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Epitomizing the Effects of the Integrated Marketing Communication Tools

The impacts of IMC tools such as advertising, direct marketing, public relations, sales promotion
and internet on consumers have been discussed. But how IMC tools could affect the key stages
of the response process is still a question to be pondered upon as well as the way IMC tools
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communicate and relay information to consumers and the impact measurement on each of the
cognitive, affective and behavior steps of the response process (Belch & Belch).
The first pre-stage of the process involves consumers to have received the message; this is
termed as presentation or exposure. This helps in identifying the number of target audience and
measures of communication which vary based on the range of IMC tools and level of exposure.
Planners may, for example, assess variables such as frequency of adverts and size of audience
and hence determine the distribution of sales promotion offers like coupons and samples.
Another measure could include banner ads on websites to transfer the message. The website
traffic could be one key factor that would help determine the impact of the IMC tool, which is
Internet in this case. However, a possible problem could result in analyzing the exposure in
public relations due to media equivalencies. The reason for this is that metrics such as impression
counts are not really an advertising message nor have sponsored exposure. Exposures are
measured in this case by the length of time the brand name is presented to the public. This type
of exposure does not follow the traditional idea of advertising, so the value of presenting the
message needs to be tuned.
Cognitive dimension of consumer response comes at the stage where the impact is based
on the premise that the message has been seen or heard. Simple recall and recognition techniques
could be used to relay the brand image in the memory of the audience. Higher order measures
would involve the extent to which the IMC has effectively changed beliefs, practices and social
perception, and if it has created any brand associations.
It is noteworthy that cognitive dimension can be influenced by any combination of IMC
tools, and not just one approach to using communication tools. Some tools can thus be more
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effective than others in creating value structures and influencing comprehension of the audience.
A combination thus helps maintain strong and multiple links to the core beliefs of the company.
For instance, Pavlou & Stewart, (2000) define comprehension to be recalling a message as
intended by the advertiser. Tools such as traditional media advertising may influence this
differently from interactive advertising techniques. Interactive advertising might offer better
opportunities on a website and reduce customer concerns such as uncertainties.
Now, a major interactive tool of advertisement is the Internet, which carries the potential
to transmit information to consumers on a massive scale, making it possible to control and
choose information. Ray, (1973) and Vaughn, (1980) support this idea of using Internet to
involve users and target their beliefs, make them feel associated with a product or service
category and cause an effective response through the standard learning hierarchy of ‘learn, feel
and do’ sequence. Similarly, Yoon & Kim, (2001) discuss the use of media for high and low
involvement products for four different categories of products, showing that Internet is seen as a
preferred choice for highly involved consumers.
In contrast to cognitive dimension, in affective dimension, focus is made on values and
feelings created among consumers by different IMC tools. Variables such as feelings for a
particular brand help assess the impact at different levels. Effective responses, for example, to
advertising can be seen in how attitudes towards an ad translate as fondness for the ad and the
company itself (MacKenzie, Lutz, & Belch, 1986). Chen & Wells, (1999) and Gordon & Kumar,
(2000) note that attention is also given to effective responses to interactive messages. This brings
in the role of digital media such as the Internet in branding many companies and marketing their
targets Bianco, (2004) MNCs such as BMW, Levi Strauss and Coca Cola now create unique
branded content including animations and short videos for the Internet. This form of
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entertainment is seen as a measure of assessing the content by the way in which it impacts the
perception of consumers and establishes the brand image.
Responses to other forms of marketing strategies such as premiums and promotions also
need to be considered. For example, sponsorships could be seen as effective since association
with the sponsor builds a positive image with the brand and influences feelings of consumers.
This is why Cornwell & Maignan, (1998) suggest that the Brand Equity Theory presented by
Keller, (1993) could possibly be an appropriate tool for the analysis of effective sponsorships.
Therefore, brand attitudes are seen as critical in examining consumer behavior and assessing the
degree of influence of an IMC tool.
The final stage of behavioral dimension takes consumer behavior as the most concerned
part of a marketing strategy. Buying behavior can be split into specific levels. Firstly, consumers
experience trial or the first use of product, then repurchases or the subsequent choice of the same
brand, finally ending in brand loyalty and brand switching. Sales are, however, seen as the
outcome that reflects the purchase behavior of consumers at aggregate level. To understand the
relationship between advertising and sales, market response level studies use objective data and
advertising residual effects to measure the impact.
Since measuring the behavior response of advertising impact could be difficult, certain
types of sales promotions are used to measure the impact. Sales promotion effectiveness can
measured through redemption rates of coupons. The purpose is that consumers should use a
product or service regularly and build brand loyalty. Similarly, effectiveness of interactive media
can be measured and tracked through consumer behavior. Many companies give product
samples online for trial and direct sales are then taken as a measure to assess the impact.
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The focus so far was on the impact of individual IMC tools on consumer response. It is
equally important to recognize that consumers’ perceptions are a mix of the information package
they receive through IMC programs. A combination or interaction of various tools might create a
larger impact. For example, a response to a trial advertising and sales promotion may interrelate.
Positive attitude is likely to result from product trial such as free samples or coupons with
consequent purchase if coupled with media advertising. In addition Huey, (1999) explains: to
achieve differentiation and create perception of value; marketers must combine strategies with
their brands by not communicating with just one ad, individual exposure or just a campaign.
Contrarily, to influence each step of response process of consumers, different Integrated
Marketing Communications tools could be used, including their interaction with each other and
their impact based on product classification or type of audience.
While Vakratsas & Ambler, (1999) suggest that advertising should be analyzed with a
threedimensional view using cognition, affect, and experience, these dimensions must be fine-
tuned
for factors such as product category, competition and the target audience.