An Introduction to Integrated Marketing Communication

In the summer of 2004, I was teaching a graduate course on the concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC) at Johns Hopkins University and found it interesting I was hearing from students that the institution was not practicing what it was preaching relative to marketing strategies.  Of course, Johns Hopkins was not alone, and I started to wonder why the concepts of IMC had not been adopted to a greater extent.

I spent the next four years focused on the topic of IMC for purposes of my doctoral dissertation.  In theory, IMC seemed simple.  What organization would not want to ensure that they were following such a strategic process to ensure consistent and measureable marketing messages?  As any professional marketer will tell you, our discipline is never quite as simple as it seems.

Even something as nominal as the letter “s” can cause a big difference in IMC.  As I began my research, I was surprised to learn that it is not consistent as to whether IMC represents “integrated marketing communication” or “integrated marketing communications”.  While these words might seem to have minor differences, there are actually major implied differences between the two terms.

The term “communication” is defined as “the act of communicating; transmission” while the term “communications” is defined as “the technology employed in transmitting messages”. Thus, communication could be viewed as strategic while communications could be viewed as tactical.  For IMC to be most effective, it needs to be strategic in nature.

My dissertation research revealed that several variables impact IMC in public colleges and universities to include leadership, formal communication mechanisms, and an open systems orientation. In addition, IMC was shown to contribute to heightened student selectivity and institutional brand recognition. Such insight should be useful to educational advancement practitioners as they seek to build institutional support for their marketing communication initiatives.  Further information on the research can be found in the International Journal of Educational Advancement.



  1. Great post on IMC. Regarding your research, I specifically find it interesting that (when implemented properly I assume) IMC ‘heightened student selectivity.’ Was this due to IMC creating a better understanding amongst the varying departments within the college of what qualities were ideal in potential students? Would it be correct to assume then that building a student body in this manner had a hand in creating better brand recognition?

  2. Dawn Edmiston says:

    Thanks for the post and thoughtful questions. This particular research seemed to suggest that IMC enabled a more effective use of marketing resources that led to an overall increase in prospective students that were a good match for the institution and allowed for heightened student selectivity. Building a student body that has a positive experience (rather than dissonance) at an institution establishes an excellent foundation upon which to achieve greater brand recognition in the market.

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