Integrated Marketing Communication and Brand Loyalty

Abstract

Academicians and organizational executives regard integrated marketing communication to be an indispensable tool in the modern marketing environment as it draws on the synergy of multiple communication channels regard integrated marketing research. Integrated marketing communication (IMC) provides marketing communication managers with the tools to achieve higher financial organizational performance drawing on improved sales, better profits, and brand positioning with underlying brand equity and brand loyalty.

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The messages delivered to the target market is done with cost effectiveness with a ripple effect including better and enhanced brand position, brand equity, brand identity, and strong brand loyalty. IMC has a strong relation with brand loyalty and brand equity based on a range of factors, which underlie the processes of brand development, and positing. A strong brand equity draws on brand contacts with customer relationship with a brand providing a brand equity and brand identity which is an iterative process that provides brand positioning in the market by creating a positive attitude in the customer. That is in addition to the impact IMC activities have on brand loyalty. Brand loyalty draws on the effect of IMC activities that creates a strong brand image leading to customer satisfaction to influence a strong brand position.

Introduction

Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC)

Integrated marketing communicating is defined as “ a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communications disciplines (for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations) and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact” (Schultz 1993). This definition focuses on value addition because of communication planning that integrates the benefits of different communication channels to create optimal behavioral impact on the customer. It is an approach for establishing valuable relationship between the customer and the brand. The underlying element is communicating messages that influence positive customer attitude toward a brand (Govoni 2004; Kliatchko 2008; Duncan 2002).

The main communication types include sales and promotions, public relations and publicity, advertising, and events and experiences of the customer. That is in addition to direct marketing, personal selling, interactive marketing, and word of mouth. The underlying interaction options include websites majorly dominated by social media such as Facebook that provides customer centric focus of communicating and sharing information about products between companies and the customer, display adverts, search ads, and interstitial, the internet, mobile marketing, and sponsorships (Yeshin, 1998 cited Zvobgo & Melewar2011; Comelissen & Lock, 2000).

The role of Integrated Marketing Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is a crucial component that organizations have adopted as a management tool for communicating directly to the customer to influence consumer behavior. IMC is defined by the multiple communication channels that are used to communicate brand messages directed at market segments with unique characteristics to create strong brand attachments, brand engagements, and brand loyalty. Brand attachments, brand engagements, and brand loyalty are stimulated in the mind if the customer based on messages communicated targeting the customer. The most crucial components underlying the understanding and positive perceptions about messages communicated to the customer are the relationship established between the customers as individual units which are communicated persuasively. The relationship established with the customer, according to different authors is crucial in explaining customer loyalty, buyer behavior, and commitment to a brand. That is in addition to the messages influencing buyer perceptions and ultimate loyalty to a brand, a concept crucial to the long relationship established between the customer and the brand (Shimp 2000).

Developing IMC

By focusing on gaining popularity and being part of the marketing communication process in modern organizations, it is crucial to investigate how organizations can develop and integrate IMC into the marketing communication component in marketing (Caemmerer 2009). That is in addition to the planning process of developing IMC, coordination process, and the implementation of IMC with the client or the customer being the sole focus in the development and implementation process.

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Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is defined as “the extent of the faithfulness of consumers to a particular brand, expressed through their repeat purchases, irrespective of the marketing pressure generated by the competing brands”. The underlying element of brand loyalty is the consumer attitude and behavioral inclination toward a brand irrespective of external and internal forces trying to change the inclination.

Brand loyalty and brand equity strongly correlated each other where brand loyalty viewed as providing meaning to brand equity as a core brand equity elements define brand equity (Belch & Belch 2003; Caemmerer 2009).

The link between IMC with Brands

In this case, “brand Identity is a combination of factors: Name, logo, symbols, design, packaging, product or service performance, and image or associations in the consumer’s mind” and the “key marketing elements of focus include distribution decisions, prices, product, promotion, and advertisements” (Keller 2009). According to Keller (2009), the elements mentioned above when appropriately integrated into organizational marketing programs achieve the synergy associated with IMC. This shows a strong relationship between a brand and IMC (Cornelissen & Lock 2000; Duncan 2002; Caywood & Ewing 1991).

Brand identity draws on “a set of processes that include the coordinated efforts of brand strategists in (1) developing, evaluating, and maintaining the brand identity/identities, and (2) communicating the brand identity/identities to all individuals and groups (internal and external to the firms) responsible for the firm’s marketing communication” (Madhavaram, Badrinarayanan & McDonald 2005). Here, brand identity is crucial in establishing the right relationship between the customer and the brand based on the emotional attachment developed in the customer toward a brand. The position of IMC on brand equity, according to Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn (1993) is the synergy the strategy contributes to brand identity and brand equity in affecting the attitude developed by the customer toward a brand (Dewhist & Davis 2005).

Using IMC to influence Brand Loyalty

Here, integrated marketing communication is crucial in creating strong brand loyalties with target customers. As conceptualized below, brand loyalty is one of the components that results from brand IMC disciples, which is at the top of the hierarchy.

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Here, cognition draws on different theoretical foundations where the customer as a rational human being makes behavioral or reasoned decisions toward a brand. In this regard, studies show that “Generally speaking, the theory is based on the assumption that human beings are usually quite rational and make systematic use of information available to them” (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980).

Creating Brand Loyalty

Creating brand loyalty creates lasting impressions on a brand with research studies show different models conceptualized to create brand loyalty (Duncan & Moriarty 1998). A strong brand image and reputation has the susceptibility of positively influencing consumer perceptions about a brand and eventually the consumer buying in into the idea of the brand. Integrated marketing communication plays a significant role in providing the right information to could be consumer about the brand (Duncan &Everett 1993; Eagle & Kitchen 2000).

IMC brand engagement elements

The factors that show customers are inclined toward a brand based on IMC sum up to “consumer attitude and behavior”. That is in addition to satisfaction, belief, brand loyalty, brand equity based on IMC activities.

With IMC activities directed at the target market, customers feel trusted which impacts positively on the attitude by the customers. By established strong value propositions, sales are driven upwards, brand equity, and strong brand loyalty.

Research aim

The aim of the dissertation is to find out the relationships between integrated marketing communication and brand loyalty, and how integrated marketing communication contributes to the enhancement of brand loyalty.

Research Objectives

There are two research objectives. One is to prove that integrated marketing communication will affect the brand loyalty of the customer. The other objective is to analyze the consumer behavior on integrated marketing communication activities.

Literature Review

Introduction and Theoretical Background

Integrated marketing communication is a new marketing function organizations use to communicate powerful brand messages to the customer on a multichannel platform. This study will explore literature on integrated marketing communication (IMC) to determine the impact of IMC activities on brand loyalty, how the IMC enhances brand perceptions with the customer, and its influence on consumer behavior. To conduct the study, the relationship between brand loyalty, brand identify, brand equity, and consumer behavior will be explored to address the research.

Studies demonstrate IMC to significantly impact on consumer behavior and brand loyalty making organizations positively regard the concept as giving them an edge against rivals (Kitchen and Schulfz, 2001; Wei!-bacher, 20U1). Here, IMC contesting of different promotional campaigns play significant roles marketing brands. The trend has created a drastic growth in IMC as a marketing function for companies making them apportion a significant share of their marketing budget into IMC activities. That positively influences customer perceptions about brands and positively influences their consumer behavior. Evidently, IMC is a marketing communications tool drawing on the internet, which is one of the platforms for communicating brand messages to customers. The aim is to employ IMC as a marketing function to develop brand engagement elements to enhance brand image based on brand equity leading to stronger customer/brand relationships.

The concept of integrated marketing is barely developed and radically departs from expert views that each of the marketing components which have been lately integrated into IMC including promotional marketing, advertising, and other marketing functions as separate units that operate autonomously (Dyer 982). However, with the emergence of IMC, different researchers and marketing experts have attempted to connect different promotional marketing approaches into a single marketing function. The new function, IMC, which integrates old and new approaches to marketing, has fully been accepted and adopted into organizations in the recent past.

IMC is a customer centric strategy that emphasizes on communication as the central component to use in persuading customers, ultimately influence consumer behavior, and brand loyalty. Here, communication is a circular process used as to create iterative brand value in the customer’s perceptions. Brand value in this case is created in terms of brand equity, sales, and profits. Here, IMC becomes a communication tool for establishing and managing customer relationship, with the ultimate goal of controlling the messages delivered to the customer to create strong brand relationships via the communication media.

That is in line with the IMC definition of “a process for managing the customer relationships that drive brand value. More specifically, it is a “crossfunctional process for creating and nourishing profitable relationships with customers and other stakeholders by strategically controlling or influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data-driven, purposeful dialogue with them” (Duncan, 2002, p. 7), with the entire IMC management process being cross-functional. The theoretical and practical background of IMC is the need to communicate messages to the consumer by exploiting the synergy of combining different communication components where the strength of one component offsets weaknesses inherent in the other channel. The strategy here is to influences consumer behavior that influences consumer in the decision-making process, brand equity, brand loyalty, and brand presence to reap the benefits of IMC.

That is in addition to the associated impact these have on the buying community (Kitchen & Schultz 1999). Consumer behavior is a concept marketers use to identify the behavior of market segments based on external and internal influences, experiences and acquisitions, self-concept, and situations. That is in addition to the learning process that a customer is subjected based on the messages passed using appropriate communication channels targeting the customer. In this case, attitude, motivation, perceptions, and actual behavior are strongly correlated (Kitchen & Schultz 1998).

The theoretical motivation to buy a product is based on information that a customer gains to address a recognized problem with cognition, experience, impulse, and habit underlying the decision making process. Either the motivation is based on the learning process, which can be physical, or symbolic that draws on the IMC messages communicated directly to the customer on different media (Kitchen & Schultz 2000).

Background

Organizational executives have in the recent past perceived integrated marketing communication as a strategic tool that underlies the achievement of organizational marketing objectives, which uniquely blends into the four components of the marketing mix, which include placement, product, price, and marketing communications. IMC in the context of organizational marketing objectives is crucial toward influencing consumer behavior with the ultimate impact on the buyer decision-making process. Here, a radical shift from functional product based competition to communication-based competition is the trend. Toward achieving an upper hand in the competitive marketing environment, the need to integrate effective communication is driven by modern economic systems and organizational growth and survival. In this context, the focus includes product based functions and value addition based on integrated communication. Here, communication is crucial to the success of a company in its marketing ventures.

Research into the functional benefits organizations gain from effective integrated communication is reflected in the marketing strategies companies have adopted. Companies invest significant sums of revenue dedicated to costly communication investments with the aim to place the organizations at a better position against competitors. The large sums invested bear evidence of the value organizations attach to integrated communication as a tool organizations use to achieve financial advantages against rival firms to provide customers with compelling messages about their products. Toward that goal, organizations use effective integrated communication strategies to create strong and successful brands, which are unique to influence customer attitude toward positively regarding their brands. Powerful messages communicated about a brand are susceptible to creating brand loyalties and brand engagements, which creates trust as the component that drives IMC. The resulting effect is brand loyalty and engagement, which builds on the behavioral elements that includes trust and value towards a brand.

IMC draws on the relationship between the customer and the brand, which drives brand value. The relationship established between the customer and the brand draw on communication organizations use by targeting customers using different and appropriate communication channels. The messages composed of different marketing elements provide clear information to the customer gradually the consumer behavior. IMC has been identified as crucial in influencing the buyer decision-making process. Here, communication pays a significant role in influencing the decision making process of the buyer behavior based on a number of elements.

Main Body

IMC on Consumer Behavior

IMC is crucial to influencing consumer behavior. The purpose of integrated communication is to pass messages to customers with the aim to persuade the customer to create brand loyalty, increasing brand capital, provide information about the accruing benefits of consuming a brand, and to create strong relationship between the customer and the brand. One of the IMC outcomes on consumer behavior is the way consumers make their purchasing decisions based on individual behavior, which draws on different consumer behavior models.

Here, the IMC marketing function influences cognition, which is a crucial element for the consumer in their decision making process. Cognition draws on the information conveyed through IMC activities aimed at the customer. Cognitive is a process because the consumer is a person, who searches and readily uses brand information to make their buying decision. Information search in the modern world is from the word of mouth, use of organizational websites, and any other channel that the consumer might access. IMC provides information through adverts, news articles, radio, TV, and other communication channels.

The communication paradigm adopted by an organization is strategically tailored to suit the marketing environment with the aim of building lasting relationships between the customer and the organization. The relationship between the customer and the brand are influenced by messages communicated to the customer with direct impact on the resulting consumer behavior. Communication in this case is interactive based on the IMC core elements with the media facilitating the delivery of the messages by providing a platform across which the messages are conveyed to the target market. These messages are designed and aligned to organizational mission statements. The underlying objective is to communicate with specific meaning communicated using IMC activities. These massages are tailored to positively influence the buyer behavior in their decision making process. The aim is strong brand messages for the customer.

In the communication process, it is crucial to understand the attitudinal influence the messages have on the consumer in influencing the ultimate consumer buyer behavior. Here, messages can be tailored and sent to the customer using different channels of communication.

IMC strategy provides a way of positively influencing consumer behavior based on the IMC messages and the attachments developed between a brand and the customer into actual product sales. The messages influence commitment to the brand by enabling consumers show interest in the product. To create strong brand relationships resulting in strong brand loyalty, typical components include brand identify and brand equity strategy.

IMC Influence on Consumer Decision Making

The decision making process is defined by the underlying cognitive processes that ultimately impact on consumer behavior. Integrated marketing communication plays a significant role in the consumer decision-making process based on the four components of IMC. IMC provides the rationale for decision making by providing a brand with distinct features and details that communicate effectively to the customer aimed at promoting the brand. That is in addition to the perceptions developed the customer develops that are focused the distinct nature of the product with inherent qualities communicated consistently each time the customer wants to purchase the product. The brand creates a psychological sense in the customer that influences positive perceptions about a product based on persuasive messages communicated to the customer (Kitchen & Burgmann 2010).

IMC provides persuasive communication that has an impact on the customer’s cognition and affect toward a brand. To communicate effectively in the market and create an impact on the consumer in their decision making process, different elements crucial to integrated marketing communication play a significant role when mapped into the communication process. These components, as mentioned elsewhere include the price, product, distribution, and marketing communication. These components draw on an integrated communications plan with a communications strategy reflected in brand positioning in the market with the aim to communicate effectively to the customer while ensuring cost is optimized effectively (Kitchen, Brignell, Li & Jones 2004).

The Decision Making Process

In the decision making process, IMC plays a significant role as messages communicated to the customer provide the basis for making judgment to buy a product. The messages have a cognitive effect on the psychology of the customer in the decision making process of “need recognition, information search, evaluation of altematives (evoked set), evaluation result and when buying, post-purchase evaluation” (Kitchen & Schultz 2001) to influence the final option the customer makes. With a radical departure from the traditional models of decision-making, the current approach requires that an “efficient decision-making involves a series of steps that require the input of information at different stages of the process, as well as a process for feedback” Kitchen & Schultz 2009).

Here, basic belief and data underlie the decision making process, with problem recognition forming the beginning of the entire process. At the point of problem recognition, a solution is determined by identifying the most appropriate elements to be used to solve the problem. In that case, goals are established as the next phase in the decision making process is to identify solutions and alternatives to the solutions to best identify the best problems solving solutions. The consumer has had knowledge about the problem in this case, the likelihood that a particular brand fits well into solving the problem based on consumer choices. The evaluation criteria allows for the use of the most appropriate tool to use to solve the problem in this case based on information about a brand and the product prices, and other salient features associated with the product (Kitchen, Schultz, Kim, Han & Li 2004).

Integrated marketing communication plays a role of influencing consumer behavior in decision making by providing the customer with the messages appropriate to make informed decisions about a product (Kitchen & Schultz, 2009). The IMC component determines the type of messages inherent in product price, the distribution channels used to pass messages to the customer to achieve the synergy of using different communication channels, the product with features that confirm to the customer of superior performance, and the marketing communications strategies. In this case, market segmentation, with clearly defined customer needs that are constituted in a clearly formulated marketing plan and strategy in IMC. Here, the marketing plan, and the marketing strategy, which are in the communication matrix are adopted by an organization. Cost is one component that the strategy has the potential to minimize because of the communication plan (Kitchen, Kim & Schultz 2008).

IMC and Brand loyalty

Brand Identity and Brand Equity Strategy

Organizations value IMC as crucial to building strong brand loyalty and for enhancing brand relationship with the customer. Toward that end, brand identify has been identified as crucial to the IMC strategy that organizations have adopted to develop brands and create such strong attachments from the internal to the external marketing environment. Brand communication, as has been established to provide a competitive environment for organizations to move brands and enhance the level of engagement by customers from one level to the next; giving the firm leverage over other firms (Finne & Grönroos 2009).

Here, integrated marketing and brand equity play the central role in brand management to “achieve competitive advantage and, thereby, superior financial performance” where “firms should acquire, develop, nurture, and leverage an effectiveness-enhancing portfolio of brands” (Fill 2009). The underlying strategy, defined in the context of brand equity strategy integrates the core elements of the processes used to develop and nurture customer-oriented brands resulting in a strong customer engagement brands. In the context of establishing strong brand equity, it is essential that integrated communication underlie the interactions between the customer and the organization in developing strong brand equity. The strength of the argument is to influence brand image that has a psychological effect on the perceptions of the customer about the brand, which ultimately affects brand identity (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising 2006).

The entire concept of brand equity provides an effective model for developing a brand, creating brand associations with the customer who is the target market, ensuring that a strong brand identify is created and sustained, and using IMC channels to communicate brand identity to the customer with the ultimate aim of influencing their attitude toward the brand. Here, IMC is the underlying component that is indispensable to brand identify and image (Gurau 2008). Here, IMC draws on the synergy acquired from the use of different media to communicate brand messages to the customer while drawing on the intricate relationship between different media and the messages communicated to the customer about a brand (Holm 2006). IMC has the dynamism associated with the economic environment, evolving into a global marketing concept which factors different marketing and promotional tools to communicate to the target market in a variety of ways.

IMC is central to the relation building based on brand value. Here, IMC is used to influence customer-buying behavior and brand loyalty with the ultimate goal to create strong brand loyalty. That is in addition to the fact that content about a brand can be communicated to the customer to enhance customer/brand relationship and create strong brand loyalty (Hongcharu 2011). Brand loyalty and consumer behavior all draw on brand presence where brand presence draws on IMC activities

ICM activities and Brand Presence

A strong presence on the market is necessary to inform a wide audience to share information about a product with potential customers. The market is a generic site that provides the platform for sending viral messages about a brand to different online communities (Spreng & Mechenzie 1996). Use of market with links to an organization’s website provides the flexibility of visiting the home page of a particular company to view their products and brands. Such an approach enables communities and organizations to establish a special form of interaction while ensuring that user generated content is appreciated to drive the brand further (Schneider & Bowen 1999; Sharon 2003). That is in addition to using third party engagements, which provide a level of engagement to a wider audience, and specialized engagement that is controlled. Therefore, the engagement strategy consists of different levels of users or communities. Here, users can be casual, lead, or committed users. In summary, there is need for organizations to identify and model different levels of engagement, which are then mapped into the market engagement framework in the communication channel spaces (Shirky 2009; Sproles 1985).

Content is crucial for the community as interactions and exchange of information revolves around the content organizations develop about their brands. The organization should develop a strategy that enables stimulated response from the customers to create content with the organization’s staff acting as role models and leaders in content creation. Organizational staff is crucial in content creation as they provide a leadership role and direction in the characteristics of content exchanged about a brand (Scott 2010). Here, the staff kick starts discussions about the particular brand based on a number of strategies. These include providing a stream of inputs about a product that should be maintained consistently to ensure a strong brand presence (Scott 2010). That is in addition to ensuing each of the new materials and content have a uniqueness that attracts the customer about the specific brand (Scott 2010).

Content should reflect needs of the user community and captivate users with the aim of creating positive affect, posted at the most appropriate time to the most appropriate demographic community. Appropriate content reflects higher interaction levels, high product availability, product ranges, positive intentions such as praise and gratitude, and stimulate sharing of information about the product ultimately influencing strong customer relationship that leads to brand loyalty and engagement (Keller 2009).

Integrated Marketing Communication Plan

To build strong brand relationship and lasting brand loyalty, it is crucial that organizational managers adopt an effective IMC plan to address the primary goal of communicating messages to the target audience with the aim to influence positive brand perceptions in the customer (Kliatchko 2008). The IMC document provides detailed description of the strategy an organization has developed consisting of the entire organizational objectives and situation analysis with the salient features that define the plan (Luck & Moffatt 2009; Zvobgo & Melewar 2011).

Different authors have in common identified the salient features and elements in IMC marketing plan to consist of situation analysis, SWOT analysis, Market research, IMC objectives, target audience, public relationship, campaign budget, and Return on Investment, corporate messages, and an overall IMC strategy.

Situation Analysis

Situation analysis provides the background information on the challenges an organization faces in the market. The current state of the company, the potential of the firm, behavioral characteristics of the market which consists of good and bad customers, volume of sales of the company, and the products and services that have the potential to generate profits to the industry. In this case, internal and external factors bear heavily on the marketer when conducting a situation analysis (Zvobgo & Melewar 2011).

In the context of IMC, the organization has to establish the salient features of external factors, which include the promotional capabilities, previous marketing communication promotional programs, evaluation of the firm’s brand image, and the likely impact on the relationship established between the customer and the brand. That is in addition to evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the IMC promotional strategy. With correct information gathered on external factors, the marketer has to explore internal factors, which include customer information, environmental analysis, and competitive analysis. In this case, the analysis included technological, direct, and indirect competition, the IMC strategy used by rival firms, the promotional budget used by the rival firms, and the position of the firm when compared with the rival organizations.

The IMC audience contact points indicate the different points used by the organization to reach the customers (Weber 1985). Typical of the IMC contact points include broadcast media, outdoor advertising, print media, promotional events, direct mail, publicity, sales promotions, packaging, and public relations (Shimp 2000). In the case outlined above, alternatives are explored and the best options for problem solving used to address the information gathered in situation analysis (Schultz & Schultz 2004). That leads to the next phase of market analysis.

Here, the marketing communications audience relies on the IMC components that include outdoor adverts, Outdoor adverts provide messages that the audience listens to and provide responses.

Objectives

One of the core components used in IMC to achieve brand loyalty and brand equity are IMC objective set in the integrated communications plan. The objectives are based on core information and understanding of customer needs and their buying behavior. The objectives are based on audience definition based on the responses received from the customers on the brand. The objectives are a clear indication of sales volumes attained, customer engagement components inherent in the customer, and quality relationships experienced between the customer and the brand.

Market Analysis

Market analysis draws on marketing elements, which constitute the demographics, the geographic location where the brand message is to be communicated, and Psychographics information. The information is necessary in the marketing plan as the demographics underlie segmentation tools and techniques used to reach the target customer with the right IMC message (Schultz & Kitchen 1997). Projected growth, current position, IMC communication and distribution channels, market trends, industry cost structure, and the success and failure factors are analysed comprehensively. A comprehensive report provides the communications manager with the right information to make the correct decision about the brand and design the right strategy to communicate effectively to influence the behavior of the customer toward a brand. The market analysis information provided a way for the IMC manager to design a strategy of positioning the brand by analysing the strengths and weaknesses inherent in the brand (Schultz & Patti 2009).

Competitive Analysis

Competitive Analysis is a component that plays a significant role in providing the communications manager with actionable information about the strengths and weaknesses inherent in rival firms, and in particular characterizing their IMC brand strategies to create brand equity and brand loyalty (Mulhern 2009). The communications manager is able, after profiling the competitors IMC strategies to formulate the right strategy to monitor, implement, and position the brand using the right IMC techniques and tools. In this case, a competitor array consisting of a clear and comprehensive definition and scope of the competitor industry, factor competitor weights, customer needs, and expectations, a profile of the industry competitors, and industry success factors provide the appropriate information for designing the right IMC strategy (Schultz 1993). The marketing communications manager has to work in liaison with the financial department by ensuring the right budget is available to enable the effective implementation of the IMC strategy.in this case competitor profiling should consist of the market information such as customer base, segments, shares, promotional budget, alliances, and customer loyalty. That is in addition to information about the personnel, facilities, corporate and marketing strategies, competitor finances, products and services, and company background (Schultz 2006).

Current Financial Situation

The current financial situation provides a descriptive measure of the financial performance of a brand, organizations expectations, and measures of the response to brand equity and loyalty. Organizational managers are keen to evaluate the relationship between IMC and sales volumes that directly affect the financial performance to design and redesign IMC marketing plans enhance the financial performance of an organization.

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis details the strengths inherent in the IMC strategy against competitors in brand equity and brand loyalty and the strengths of IMC strategy in influencing consumer behavior. That is in addition to the weaknesses inherent in the IMC strategy.

Opportunities

Opportunities provide the organization with the ability to use IMC strategy to grow the brand by positioning it strategically in the market by influencing customer buying behavior to establish strong brand equity and brand loyalty. Opportunities can be short term depending on the marketing environment external factors. It is crucial for organizations to realize in addition to the other tools used in communicating messages to the customer to identify ripe opportunities for the marketing strategy. In the context of the study, both opportunities that are available in the market that could be optimized for the best benefits of the organization should be seized upon. In addition to that, the strategies used to communicate messages to the customer to influence their perceptions towards brands should also draw not only on the market opportunities, but also be based on the opportunities that could be exploited which are provided by the tools used in integrated marketing communication. In this case, the approaches included channels of communication used in the study and which are specifically narrowed toward communicating brand messages to the customer to influence their behavior. A combination of market opportunities and marketing opportunities which include IMC activities provide the basis for exploiting the best of the available opportunities to influence the customer and gains to the utmost for the good of an organization.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) has been identified as a new marketing function organizations use to develop strong brand loyalty with customers. The IMC strategy provides opportunities for organizations to communicate powerful brand messages to the target customer on different communication channels to gain from synergy and the merits associated with each communication channel used in IMC strategy, while overcoming the weaknesses inherent in each of the communication channels. IMC is a new customer centric communicating strategy organizations use to communicate brand messages at the target market with the aim to influence their brand loyalty and ultimately consumer behavior.

When consumer behavior and brand loyalty are positively influenced, organizations reap the benefits associated with brand loyalty in the form of increased sales volumes and higher profits because of a positive influence on consumer buying behavior. Here, when the buying behavior is positively inclined toward a brand, people find it easy to associate with a brand which increases their purchase for the product. The underlying component is IMC messages which has a positive impact on brand loyalty and buyer behavior. In that context, the buyer behavior is influenced positively by IMC activities because of the impact IMC messages have on the cognition functionalities of the customer, which influences in turn the consumer decision-making process. The decision-making process comprising of “need recognition, information search, evaluation of alterative (evoked set), evaluation result and when buying, post-purchase evaluation” is an evaluative process that draws on IMC brand messages.

These messages provide the basis for arguing that customer decisions draw on brand information communicated to them. However, in the whole IMC strategy, brand management is crucial for organizations and the marketing team to ensure brand position in the market is string and sustained. That is achieved based on the underlying strategy defined in the context of the brand equity strategy which integrates the core elements of the processes used to develop and nurture customer oriented brands. Therefore, to achieve brand loyalty, strong brand equity is essential because it integrates IMC activities that underlie interactions between the customer and the organization with strong brand equity. Brand equity, therefore, provides a stream of inputs about a product that should be maintained consistently to ensure a strong brand presence reflected in the IMC marketing plan. Here, IMC provides a strong basis for a strong brand loyalty because of the elements of integral elements of brand equity. Here, brand loyalty, IMC, and brand equity merge and lead to strong brand loyalty. The effective way of achieving brand loyalty, equity, and engaging the customer buying behavior is reflected in IMC activities that are implemented in the IMC communications plan. The communication plan is fundamental to establishing strong relationship between the brand and the customer in brand loyalty.

Research Methodology

The research strategy of the dissertation is survey. According to the research objectives, a survey was the option as the most suitable option toward because to determine exactly their attitude toward a brand when they engage in different purchasing activities in response to the IMC messages by the company at the target market. In view of the use of a survey research method, questionnaires will be administered to achieve the research goal in data collection. The research setting is based on the topic being studied and associated factors being explored to answer the research questions.

The sample was selected in terms of gender, age, and other demographic distributions using the systemic sampling method. The sample size was 140, and the response rate is 80%. This kind of sampling provides a more subjective view into the research, and considered as being representative.

Research Design

The problem specific to this study was how to identify the factors that influence integrated marketing communication and brand loyalty by identifying the strategies for creating strong customer relationships, brand loyalty, brand engagement, brand equity, and the influence on buyer behavior. The research is both qualitative and quantitative. These were methods used on questionnaires administered on respondents to collect qualitative and quantitative data from the study. A survey of the literature on integrated marketing communication (IMC), brand loyalty, and other research variables were used in the inquiry. The logic of the study was to draw on the impact of integrated marketing communication on brand loyalty and the way it affects customer-buying behavior which organization use with the aim to drive sales and increase revenue by creating brand loyalty with strong brand engagement. In addition, the research seeks to identify individual factors that motivate people to develop string brand loyalty and how organizations can best strategize to create customer communities, customer relationships, and other factors that motivate users to sustain their brand engagement loyalties. The findings enable organizations to determine how businesses need to exploit the potential of IMC to gain strong brand identify, loyalty, and equity on the market.

Procedure

A literature review covering the factors that influence brand loyalty, the behavior inherent in customers toward a brand, brand identity and brand equity, a detailed exploration of other additional factors will be done. That Includes approaches that organizations could employ to stimulate brand identify and user motivation toward consuming a brand. In addition to that, In that case, the right tools to use for conducting the study will be obtained for the purpose of collecting information about factors that influence brand identity and other additional factors identified above. In this case the right tools for collecting data to address the research in the above setting will contribute significantly to the results that inform the study.

It is crucial to note that the inly platform that could provide real time response to questionnaires include the use of an online platform. Here, the tool, which is the questionnaire is designed and sent to different respondents using their email addresses to capture the right information from them. Typically, there is need to ensure the results are well articulated and address the research study problem. Therefore “the mixed method research design was appropriately applied to address the research in the context of the research problem” (Steckler, McLeroy, Goodman, Bird, and McCormick, 1992). In is crucial to note that Steckler, McLeroy, Goodman, Bird, and McCormick (1992), mixed methods could be appropriate for the current study when trying to find out the factors affecting customer engagement with brands via IMC tools. In this case, theory and practice confirm that mixed research methods play a crucial role in informing the study about the target market. It is also crucial to note that the mixed research methods provide the best approach and tools appropriate for the research.

When conducting the study, the researcher was involved in establishing the benfits associated with the mixed research methods to reinforce the rationale for using the method in this study. The relative merits include the benfits associated with using small and large samples of a population to analyse the data which could be applicable for different population environments. In that case, the mixed research methods can be applied in a situation where there are small population sizes and where there are large population sizes. The results, based on the mixed research methods can be applicable in different population settings reliably.

The next phase was to investigate the relative merits of the mixed study. Mixed methods provided the flexibility of grouping different data sets under the highly subjective qualitative method and the objective quantitative approach (Wolf, 2010). Mixed methods provided good opportunities to use small or large numbers of participants depending on the population and other underlying constraints, which eliminated the limits that could be imposed on the size of the population used.

According to Greene et al. (1989) demonstrates that mixed methods provide findings that inform both qualitative and quantitative methods by providing in-depth inquiries into the factors that affect IMC and brand loyalty in the target market. In that context, it is “indicated in their studies that data collection that draws on the techniques, which include the qualitative and quantitative methods” (Tashakkori &Teddlie,1998), is an additional benefit for the study.

The sequence of determining the progress in the research logic allows the research to use surveys and individual structured or semi-structured interviews focused on the participants to minimize the potential for making conclusions on falsified information (Becker & Bryman 2004). The potential weaknesses of triangulation of the mixed methods lie in the variations in information presented by the participants across the demographic divide. The sources from which the data is collected must be regarded as authentic which might also be correct when considered in the reverse (Greene & McClintock 1985).

This makes it difficult to choose between two opinions that vary from each other when answers provided with the underlying concepts are not explained clearly to influence the responses (Greene & McClintock 1985). That is in addition to triangulation, which is one of the approaches used to ensure the results are correct, and valid to avoid a situation of dealing with different conflicts (Greene & McClintock 1985).

The research experienced a number of weaknesses that included the weaknesses and inaccuracies associated with the tools used in the study, the number of respondents who provided answers that were subjective and difficulty to analyses, the responses that were later submitted late (De Vaus 2001). In addition to that, the study was limited by the budgetary allocations that were also limited, the failure of some respondents to answer the questions correctly, and at times the failure for the respondents to understand the questions and respond appropriately. It was also difficulty to identify the most appropriate samples to use in the analysis of the findings given the fact that some of the ample were significantly large while other samples were relatively small based on their demographic distributions (De Vaus 2001).

The next phase in identifying the appropriateness of mixed methods for the study was to investigate the primary factors underlying the design, which included the characteristics of the population used in the study (Williams & Richardson, 1993). Salient features for customers in the online community such as contextual issues including age, gender, income levels, and other demographic characteristics to influence positive customer engagement with brands (Williams & Richardson 1993; Creswell 1999).

Sampling Frame

In the context of the study, it is crucial to identify the fact that the results should provide a high degree of reliability and accurate findings. To establish and reinforce the findings, the study could be based on a sample survey conducted with the aim of generating information or data that could be used to analyze the findings. In addition to that, it is worth identifying the fact that a sample survey could not cover the whole population that is to be surveyed. For that reason, accurate and effective approach of collecting data from the population could be based on a sample survey to accurately represent the entire population.

Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

The qualitative “data was obtained using open-ended questionnaires from the target population” (Greene & McClintock 1985). Here, it is used for the “study drawn with a sample size taken from customer in the online community who has used social media” (Greene & McClintock 1985) and as a platform to “purchase products online and have shared information with others in the online community” (Greene & McClintock 1985). On the other hand, quantitative data was collected using closed ended questionnaires, which provide numerical data that can be analyzed easily.

Appropriateness of the Design

The design for the study includes identifying the most appropriate approach to address the study. In the context of the study, the paradigm that includes mixed methods which consists of qualitative and quantitative methods is appropriate because of different benefits. Briefly, the benefits include drawing on the strengths of both research paradigms that include quantitative and qualitative methods. In that context, it is important to consider the benefits in the context of the data collected enabling the research to make informed decisions, and the ability to provide the basis for transferring the data from the one format to the other. The concepts provide the basis for making the best decision

Location

There were no specific geographic locations but, considering the extent of use of the internet as a global tool of interactions, questionnaires were administered over the internet spanning different regions and cultures to obtain data that could be generally applicable to other states. The main assumption here is that the results and demographic characteristics are applicable across the entire online communities on the internet. That was in addition to allowing the use of a diversity of participants from different ethnic backgrounds and environments with the benefit of using the internet as providing the flexibility of gathering large amounts of data from different geographic locations.

Instrumentation

The instruments used in the study provide a way of accommodating both qualitative and quantitative tools, which include tools such as questionnaires, interviews, and surveys. The instruments used in the study provide the basis for collecting both qualitative and quantitative data in the research. In addition to that, the provisions include collecting data from different respondents, which provides a source of information that could be used to address the study.

It is crucial to identify the fact of the rationale for using tools such as questionnaires because of the flexibility of providing feedback at the respondents’ own time, and could contain more in-depth information to the respondents. It is worth noting that questionnaires have the problem of meeting the required response rates and that requires the research to have higher population respondents to provide data appropriate for the study. In addition to that, a higher population used in the study could provide a compensation for the low responses that characterize questionnaires and repeat in sending reminders also provides additional methods of increasing the responses.

The Questionnaire Survey

A questionnaire is a tool used to capture information from various respondents in a population targeted for the study. According to Xiao (2002), Questionnaires are well thought out statements to which respondents provide feedbacks on their perceptions about a specified situation. Questionnaires come in different designs and are purposely designed to fulfill a specific purpose in a study (Ankrah, 2007). One important and critical characteristic of a questionnaire is that it is an evaluation tool administered after the occurrence of an event. However, a critical analysis of the situations in which questionnaires are administered indicates that questionnaires can be administered even before the occurrence of an event. In the current study, the questionnaires served the critical purpose of capturing data relevant to the study. The data to be captured for analysis will apply business organizations and their customers, who are crucial in ant business. The questionnaires to be administered will be designed with a high degree of clarity to leave any ambiguity in the mind of the respondent.

The questionnaires therefore will be used to generate data that can be analyzed to reinforce the rationale the use of IMC as strategy organizations have adopted in the recent past to drive sales, increase revenue, enhance brand loyalty and establish string relationship between the customer and the brand. Questionnaires are identifiably some of the most appropriate tools to use in the current study due to the benefits associated with their use. One of the critical benefits associated with questionnaires are their applicability and flexibility of use. It is important to design the questionnaire based on the problems and the study under consideration. One critical component incorporated into the questionnaire design is identified in the aim of this study. To formulate the study, therefore, a theoretical proposition will be inform the approach as detailed below.

To design a good questionnaire, other issues considered include the need for a performance evaluation framework, and identification of the kind of data to be collected, and whom the data is to be collected from. Typically, the population under investigation critically influences the outcomes of the questionnaires.

The actual environment dictates that the questionnaire has to address various and specific issues and factors that will, when analyzed, provide a strong case for an IMC, brand loyalty, IMC and customer loyalty.

The Questionnaire Design

In theory, a questionnaire design should be well drawn beforehand with careful emphasis at the planning stage for the type and kind of questions to pause to the respondents. The respondents and the kind of information to collects from the respondents also influence the questionnaire at the design stage. In addition to that, the kind of response elicited due to the content represented in the questions should be carefully considered. That allows the researcher to consider the kind of sampling to use and the target population. In addition to that, it is of critical importance to consider the fact that questions paused should be unambiguous and should be expressed in clear and simple language. In addition to that, the questions should be presented in detail for clarity, precision, and to ensure the questions are straight to the point. Typically, the issues mentioned above are reflected in the format after which the questions are designed. The format presents the general layout of the questions and the logic that they are arranged on the paper. Importantly, questions should be logically arranged not to confuse the respondent, but allow the respondent to provide answers in a methodical manner.

A general observation is that simple questions are always placed at the beginning of the document. In addition to that, the designer of the questionnaire ensures that the questions remain simple, clear and to the point, thus, avoiding any complexity in their design.

On the other hand, the sequence of the questions considered and their layout examined for consistency with the case under investigation. It is important to conduct a test of the questions to identify any weak points for corrective actions. Once the pre-test is completed, then corrections are done on the questions contained in the questionnaire prior to their large-scale administration in the field under investigation.

Specific consideration of the environment under investigations shows the design the questions targeting each respondent based on the kind of information to capture. One other consideration factored into the design of the questionnaires was included the different variables that contributed to IMC and brand loyalty, how IMC enhances brand loyalty with the customer, and how IMC influences consumer behavior.

During the questionnaire design process, it was critical to consider equality issues specifically accounting for gender and age. It is important to consider personal feeling people have when asked questions related to age, gender, and their educational backgrounds. It is therefore important to safely keep confidential the information once it has been made available depending on the applicability of the information to the research.

One specific characteristic about questionnaires is the levels of confidence respondents are accorded on the document. Respondents need to be assured about the confidentiality of the information they provide without any negative implications on their well-being. In addition to that, the questionnaire should clearly state the reason for the information captured into the questionnaire and where the information is to be used.

Questionnaires are susceptible to low or high response rates. It is therefore the responsibility of the one conducting the survey to ensure response rates are maximized. Various methods for maximizing responses include providing an introductory statement about the questionnaire and its intended purpose, and a mode of delivery that is cost free to the respondent. On the other hand, when responses are not forthcoming particularly after two weeks expire from the date they were posted to the respondents, they are resent.

Data Collection

Data collected could be used to influence the findings in the study.

Authors including Creswell and Plano (2007) argue that data collection techniques applied in such studies ensure that both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods are addressed using the data collection methods and techniques used. In addition to that, the techniques employed should be crucial as data conversion methods that appropriately fit into the study could be used. It is crucial to identify and select the best methods of data collection in der to maximize the benefits associated with the data collection tools used and methods applied. In addition to that, when appropriate methods of data collection are used, the weaknesses and strengths associated with each method are applied and realized. One of the strategies settled upon as appropriate in data collection include the use of triangulation where the data is collected and iteratively evaluated to ensure that errors are omitted and the weakness associated with each method are overcome while the benefits and strengths associated with each method are gained. Different techniques in this case are applied including sequential data collection strategies, which each step in the data collection method followed to provide the best data for the analysis.

The weaknesses associated with quantitative methods of single dimensional set of findings could be overcome by statistically making the analysis different tools. Typically, the problem of coding and transferring data to the software tools provides a challenging environment for ensuring that the original theme of the study be maintained to ensure to departure. Additional strategies and techniques includes evaluating the sample size being used.

It is crucial to reduce the sample size to allow the research met the stipulated deadline in the study. In addition to that, any weaknesses associated the current study and especially the analysis of data provides the basis for reinforcing the argument that statistical tools could provide the foundation of making accurate data analysis.

From a qualitative data collection perspective, the method proved intuitive to the respondents. That is because it provided unlimited fields for data collection especially when employing web-based data collections applications, provided the respondents with the flexibility to post extensive comments on each lIMC items, and provided precedence to other structured sections of the data collections sections, with the problem being the failure for the researcher to make follow ups. In the c9ntext of the current study, different methods of integrating data into the research method provides a basis for optimizing the strengths associated with each method or technique used in the study. In addition to that, other weaknesses that are overcome in the study include the weaknesses associated with each tool used in the study to gather data, and the in overcoming the weaknesses associated with different tools used in the study.

Analysing Data

The qualitative paradigm and the quantitative paradigm were used in the context of mixed research methods. In the study, qualitative data as difficult to analyses as most of the findings were subjective instead of being objective. To carter for that deviation from quantitative data, qualitative data was first assigned numerical values, which could be assigned and analyzed using numerical methods. In addition to that, the findings could be analysed using modern software tools when the quantities of data to anayse are large. In that context, the tools including NVivo could be used to analyze the data. That is because the tools could provide a basis for generating reports with measures that could be used to analyse the data and additional measures for the findings. It is crucial to ensure the reliability of the instruments as discussed on the next section t make the findings credible, reliable, and actionable.

Reliability and Validity

It was crucial in the research to ensure that reliable and credible instruments were used to provide findings that could address the study. In that case, the tool used were evaluated against the ability to meet and address the purpose fr which the tools were applied for the study. That was in addition to the perspective that self-developed instruments were prone to the potential weaknesses associated with personal weaknesses compelling the research to use already available expert developed tools. In the mixed methods approach, the validity and reliability of the instruments were vetted against qualitative and quantitative paradigms.

The quantitative paradigm of the design required validity and reliability measures on the internal, external, content, predictive, ecological, face, and bias. It could be crucial to ensure content reliability and validity by drawing on the degree to which the results could be transferred and used in similar research and practival settings, the flexibility and clarity of interpreting the results, and the extent and flexibility to which the results could be applied. In theory Patten (2004) and Wallen and Fraenkel (2001) agree with Campbell and Stanley (1963) that the validity and reliability issues are influenced by “(a) history, (b) maturation, (c) testing, (d) instrumentation, (e) statistical regression, (f) differential selection, (g) experimental mortality, and (h) selection-maturation interaction” (Campbell & Stanley, 1963), elements evaluated in this study satisfying the research.

Questionnaires formed the backbone of qualitative and quantitative tools based on extensive literature reviews before use as instruments to gather qualitative and quantitative data. Specifics included considering content the degree to which content was valid and reliable, the flexibility, and clarity of understanding the instruments used in data capture and analysis. Content validity and reliability is achieved by use of tools used in the study that include questionnaires and other analytical tools. To address the issues identified as weaknesses with the instruments used in the study, it included identifying and removing irrelevant items from the instruments, explaining concepts not clearly explained, restructuring the flow and logic of the instruments, formatting the instruments to address specific issues, ensuring coherence, and including well defined variables. The schedule, illustrated below refers to the timely completion of the paper in brand’s entire lifecycle.

Time and resource used in the study/

activity Apr
20
Apr
30
May 4 May 18 Jun
1
Jun 22 Jun
29
Jul 6 Jul 20 Aug 3
Lit review X X
Finalize methods X X
Design instrument X
Pilot instrument X
Administer instrumentation X
Enter data X X
Analyse data X X
Write up methods X X
Write up results X

Findings and Analysis

The findings from the study are tabulated in the following table. In the table, the number of questionnaires administered to the respondents are shown, the number of questionnaires returned for analysis, the number of questionnaires discarded, the number used for analysis and the response rates of the questionnaires are recorded. It is worth noting that the response rate was high, well above 80% on average.

Questionnaire Distribution Questionnaires according to demographic distributions
18<24 25<31 32<38 39<45 46<54 55>
No. of questionnaire distributed 166 107 89 139 103 150
No. of questionnaire returned 152 98 77 118 92 133
No. of questionnaire discarded 8 5 2 11 3 13
No. of questionnaire used for analysis 144 93 75 107 89 120
% Response rate with respect to distributed questionnaire 91.57 91.59 86.52 84.89 89.32 88.67
Response rates on the impact of IMC on the Brand loyalty N Sum Mean %
Positive Brand identity 140 432 3.00 89
Positive Brand analysis 140 426 2.96 80
Positive Brand loyalty 140 576 4.00 89
Positive influence on Consumer behavior 140 645 4.48 98
Improved sales 140 675 4.69 87
IMC influence on Brand Equity
Top management support 140 534 3.71 87
Brand awareness 140 336 2.33 78
Increases interactivity 140 378 2.62 89
Complimentary 140 189 1.31 89
High degree of consistency 140 421 2.92 78
Highly effective brand image 140 576 4.00 80
Influences positive brand culture 140 438 3.04 85
Influences positive brand effectiveness 140 381 2.65 86
IMC influence on Brand Loyalty 140 468 3.25 88
Increased reputation 140 519 3.60 79
Improved brand image 140 416 2.89 78
Improved Brand equity 140 627 4.35 78
Consumer satisfaction 140 434 3.01 89
Customer likes brand because of IMC activities 140 468 3.25 90
Strong customer and brand relations 140 519 3.60 87
Continued satisfaction 140 416 2.89 97
Return purchase 140 627 4.35 78
Product is available 140 434 3.01 85
IMC improves brand superiority 140 436 3.03 78
Brand value increased 140 574 3.99 88
IMC and Consumer behavior
Positive attitude 140 576 3.9 90
Purchase repeat 140 436 3.00 96
Positive brand image 140 416 2.89 89
Positive rating 140 519 3.6 88
Level of involvement 140 436 3 78
Response to promotional messages 140 189 1 88
Shopping frequency 140 416 3 89
Brand interest 140 386 2.6 90
Exposure to market conditions 140 281 2 98

Analysis

Based on the questionnaires retuned and the responses from the respondents, it a number of issues arise. Results showed 91.57 % response rate for participants in the 18<24 age bracket, 91.59% in the 25<31 age bracket, 86.52% in the 32<38 age bracket, 84.89 % in the 39<45 age bracket, 89.32% in the 46<54 age bracket, and 88.67% response rates above the 55 years of age. Analytically, the responses for each of the age groups were high and above 85%, showing the response to be good. The statistics showed different response rates on different variables researched in the study, which show the level and extent to which IMC influences brand loyalty, the relationship between IMC and brand perceptions with the customer, and the influence IMC activities have on customer behavior. In the results section, the mean is obtained by finding the average of the sum number of responses by the number of questionnaires administered to find the mean which is the average number of questionnaire returned by each responded.

Different variables were used to evaluate the relationship between IMC activities and brand loyalty, consumer behavior, and how IMC activities influence perceptions about the customer toward a brand. The investigation was based on variables that also included items of brand analysis, brand equity, brand loyalty, and consumer behavior. In this case, the study clearly shows a significant number of respondents showed that IMC activities had positively influenced their buying behavior by stimulating a deep desire for certain brands. Results have shown a significant number of respondents in this case 89% showing that IMC influences positively the brand equity. In addition to that, 80% of the respondents show that IMC has had positive influence on their perceptions on brand loyalty with 98% of the respondents indicating positive consumer behavior. The results also show that IMC has a strong impact on consumer behavior and shows IMC to lead to improved sales for organizations.

Out of the 140 questionnaires administered on respondents to determine the influence on brand loyalty form the perspective of organizational management, shows that organizations have adopted IMC as one of the crucial tools to enhance brand loyalty, therefore showing a strong relationship between IMC activities brand loyalty. In this case, 78% of the respondents agree that IMC has positive influence on brand awareness, which is one of the variables underlying brand loyalty. In addition to that, the results indicate that IMC is the direct cause for increased brand interactivity between the customer and the brand. That is also shown in the complimentary nature of the products, which in one of the elements underlying brand loyalty. In the study, a high degree of consistency was registered between brand loyalties of IMC activities, which are the direct impact of IMC activities on brand loyalty. It has been demonstrated from the data that IMC directly creates 80% positive brand image, with 85% respondents showing IMC has positive brand culture, and 86% causing brand having brand effectiveness.

Based on the findings, it is crucial to realize the impact due to IMC activities on brand loyalty to have positive effects. In addition to that, the relationship between IMC and customer perceptions about a brand and the influence IMC activities has on consumer behavior. From the results, organizations find integrated marketing communication a crucial tool for communicating brand messages to the target market with the aim of positively influencing brand loyalty. The key is to create a positive impact on the customer. That is in line with the recent approaches and strategies organizations are adopting as a marketing function in their marketing campaigns. In addition to that, the results show IMC to have significantly developed to the extent of becoming critical in the marketing communications to enhance positive attitude toward the brand by the customer.

In the studies, the results show that IMC activities provide messages that are aligned to consumer tastes and preferences. In that case, IMC is evidently a marketing communications tool that draws on different communication channels to establish strong brand loyalty with the customer. Here, the elements associated with brand are crucial in enhancing brand image based on brand equity and resulting in stronger relationship between the customer and the brand. One can conclude that IMC provides messages that when communicated to the customer creates positive impact on the consumer influencing positively consumer behavior. That is because consumers get persuaded about brands resulting in a positive attitude which is based on a positive influence on the ultimate buyer decision making process.

Drawing on the data obtained above, IMC activities have evidently been shown to create strong brand loyalty by creating strong relationship between the customer and the brand. Here, the ultimate goal of creating brand awareness to stimulate consumer conviction about the product and gradually develop n the customer a positive attitude toward the product. That is because IMC activities provide the customer with the right information about brand using any of the channels that can deliver messages tailored for each market segment with the ultimate am to positively influence customer perceptions about the brand. It is worth noting that brand loyalty, from the study draws on different levels of brand engagement with the customers. That includes high level, middle level, and low-level customers In that case, the perceptions about the brand in relation to IMC activities indicates that customers with a perception that the brand was of high quality had a higher degree of brand loyalty. In that case, the value proposition is enhanced about the brand, leading to higher enhanced brand loyalty.

Discussion

A summary of the results shows IMC as a crucial component in positively influencing brand loyalty. That is because in the results section, data shows that a significant number of respondents agree that brand IMC activities have a positive impact brand identify, brand equity, and brand loyalty. That is in addition to agreeing that IMC activities actively impact on buyer decision making in the buying behavior.

The research “shows that IMC is a strong factor an organizational manager should consider as one of the crucial tools to influence consumer brand loyalty and brand equity” (Caywood & Ewing 1991). That is because IMC integrates multiple communication channels to communicate brand messages to the target market with the aim to influence the consumer develop positive perceptions about a brand. IMC provides messages that communicate brand value which customers consider crucial in addressing individual needs. That is because, the organizations are keen to convey brand engagement messages to the customer through every brand contact points to effectively influence their perceptions positively. That is in addition to the activities and active roles IMC plays in brand equity, brand loyalty, and brand identity. The IMC elements and activities provide an ideal ground for improving brand positioning. A strong brand position provides a brand with a competitive age and higher customer loyalty.

When customers are loyal to a brand, customers develop a brand engage by sharing information with one another over a given brand with genuine enthusiasm by making discussions and other forms of information sharing. IMC provides persuasive communication that has an impact on the customer’s cognitive and affect toward a brand. To communicate effectively in the market and create an impact on the consumer in their decision making process, different elements crucial to integrated marketing communication play a significant role when mapped into the communication process. These components, as mentioned elsewhere include the price, product, distribution, and marketing communication. These components draw on an integrated communications plan with a communications strategy reflected in brand positioning in the market with the aim to effectively communicate to the customer while ensuring cost is effectively optimized. It is recommended that further research be conducted to determine the exact approach of reducing IMC costs in case of new challenging business environment.

It is crucial from the above analysis for organizations operating in the current competitive marketing environment to communicate effectively to reap the benefits due to IMC activities. That includes providing customers with the right information about a brand, which ultimately motivate positive consumer behavior. In addition to that, IMC activities contribute significantly in enabling organizations to identify consumer needs, which help them identify the best strategy to influence positive attitude toward a brand. That is in response to the messages communicated about a brand to the target market. In the context of integrated communication, the need to communicate effectively and provide the customer with the messages that leads to the purchase of products ultimately leading to consumer satisfaction underlies the whole component of integrated communication as an effective marketing strategy. Integrated communication draws on the relationship established between the customer and a brand, which underlies the drive for brand value.

Here, when the customer perceives value in a brand, there is the likelihood of developing a positive attitude toward the brand. That results in the psychological influence on the customer perceptions about a brand with the likelihood of creating strong brand relationship. Brand relationship is one of the underlying components that make the customer develop brand loyalty, which is a crucial element for the organization in driving sales and generating higher revenues. The underlying component that enables organizations to achieve brand loyalty is the IMC activities. The relationship established between the customer and the brand draws from the communication by an organization targeting the customer through different and appropriate communication channels, with the marketing elements mixed together to provide clear messages to the customer. Integrated communication was identified as crucial in influencing the buyer decision-making process. Here, communication plays the most crucial role in influencing the decision-making process.

Conclusion

The importance of conducting marketing campaigns using IMC activities is not only demonstrated in the underlying definition of IMC strategy, but also the relationship that is established between the customer and the brand. The core elements of IMC which include the price, product, distribution, and marketing communication are crucial to influencing consumer behavior with a focus on their decision making process. Here, IMC provides the basis for establishing strong brand loyalty, which benefits organization in the ever changing competitive marketing environment. Here, IMC activities have been explored in relation to brand loyalty, brand consumer behavior, and the relationship between the customer and how IMC impacts on their perceptions about a brand.

IMC in this case provides channels for reaching the target market with appropriately formulated messages using different platforms to communicate to the customer. In this case, IMC is a trend that organizations have found indispensable in the recent past to integrate into their promotional campaigns. IMC is summarized to be a “cross functional process for creating and nourishing profitable relationships with customers and other stakeholders by strategically controlling or influencing all messages sent to these groups and encouraging data-driven, purposeful dialogue with them” (Caywood & Ewing 1991). Here, the profitable relationship is based on the perceptions the customer has toward a product in relation to their value. In addition to that, the relationship has strong influence on the resulting consumer behavior which is directly influenced by IMC activities. In that regard, IMC is a marketing strategy that draws on cognition as a component to influence consumer behavior.

Here, IMC and consumer behavior have strong links. In that context, IMC provides a channel for communicating messages that have direct implications on the cognition process of the customer in decision making. IMC draws on Information search from the word of mouth, use of organizational websites, and any other channel that the consumer might access. IMC provides information through adverts, news articles, radio, TV, and other communication channels. Research has demonstrated a strong relationship between IMC activities and the buyer behavior, indicating that IMC is crucial in influencing consumer behavior. Depending on the messages, consumer behavior can be positive and the implications are that the customer develops an inclination to purchase a product in preference to similar products in the market. Here, the IMC strategy is interactively used to facilitate the delivery of the messages by providing multiple platforms across which marketing messages are delivered to the target market to influence attitude.

One of the approaches of achieving effective IMC on consumer behavior is using IMC to communicate persuasive messages. To communicate effectively in the market and create an impact on the consumer in their decision making process, IMC elements play a significant role when mapped into the communication process. In this case, belief and information about a brand made available using IMC channels underlie the decision making process. At that point, a solution based on alternative evaluations of information is determined by identifying the most appropriate product to solve one’s problem. Here, there is a link between IMC activities in the form of messages and decision-making process. In that case, the goal is to identify solutions and alternatives to the solutions to identify the best solution as mentioned above. One could conclude in the above context that IMC and decision making which influences consumer behavior and brand loyalty have strong relationships.

However, the perceptions developed by the customer about a brand based on IMC activities are evident from the impact IMC has on the customer’s decision-making process. In addition to that, the IMC messages have shown evidence of enhancing brand loyalty with the customer beaded on the findings that show a high degree of brand loyalty. In this case, brand loyalty provides strong indicator of the implications on how brand loyalty is enhanced for the customer. That is based on the experiences customers have on brands leading to customer equity. It is crucial however, when endeavoring to create brand loyalty, determining the influence IMC activities have on the perceptions of the customer with brand loyalty, and the impact of IMC activities on consumer behavior from the perspective of levels of brand engagements, which is developed in the process of IMC activities. In that context, the research recommends that further studies and analysis be conducted to determine the impact created by IMC activities on different levels of brand loyalties, which include high, moderate, and low level buyers. In addition to that, recommendations have it that to conduct further research on price promotional effects on brand loyalty and consumer buying behavior based on factors such as exposure to a brand are crucial in contributing to the future studies.

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