Integrated marketing communications (IMC) can be defined as a plan that assesses which various communication disciplines will work in combination to most effectively, clearly, and consistently communicate to the consumer in a way that creates the most impact. By marketing communication disciplines, we are referring to any means through which marketers can communicate to consumers. Previously, product communication was mostly performed through mass communication avenues such as radio, television, and any other source of mass media. Today, marketers know that mass communication does not work for every product or every consumer base and is even very costly; instead, they analyze their particular consumers to figure out what communication techniques will work best for them. Marketers see IMC as a means of having a two-way dialogue with the consumer through demographic analysis to find a communication tactic that is most effective. Such communication tactics can now include promotions aimed at retailers or wholesalers of the product, promotions aimed at consumers, branding, creating strong public relations, and advertising.
Since the first step to designing an effective IMC plan is analyzing consumer data,developing IMC tactics will actually fall somewhere in the middle of the marketing management flowchart. Prior to developing the IMC plan, marketers first want to organize the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, examine the external environment for any negative or positive influences, analyze consumer behavior, analyze the competition, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the product itself, and identify the target market (Dr. Joyce, "IMC Plan Outline," California State University at Fullerton).
Once marketers have done the above, they can then begin the phase of drawing up the IMC Plan. To do so, marketers need to figure out the company's marketing objectives, figure out the IMC objectives, figure out the media objectives, figure out which of all possible marketing strategies will be most effective, and figure out which of all possible IMC strategies and programs will be most effective (Dr. Joyce, "IMC Plan Outline").
One of the most important steps in drawing up an IMC plan is analyzing the consumers. Marketers must have a thorough understanding of their target consumers' behaviors and know "who, what, how, when, and why consumers buy/use an organization's product or service" in order to draw up an effective plan (Dr. Joyce, "IMC Plan Outline").