We Like It, We’re Doing It, But Do We Know What It Is (Yet)? An Exploratory Study of Integrated Marketing Communications


William N. Swain 
Olga Zatepilina 
Lisa Chmiola 
Qian Hua 
Lisa Moceri 
Payal Dev

[WJMCR 4:4 September 2001]


Abstract|Introduction|Research Questions|Methodology
Discussion |Findings |Conclusion


The literature on integrated marketing communication (IMC) in the latter half of the 1990s offers evidence that a debate over the definition of the concept remains unresolved. A survey was conducted in 2001 to investigate perceptions of the status of IMC, the degree of acceptance of nine factors that may comprise a multi-level definition of IMC, and whether there is consensus on those factors among samples of seven groups with ties to marketing communication: advertising agency executives, public relations agency executives, corporate marketing executives, corporate public relations executives, advertising and marketing academics, public relations academics, and website developers. The survey revealed greater apparent agreement than previously reported, overall and among the groups, both on the importance of IMC and on many of the definitional factors, suggesting that IMC is now widely regarded as much more consumer oriented and forward looking than merely coordinating communications to speak with one voice. This exploratory research may be regarded as a pilot study because of a rate of response to the web survey averaging approximately eight percent across the professional groups surveyed.


IMC: A Topic of Conflict

Advances in scholarship and reported applications of theoretical or paradigmatic proposition known as integrated marketing communications (IMC) in the last decade cannot be said to have settled the question of whether IMC is an accepted marketing practice, either above or on the same footing with advertising and public relations, or even how IMC is defined. As late as the fall of 2000, Don E. Schultz, who can fairly be described as a principal pioneer and a leading continuing advocate of IMC, co-authored an article defending IMC1 against the charge, in another article in the same journal,that it is a “management fashion” rather than a theoretical concept. In their defense of IMC, Schultz, an IMC professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and his co-author, Philip J. Kitchen of Queen’s University, Belfast, describe IMC as “weak in terms of definition,” and “not yet a theory,” but argue that IMC’s “progression as a concept and discipline is entirely appropriate and in accordance with scientific theory insofar as a new emergent paradigm is concerned.” They add, “So while IMC lacks a formal agreed-upon definition at this time, the groundwork is being laid around the world.”3 Regarding a criticism that IMC cannot be effectively measured, Schultz and Kitchen acknowledge that, “We can’t measure IMC now, and it may be some time before we can�,” but add, “The problem, however, is that many marketing activities can’t be measured, and the value of communication effects and impacts are even more tenuous.”4The same researchers had previously investigated IMC’s development and use in advertising in the United Statesand in five nations,6 surveying advertising agency respondents in both studies based on a definition then “more widely known than any other,” one that focuses on the strategic roles of multiple communication disciplines and on combining those disciplines “to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.”7 That definition appears to focus much more on coordination of marketing communication as the objective than does the totality of the integrated marketing communications book Schultz co-authored with Tannenbaum and Lauterborn in 1992,8 but Schultz, in the late 1990s described the “one sight, one-sound,” coordination-of-communication approach to defining IMC as “still the prevailing definition of IC (integrated communication, or IMC) in many communication arenas�.”9 That definition is very much in evidence in advertising and marketing principles textbooks.10A substantial body of research has been undertaken in the 1990s to assess the degree of advancement, acceptance and practice of integrated marketing communications, however defined.11 Much of the literature of IMC in the last decade identifies a substantial but far less than universal degree of acceptance and application of IMC. For example, Wayne Henderson,12 in offering a scale for evaluating IMC usage, found evidence among corporate executives of liking and use of IMC, but in the absence of a clear definition of IMC. The body of research responses and articles by agency and corporate executives in the last decade suggests that the state of acceptance of IMC at the marketing management level, may be, “We can’t define it, and we can’t measure it, but we like it, and we’re doing it.”

Definitional Elements as a Basis for Research

In their 1999 multi-national study, however, Kitchen and Schultz,13 in their analysis, sought to redefine IMC as a hierarchical process with four developmental stages: first, communication coordination; second, redefining marketing communication through consumer research and feedback; third, building globally segmented databases to refine customer communication, and the fourth and most sophisticated stage, financial and strategic integration, which involves monitoring return-on-investment performance for each audience segment.14 They advocate an outside-in, customer-oriented market planning approach rather than the product push-pull inside-out approach that focuses on the promoter’s welfare and on the audience only as a means to an end; they advocate attention to all potential contacts an organization or brand may have with current or potential customers as part of the marketing communication impact; they advocate application of information technology to the building of consumer relationships. That is much more like the description of IMC offered by Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn in their 1992 book, Integrated Marketing Communications,15 but falls short of their recommendations for corporate reorganization to replace brand managers with relationship managers.The 1992 Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn book remains the seminal work on IMC and the source of the greatest number of elements identified as cohorts of a definition of IMC. In their book, Schultz, et al. insisted that coordination of communication, though necessary, was not the sole essence of IMC; the essence of IMC, they said, was building positive relationships by placing consumers or stakeholders first, placing their needs ahead of the marketer’s needs, and using any tools of research, information technology, and communication to meet those needs. Those notions remain the elements most consistently distinguishing IMC from established inside-out marketing principles, and they are the basis for a list of definitional elements offered to survey respondents in this study.No prior study has been found that has sought opinions about IMC from all the seven groups identified in this study: advertising agency executives, public relations agency executives, corporate marketing executives, corporate public relations executives, web site developers, academics in advertising/marketing, and academics in public relations. Perforce, no prior study has been located that has drawn comparisons and contrasts between and among those groups concerning their concepts of IMC. There was therefore a need for a study that would do those things while updating the status of the acceptance of IMC as a well-defined practice.  

Research Questions

The absence of a universally accepted definition in the literature on IMC and the exploratory nature of the study reported here provided little basis for establishing and testing hypotheses. Accordingly, research questions were deemed to provide a better basis for practical analysis of the response to the survey that is the basis of this study. The research questions constructed focus on the degree of consensus available on the definitions and the stage of development of IMC, considered as a practical concept with which to govern decisions and practices in the fields of advertising and public relations, or marketing communication:

Question #1: Is there evidence of consensus on factors that may contribute to a workable definition of IMC?Question#2: If there is evidence of consensus, on what factors is that consensus in evidence?Question#3: If there is evidence of consensus, among which groups is that consensus in evidence?Question #4: Is there evidence of difference of opinion on factors that have been advanced as part of the definition of IMC?Question #5: If there is evidence of difference of opinion, on what factors is that difference in evidence?Question #6: If there is evidence of difference of opinion, among which groups is that difference in evidence?Question #7: Is there evidence of consensus or of difference of opinion on the current status of IMC as a practical concept, and if so, among which groups. 


An exploratory survey was conducted to investigate views in 2001 of the definition of integrated marketing communications (IMC) among six professional groups associated or potentially associated with marketing communication: executives with national advertising agencies; executives with national public relations agencies; marketing executives with national advertisers; public relations executives with national corporations; academics in the fields of advertising/marketing and public relations; and web site developers. Web site developers were included as a group in part because of a remark in an advertising textbook that interactive advertising agencies range from specialized full-service agencies to small firms specializing in website design,16 and remarks in another textbook about unimpressive Internet advertising performance of large advertising agencies and internet advertising units they have acquired.17The survey was conducted via self-administered questionnaire with pull-down response menus on World Wide Web sites, a separate one for each group in the study.18 The questionnaire was pretested with practitioners in advertising and public relations, academics, and web site developers, and minor adjustments were made based on the tests. Participation in the study was by invitation extended by individual e-mail. Researchers used only one follow-up invitation with each group to minimize e-mail intrusiveness. Response rate for each group ranged from 4.5% (web site developers) to 16% (academics) and averaged approximately 8%; the research may therefore be regarded as a pilot study. 
Sampling Criteria

The list of invitees was both a purposive and a convenience sample, and therefore not a random sample of the defined populations. The criteria for selection of advertising agency executives were that they be listed in the Red Book, the Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies,19 as an executive with a firm of some size, as measured by billings and/or employment, and that their personal e-mail address be included in the listing. Similar criteria were applied to select marketing executives from the Standard Directory of Advertisers20 Red Book. Public relations practitioners, both agency and corporate, were selected in a similar manner from the current membership directory of the Public Relations Society of America. Academics in advertising and public relations and their e-mail addresses were found listed on the web sites of colleges and universities with active student chapters of the American Advertising Federation. A sample of web site developers with e-mail addresses came from lists published on web sites, the least reliable source of a sample, but the only sources found to be readily available.Because professors in advertising and public relations sometimes teach both subjects and have backgrounds in both, no attempt was made to invite participation in equal numbers from advertising professors and public relations professors; nevertheless, when asked to identify an area of specialty, the participants identified themselves as advertising professors and public relations professors in very nearly equal numbers, each group constituting about 8% of the sample of academics invited to participate. 
Participation, and Response Rate

Participants in the study numbered 203: 38 advertising agency executives, 8% of 481 invitees; 40 public relations agency practitioners, 8.5% of 473 invitees; 22 corporate marketing executives, 5.3% of 415 invitees; 22 corporate public relations executives, 5.9% of 371 invitees; 18 web site developers, 4.5% of 393 invitees; and 63 advertising, marketing and public relations professors, 15.75% of 400 invitees. For each group, the original list numbered between 450 and 500; the number of invitees named above, total 2,533, represents the number of e-mailed invitations that were not returned or rejected-that is, the number of invitations that appeared to reach their destination.Of the 63 academics, 27 identified themselves as advertising professors, 26 as public relations professors, and four as marketing professors. Six academic respondents did not specify their specialization. Because of the division in point of view concerning IMC over the past decade between public relations academics on one hand, and advertising and marketing professors on the other hand, the marketing and advertising professors were grouped together in the statistical analyses. 
Questions, and Approach to Definition

In constructing the survey, researchers had the opportunity to consider three approaches to eliciting preferences for a definition of integrated marketing communications (IMC). The approach that would least confound the results with demand characteristics would have been to ask each respondent to construct his/her own definition of IMC; but that approach had some critical drawbacks: It would be apt to reduce response rate further; it would result in responses that would probably be almost impossible to classify and analyze; and it might produce responses sufficiently uneven in language to leave the respondent’s intentions unclear.A second possible approach would have been to construct a series of definitions from which the respondent could choose, and the researchers did attempt to construct such a series of definitions. The definitions were constructed to reflect the several layers of characteristics of IMC identified in the Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn book on the subject21 and elsewhere in the literatures of advertising and public relations. The language of the definitions became so lengthy and complex, in the effort to distinguish one definition from another, that the researchers abandoned that effort, for much the same reasons that the method of soliciting open-ended definitions was abandoned.The researchers then constructed a list of the different elements found in various definitions of IMC, including the characteristics of IMC advanced in the Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn book,22 together with options relating to interactive and consumer-initiated communication. Respondents were asked to choose among the factors listed to describe their concept of IMC “as it should be practiced.” The language of those choices was constructed to clarify complicated concepts yet not to choke off participation in the study, and the results suggest that the language of those choices could be understood by respondents. The list of potential IMC factors, as it appeared in the questionnaire, is included in Table 1, together with the number of respondents selecting each choice.To accommodate any feelings that the definitional choices were not sufficiently clear, sufficiently representative, or sufficiently comprehensive, respondents were invited, in the question introduction, to expand their concept of IMC or to make any comments in a space for that purpose near the end of the questionnaire. While there were some comments made in that space, none of them related specifically to the choices available to describe or define IMC. Respondents were also asked, in a separate question, to declare their perception of the status of IMC, given the following choices: Permanent; an important interim step, an unimportant temporary step, a passing fad, dead, or don’t know/no answer.

Statistical Tests

To examine the relationships of definitional elements selected by respondents as a whole, crosstabulations and associated chi-square and Pearson Product-Moment Correlation (r) tests were used. To examine differences, among groups and among all combinations of the groups, in preferences for definitional elements, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests were applied with Tukey HSD follow-up procedures, where appropriate. In all, 19 differing ANOVAs with follow-up tests as needed were run, incorporating 374 paired tests for significant difference. There was no statistical reason, in any case, to doubt homogeneity of variance of the sample.


Status of IMC

The question of whether integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a developing paradigm or a passing fad, a controversy addressed in the Journal of Advertising Research in fall, 2000,23 is revisited in a separate question in this survey. Respondents were asked, to declare their perception of the status of IMC, in a range of choices. The choices and the number of respondents selecting each choice is included in Table 2.IMC is seen as permanent by 153 of the 203 respondents in this survey, approximately 75%, and as an important interim step by 27, 13%. Those who saw IMC as an unimportant temporary step (3), a passing fad (7), or dead (2) together constituted less than 5% of the respondents. Crosstabulations revealed no significant relationship between the stage chosen for IMC and either the group or the definitional factors. Clearly, for the respondents to this study, however they define IMC, and whether they are practitioners or academics, advertising/marketing or public relations people, IMC remains a concept that is important and lasting, not a passing fad.

Definitional Preferences

Definitional element choices. The frequencies with which respondents selected the definitional elements as part of their definition of IMC reveal a hierarchy of preference. More than 93% of the respondents, 189 of 203, selected the option of coordinating all communication, a preference consistent with most of the earlier definitions of IMC. The second element in the hierarchy, however, was the notion of coordinating all contacts with customers-sales and service as well as marketing communication-to develop loyalty and relationship, a notion that was not incorporated in most earlier definitions. That option was selected by 169, more than 83% of respondents, an outcome that appears to reflect a more refined and consumer oriented view of the definition of IMC.Respondents in about equal numbers selected the options of using a database to develop customer loyalty, 120; developing customer relationship to the extent that the customers will seek out the brand to meet their needs, 119; continually researching consumer psychographics and demographics, 116; and beginning with customer needs before developing products and marketing, 113. Those outside-in or consumer-oriented definitional options each were selected by more than half-55%-60%–of respondents, suggesting a maturing of the concept of IMC in the minds of respondents, in contrast to the findings of prior studies.Fewer than half, but more than a third of respondents selected the options having to do with orientation to interactive media, chosen by 78, and consumer feedback as a priority over marketing communication, chosen by 70. Those responses suggest that ceding control or initiation of communication to consumers is less favored than the concept of building relationships through proactive marketing activities; but it also suggests that interactivity and consumer control of communication has gained a substantial acceptance simultaneously with the proliferation of web sites and the Internet as a medium of communication. The option having to do with restructuring the marketing organization to focus on relationship marketing, the option chosen least, was chosen by 69 respondents, more than a third of the participants. Half of those selecting restructuring as part of IMC were academics (29) and web site developers (5), and among the academics, twice as many were advertising professors than public relations. Nevertheless, approximately 12% of practitioners selected restructuring the marketing organization for relationship building, an option previously discussed primarily in the Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn book,24 and few other sources among the literature on IMC.

Associations of Definitional Factors. Considering the opinions of all respondents, there is association between degree of selection of many of the definitional factors in the survey, measured by crosstabulations and correlations-36 comparisons in all, and all but five yielding slight to moderate positive associations. Both Pearson r correlations and chi-square tests were applied because binary (yes-no, 1-0) data may be regarded either as interval or as nominal data, but the correlation of variances from the mean seems the most appropriate test.The concept of coordinating all communication did not correlate significantly with the concepts of continuous audience research, treating all consumer contacts as marketing communication, emphasizing interactive communication, and corporate restructuring, and was no more than weakly correlated with any other definitional factors, suggesting that respondents who restrict their definition of IMC to one sight, one-sound communication do not subscribe to outside-in, consumer-oriented, interactive or corporate restructuring definitional elements. Continuously researching the audience did not correlate positively with the notion of corporate restructuring.Nearly all other crosstabulation comparisons of all nine definitional factors, 27 of 36 comparisons, yielded moderate positive correlations, indicating a degree of positive association between the factors. The strongest correlations were of interactive communication with consumer-initiated inbound communication (r=.575), and of database marketing with consumer relationship building (r=.556), ongoing consumer research (r=.549), and a consumer-first outside-in marketing approach (r=.502). Those positive associations between the definitional elements suggest that a well-knit, more holistic concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) may be developing among practitioners and academics in the fields of marketing, advertising and public relations.Definitional Factor Differences Among Groups. There were differences in the way the different groups of respondents, and combinations of groups, viewed the IMC definitional factors in the survey, but only nine of the 374 differed substantially. This suggests that respondents to the survey from the seven professional groups found little to disagree about and much to agree upon concerning the factors that may make up a valid working definition of IMC. The following four paragraphs report the nine statistically significant contrasts.Academics of all orientations were compared with web site developers and with practitioners all grouped together, regardless of agency or corporate affiliation, and regardless of advertising/marketing or public relations orientation. That revealed that researching the audience was selected substantially less often by web site developers than by academics, and that restructuring the corporate marketing function for relationship building was selected significantly more often by academics than by professional practitioners .When agency affiliated advertising practitioners were compared with corporate marketing practitioners, corporate practitioners in greater numbers selected the database, research, and interactive communication definitional options. When the two interactive and consumer-to-marketer communication factors were collapsed into one factor, corporate marketing practitioners favored the interactive group of definitional factors substantially more than did agency marketing practitioners.Advertising/marketing academics, in greater numbers than public relations academics, selected the notion of outside-in marketing: the practice of beginning with consumer needs and wants before developing products and marketing strategies.Continually researching audience psychographics and demographics was selected substantially more often by corporate public relations practitioners than by advertising agency practitioners. Corporate public relations practitioners, much more than advertising agency practitioners, preferred a grouping of three customer-orientation definitional factors: database usage, continuing research, and putting consumer needs and wants before product and marketing planning.Considered together, those measures of difference may suggest that corporate public relations practitioners think of IMC as getting closer to the customer than do advertising agency practitioners. On the other hand, among academics, advertising/marketing professors, more than public relations professors, may view IMC as involving consumer-oriented outside-in planning, perhaps reflecting an orientation of public relations academics towards corporate reputation public relations and away from marketing public relations. The statistical differences may also suggest that corporate marketing practitioners, more than advertising agency practitioners, see IMC as oriented to interactive and database communication and consumer research. Consumer research also figures more in the definition of IMC for academics than for web site developers; and academics, more than practitioners, lean in the direction of incorporating corporate restructuring for relationship building in the concept of IMC.  


There are differences of opinion among the surveyed groups about certain of the definitional factors in the questionnaire–corporate practitioners defining IMC as more consumer oriented and interactive than do agency practitioners, and academics still differing a bit on a few aspects of IMC based on their orientation either to marketing communication or to public relations–but among respondents to this survey, the differences in views of IMC are not nearly as great as the literature of the field over the past decade would suggest, especially between public relations and advertising practitioners. There is evidence of broad agreement on the factors that define IMC and on the status of IMC as a permanent and important phenomenon.

Evaluation of Research Questions

Research questions 1-3 asked the degree of consensus among the groups represented in the survey on the factors that might contribute to a workable definition of Integrated marketing Communications. The results of this exploratory survey suggest that there broad consensus may be developing among the groups on the definitional elements and that thinking about IMC may be progressing through the stages of IMC development envisioned by Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn25 and by Kitchens and Schultz26 There is evidence that the majority of respondents to this survey have adopted, as part of their definition of IMC, not merely coordinating communication, but also the notion that all contacts with an audience constitute communication, as well as notions concerning outside-in consumer-first planning, research, and database and information technology communication, and relationship building. Furthermore, there is evidence that respondents see weak to moderate but consistent correlations among all the definitional factors considered in the survey above the level of merely coordinating marketing communication. While there is evidence of a few minor differences of opinion, the adoption and association of IMC definitional elements is consistent across all groups represented in the survey.However, there is also evidence that, while all IMC definitional elements considered in the survey have a following, having been selected by 34% to 93% of respondents, some definitional elements have gained greater consensus than others. Lack of consensus among groups on the definitional factors were the subjects of research questions 4-6. Three definitional factors in particular were clearly adopted by fewer respondents than the others: those having to do with interactive communication, consumer initiation and control of communication, and restructuring the marketing function to focus on relationship building rather than on brand management and marketing. The negative news is that adoption of those factors was 60 percentage points lower than adoption of coordinating communication, 40 points below considering all contacts communication, and 20 points below the other four factors. The positive news is that more than a third of respondents adopted those three least adopted definitional factors; that except for the corporate restructuring option favored more by academics, adoption was consistent across all groups in the study; and that those three factors were correlationally moderately associated with most other definitional factors.The few differences identified between and among groups in preferences for definitional factors appear to be isolated and to form no broad patterns, but rather to identify what may be remnants of long-standing differences in approach to doing business in an agency, corporate, or academic environment.Question 7 asked whether there is evidence of consensus or of difference of opinion on the current status of Integrated marketing Communications as a practical concept, and if so, among which groups. The evidence of the survey question in this study on the status of IMC is evidence of strong consensus, 153 respondents, 75%, characterizing IMC as permanent, and another 27, or 13%, characterizing IMC as an important interim step. Only 5% view IMC as temporary, passing, or dead, and another 7% offered no decision or no answer. IMC is regarded as permanent and important by a clear majority of respondents to this survey. 

Limitations of the Study, and Opportunities for Future Research

This study has undertaken to survey groups that have not been distinguished from one another in prior studies, to approach them through the Internet, and to approach the study of IMC definition in parts rather than as a whole. While these differences in technique are strengths of the study, they carry with them inherent weaknesses. The need for large samples and the necessity for e-mail addresses necessitates the use of convenience and/or purposive samples, restricting the ability to generalize results of the study. A response rate averaging 8% across the seven professional groups in the study also limits external validity, and for that reason, the survey may be regarded as a pilot study. Lack of consensus in the prior literature on IMC definition make hypothesis writing and hypothesis testing problematic and force the researcher to rely on more broadly based research questions.The approach of dividing the definition of IMC into factors which can be adopted or not adopted runs the risk of creating demand characteristics: of presenting participants with notions that might not occur to them to include in a definition they would construct themselves from scratch. On the other hand, it offers the participant an opportunity for an easier and faster response, without which response might have been less than it was.Inability to infer scientifically that the responses of the samples in this study represent the opinions of members of the professional classes from which the samples were drawn invites further research with a study design that permits causal inference to investigate definition(s) of IMC. Further, there might be advantage in conducting research on the definition and practice of IMC annually to track trends.Another topic that may offer opportunities for research and analysis is the present and future impact of interactive communication, especially on the Internet, on the definition and practice of IMC. The present study, for example, finds that a third of respondents accept interactivity and consumer initiated communication as a legitimate part of the concept of IMC. As developing and merging technologies increase the ability of the consumer to initiate and control communications using interactive media, IMC and its marketing communication components must adapt to change, affording opportunities to track and understand those adaptations through research.Other promising subjects for future research on IMC are those factors identified by Loyd S. Pettegrew27 as critical to the corporate adoption of IMC: direct support for IMC and leadership in its implementation by the corporate CEO, as well as a structure and corporate culture compatible with implementation of IMC applications. Pettegrew declared that, “In the absence of CEO support, there is an operational threshold past which IMC cannot be fully or effectively adopted,”28and he added, “To minimize the influence of the CEO on company marketing is na�ve, but to exclude the CEO in any substantive discussion of IMC adoption and implementation is simply deficient theory building.”29 He recommended that, to bring about corporate implementation of IMC, “The first target of IMC’s persuasive communication ought to be the CEO, followed by others in top-level management.”30

Pettegrew noted that the literature and theories of IMC have very nearly ignored issues of corporate structure, CEO support, and corporate culture. Indeed, one of the few references to corporate restructuring is in the 1992 Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn book on IMC.31 The findings of this survey suggest that corporate restructuring to accommodate IMC is seen as an issue or option more by academics than by marketing communication practitioners. Accordingly, research on corporate structures and corporate cultures and their compatibility with IMC would appear to be in order. Research to identify CEO attitudes towards and understanding of IMC as well as research to identify appropriate approaches for gaining top management commitment to IMC may well also be productive.


The findings of this exploratory study, analyzed in context, provide some new information that is timely and suggests advancements in the acceptance and implementation of IMC. The findings of this study also suggest that it may now be appropriate to accept, for the moment, the notion that the definition of IMC continues to progress, as Schultz and Kitchen asserted in 2000,32 both in sophistication of concepts and in the acceptance of IMC in advertising, marketing, public relations, academic, and perhaps in web development circles.Whether, as part of that progression, the definition comes to specify that top management must lead the implementation of IMC, and whether interactivity and corporate restructuring are ever to become essential elements of the definition of IMC remain to be seen. It may be safe to suggest, however, that the definition of IMC, as it develops in the next decade, may have to take cognizance of and be compatible with consumer-initiated interactive communication, changes to corporate culture and structure, and the need for CEO leadership.There is a continuing need for research and scholarship to develop IMC theoretical propositions and models and to investigate advancements in the professional practice of integrated marketing communications. The time is also right to pursue research of the kind that identifies ways to overcome barriers to adoption of IMC and tracks the impacts of developing technologies on IMC as a concept. The findings of all those avenues of study can be expected to help solidify the definition of IMC in time and to help IMC find its place in marketing and communication theory.

About the Authors:William N. Swain, Ph.D., APR, is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he teaches advertising, public relations, and mass communication courses and is coordinator of the advertising sequence. He was previously, for 25 years, a practitioner and manager in public relations and advertising. The other authors were participants in a graduate seminar on integrated and interactive marketing communication, taught by Swain, in which the preliminary work was begun that lead to the survey reported in this article. Olga Zatepilina, Lisa Moceri, and Payal Dev have each completed their master’s degree in communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where Qian Hua and Lisa Chmiola are currently engaged in thesis research. The authors wish to express appreciation to Dr. Paul Barefield, head of the Department of Communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for his essential and continuing support of this project.

William N. Swain
Department of Communication
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
P. O. Box 43650
Lafayette, LA 70504-3650

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