28 July 2011

Consumers, not Marketers, make IMC possible

On the way to work this morning, my daughter noticed that just as we passed the billboard for Potbelly’s new Grilled Chicken & Cheddar sandwich, we also heard a radio commercial for the same product.

To her, it was coincidence. To you and me, it was Integrated Marketing Communications.

Actually, it was both.

Best Laid Plans

IMC is hard work. Not only must we find a simple idea that can work across different channels, we must decide which combination of channels will drive the client’s business.

The old-school, matching-luggage, spider-chart view of IMC is that if we surround the consumer with enough identical messages, we get a force multiplier that drives effectiveness.

It doesn’t work that way.

Only Consumers can put it together for themselves

We’ve made the point before that IMC is just a fancy acronym for “Marketing”. It makes sense that any marketing plan consisting of multiple channels should be coordinated so as to maximize the investment. The conceit of IMC is that consumers see the same spider chart we do.

That’s impossible. Not even in our best laid plans could we hope that most of the audience sees all the messages. Different people will see different combinations. Social Media makes this more true than ever. Ultimately each consumer will put it together for themselves.

Our goal isn’t for consumers to see the spider chart, or appreciate our IMC prowess, but to change their hearts and minds enough that the client sells more product.

Did we buy the Grilled Chicken & Cheddar Sandwich?

In the case of my daughter, who loves grilled cheese, we saw the billboard and heard the radio commercial. I dropped her off at her job as a day camp counselor at Chicago’s museum campus this morning, and this afternoon I brought her back to the office so I could attend an important meeting. Later I’ll take her out for a sandwich – at Jimmy John’s. Why not Potbelly? Because the radio and the billboard can’t compensate for the fact that there isn’t a Potbelly’s near my office.


  1. And with that end, you just pointed out another vital IMC piece: Location!

    If potbelly's had integrated location-awareness, and pointed you to that aspect as the call to action in their OOH and radio, you'd know that a new potbelly has opened equidistant to the JJ's in the opposite direction from the office.

    The other really important point you touched on upfront is the consistency vs. identical and coincidence vs. contrivance. More dynamics where IMC can shine and perform instead of clubbing people over the head with the same message in a lot of places.

    Well done as usuals!

  2. Potbelly does practice OOH location awareness with snipes calling out nearest locations and/or web address. Online store locator allows you to search by clicking on state via a visual map, entering zip or address and by neighborhood. (Mobile site is available for on-the-go.)

    If your office is Draft, not only is there a Potbelly just as close as the nearest Jimmy John's, but there are two.

    In this particular case, there wasn't anything Jimmy John's did more effectively that led you to their door and not Potbelly's.

    Too bad, too. Cause the sandwiches there are much better :)

  3. Thanks for commenting, Anonymous Potbelly marketing person. We will definitely check out one of the nearby Potbelly locations. Keep working that IMC!

  4. Something I love about this post is the reference to quaint, antiquarian media like billboards and radio.

    Smart IMC starts with understanding the consumer, and Potbelly got something important right: hungry people who want lunch are often in their cars listening to the radio.

    IMC is a feedback loop between old and new media. The answer is rarely either/or. It's usually both.

  5. Tom, that's so right. I recently saw a discussion elsewhere asking whether old or new media were more effective. The right answer is "Yes." You can't eschew either. Smart marketers find the right way for them to work together. Thanks for commenting, my friend.