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The need for an organization to properly coordinate its marketing communications strategies to achieve a clear, consistent and competitive message about itself and its product has become issue of concern to every result driven firm. The study is aimed at examining the impact of integrated marketing communication on consumers’ patronage of Nigerian beverage products. The objectives of this research among others are to (i) establish the level of understanding and the use of IMC by Nigerian beverage communications institutions. (ii) Find out whether the use of IMC can bring about profitable long term customer relationship
(iii) determine if optimal use of IMC can make a product compete effectively thereby recording a good consumers patronage, and (iv) ascertain whether proper implementation of IMC programmes can help reduce a firm’ cost of marketing communications. This research adopted a survey method with four hypotheses and structured questionnaires distributed among sampled respondents, which include those from marketing communication organizations, beverage producers and consumers of the products in the South Western part of Nigeria. To ensure reliability of this instrument, a test-retest was carried out within one and half month interval. The result yielded 0.88and Cronbach alpha of 0.76.The face and content validity of this instrument were ensured. The divergent validity of –0.62 and convergent validity of 0.82were revealed. In analyzing the data, the researcher used suitable test statistics, correlation and Kruskal Wallis one-way analysis where appropriate. Findings show that respondents appreciate the inherent benefits that the use of IMC will bring over its non-use (the traditional approach). Such benefits according to findings include cost savings; effective and efficient marketing communication messages, sustained long term client-customer relationships, better consumer patronage, amongst others. Mere implementation of different combination of marketing communication tools together cannot guarantee better results, it is the strategic coordination of marketing communication tools and the media that will facilitate efficient results and help the company influence its perceived brand value in the eyes of its esteemed customers and other stakeholders.
Key Words: Integrated, Marketing, Communications, Consumers, Patronage, Beverage.
1.1 Background to the Study
The need for an organization to properly coordinate its marketing communications strategies in order to deliver a clear, consistent, credible and competitive message about itself and its product has become a challenge today for every result oriented firm. Effective marketing communications should therefore be an integral part of every efficient and result driven organization. How innovative and creative marketing communications practitioners are inappropriately combining, coordinating and efficiently using marketing communication tools will have great impact on their companies’ products/services and by extension, on such products’ market share. This again could pose serious challenge to competing companies across markets in the country.
The Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) approach believes that a company must leave no chance for error, no patience for miscommunication, and no time for confusion. (Picton and Broderick, 2005). The IMC approach placed much premium on the consistency of messages, that by this, it posits that communications effort of a company through its different products must project a unified voice. Business (companies) must be able to deliver the right message in the right medium to elicit the right results. (Schultz and Kitchen, 1997). A simple argument for IMC is that there are financial, competitive and effective benefits to be achieved through the synergy afforded by the process of integration (Peltier and Schult, 2003; Smith, 2002; Shultz & Kitchen, 2000; Thomas, 2001; Picton and Hartley, 1998). Rather than being considered as a revolution in marketing thought, IMC is gradually emerging as a natural evolution in marketing communications brought about by drastic changes in at least three main areas, which are: (i). The market place; (ii). The media and communications; (iii). The consumers. These changes have been driven primarily by advancement in information technology; and have caused a major shift from the mass
marketing, product centred theories of marketing popularized in the 1950s and 1960s to the more customer – centered, database-driven interactive and measurable approaches of integrated communications, (Schultz, 2003).
The development of IMC can be traced to the early 1980s when many Americans advertising agencies started to feel threatened by their clients’ attempt to save money through direct media buying and patronage and creative boutique operations. Added to these forces were the inclinations of many advertisers to shift money from advertising to more immediate and effective aspect of marketing. These developments came to a climax towards the early part of 1990s when advertising agencies started to offer more than their traditional functions of just producing and placing advertising in the media. The advertising agencies then saw that their survival in the turbulent decade of the 1980s depended on providing integrated strategies. The question one might ask here is “were advertising agencies not adding value to their clients’ programmes before IMC?” Of course, they were but not in ‘an integrated sense’. In this respect, Kliatchko (2005) opined that value added services need not start and end in only advertising messages and strategies. But now, in an expanded view of advertising, advertising agencies must positively evolve specific promotional mix to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact.
In a similar vein, a number of scholars observed that coordination is a powerful element of an integrated communication strategy. And that many companies might find integration difficult to adopt due or owing to tough battles on how to allocate resources and reluctance to invest in the needed database. They also observed that different departments were responsible for different elements in the communication strategy (i.e. an advertising department; direct mail department; and a trade show or an event management department). In many of these cases, they are usually reluctant to give-up control over their respective area and fight each other for a piece of the marketing budget. The result will be that the communication strategy will be fragmented rather than integrated. What happens when interactions with customers are fragmented? Belch and Belch (2004) opined that if customers are fragmented then, they would get annoyed because different parts of the company don’t know what others are
saying. Consumers might feel that they are talking to many different companies instead of one, which is not the way to build relationship.
In the opinion of Akande, (2001) he raised the concern that marketing has moved from customer acquisition (winning new customers) through ‘customer relations’ (keeping customers for life) towards customers’ deselection (dumping unprofitable customers while selectively seeking and keeping the profitable ones). He listed other forms of marketing communication strategies which are media; proliferation, audience fragmentation, advancement of information technology and the internet, consumer empowerment, increased advertising, cluster, shift in channel power and the desire for more accountability. All these underpin the driving forces leading toward integrated marketing communications.
In their work on marketing communications, Duncan and Everett (1993) asserted that IMC is both a concept and a process. The IMC perspective can be interpreted as “meaningful integrative” of “Holistic thinking" i.e. looking at marketing communication in a way by which various marketing communication tools are strategically employed in a complementary fashion after a careful analysis of customer needs and review of market situation. Schultz and Kitchen (2002) equally viewed integrated marketing communication (IMC) as a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated measurable persuasive brand communication programmes over time with consumers, prospects and other targeted relevant external and internal audience.
Duncan (2002), in his contribution to the literature on evolution of IMC believed that the above definition of IMC by Schultz and Kitchen, forecasted the trend of the development of IMC in the future. He therefore noted that this new definition indicates that IMC has moved from (or has the potentiality to move from) a “marketing planning process” to a “strategic business process”. Schimp (2000) summarized five facts of IMC as: (i). Aims to affect behaviour
(ii). Starts with customers or prospects
(iii). Uses any and all forms of contents
(iv). Achieves synergy and
(v). Builds relationships.
Low (2000) opined that integrated marketing is simply a step further from IMC or the highest stage of IMC by focusing on conveying unified messages to customers via the correct blending of the promotional mix.
In the Nigerian marketing environment today, many organizations have not appreciated the importance of the strategic blending of the promotional mix elements so as to produce cohesive, consistent, clear, precise and efficient messages. The common explanation is that through IMC, a firm or a manager can attain synergy between all the firm’s marketing communications activities and decisions. This synergy in turn improves performance.
With the pace at which globalization is moving, there is need for Nigerian Advertising Agencies to wake-up to a new reality in the marketing world. Clients, world-over, now demand integrated solutions rather than thinking in the old-style of above or below the line statement. Client needs to create a sustainable competitive advantage to meet up with the demands. This cannot be done with advertising alone with a seamless marketing communication programme. Many clients (advertisers) are now asking themselves questions such as “How do I allocate the marketing budget over a variety of promotional tools”?. Here, many rely on the professional advice from advertising agencies. Today some advertising agencies are trying to become marketing consultants, independent media purchasers and multi-dimensional communication practitioner – (Kallmeyer and Absatt, 2001). The words of these scholars revealed the need for these advertising agencies to become total marketing oriented professionals rather than just advertising driven in order to convince clients that they can add value to their marketing efforts.
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