Every company perceives themselves differently. They have a mission, values, and organizational culture that sets them apart from other organizations. Based off of these values, each company constructs a brand identity in order to communicate those values to their target audience. On the flip side, every brand has an image that goes along with their identity. A brand’s image is the public perception of the brand, and how they view their organization. The identity is simply the face that the organization puts on for the public. Anything and everything from an organization’s public relations, to the symbols and color patterns used in advertising contributes to the construction of brand identity.
A lot of what an Integrated Marketing Communication practitioner does is mediating this relationship between the brand (identity) and the consumer (image). The overall goal is to construct a singular, consistent message to send the target audience that is concise and to the point. However, there are numerous challenges to overcome in order to achieve this goal.
The first issue is external versus internal audiences. Organizations have multiple audiences to appease, and because of this, an organization’s message can become somewhat ambiguous. The external audience refers to those outside the organization, typically the consumer. Without support from this external audience, your sales will decrease, and ultimately put your company at risk of going out of business. That being said, you must also keep in mind certain internal audiences that also keep your organization in business. This audience could be investors, parent companies, and various organizations who you have gone into business with. A hypothetical example of a problematic situation pertaining to this issue could be the consumer’s desire for an organic, or reliable product at a low price, while also dealing with investors who want to keep cost of production down while still utilizing cheap materials in order to turn a larger profit. At what point will you no longer be able to honestly say that the quality of your product is superior when constructing advertising campaigns. To summarize, the challenge is to construct one message that keeps multiple parties with varying interests happy simultaneously.
Another issue that is evident among almost all consumers, is false representation by corporations. Many perceive corporations to have a true identity that goes unchanged over time, despite contrasting advertisements and public relations. An example can be seen with Starbucks Coffee. They have been accused of being a “greenwashed” company, meaning they put out disinformation to present an environmentally responsible public image. Corporate social responsibilities for any organization can be taken with a grain of salt, but the issue of transparency is a major concern for consumers. It is the IMC practitioner’s job to not only ensure that one clear and consistent message is being sent to the external audience, but that it is transparent, and ethically sound.
The major challenge of an IMC practitioner is to successfully integrate all aspects of an organization’s communication into one “package” for the consumer, while communicating consumer feedback right back to the organizations. This why I describe an IMC practitioner as being a “mediator” between an organization, and its external audience. On the organizational side, it can sometimes be difficult to construct one singular message, when you’re working with all communication departments of an organization such as; public relations, advertising, customer relationship management, social media, etc.
For prospective students, IMC can at first seem like a somewhat ambiguous concept, many associating it with a single entity such as advertising, or public relations. If we are to equate IMC to composing a musical score, social media could be the violin, advertising the trumpet, social media the piano, and so on. A composer’s job is to integrate all these musical instruments to compose one harmonious sound. Likewise, an IMC professional’s job is to integrate all platforms of communication within an organization in order to send a concise, clear and consistent message to an audience, and in turn relaying audience feedback. In order for an effective message to be sent to the audience, effective communication must exist within all areas of the organization. If all of these departments, or instruments, are not fluid and clear with their communication, the message will not have the desired impact on the target audience.