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Important for brands to be consistent across platforms to present a distinct experience: Swati Bhattacharya, CK Birla Group

In today’s world where a number of brands are vying for the attention of the same saturated groups of audiences, they need a competitive advantage says Swati Bhattacharya, Chief Marketing and Communication Officer & Chief Diversity Officer at The CK Birla Group.

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A conversation with some college students last week had a very interesting take away for me: none of them actually read a physical newspaper anymore! They got their updates from apps or online news portals of their choice. In another development, my cousin unsubscribed her cable TV network from this month. She has decided to Netflix and chill. A news item that got my eye recently was WhatsApp’s decision to soon have advertisements. These three seemingly unrelated and benign changes have massive significance. They tell us how television and newspapers, the mainstays of conventional advertising, are in many ways not the go-to medium for consumers. A newer, sharper, more personalized breed of online or at times hybrid content is taking its place in today’s day and age of increased internet penetration, mobile phone boom and online content consumption. 

For marketers, these changes call for a complete revamp in their strategy. In an over-communicated and multi-screen world, they must create multiple customer touch points to hope to reach and influence today’s increasingly informed, hyper-connected consumers. For any brand to stand out and have a high recall value, its various marketing and communication strategies need to tie together and be synergistic. The need of the hour is to communicate the same brand message across channels while also making it personalized, thereby ensuring that users’ experience with the brand across all channels remains uniform. From emails, notifications, TV commercials, video ads online, print ads, to the actual product packaging, brands must work to maintain consistency in the consumer’s experience. This not only directly influences their buying decision but also guarantees the brand’s recall value.

Building competitive differentiation and unified messaging

Integrated Marketing Communication is gaining popularity in consumer-facing industries. It is helping businesses market with a purpose instead of just waiting to get lucky. In today’s world where a number of brands are vying for the attention of the same saturated groups of audiences, they need a competitive advantage. To increase sales, modern-day brands need to highlight their uniqueness and provide superior value to consumers. Effective Integrated Marketing Communication enables brands to define a core message for dissemination across all communication channels. It also helps them reach appropriate target markets and customize brand outreach programs based on the needs and demands of each market. This enables brands to adapt their messaging to fit supportive media channels.

Why do you choose to eat at McDonalds than at a street vendor? You like to go to McD because everything from the brand colours, to a welcoming Ronald outside the restaurant, to your favourite burgers and taste, is consistent. If it wasn’t, you will probably get angry. This is because when you chose to come to McD, you chose an experience that you know and like. Brands make a similar promise when they communicate with potential customers and it is important to be consistent across platforms to present a distinct experience. 

By focusing on a consistent message across channels, Integrated Marketing Communication helps consumers navigate the purchase lifecycle. Not only does it make consumers recognize the brand, it makes them connect with the brand such that they want to automatically make a purchase. Helping businesses create and maintain long-lasting customer relationships, this consistency increases the overall effectiveness of a simple communication plan by shaping the dialogue between consumers and businesses. It also helps in giving brands an edge in the market by establishing credibility in consumer’s minds such that they would only reach for a particular’s brands products even when stacked up against various other similar products in a supermarket. Not only do such brands see a higher return from investment in marketing, they also see a gradual increase in brand equity and market share. 

Moving beyond basic tools to cohesive communication

Reduced cost-effectiveness of mass media and media fragmentation, among others, have highlighted the need for an integrated approach in marketing practices. For it to be truly effective, Integrated Marketing Communication needs to look beyond basic communication tools. 

Departments such as sales, direct mail, and advertising can help each other through data integration. A marketing information system collecting and sharing relevant data across different departments can be put in place. In addition to working with external partners such as PR and advertising agencies, companies today are also building employer branding. Be it because of the focus on employer branding, distinctly designed workspace, or other perks, energetic and driven employees who proactively speak positive about the company have turned into the best brand ambassadors that a company can have. 

Promoting the company through non-traditional channels of marketing, these methods have become integral to projecting a cohesive message from the brand, externally and internally. 

Integrated Marketing Communication in the Indian context

The marketplace in India is fundamentally different due to the multiplicity of cultures and traditions. This has resulted in new consumer demands that are unique to the country. While this has created new opportunities for businesses to tap into and reinvent their capabilities, it has also created new challenges in marketing management. What would work for the audience in the Delhi might be starkly different from what would work in Jaipur, or Bangalore, or Shillong. These challenges make it necessary for marketers to consider cultural and social factors as well as demographic influences. 

Such a diverse setting makes Integrated Marketing Communication a critical tool for business growth since it works towards the goal of consumer-focused marketing. The Indian market today comprises an increasingly complex and competitive playing field characterized by a dynamic business environment. With companies rapidly adopting digital strategies, their need to engage with customers across platforms in a clear voice is increasing. Instead of fractured marketing communication across different channels, they are integrating their communication by projecting a cohesive voice across all media channels. 

To understand what drives an audience’s purchasing decision, companies are also exploring value-based marketing. Everyone varies significantly in the way he prioritizes one value over another and leveraging these priorities in their marketing strategies companies are building an emotional connect with the audience. Leading brands have had massively successful campaigns around the idea of community, shared experiences, social causes, and individual goals and belief. Aligning themselves with the psychological needs of the individuals in the target audience, companies are appealing to the emotions of the audience. They are impacting consumer decision-making while retaining the brand message at the same time. 

Modern Indian businesses are leveraging Integrated Marketing Communication to overcome these challenges and offer the same products and services to a diverse audience. Influencing thinking across industries, Integrated Marketing Communication is becoming a significant example of the development ofIndian marketing practices. As channels of communication further evolve with increasing digital penetration and internet adoption, Integrated Marketing Communication will become critical for Indian businesses to target their customers. 


(Swati Bhattacharya is Chief Marketing and Communication Officer & Chief Diversity Officer at The CK Birla Group)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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