Critical Evaluation of IMC
Integrated marketing communications are an essential part of the marketing mix. The different forms of IMC’s include advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, personal selling, and public relations. Their use is aimed at the formation of an information flow between the subjects of marketing relationships. Next, the history of the development of the concept of integrated marketing communications will be analyzed. It will also be demonstrated how IMC creates the effect of full synchronization in omnichannel marketing.
History of the Development of IMC Concepts
Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the interaction and complementarity of communications of various forms. Each of them must be combined with other marketing tools and supported by them to achieve maximum efficiency. Since the early 1980s, many companies have embraced the broader marketing communications perspective. Therefore, they needed to create a robust and common brand identity in their marketing communications to increase awareness. Strengthening the overall brand image and increasing its awareness among consumers help the sustainable management of the enterprise and the competitiveness of the business (Wu and Chen, 2018). However, brand identity not only contributes to brand recognition but is also the driving force behind one of its four most essential capital assets – brand associations. This association ultimately affects the increase in the company’s profits (Akhtar, Xicang and Iqbal, 2017). The need to create a single voice for broadcasting the company’s image, regardless of the communication channel used, was noted by marketing researchers back in the early 1990s (Nowak and Phelps, 1994). Therefore, it was essential for companies to determine the brand’s concept and its “voice” and tone to unify the style of communication with clients in all interaction channels.
In the beginning, this type of marketing included only PR, advertising, and direct marketing. Marketing in the 90s expands its functions, along with the tasks of research, planning, sales promotion, and distribution, the role of interaction with the buyer appears. Further, it becomes necessary to form an attachment, loyalty of buyers and their children to the company for years. Therefore, since about the end of the 1990s, ensuring effective communication has become the primary marketing goal. With the advancement of technology, electronic media has become an essential aspect of integrated marketing.
Social media activity was mainly limited to specific social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter during the early years of the creation of social networks (Appel et al., 2020). However, a further increase in the number of websites, the integration of social networks into mobile devices, and their active use by smartphone buyers have expanded the ability to interact with social networks. In 2021, social networks and applications have penetrated all spheres of human life; with their help, one can book a trip abroad, order food or things, listen to music. Networks influence consumer-purchasing decisions, and their impact on business processes should not be underestimated. Still, IMC is not limited to the use of various social networks.
The Synchronization Role of IMC in Omnichannel Marketing
Omnichannel is a complex application of communication channels that forms holistic and consistent communication with the client. The user is the defining and most crucial element, and a structure of communication channels is created around him. The goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a comfortable and straightforward user experience so that, regardless of location and device, the customer can contact the company. The omnichannel approach implies using different sales channels and digital tools: communication in messengers, posts on social networks, information on the site, pushup notifications, contextual and targeted advertising, telephone communication, etc. Businesses that focus on the omnichannel approach strive to ensure a smooth and complementary customer experience across all or individual channels.
The multi-channel approach uses various media, but they are not linked together. The omnichannel is what gives consistency to communication channels and all marketing processes. By coordinating all types of communication and activities to form coordinated marketing messages perceived and remembered by target audiences, a synchronization effect is created (Zhang et al., 2018). As a result, the effectiveness of the marketing activities of the company is increased. Communication in digital channels has developed intensively in recent years. Its development has been spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating to businesses that online presence is extremely critical today (Hänninen, Kwan and Mitronen, 2020). Modern organizations cannot function outside the information space; however, how a company organizes communication channels with consumers depends on its performance in the market.
Apple Inc. has created many notable advertisements since the 1980s. At the same time, even the very first Apple’s campaigns can be characterized as multichannel. One of the earliest commercials was a 1984 television spot that featured the Apple Macintosh personal computer. The video was first broadcasted by ten of the most influential local American media outlets. Then, on January 22, 1984, during halftime of Super Bowl, the video aired a second time. The imagery used in the ad referenced George Orwell’s famous 1949 novel, which depicted a dystopian future. In the 2000s, the era of using an omnichannel approach by the company in promoting their products begins. “Switch” is an advertising campaign launched by Apple on June 10, 2002. An international TV and print ad campaign brought users to the website. In the 2010s, Apple Inc. used many communication channels to promote their products. More and more companies recognize the importance of the omnichannel approach and use it in their overall strategy of interacting with customers.
Assessment of the Activity of the Analyzed Organization
The main goal of integrated marketing communications is to maximize the effectiveness of marketing communications. This essay takes an in-depth look at the marketing campaigns developed by the Hang Seng Bank to improve its competitiveness in the Hong Kong banking industry. Hang Seng Bank is the fourth largest bank in Hong Kong, after The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Bank of China, and Bank of East Asia. Hang Seng Bank is a commercial bank whose primary activities include retail banking and capital management, corporate and commercial banking, treasury services, and private banking. This bank uses a variety of marketing strategies to attract and retain customers.
Advertising is a direction in marketing communications, within the framework of which information is disseminated to draw attention to the advertised object to form or maintain interest in it. For example, in 2019, Hang Seng Bank launched a new campaign to support its new “MPOWER Card” credit card, specially designed for the younger generation. Advertising of the Bank’s services is presented in the format of short bright videos showing the happy owners of the products produced by the Bank (Figure 1).
The video format makes it possible to quickly familiarize potential customers with the product’s functionality; brightness and visual effects ensure ad memorability (Shaw, 2019). The Bank is also known for its posters, which depict the advertised services and the conditions for obtaining them (Figure 2).
The colorfulness of the posters draws attention to them in crowded places.
Overall, the company’s advertising campaigns in recent years can be called successful since they create a positive image of the company striving to help clients on difficult days. A multi-channel approach is also used: in addition to posting slogans in crowded spaces, the company use videos and posters in advertising. However, the disadvantages include the fact that predominantly all information is contained on two main channels.
Sales promotion is a set of marketing techniques that aim to increase demand and increase brand awareness. Short-term offers create a sense of urgency, generate leads, and help keep existing customers engaged (Kotler and Armstrong, 2013). It seems rational to dwell in more detail on the application for mobile devices created by Hang Seng Bank since this development of the Bank is very successful and complies with the omnichannel principles. The Bank developed its payment app named “Hang Seng Personal e-Banking.” More than 13,000 users installed the app created by the Bank, the average rating of the users of the Hang Seng Personal Banking app is 4.3 out of 5 possible (Figure 3).
Hang Seng Personal e-Banking is a mobile payment service from Hang Seng Bank currently available to Hong Kong users with local phone numbers and banks (Hang Seng Bank, 2021). Users can pay businesses, transfer money to each other using a mobile app linked to their credit card or bank account.
Information about the conditions for using the program is shared on the official website of the Bank. The application allows clients to pay in a vast number of restaurants and shops, thereby increasing the financial activity of users. In recent years, electronic banking has become one of the essential banking services, the correct use of which increases customer satisfaction and gives banks a competitive edge. It is concluded that mobile customers make more transactions and use more banking products, which directly affects the company’s revenue. The application’s interaction with social networks provides user-friendliness and more customized services. The application is always at hand with the client, and he does not need to log in to the site every time in order, for example, to make a money transfer.
A separate tab has been created for Bank offers on the website. The offers are divided into categories for easy search. Dividing current offers into groups allows for a more customer-oriented approach. However, since the client can find out about all the beneficial services offered by the Bank in the mobile application, the presence of a separate tab with them on the Bank’s website becomes less obligatory.
Public Relations and Publicity
Public relations for marketing purposes are a particular management function of marketing that helps establish and maintain close communication, mutual understanding, and cooperation between an organization, a brand, an individual, and the associated public. PR aims to promote and protect the image of a company, brand, or personality. Young people did not use banking services as actively as compared to adult clients, which was taken into account by the Bank during the creation of the MPOWER Card campaign. However, one of the possible reasons customers were interested in the advertising campaign of this bank card was the high quality of the product itself (Figure 4).
The Bank’s task was to change this situation while avoiding the risk that the intended audience would not be interested in the services. The Bank had to make sure that the target category had reached the age of majority and had the necessary finances to serve the banks.
Accordingly, as part of this campaign, the target market was assessed. The Bank found out that there is an unmet need to regulate its financial activities among young people who own and manage their capital. The Bank also suggested how to stimulate the use of cards – such ways were the cashback system and gift tickets to the cinema. Thus, Bank personnel responsible for creating the campaign resolved the concerns related to the PR part of the campaign in advance to avoid possible potential risks when, for example, the audience would not be interested in the released product.
Personal Selling and Direct Marketing
Personal selling refers to the interaction between a salesperson and a potential buyer in direct, personal contact. Its primary purpose is to sell a product or service (Donaldson, 1995). Clients can visit the Bank’s offices to familiarize themselves with the range of available services. Also, there is a hotline phone on the site, by calling, which one can ask all critical questions. Finally, using incoming mobile communications, the Bank’s employees periodically notify clients about potentially interesting offers to them. The bank has developed a set of internal relations principles with clients to ensure a higher quality of services (Figure 5).
To achieve the best result of the Bank’s activities, impeccable compliance with all points is required.
Hang Seng Bank is currently a successful and well-known organization trusted by many Hong Kong clients. In general, customer satisfaction with the bank’s services continued to grow over the past years and reached a 99% satisfaction level in 2018 (Figure 6).
In a 2018 survey conducted by independent research firm Kantar Hong Kong, Hang Seng Bank was the most recommended bank in Hong Kong.
Recent advertising campaigns can be considered successful; in particular, the campaign for creating and promoting the youth card was created, considering a multidimensional analysis of the market and customer needs. The proposed plan for the further development of the Bank’s activities involves the use of social networks as channels for supplying information about the available services of the Bank. The online reputation of a firm affects the demand for the firm’s goods and services (Rodríguez-Díaz, C. Rodríguez-Voltes and A. Rodríguez-Voltes, 2018). The Bank’s Instagram account should be created and developed considering the successful experience of creating short videos and outdoor advertising posters. It is essential for customers to feel that the Bank is not indifferent to their stories. However, at the moment, there seems to be no option for customer feedback in the Bank’s marketing activities. The channels operate separately, and there is no clear relationship and interdependence between them.
As a result of the project implementation, it is planned to achieve several outcomes. Firstly, even though increasing the company’s awareness is not the primary goal of the Bank, it is intended to expand the number of Hang Seng Bank clients. Secondly, the importance of the project lies in the fact that its implementation in the organization’s marketing activities can help overcome the fragmentation between communication channels and create a single omnichannel system. Third, it is planned to improve the current system of receiving feedback from customers. An important aspect here will be to demonstrate the real-life stories of the Bank’s users.
Marketing Communication Strategy
The study has already identified the benefits of an omnichannel marketing approach. The dynamic change in the current conditions of banking has contributed to the emergence of fundamentally new forms of promoting banking products (Dubey, 2019). Social media marketing, which involves social networks as platforms for banking marketing, is confidently one of its most effective forms. The forms of communication used in social media marketing are typical, understandable, and accessible for communication with the audience. Moreover, the message conveyed through social networks is more credible to potential consumers of the service than direct advertising messages and PR publications in print and electronic media. This is due to the recommendatory scheme of distribution in social media, similar to the promotion concepts used in direct advertising, based on trust in the influencer.
In the practice of any company, without exception, competently built feedback – the impact on the internal parameters of the results obtained during the Bank’s functioning – can stabilize work in a changing market environment. While focusing on customers’ wishes, banks improve the conditions of products and create the most comfortable conditions for service. At the same time, work in direct dialogue allows the company to attract new customers and keep old ones. While it is theoretically possible to assume that there is censorship in the Bank’s internal feedback channels, in open social media, this is practically impossible (Masłowska, Malthouse and Bernritter, 2017). Companies must tell an emotional story at all stages of the interaction with the client (Mucundorfeanu, 2018). However, it is crucial not only to listen to the organization’s stories but also to nudge customers to create their own ones and then listen to them.
The bank has successfully managed to distinguish among its clients -young people who have capital and who want to manage it financially during the campaign to advertise youth cards. This ability to clearly define the target audience is critical to the success of the project. Since the importance of developing social networks for promoting services was highlighted likely, the target audience will again be predominantly young people. Therefore, it is planned to create the Bank’s account on social networks, particularly on Instagram. Social media posts should contain information about current banking offers. It is proposed to hold contests among clients and provide discounts and gift cards on banking services in social media accounts. The site should contain information about the social networks in which the bank is represented. It is supposed to ensure that the Bank’s mobile application allows clients to efficiently perform all the same operations as on the Bank’s website. It is necessary to notify the Bank’s clients about the remuneration for leaving feedback on the services received.
The proposed action plan for developing the feedback system and promoting the brand and its services in social networks is expected to be implemented within three months. IT specialists, managers of social networks, targeting specialists, and call center employees will execute the project’s tasks. Call center employees will answer calls from customers wishing to talk about the quality of the services received. This process will be started after the information is posted on the website, in the mobile e-banking application, or in social networks that the Bank will reward customers for the feedback they have left. Also, letters received through e-mail with customer complaints or wishes will be checked and analyzed. All received data will be processed to form conclusions about the current results of activities. Social media specialists will take care of promoting the brand’s account. At the same time, they are responsible for maximizing user growth and audience coverage. IT specialists’ responsibility is to ensure the smooth and error-free work of the personnel involved in the project, providing technical assistance.
Evaluation and Control
Implementing the strategic plan will lead to an improvement in the company’s interaction with its current customers in receiving feedback. In addition, it is assumed that the Bank will enter a new market due to the creation and development of accounts in social networks. Accordingly, an influx of new customers should be expected, which will increase revenue. However there are certain risks that clients will not be interested in new initiatives, that is, participating in sharing reviews or subscribing to the Bank’s accounts. Nevertheless, these risks can be avoided since a preliminary analysis of the company’s activities took place. As a result, it was possible to find out an objective need for the proposed initiatives.
Akhtar, S., Xicang, Z. and Iqbal, S. (2017) ‘Impact of brand image on the profitability of firm, analysis of Nestle company Pakistan’, Review of Public Administration and Management 5(3), pp. 1-4, Web.
Appel, G., Grewal, L., Hadi, R. and Stephen, A. (2020) ‘The future of social media in marketing’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 48, pp. 79–95, Web.
Donaldson, B. (1995) Personal selling and sales management. Routledge, New York.
Dubey, V. (2019) ‘Banking with social media Facebook and Twitter’, International Journal of Recent Trends in Engineering & Research, 5, pp. 11-15, Web.
Hang Seng Bank (2021) Hang Seng Bank mobile app, Web.
Hang Seng Bank (2018) Our customers, Web.
Hänninen, M., Kwan, S. and Mitronen, L. (2020) ‘From the store to omnichannel retail: looking back over three decades of research’, The International Review of Retail Distribution and Consumer Research, 31(3), pp. 257-279, Web.
Jun L (n.d.) Hang Seng Bank, Pinterest, Web.
Kotler, P. and Armstrong, G. (2013) Principles of marketing. Pearson Education Limited, Evanston.
Masłowska, E., Malthouse, E. and Bernritter, S. (2017) ‘Too good to be true: the role of online reviews’ features in probability to buy’, International Journal of Advertising, 36, pp. 142-163, Web.
Mucundorfeanu, M. (2018) ‘The key role of storytelling in the branding process’, Journal of Media Research, 11(30), pp. 42–54, Web.
Nowak, G. and Phelps, J. (1994) ‘Conceptualizing the integrated marketing communications’ phenomenon: an examination of its impact on advertising practices and its implications for advertising research’, Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, 16(1), pp. 49-66, Web.
Rodríguez-Díaz, M., Rodríguez-Voltes, C. and Rodríguez-Voltes, A. (2018) ‘Gap analysis of the online reputation’, Sustainability, 10(5), pp. 1-18, Web.
Shaw K. (2019) DDB Group Hong Kong and Hang Seng Bank launch MPOWER Card designed for creative generation, Campaign Brief Asia, Web.
Weiss J. (2021) Hang Seng MPOWER Card: top rewards for mobile pay, ValueChampion, Web.
Wu, C. and Chen, T. (2019) ‘Building brand’s value: research on brand image, personality and identification’, International Journal of Management, Economics and Social Sciences, 8(4), pp. 299-318, Web.
Zhang, M., Ren, C., Wang, G., & He, Z. (2018) ‘The impact of channel integration on consumer responses in omni-channel retailing: the mediating effect of consumer empowerment’, Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 28, pp. 181-193, Web.