1.1. Background of the Study
A critical part of brand building is communication and the most effective and productive way of managing this effort is through a concept called Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).
Due to societal changes over the past fifty years, today’s organizations are being forced to adjust their brand/marketing strategies. Not surprisingly, many have turned to integrated marketing communications (IMC). Why? Old assumptions about the role of advertising promotion and media have fallen by the way side because change remains the only constant thing in the world. Thoughts about how branding and promotion should be organized have been upside-down. And organizations, marketing executives and the media are scrambling to accommodate their new roles, ever since, integrated marketing communication (IMC) has been part of business. Clow & Baack (2004) define IMC as “the coordination and integration of all marketing communication tools, avenues and sources within a company into a seamless programme that maximizes the impact on consumers and other end users at a minimal cost”.
In addition, Arens (2004) defines integrated marketing communications (IMC) as:
The process of building and reinforcing mutually profitable relationship with employees, customers, other stakeholders, and the general public by developing and coordinating a strategic communications programme that enables them to make constructive contact with the company/brand through a variety of media or other contacts…
From the above definitions, it can be deduced that IMC unifies all communication effort from an organization to produce an identifiable source (brand) in the minds of its audience while some observers think that so long as a company is involved in a variety of promotional activities (e.g., advertising sponsorships, public relations etc), it is practicing IMC. But this is not the case using IMC means looking at the whole where there were once only parts. If calls for re-aligning communications and seeing constant flow of information from a single and identifiable source. An effective IMC process comprises the following steps:
Identify the target audiences: This requires a well throughout market segmentation and targeting process which may includes secondary and/or primary market research.
Determine the communication objectives: This can range from generating brand awareness to countering the competition.
Design the message content: This is an absolutely critical component. Effective messages can make or break a promotional effort.
Select the means for communications, whether advertising, public relations, direct marketing sponsorship etc.
Define the mix of media, budget and priorities
Measure the effectiveness of the efforts.
IMC and Brand Building
Based on the foregoing, the brand building aspects are the focus of this study. As consumers are bombarded with a variety of products to meet the same need, branding provides a way for consumers to reduce their decision making to consider only those products that they feel are relevant to them or that have met their needs acceptably in the past.
There is no question that a strong brand is an important corporate asset. Spaeth (1993) asserts that “Brand equity cannot be measured in Naira and kobo but rather, it is a direct result of how consumers value a brand based on their experiences and perceptions”. It is these experiences and perceptions that permit the brand to earn greater volume or margins than it could without the brand name. The most basic function of integrated marketing communication (IMC) is to identify brands, their sources and products, and differentiates them from others. For example, Airtel and Glo may offer the same function as a GSM service provider with similar services to a consumer. Integrated marketing communication (IMC), through sales promotion, appeal and logo (branding) differentiates one product from the other. Therefore, it can be argued that IMC helps create brand awareness and brand loyalty.
Integrated marketing communication encourages brand loyalty and helps nurture good customer/stakeholder relationship with brands Airtel formally Zain was not the first GSM operator in Nigeria. Through integrated marketing communication, it encouraged and created awareness to its customers about its transition from Zain international to Airtel. This enabled it to retain and add considerably to its market share in the telecommunication industry in Nigeria.
Integrated marketing communication (IMC) builds brand value, preference and loyalty. Airtel, through its exciting advertisements, intuitive sales promotion and public relations have created strong brand awareness in affirming its transition from Zain to Airtel. When people think of GSM in Nigeria today, Airtel will likely come to mind. It has top-of-mind awareness. It is noted worthy that other factor may have contributed to this brands acceptance despite its recent transition. For instance, the fact that it’s one of the fastest growing networks in Africa (especially in Nigeria), and its unalloyed customer relationship and compensation through various promotions and event sponsorship.
A brand is a distinguishing name or symbol designed or identify a product’s origin differentiate from others or competitors and protest its customers against imitation. Speath (1993) went on to define branding as “a process of creating an association between symbol, object emotion, perception and a product/company with the goal of deriving loyalty and creating differentiation”.
Branding builds emotional responses thus, when a brand is thought of, it evokes certain emotions. For example, in the auto-mobile, industry, it can be argued that Ferrari, Mercedes, Benz and Lexus brand evokes prestige in the minds of the users and on the lookers.
Consumers are bombarded with variety of products and brands meeting the same need or functions. Branding provides a way for consumers to reduce their decisions to products or services they is relevant or have met their need before.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
With increased competition and saturation in the market, coupled with the growth of other promotional channels such as event sponsorship and advertising, the budget share of other relevant tools of integrated marketing communication (IMC) has continued to dwindle.
In a recession, some tools of integrated marketing communication (IMC) are the first to feel the burn. Most financial managers believe that integrated marketing communication (IMC) activities cannot be measured in profits; therefore, it is a waste.
Also, some critics believe that integrated marketing communication is not effective in brand building. Ries and Ries (2002) asserts that “advertising (which is one of the tools of IMC) may not be effective in brand building they posit that it lacks credibility to build brands”.
This study therefore, intends to evaluate the impact of integrated marketing communication in the branding of Airtel and to measure the effectiveness of that campaign.
- Objectives of the Study
The objective of this is to assess how integrated marketing communication has been effective in branding and transition of Zain to Airtel. The specific objectives are:
- To explore how much awareness Airte, has been able to create due to integrated marketing communication (IMC).
- To examine the public’s perception of the Airtel brand.
- To explain in what ways, has integrated marketing communication (IMC) been able to impact on people’s attitude towards Airtel.
1.4. Significance of the Study
Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is one of the areas in mass-communication in Nigeria. The findings from this study can provide an example of the role played by integrated marketing communication (IMC) in creating brand awareness and identify. It can also add to the literature in the area of integrated marketing communication (IMC) effectiveness in building brands.
Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is a major activity in an economic system. This research provides a feedback through which integrated marketing communication (IMC) organization and clients can assess IMC effectiveness.
1.5. Research Questions
In conducting this research, the following research questions will enable us provide meaningful answers to the impact of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) on brand building.
- Is integrated marketing communication (IMC) effective in creating brand awareness of Airtel?
- Can a consumer’s exposure to integrated marketing communication (IMC) bring about brand preference?
- Can integrated marketing communication (IMC) help retain brand loyalty despite brand transition?
1.6. Research Hypotheses
H1: Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is effective in creating brand awareness of Airtel?
H0: Integrated marketing communication (IMC) cannot be effective in creating brand awareness of Airtel?
H2: A consumer’s exposure to integrated marketing communication (IMC) can bring about brand preference
H0: A consumer’s exposure to integrated marketing communication IIMC) cannot bring about brand preference?
H3: Integrated marketing communication (IMC) can help brand loyalty despite brand transition?
H0: Integrated marketing communication (IMC) cannot help retain brand loyalty despite brand transition?
1.7. Scope of the Study
This research will be restricted to Onitsha, Nnewi and Ihiala in Anambra State, Nigeria. Emphasis is on testing consumer brand awareness and perception as a result of exposure to integrated marketing communication from Airtel formally Zain especially during its brand transition.
1.8. Limitation of the Study
As the researcher carries out this study as a research there are some vital things which may tend to limit the researcher on the study some of which are:
Time: Time is a factor which limits an individual to do what you want. The researcher has a lot to carry on with little time.
Finance: During the course of this study, the researcher tends to spend money more than he bargained for at the end of the day.
Information: At times, the information being disclosed to the researcher is little or not sufficient-enough and the researcher is to strive and source for information from all directions.
1.9. Definition of Terms (Operational)
Impact: The impact of this study refers to any of the consequence of integrated marketing communication IMC on brand building whether intended or not and its effectiveness in terms of its capacity to achieve given objectives, weather this can be attracting larger audience or influencing opinion and behavior
IMC: in this study, integrated marketing communication IMC was taken to mean a management concept that is designed or fashioned to make all aspect of marketing communication such as advertising, sale promotion, public relations, and direct marketing work together as a unified force, rather than allowing each to work on its own.
Brand building: in this study brand building was taken to mean a process of convincing your prospective customers to see you as the only provider of solution to their problem through a consistent and effective communication effort.
Transition: here transition means the period within which Zain changed to Airtel.