Integrated Marketing Communication Mix (IMC) has been identified as a major contributor towards aspects of communication development. Marketers have developed an extensive understanding of the concept as involving more than coordination of various elements of marketing and communications programs (Wilson, 2001). Basically, IMC forms a business process capable of helping companies apply appropriate methods of building relationships through communication. Clear communication with customers and stakeholders involves more than the use of traditional marketing communication tools. Most firms within the international market prefer using IMC within their business strategies. This is since players are capable of reaching targeted international market segments effectively within the shortest time possible. This led to the creation of a retail selling system in the 20th century. IMC ensures that consumers receive adequate information concerning defined products and services within the market (Lindgreen and Finn, 2005). Most companies applied the traditional use of mass media in promoting their products within various market segments. Advertising formed the back-borne of most companies marketing communication. Additionally, Public relations was utilized in the process of managing an organization’s image and market attractions despite not being considered as an integral part of communication processes (Fill, 2009).
The personal computer industry commenced in the early 1970s with the first commercial computers being availed in the market in the 1980s. However, increased price-performance ratio, improved consumer preferences on mobility has resulted in high demand for laptops within the market for the last five years. According to Data monitor forecasts, the global PC industry recorded a compound annual growth rate of approximately 5% in marker value from 2007 to date which is an improvement from 8% value before 2007, with a larger percentage of this growth being attributed to laptop sub-segment. The evolution of new technologies provides increased competition to the laptop industry with the emergence of devices such as smartphones and mobile internet devices. Such innovations have created a dramatic shift in demand for laptops within recent years. Demand for new technologies has increasingly altered the outlook of the laptop industry with demand for low-cost ultraportable laptops. This has continued to affect the profitability levels of existing manufacturers such as HP, Dell Inc., and Apple Inc.
From the above diagram, it can be noted that laptop companies’ operations in different market segments are determined by social factors such as increased literacy levels, income levels, consumer preferences as well as cultural affiliations. The education sector requires PCs for learning purposes and at the same time brand image determines the nature of demand. Apple Inc. uses a premium pricing approach and performance to advance within various segments. The demand base has increased with the development of new devices such as OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) for the under-privileged users within emerging markets. Sales of laptops within different regions are influenced by cultural aspects for example festive seasons and back-to-school seasons are considered lucrative periods for computers in countries such as the U.S.
The competitive nature within the market depends on the kind of communication strategy applied which ultimately determines productivity levels. An integrated communication system facilitates instantaneous sharing of information. Products of most laptop manufacturing companies enable efficient sharing of information by use of appropriate software applications. This helps in the reduction of total costs as well as real-time management. Mobility is enhanced since there are sufficient communication access points and remote users are enabled to directly access security-enhanced points without any difficulties. The laptops are enhanced with appropriate operating systems and necessary Microsoft services which enables easy business partnerships between organizations. Protection of vital information from various companies is enhanced through servers and data centers (Holbrook, 2003, pp. 45-61).
Comparison between HP and Apple Inc
HP Laptop Manufacturers
One of the first products developed by HP was known as model 200A which was an electronic component. From then the company improved its product portfolio with several devices such as personal computing devices, enterprise servers, printing and imaging devices, media storage devices as well as medical electronic equipment. The company supplied a wide range of consumer segments including household and corporate businesses.
HP operated online distribution channels, conducted direct sales to individuals, and at the same time used major technology vendors as well as retail stores. The company adopted the use of IMC owing to the need for consistency in messaging within their supply chain channel. There was also a need for centralization of budget techniques based on advertising and communication for the purposes of enriching the HP brand within the market. HP used the art of conveying a single image through consistency, clarity, and predictability. Eventually, HP became the second-largest PC brand in the year 2005 with HP leading in the market. However, their strategy changed to the application of the term ‘computer is personal again’ in an attempt to increase the market share. This was driven by the need of replacing the traditional monologue advertisement system with an IMC campaign capable of creating a dialogue with consumers. The use of the slogan harnesses intensive use of social media generating positive results.
HP used retails in channeling their PCs to consumer segments. The strategy was meant to convince consumers of the reality of using PCs based on their functionalities. At the same time, the target market was the young generation who are inclined to intensive use of the internet. The idea also focused on developing consumers’ relationships with computers. HP provided consumers with strategic imperatives used in communication such as funding, design, installation, and management of customer supportive databases capable of linking behaviors to brand loyalty. The company utilized a direct response interactive version of an online advertising college network such as the company’s website. They also use outdoor advertising and event marketing such as the use of celebrity endorsement and reality shows. At the same time, they use vertical objective integration where there is a profound level of coordination between communication objective, corporate, and marketing objective. Corporate objective focused on customer loyalty, employee commitment, and profitability, marketing objective focused on increased market share as they compete with HP by dealing basically with the young generation. The communication objective focused on the personal relationship between consumers and HP technology.
Within functional integration, the focus was on HRM and operational activities. Unlike Apple Inc. HPs’ strength lies in the use of retail stores rather than online stores. The communication message used varied depending on countries such as India where they applied use of ‘Business is Personal Again’ campaign mostly targeting SMEs and at the same time using eminent personalities in promoting their products. Within communication mix integration messages delivered were consistent across all channels. Messages were a compliment to each other based on tone and image portrayed. The use of creative design integration enabled HP to acquire a trendier brand image capable of attracting a youthful market. They utilized the use of animations such as hand gestures which represented connectivity, assurance as well as emotional connection.
The company manufactures a host of digital products and computers. Apple Inc. is also involved in providing software services, networking solutions, and computer peripherals. Apple markets its products through many channels such as well-developed online stores, retail stores as well as third-party wholesalers contrary to HP Company which utilizes more of one distribution. The company’s commitment is focused on providing consumers with the best personal computing, mobile communication networks as well as provision of portable digital entertainment devices. Their business strategy revolves around designing a unique operating system, hardware, software capable of providing customers with new solutions. Their products are characterized by ease-of-use and seamless integration based on superior innovative designs.
Within their marketing strategy, the company utilizes experienced and knowledgeable salespersons. Such people are used for the purposes of conveying the company’s value based on its products and services to customers. They use retail and online stores to directly reach consumers. In order to boost its third-party reseller concept, the company places employees strategically at specified locations to enable the provision of superior customer services. They believe in delivering efficiency through direct contact with customers. The stores together with the products are designed in a manner capable of simplifying the process of marketing the products and finding necessary solutions (Flint et al. 2002). Most of the potential customers have varied satisfaction levels and needs depending on the solutions required. Consumers normally demand satisfaction based on their preferences making laptop manufacturing companies apply more innovative techniques. Within the computer industry, different segments carry varied weights based on the kind of communication required hence requiring an upgraded IMC. Both Apple and HP apply almost the same differentiation methods in order to reach their targeted customers. One of the major strategies involves fine-tuning the elements of the respective marketing mix capable of selling computer products and services (Fifield, 2007).
Apple bases the volume of their laptop sales on customer value which is linked to the nature of the operating system and microprocessor. Previously Apple’s laptops and iPods dominated the market owing to their portability nature and capability to enable the digital player system. The inclusion of the device contributed towards Apple’s Inc.’s command of up to 75% of the US market within the last couple of years. However, the company got equal competition with the launch of a similar device from Microsoft. The device known as Zune commanded a good percentage of the market compared to Apple’s computers in terms of features and pricing. This led to a reduction in the pricing of Apple’s products to enhance penetration which takes advantage of price elasticity.
Apple Inc. uses its value proposition to command the required customer base. This is since they are capable of identifying the most attractive market segments more easily. The competition within the market is attributed to the company’s simplicity in integrating vendors and appropriate systems. Such a strategy appears unique to other competitors such as HP. Apple computers are capable of running on the windows platform enabling easier application of many programs hence the source of convenience to customers. Apple’s business model differs from other competitors within the market making it possible for them to attain high-profit margins. Major differences are noted in the organized supply chain and variety of product lines the company operates, from the sale of applications to upgrade on accessories. However, there is a need to focus on the manufacture of third and fourth-generation software systems (Ahmed and Rafiq, 2002).
Positioning of the brand image within the market forms a good basis for Apple Inc.’s progress within the market. This has contributed to Apple being considered by consumers as the sole leader in laptop and other computer accessories manufacture. Their system utilizes modern technology and applies available resources in gaining a customer base which assists in building the company’s brand name. The company has supplied the market majorly through various retail stores with high-quality computer hardware and software products. The nature of their working environment enhances their chances of being trusted by consumers. This can be revealed from the benefits accorded to all employees based on individual performances. Public relation is one of the vital components of the communication mix utilized by the company, and this has ensured that their relationship with consumers is solidified at the tertiary level. However, the strength of such relationships lies in the nature of products provided within the market and the superiority of their customer services over that of the competitors. Innovative abilities play an important role in granting competitive advantage within the computer industry (Johnson et al, 2008, 51-59). The focus is on providing efficient products and services to individuals, corporate bodies, and organizations. Both companies’ products can easily be differentiated owing to the brand name appearing not only on the packaging material but also on the computers and their accessories. This enables assurance and trust on the side of customers who ultimately turn to be loyal clients (Ahmed and Rafiq, 2002).
The value portrayed by these manufacturing companies is examined from the customer-centric view based on the nature of the market segment served. Consumers are usually attracted to products based on specific attributes and values. The nature of pricing determines the kind of value attached to particular consumers. High pricing is an indication of greater benefits obtained from the products and their accessories. Third-party systems from Apple Inc. provide customers with more useful ways of effective communication and computer operating systems (Barnes et al, 2009).
Enough resources are allocated to marketing-related activities since the sector forms the core driver of the company’s operations. Such marketing integration incorporates the use of public relations and advertising programs through media. The company performs lots of marketing research to ensure efficient provision of products and good relations between the company and the market. Apple uses media advertising to draw public attention towards the uniqueness and quality of their products (Hoopla media, 2008). The company utilizes magazines, newspapers, and the internet in providing a detailed profile of their company including product and service portfolios. However, both Apple Inc. and HP do not spend much on media advertising owing to expenses involved despite the concept’s ability to command a significant percentage of the market share (Schultz et al., 1994).
As discussed, Apple Inc. establishes its stores within the crowded streets (Kotler et al, 2009). Such strategy is efficiently utilized in the process of product launch and at the same time is used in giving product information. Both companies use several promotional tools for the purposes of creating public awareness concerning their new inventions; Apple Inc. applies this method quite often. Normally, most companies use press releases where products are publicized through media art and statement. This is also done through the internet by utilizing the company’s websites. Such methods are necessary within the computer industry since they ensure quick understanding and acceptance of the various products supplied (PR Ideas, 2006).
The image brand of the company has been realigned with the company’s core values and consumer preferences. Positioning of Apple’s Inc. image within the various market segments ensures that consumer minds are captured with the sleek nature of its products. The strength of brand equity is determined by the appropriate incorporation of marketing communication tools. The brand quality of Apple and HP should incorporate an element of simplicity to enable easy understanding amongst consumers. Such ensures easy penetration of the various products within the international market. Third-party endorsement is used by Apple for the purposes of gaining favor and trust with the majority of the consumers. This is since there is a belief amongst consumers that such products contain verified positive details. The concept demands fewer expenses compared to other components of an integrated communication mix. The idea ensures full details concerning Apple Inc. products are revealed to the consumers. This has enabled Apple to win back former customers with the majority of the consumers revealing that they do not always have confidence in most of the advertisement message until they prove practically the quality of the intended products unless endorsed by a third party (Driscoll, 2010). The use of third-party salespeople ensures that the company’s image is maintained through the media. The independence of third-party endorsers also reinforces consumer confidence since the question of the company’s credibility can better be explained by superior authorities within the market. The concept has engineered the completion of transaction processes within the market enhancing the provision of complete information (Dean and Biswas, 2001).
On the other hand, HP’s use of public relations enhances their marketing techniques, hence utilized in the upgrading quality and speed of their search engines within the internet. This has enabled improvement in the sale of their products since the current generation is internet-oriented. Integration of marketing communication within an organization’s business models enables efficiency in performing strategic tasks (Harris 1998). The marketing communication process involves the application of public relations in connecting consumers with various products and services. Such applications involve the use of convincing powers capable of ensuring that consumers have a deeper understanding of the nature of products and services provided. Within its application, several marketing tools are incorporated which include; mobile marketing, events, and media (Schultz and Kitchen, 2000). Public relations presents as one of the most valuable marketing tools with the capability of impacting consumer responses towards products sold in the marketplace. However, the appropriate application of marketing communication tools within the market requires intensive training on the side of marketers to avoid fraudulent cases, such as photocopying company products by fake organizations (Dubois et al, 2007).
The importance of integrating internal and external marketing communications makes an organization’s employees be highly credible ambassadors to its external public – both in what they say to their communities and the service they provide to their customers. Both words of mouth and performance can be enhanced to the benefit of the organization by a sustained programmer of internal marketing. A second implication of the strategic vertical integration envisaged by Butterfield is the importance of developing distribution channels as conduits of information as well as of goods and money. Marketing communications writers frequently differentiate between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ strategies. ‘Push’ strategies (trade promotion and personal selling) offer incentives to distribution intermediaries to stock and actively merchandise products, pushing them towards the end-user. ‘Pull’ strategies, on the other hand, use consumer-directed techniques (e.g. advertising and sales promotion) to stimulate demand in order to pull the product, or service, through the channel.
Apple Inc. appears strong in the market since its use of public relations in advertisement overlooks consumer perceived knowledge about the products. The company breaks the prior notion concerning products which is majorly based on perceptions. The level of quality within products can best be expressed through communication. This is since the link between consumers and product manufacturers can only be reinforced through information (Duncan 1997). However, advertisement and promotional activities should be considered as a crucial part of marketing communication tools capable of reinforcing an organization’s brand name. Publication of company products can be done through various options which include mass media channels and the internet. However, the launching of new innovations should be done in the open media for the purposes of consumer exposure to the products (Fill, 2002).
All marketing communication is automatically elevated to a strategic role. There is still a distinction to be made between tactical communications in support of specific marketing initiatives and strategic communications which emanate from the highest levels of the corporation to inform all its activities. However, it does support the view that communication is qualitatively different from the other elements of the marketing mix. As customers have become more sophisticated the competitive focus in marketing has moved upwards to benefits like image, self-expression, and the assurance of quality. While the rest of the marketing mix needs to be securely in place to deliver these, effective communication of such benefits is becoming the key differentiator.
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