client’s brands though these methods will help ensure efficient brand management.

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