In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Integrated Marketing Communications

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Texts
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • What Is IMC?
  • Synergistic IMC Effects
  • Techniques for Assessing Cross-Media Effects and Media Allocation
  • IMC Implementation and ROI

Communication Integrated Marketing Communications
Lawrence Ang
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0204


In the area of marketing communications, the concept of integrated marketing communications (or IMC) is well known. This concept was first introduced into the US academic curriculum in 1991 at Northwestern University with the support of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (or 4As), but it is now taught around the world. IMC is essentially a planning concept which emphasizes the importance of coordinating various communication disciplines (e.g., advertising, PR, sales promotions, direct marketing, and personal selling), so that a maximum impact can be achieved in a campaign. This concept gained popularity with the advent of the internet as new (and ever-growing) digital media options and platforms developed. As more audiences move online, the use of offline traditional media (e.g., television, print, radio, and cinema) is now but one option. Both organizations and advertising agencies have realized that a combination of offline and online media is now necessary to reach their target audience, and hence the importance of having a central planning system. Advertising agencies also like this idea because it means extra revenue can be earned. However firms struggle to understand how best to operationalize, optimize and evaluate various channel combinations for an effective campaign. This has led to the rise of cross-media research and methods of evaluation with obvious implications for budget allocation. Adding to this complication is that purchase behavior is also changing. Consumers can now access product information, and inquire about the products or complain about poor service through a number of channels. This means firms have to be efficient in their coordination of several operations. This perspective means it is now important to build an organizational structure and processes to fulfil a number of business operations. The definition of IMC has thus evolved from communications to include strategic business functions. However, as in any implementations of new processes, resistance ensues. Thus, although the concept of IMC seems deceptively simple, its implementation is not, and this has led to research into barriers to and implementations of IMC.

Introductory Texts

There are a number of texts that serve as good introduction to the topic of integrated marketing communications (IMC) starting with Clow and Baack 2016, which is a very basic text for undergraduate students. Belch and Belch 2015 is a more comprehensive text covering wide areas on advertising and promotions and is the first text to outline an integrated approach to marketing communications. Shimp and Andrews 2013 also discusses IMC. It is very similar to Belch and Belch 2015 in its structure except for the branding perspective at the beginning.

  • Belch, George E., and Michael A. Belch. 2015. Advertising and promotion: An integrated marketing communications perspective. 10th ed. New York: McGraw Hill.

    This is the leading text in the market. The chapters on what is IMC and its place in marketing are particularly good. Also, cases about IMC usage found in some chapters are useful.

  • Clow, Kenneth E., and Donald E. Baack. 2016. Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson.

    This is a very basic text which covers all the important tools of advertising and promotions. However, each chapter ends with a short IMC case which is useful especially with cases that have international appeal.

  • Shimp, Terence A., and J. Craig Andrews. 2013. Advertising promotion and other aspects of integrated marketing communications. 9th ed. Singapore: Southwestern Cengage Learning.

    This text introduces IMC at the start of the text, but also includes other advertising topics. For instance, the chapters on branding, brand equity, and intellectual property are particularly good at the beginning of the text.

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