What Is IMC?

Let’s see if you can guess how many Ph.D.s it took to create this definition of IMC provided by Northwestern University?

IMC is the integrated management of all communications to build positive and lasting relationships with customers and other stakeholders. It is a customer-centric, data-driven approach to marketing and branding that stresses communicating to consumers through multiple forms of media and technology.

The answer is: too many. If this definition didn’t help much, allow me to translate. IMC stands for “integrated marketing communications,” a process that aligns university communication efforts in order to speak with one compelling voice. In other words, it’s how you prevent your school from having multiple, conflicting messages sent out by individuals who shouldn’t be sending them out.

According to higher ed marketing guru Bob Sevier, “IMC plans balance an institution’s responsibility to create awareness with its need to generate results.” Sevier breaks the IMC process down into three distinct functions: brand marketing, direct marketing and customer relationship management.

Brand Marketing
According to Sevier, brand marketing is “Pre-funnel” communications that differentiates you from competitors and increases awareness of your school’s brand promise.” Think establishing the brand through advertising and PR. For Sevier, a brand promise should 1) matter to customers, 2) be unique to your school and 3) be believable. The brand promise helps you position yourself in the minds of your prospective customers. Brand marketing deals primarily with perception and is typically handled by the college’s marketing communications department.

Direct Marketing
Direct marketing, Sevier says, is “An interactive, integrative prospect communication and contact program that spans the traditional funnel of search though measurable action or behavior.” This IMC function specializes in getting people to take action on your brand promise. Think supporting the brand through efforts like direct mail and events. Whereas brand marketing positions you in the customers’ mind, direct marketing asks the customer to do something like log onto your Web site, fill out an inquiry card or visit the campus. Direct marketing efforts are typically handled by admissions, alumni and development departments. In all cases, your direct marketing efforts should be consistent with and flow from your school’s brand marketing plan.

Customer Relationship Management

Finally, customer relationship management, according to Sevier, is “What is done from application forward that impacts yields, retention, and eventually the support and participation of alumni.” In other words, this is where you and everyone else working for the college delivers the promise. The goal here is repeat business.

Brand marketing, direct marketing and customer relationship management, that’s IMC in a nutshell. (424 Words)

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6 thoughts on “What Is IMC?

  1. Great site, I’m currently a marketing student and i have found every ‘article’ of yours really facinating and a big help in understanding different perspectives on different issues.

    I was wondering, with direct marketing.
    is it better to use a list of people, who are already customers; to influence them to increase involvement or is it more beneficial in gaining a list of customers that have the potential to bring the consumer’s.
    This is for a service orientated business (a museum). where the customers are teachers and the consumer is students.

    Thank you
    Michael Chan

  2. Hi Michael. I’m glad to hear that the site is helpful to you. It’s difficult to give you a good answer to your question without knowing more about your product and customer base, but, generally speaking, it’s easier and more cost effective to get current customers to buy more, more often than it is to generate new business from new customers. Hope that helps.

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