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Growing Importance of Events as a tool of Integrated

Marketing Communications

INTRODUCTION:

Marketing and the Indian Marketing Scenario:

The Indian Economy has finally unchained itself. Archaic policies and institutions of the

Socialist era have been done away with and the economy has been reformed to link with

the World Economy. India initially lost ground to its South Asia neighbors in the 1980’s,

but the Post ’91 reforms have seen the Indian economy emerge as a far stronger player.

Today, the Indian economy is a witness to competition to almost every sector.

Competition not only from global companies, but Indian companies which have now

risen to the challenge and diversified it successes in all sectors. The impact of all this has

been felt by companies which had enjoyed a position of being a market leader and

running virtual monopolies. The distribution channels running across agents and

middlemen no longer enjoy customer faith. The new entrants in the market have been

more efficient in terns of channels of distribution, packaging and an overall outlook to

serve the consumers like never before.

Marketing as a concept has essentially been Consumer orientation. Not only Marketing

Guru’s, but also legends like Mahatma Gandhi have preached that the Customer is King.

What it all signifies that when designing a product or a service, it has to be keeping in

mind the consumers needs. The Indian Marketers have today realized that no levels of

push across any channel, high budgets in advertising or aggressive selling are going to
work in the market unless the focus has been shifted onto the Consumer. The marketing

science of today has redefined success as the position where it can serve the consumers

better on every given opportunity. The rise of the era of consumerism is also

accompanied by the fact that the consumer is much more aware about the products they

buy and the quality they receive from a particular product. There is a demand for much

more from the consumers on terms of information about the products and buying has

moved from simply buying off the shelf to experiencing the product before it is

purchased.

There has also been a shift in marketing in terms of a new concept of ecological

marketing. Maintaining the ecological balance, ensuring that the products are

biodegradable and that manufacturers are not indiscriminately using natural resources are

all things that also play an important role in marketing of products. This concern has led

to companies today being involved in initiatives in developing detergents that consume

less of water to spending money in developing gardens and forests.

Traditionally, Marketing has followed a structure based on what we know as the 4P’s of

Marketing. This line of thought ran with the idea that differential advantage over

competition could be earned based on innovations in Product, Pricing, Place and

Promotions. This meant that the manufacturers could innovate in any of the above four

areas and reach out to the consumer and catch his attention towards the product.
Modern day marketing has now changed in its perceptions considering that the

consumers today are much more aware about products and have a lot more choice while

buying. The old perils of the 4P’s of marketing have now reinvented themselves into the

4C’s of Marketing.

• Not PRODUCT, but CONSUMER

Understand what the consumer wants and needs. Times have changed and you

can no longer sell whatever you can make. The product characteristics must now

match what someone specifically wants to buy. And part of what the consumer is

buying is the personal "buying experience."

• Not PRICE, but COST

Understand the consumer's cost to satisfy the want or need. The product price

may be only one part of the consumer's cost structure. Often it's the cost of time to

drive somewhere, the cost of conscience of what you eat, and the cost of guilt for

not treating the kids.

• Not PLACE, but CONVENIENCE

As above, turn the standard logic around. Think convenience of the buying

experience and then relate that to a delivery mechanism. Consider all possible

definitions of "convenience" as it relates to satisfying the consumer's wants and

needs. Convenience may include aspects of the physical or virtual location, access

ease, transaction service time and hours of availability.

• Not PROMOTION, but COMMUNICATION

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Many mediums working together to

present a unified message with a feedback mechanism to make the


communication two-way. And be sure to include an understanding of non-

traditional mediums, such as word of mouth and how it can influence your

position in the consumer's mind. How many ways can a customer hear (or see) the

same message through the course of the day, each message reinforcing the earlier

images?

Marketing Communication:

Form what has been mentioned as the shift in perils of Marketing from the 4P’s to the

4C’s, the importance of communication in the entire process has also gone higher. The

focus is now not towards gaining new customers, but retaining the old customers and

making them loyal towards you. Making the communication interactive, moving towards

non-traditional mediums of communication conveying the right message to the consumer

through the right channels is the order of the day. The traditional communication mix has

comprised of two factions: Above the line and Below the line communications.

Above-the-line Communications:

Above-the-line refers to advertising primarily; use of TV, press, radio or cinema; all

which cost money on a large scale. The advantage of this media is the tremendous reach

it has. The only supposed problem is the high cost involved. The cost of reaching out to

the specific consumer and catering to his need can be very high if mathematically

calculated.
Below-the-line Communication:

Below the line Communications are usually sales promotions like short-term incentives,

largely aimed at consumers. With the increasing pressure on the marketing team to

achieve communication objectives more efficiently in a limited budget, there has been a

need to find out more effective and cost efficient ways to communicate with the target

markets. This has led to a shift from the regular media based advertising. Below-the-line

activities include sales promotions, public relations, sponsorships, exhibitions & events

and word of mouth.

The total gamut of Marketing Communications is as listed below:

• Advertising
An academic definition for advertising would describe it as “a form of non
personal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in
nature about products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various
media." This is one of the most common forms of communication we find in
print, broadcast and internet media. The advantage of it is its massive reach;
though as the reach increases, so it the cost of the media. Use of mobile
telephonic services is the latest addition.

• Sales Promotion
Sales promotion is a focused activity with the sole aim; to push the sales. It is
usually carried out through special discount offers, coupons and free gifts. This
activity is usually run for a short period of time. The main objective of such an
activity is to provide incentives to the consumers and boost sales.

• Direct Marketing
This is a form of communication that involves direct contact to the consumers
through direct mailers. It is devised to establish a direct contact with the end users
and initiate action in terms of purchase through a more personalized route as
compared to advertising. It is beneficial in a way that it eliminates indirect media
channels; the hindrance is to access a database that can give you a direct contact
to the right consumer of your choice.

• Public Relations
Public relations is usually considered as the communication originating from a
neutral 3rd party with regards to your organisation, its products and services and
the overal image building in the mind of the consumers. The credibility coming
from a 3rd party endorsement is the most important aspect of the communication.
Recent forms also includes new sections amongst media like paid columns and
advetorials which can act as influencers towards the consumers and other
audience. The difficult part of public relations is the fact that you have no control
over the message and its content.

• Publicity
Publicity in generic terms is being in the media and being able to create a buzz
about you in the minds of the people. This type of activity can sometimes be
initiated by the organisation though its grape wine channels or can be a cause of
any unexpected action from the company. As in case of Public relations, publicity
also cannot be controlled as the source of the news cannot be verified each time.

• Sponsorships
Reaching out to the audience through association with an event as a sponsor is a
very common method of communicating in today’s world. Association with major
sporting events, conferences and seminars is seen today as one of the most
efficient ways to connecting with your consumers. The involvement is high, but if
the selection is right, sponsorships can be very efficient in building your brands.

• Events and Trade Exhibitions


The prime objective of participating in Events and Trade Fairs is the high
concentration of potential consumers that come into these. The audience for such
events is focused and so can be the sales and marketing effort of the companies.
Considering the money spent behind such an activity and the audience
concentration for such events, they are one of the most efficient tools of
marketing communication. The

• Point-of-Sale
Doing activities for marketing at the point of sale has the advantage that it can
induce immediate action. A live demonstration at a store or sampling of a product
at a stall in a mall can give the consumer a live experience. Depending on the
degree of involvement and the satisfaction level from the experience, a consumer
can indulge in buying the product almost immediately. The only problem with
such activity is the high costs and infrastructure that need to be invested to run an
activity. In terms of response and efficiency, point-of-sale can be one of the most
involving and instantaneous action initiating forms of communication of the
marketing mix.

• Word of mouth
Word of Mouth is the cheapest form of communication that an organisation can
hope for. It on the simple fact that, people like to share their experiences with
peers, relatives and friends and hence information is passed on. This
communication cannot be controlled and can be dangerous as it can contain some
incorrect information.
• E-marketing
This is a form of communication that has developed with the explosion in the
media and opening up of the internet and mobile telephony systems towards
communication for marketing purpose. The use of internet has been applied in
advertising, public relations, promotions and direct marketing.
Integrated Marketing Communications:

The markets of today demand an integrated approach to marketing communication.

Whether you are a business with a limited budget or a customer being the receiver of all

the information, it is important to make sense of all the process. These will only be

possible if the entire effort is focused and integrated.

The American Marketing Association suggests that integrated marketing communications

(IMC) is “a planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a

customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person

and consistent over time.”

Integrated marketing communication can be defined as a holistic approach to promote

buying and selling in the digital economy. This concept includes many online and offline

marketing channels. It becomes a complete marketing and media strategy to tap its target

customers by harnessing information available from databases and consumer behavior

patterns.

IMC as a management concept is designed to make all aspects of marketing

communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct

marketing work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in

isolation. In practice, the goal of IMC is to create and sustain a single look or message in

all elements of a marketing campaign. Practitioners such as the Oct Group, however,

remind clients that IMC should “permeate every planned and unplanned communication

at every contact point where the customer or prospect may receive an impression of the
company. IMC incorporates the corporate mission, the compensation plan, the

management style, and the employee training. It includes packaging, positioning,

promotions, pricing, and distribution.” A successful integrated marketing communication

plan will customize what is needed for the client based on time, budget and resources to

reach target or goals. Small business can start an integrated marketing communication

plan on a small budget using a website, email and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Large Corporation can start an integrated marketing communication plan on a large

budget using print, mail order, radio, TV plus many other online ad campaigns.

With the boom in media vehicles, the rise of consumerism and companies vying to go for

the kill to get a bigger share of the markets, there has been a gradual but noticeable shift

towards IMC. This is mainly due to the shifts in various factors that form a part of IMC.

• From media advertising to multiple forms of communication (including

promotions, product placements, mailers...) and mass media moving over to more

specialized media, which are centered on specific target audiences. These have

not only ensured better returns on investments in communicating with the target

audiences.

• From a manufacturer-dominated market to a retailer-dominated market. The

market control has transferred into the consumer's hands.

• From general-focus advertising and marketing to data-based marketing where the

customer was not a dark figure but now defined by parameters of demographics

and psychographics. .
• From low agency accountability to greater agency accountability. Agencies now

play a larger role in advertising than ever before and have become partners in the

process than a job shop.

• From traditional compensation to performance-based compensation. This

encourages people to do better because they are rewarded for the increase in sales

or benefits they cause to the company.

• From limited Internet access to widespread Internet availability. This means that

people can not only have access to what they want 24/7 but that advertisers can

also target different people 24 hours a day.

From the above we can say that objective of IMC is never just to make a successful

campaign, but create an overall strategy to attract the right customers for the desired

products or services. The key to its success is the market research as an effective

communication must capture the attention of the audience; it must be well branded so the

consumer properly attributes the message only to the sponsor’s product or service; and it

must motivate the consumer to move closer to the sale.

Marketing communication messages that are not recognizable or are not related to each

other or conflict with what has already been stored, or are simply unrelated or

unimportant to the person will simply not be processed, but ignored. Communication

only occurs when the consumer accepts, transforms, and categorizes the message. The

storage and retrieval system works on the basis of matching incoming information with

what has already been stored in memory. If the information matches or enhances what is

already there, then the new information will likely be added to the existing concepts and
categories. If it doesn't match, the consumer has to make a choice, either the new

information can replace what is already there or the new information can be rejected.

If rejected, the consumer would continue to use existing concepts and categories and

ignore the new. This is called a "judgment system" in that consumers match or test new

information against what they already have and then make a judgment to add to, adapt, or

reject the new material. When consumers reject the information or do not add or attach it

to what they already have, there is a failure to communicate. In many cases, the failure to

communicate is the result of the marketer being unable to match his or her messages or

fields of experience with those of the prospect or customer. Consumers use the same

information processing approach whether the new data comes from advertising, sales

promotions, a salesperson, an article in a newspaper or magazine or from what their

neighbor is telling them. The marketer who presents non-integrated messages risks not

having any of his or her messages processed because of the conflict that occurs in the

consumer's information processing system. If for no other reason but that the risk of

confusion, marketers must integrate their messages or consumers will simply ignore

them.

Although IMC as a process requires a lot of effort, it also delivers a lot of benefit.

IMC can wrap the communication around the customer at various levels and nurture the

relationship with the customer. Its ability to keep a customer for life is a major

competitive advantage. IMC also increases the effectiveness of the communication as it is

focused within the target audience. With usually only one agency involved in the

communication process, it also saves on money.


Events as a part of Integrated Marketing Communications:

As defined by noted Marketing Guru Mr. Philip Kotler, events are ‘Occurrences

designed to communicate particular messages to target audiences’. An event is a

niche communication medium that allows companies to reach their target audience

directly with tangible outcomes, which are not possible through conventional forms of

advertisement. Event are a part of the ‘experiential’ marketing process where a consumer

is taken through a complete experience of a product or service and communication occurs

at every touch point of customer interaction.

Events can also be defined as something noteworthy which happens according to a set

plan involving networking of a multimedia package, thereby achieving the clients’

objectives and justifying their need for associating with events.

Types of Events:

1. Corporate:

Product Launches/ Product promotions, Training meets, Annual Parties,

Exhibitions/ Trade Fairs, Celebrity management:

Consider an auto company coming out with a new model in the market. They can

advertise on television and print, run special features, and have press conferences.

But a product launch at this juncture is much more effective. People from all over

can come, have a feel of the car, touch and experience its comforts and be in a

much better position for a purchase decision. When done for a training meet or
annual parties, it becomes an opportunity for people to come and interact amongst

each other and also an opportunity for the company to showcase new initiatives.

Trade fairs play a vital role as it can tap consumers in a large concentration at one

location.

2. Facilitative/Competitive: (Awards, Contests/talent searches, beauty

pageants)

Association with awards and pageants is usually seen as an opportunity for brands

to build relations with the glamour, personalities and the popularity of the events.

The involvement of the audience during the event and the exposure the brands can

achieve through the runs on television are a dual advantage that is presented by

such events. Some Indian examples are like the Filmfare awards or the Miss India

pageant which offer ample opportunity for sponsorship and association with the

event.

3. Arts: (Film, Theater, Music, Dance)

Entertainment is a platform that can cut across boundaries of language and

regions. In India, festivals like the Prithvi festival, The One tree music festival,

The Independence Rock are all events catering to audiences of different age

groups, backgrounds and social attitudes. They are therefore a readymade

platform for various brands to reach out to the consumer and showcase

themselves.

4. Sports: Sporting events (individual and combined)

Sports have a mass appeal in every country. May it be the basketball or baseball

in the America’s, Football in Europe or Cricket in the Commonwealth nations,


sports attract viewer ship and this as the reason it is also amongst the most

attractive option for brand communication through events. Events sponsorship

runs in either by sponsoring complete events like the Olympics or the World Cup,

by sponsoring parts of it or teams who participate or even through endorsements

through individual players.

5. Festivals: Government Sponsored

The government organises festivals for highlighting folk culture, rural art and

festivities. They serve as a good opportunity for brands with a rural target to

associate and connect with the consumer.

6. Personal: Birthday parties, wedding parties and related functions, general parties

etc.

These are not opportunities for branding but do generate a lot of interest amongst

the general audience.

Events can further be classified based on their format as:

• Pre-planned
• Ad-hoc
• Fully/Partially sponsored
• Ticketed
• Location Based
• International/Domestic
• Concept based
• Political
• Person / Family based