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INTEGRATED MARKETING COMMUNICATION (IMC) AND BRAND

IDENTITY AS CRITICAL COMPONENTS OF BRAND EQUITY STRATEGY


A Conceptual Framework and Research Propositions
Sreedhar Madhavaram, Vishag Badrinarayanan, and Robert E. McDonald
ABSTRACT: This paper presents integrated marketing communication (IMC) and brand identity as critical components
ot the firm's brand equity strategy. Specifically, the authors provide a brand equity strategy schematic that details (1) the
role of IMC in creating and maintaining brand equity, and (2) the role of brand identity in informing, guiding, and
helping to develop, nurture, and implement the firm's overall IMC strategy. The authors also present a conceptual framework
with testable research propositions toward IMC theory development. Finally, a discussion of implications for academics
and practitioners is provided, and opportunities for future qualitative and quantitative research are suggested.

Forpracritioners, integrated marketing communication (IMC)


has (I) become widely accepted, (2) has pervaded various levels within the firm, and (3) has become an integral part of
brand strategy that requires extensive brand development activities within the firm betore beginning any external brand
communications efforts. Regarding academics, Vargo and
Lusch (2004) argued in a recent paper that marketing is evolving toward a dynamic and evolutionary processone that is
based on a service-centered view. In keeping with this evolution, Vargo and Lusch (2004) suggest that (1) IMC should
replace diverse, limited-focus promotional tools, and (2) brand
management should be used for initiating and maintaining a
continuing dialogue with the customers and for enhancing
relationships.
Kitchen et al. emphasize that "strategically oriented integrated /?rarid communications can help businesses move forward in the highly competitive world of the 21st century"
(2004, p. 28, italics added). For Schultz (1998), brands are
central to this integrated marketing communication. Keller
(199.3) points out that customer-based brand equity emanates
from the consumer's familiarity and strong, favorable associations with the brand. For Keller, "marketing communications

Sreedhar Madhavaram (Ph.D., Texas Tech University) is an assistant professor of marketing, Department of Marketing, Nance College of Busine.ss Administration, Cleveland State University.
Vishag Dadrinarayanan (M.B.A., Institute for Technology and
Management, India) is an assistant professor of marketing. Department of Marketing, McCoy College of Business Administration,
Texas Srate University-San Marcos.
Robert E. McDonald (Ph.D., University of Connecticut) is an assistant professor. Department of Marketing, Rawls College of Business Administration, Texas Tech University.

represent the voice of a brand and the means by which companies can establish a dialogue with consumers concerning
their product offerings" (2001, p. 823). That is, marketing
communication may provide the means for developing strong,
customer-based brand equity (Keller 2003). Furthermore,
marketing communications help the firm in eliciting favorable responses from customers (Duncan and Moriarty 1998).
Although a number of factors influence customer-based brand
equity, including product, price, and distribution, in this paper, we focus on the influence of IMC on brand equity.
Recently, Kitchen et al. (2004) observed that IMC has
evolved from being a mere "inside-out" device that brings
promotional tools together to being a strategic process associated with brand management. Further, Naik and Raman
note that IMC emphasizes "the benefits of harnessing synergy across multiple media to build brand equity of products
and services" (2003, p- 375). In this paper, however, by taking the works of several researchers (e.g., Duncan and Moriarty
1998; Jap 1999; Reid 2003), we conceptualize interactivity,
strategic consistency, and complementarity as synergy constructs. Therefore, noting the intricate relationship between
IMC and brand management, this paper aims to explore IMC
as an integral part of a firm's overall brand equity strategy.
But what is a brand equity strategy? Hunt notes, the fundamental thesis of brand equity strategy is that, to achieve
competitive advantage and, thereby, superior financial performance, firms should acquire, develop, nurture, and leverage an
effectiveness-enhancing portfolio of brands' (forthcoming).
Analogously, we define brand equity strategy as a set of processes that include acquiring, developing, nurturing, and leveraging an effectiveness-enhancing, high-equity brand or
portfolio of brands. By high equity, following Keller's (1993)
definition of customer-based brand equity, we mean the strong
and highly favorable brand associations of customers. Keller
Jotinial af Adveriiiing, vol. 3'1, ni>. 4 (Winter 2{IO5), pp. 69-80.
2005 American Atademy of Advenisinji, All tights reserved.
ISSN 0091-3367 / 2005 9.5O * 0.00.

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(1993) defines brand equity as the differential effect of brand


knowledge on consumer response to the marketing of che
brand and suggests brand awareness and brand image as the
constructs related to customer-based brand equity.
Keller (2003) notes char the firm s marketing communications contribute to brand equity. That is, effective communication enables the formations of brand awareness and a positive
brand image. These then form the brand knowledge structures, which, in turn, trigger the differentiated responses that
constitute brand equity. Following Schultz (2004a), we define IMC strategy as a set of processes that include the planning, development, execution, and evaluation of coordinated,
measurable, persuasive brand communications programs over
time with consumers, customers, prospects, employees, associates, and other targeted, relevant external and internal audiences. Therefore, effective IMC is an integral pare of an
effective brand equity strategy. Furthermore, effective IMC
potentially enhances the effectiveness of the firm's portfolio
of brands, and hence, could positively influence brand equity.
Recently, a shift was observed in the branding literature
(de Chernatony 1999) from a singular focus on the importance of brand image, or consumers' perceptions of brand differentiation, to include a focus on btand identity (Aaker 1996;
Kapferer 1997; Keller 2003; Upshaw 1995). Though multiple conceptualizations of brand identity exist, this paper uses
Aaker's (1996) conceptualization; that is, brand identity is
seen as a unique set of brand associations that a brand strategist aspires to create or maintain. Further, we define brand
identity strategy as a set of processes that include the coordinated efforts of the brand strategists in (1) developing, evaluating, and maintaining the brand Identity/idendties, and (2)
communicating the brand identity/identities to all individuals and groups (internal and external to the firms) responsible
for the firm's marketing communications. This paper proposes that an effective brand identity strategy informs, guides,
and helps to develop, nurture, and implement the firm's overall
IMC strategy, which In turn contributes to the firms brand
equity.
Over the last two decades, marketing researchers, to varying degrees, have focused on and studied IMC, brand equity,
and brand identity. While the three streams of research do
cross-reference each other, no research study has explicitly
conceptualized any specific relationships among the three
concepts. This paper argues that IMC strategy is essential to
the firm's strategic brand management and that it strengthens the interface between the firm's brand identity strategy
and its customer-based brand equity, that is, brand awareness
and brand image. Specifically, this paper argues that IMC strategy and brand identity strategy are critical components of the
firm's overall brand equity strategy. The firm's brand identity
strategy forms the basis for the firm's overall IMC strategy
and, hence, contributes to the firm's brand equity.

Specifically, we propose a conceptual model of brand equity in which the aspirational brand identity guides IMC in
an effort to develop and maintain customer-based brand equity. The essence of this brand equity strategy is that by clearly
and consistently communicating the brand identity to other
brand stewards, the brand strategist can ensure a more synergistic and effective IMC. This, in turn, leads to stronger customer-based brand equity. An ideal outcome of such a strategy
would be a consumer-held brand image that is congruent with
the strategist's intended brand identity.
I

'

EVOLUTION OF IMC
In the past decade, IMC as a research area has generated a lot
of debate, led to intellectual discourse, and overall, has contributed to the evolution of IMC as a strategic tool that can
help firms to be more effective in realizing their brand communication goals. Given (1) the explosive growth of new electronic media (Bezjian-Avery, Calder, and Iacobucci 1998), (2)
the numerous and diverse means of communication and communication options (Keller 2001), (3) the speed, span, and
reach of electronic communication, which is driving firms to
adopt a global perspective (Kitchen and Schultz 2003), and
(4) the rapidly changing advertising environment (Gould
2004), IMC theory and practice has grown and evolved. This
section provides a brief overview of the evolution of IMC (as
shown in Table 1) in terms of (1) its conceptual development,
(2) its strategic role in brand equity, and (3) its importance as
a major communications development.
Conceptual Development

'

IMC has a come a long way from being conceptualized as the


coordination of communication tools for a brand (Krugman et
al. 1994) to a more strategic conceptualization (Duncan 2002;
Percy, Rossiter, and Elliott 2001; Schultz 2004a). As Carlson,
Grove, and Dorsch (2003) note, the initial conceptualizations of IMC were somewhat blurred and led to the adoption of different approaches to creating messages. Even after a
decade of research in the IMC area, differences still exist among
researchers as to the conceptualization of IMC. For example,
Cornelissen and Lock (2000) claimed IMC to be a "management fashion" rather than a theoretical concept. In reply,
Schultz and Kitchen (2000) argued that IMC is an emerging paradigm whose progression as a concept and discipline
is entirely appropriate and in accordance with scientific
theory. Recently, Gould (2004) noted that though IMC remains a controversial theoretical concept, it could be a powerful theoretical tool when viewed from a poststructural
paradigmatic perspective on theory. Therefore, it can be inferred from the preceding discussion that IMC as a theoretical concept is on the right path in terms of attracting and

Winter 2005

71

TABLE I
The Evolution of Integrated Marketing Communications
IMC has evolved from . . .

To...

Tactical orientation

Strategic orientation

Schultz (2004a). McArthur and Griffin


(1997). Duncan (2002)

Local

Global

Kitchen and Schultz (2003)

Emerging development

Major communication development

Kitchen and Schultz (2003)

"Inside-out"

"Outside-in" customer-oriented

Kitchen and Schultz (2003)

Managerial fashion

New management paradigm

Schultz and Kitchen (1997, 2000)

Emerging paradigm

Representing a paradigm shift

Gould (2004)

Representing an emic-etic gap

Representing a poststructural set of


practices and discourses

Gould (2004)

"What is it?"

"How can we do it?"

Schultz and Kitchen (1997)

Most basic notion of coordinating


all corporate communications

A multistage model incorporating a


focus on all contacts with consumers

Swain (2004)

Just a communication process

One associated with management


and brands

Kttchen et al. (2004)

generating an informed, intellectual discourse from various


concerned researchers.
Strategic Role of IMC in Brand Equity
Kitchen et al. (2004) point out that IMC is no longer just a
communication process, but a process associated with management and brands. Furthermore, for Kitchen et al. (2004),
IMC involves managing marketing communications in a holistic manner to achieve strategic objectives. The fmdings of
McArthur and Griffm (1997) that the responsibility for marketing communications is clearly becoming an internal, upper management affair suggests that IMC is evolving to be
strategically oriented rather rhan tactically oriented.
Importance of IMC
Does integrating all marketing communications actually matter? Why is IMC being hailed as a major communications development of the 21st century? A few recent studies (e.g.,
Carlson, Grove, and Dorsch 2003; Naik and Raman 2003; Reid
2003) suggest and provide support for the idea that IMC provides various benefits for firms. Naik and Raman (2003) indicate that IMC helps firms in building the brand equity of
their products and services through synergy. Similarly, Reid
(2003) provides support for his contention that integration
of marketing communications is related positively to a firm's
brand-related performance, In the services context, Carlson,
Gove, and Dorsch (2003) indicate that successful IMC can
generate desirable customer responses. Therefore, we contend that IMC potentially can make firms more efficient

and/or effective in communicating with their intended target markets, and in turn, can help firms in achieving superior
financial performance through higher brand equity. In the
next section, we present and discuss IMC strategy and brand
identity strategy as critical components of the firm's overall
brand equity strategy.
BRAND EQUITY STRATEGY
Building and properly managing brand equity is a priority
for many firms (Keller 2003). Keller (1993) points out that
building brand equity requires (1) internal brand identity efforts, and then, (2) integration of brand identities into the
firms overall marketing programs, such as product, price,
advertising, promotion, and distribution decisions. Furthermore, Keller (1993) suggests that the strength of the firm's
brand equity from communications depends on how well
the brand identities are integrated into the supporting marketing programs. In addition, Keller (2003) calls for effective strategies for integrating marketing communications
in building and maintaining brand equity. Although all
marketing programs, such as product, price, advertising,
promotion, and distribution, can potentially create and
maintain brand equity, in this paper, we focus on the role of
the firm s marketing communication efforts in a brand equity strategy. Specifically, as shown in our brand equity schematic (see Figure 1), we propose brand identity strategy and
IMC strategy as critical components of the overall brand
equity strategy.
How does IMC contribute to a firm's brand equity? Schultz,
Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn (1993) conceptualize the effects

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The Journal of Advertising

FIGURE I
Brand -Equity Strategy: A Schematic

Brand
equity
interface

Brand
identity
interface
Brand
identity
strategy

Brind
identity
contacts

IMC
strategy

BIrand
equity
contacts

Brand
Equity

1
1

Environment, competitors' brands, and changing customer needs and preferences

Source: Madhavaram (2004).

of integrated marketing communication in terms of "contacts."


According to Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Liuiterborn (1993),
a contact is any information-bearing experience that a customer or prospect has with the brand, including word of mouth
and the experience of using the product. Ail of these contacts
with customers can potentially influence che firm's brand equity. As Keller (2001) notes, customers or prospects can also
have contact with the brand through marketer-controlled communication, including (1) media advertising, (2) direct response and interactive advertising, (3) place advertising, (4)
point-of-purchase advertising, (5) trade promotions, (6) consumer promotions. (7) event marketing and sponsorship, (8)
publicity and public relations, and (9) personal selling. There
is ample evidence in the literature that suggests that various
marketing communications influence brand equity, including advertising (Aaker and Biel 1993; Cobb-Walgren, Ruble,
and Donthu 1995), sponsorship (Cornwell, Roy, and Steinard
2001), and various alternative communication options
(Joachimsthaler and Aaker 1997). Hence, in this paper, following (1) Keller, who notes chat one important purpose of all
marketing communications is co contribute to brand equity,
and (2) Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterbom's (1993) notion
of marketing communications through "contacts," we argue

that firms can use IMC to achieve high brand equity through
marketer-controlled brand contacts.
We now introduce the concepts of brand identity concaccs
and brand equity contacts. Braiui identity contacts are all message-carrying interactions concerning the brand between the
brand stracegiscs and che brand stewards. Brand stewards are
all internal and external entities (individuals and groups) that
have responsibility for communicating che brand to customers, prospects, and publics (de Chernacony 1999). Brand stewards can include advertising and public relations agencies,
direct marketers, and salespeople. Brand equity contacts are all
marketer-sponsored interactions concerning the brand between
brand stewards and customers, prospects, and publics that
are intended to create or maintain strong and highly favorable associations.
As shown in Figure 1, we propose that firms that are better able to influence their IMC through their brand idencity
contacts will be better able co influence their brand equity
through their brand equity contacts. Internal brand identity efforts are the first seep toward firms building their
brand equity (Keller 2003). We argue that there are cwo
interfaces that fall within the purview of the firm's overall
brand equity strategy; (1) the interface between the firm's

Winter 2005
IMC strategy and brand equity, and (2) the interface between
the firm's brand identity strategy and IMC strategy. Furthermore, we propose that while the former interface can be influenced through brand equity contacts, the latter interface can
be influenced through brand identity contacts. Also, the
firm s overall brand equity strategy is influenced by the
feedback loop from the firm's customer-based brand equity to the firm's brand identity strategy, external environment, competitors" brands, and changing customer
needs and preferences.
IMC and Brand Equity
The traditional communication process (Lasswell 1948), which
depicts the flow of messages from senders to receivers via elements such as encoding, media, and decoding, has undergone
noticeable changes and has evolved into a more interactive
and dynamic process (Kotler 2003). However, the traditional
framework is still followed as a guideline for understanding
and describing the brand communication process. Under the
emerging interaction-focused view of brand communications,
there is an extensive focus on brand contacts. It is now widely
accepted that (1) although communication is but one of the
drivers of brand equity, it is nonetheless a crucial one, (2)
brand communication is transmitted through a combination
of vehicles rather than broadcast advertising alone, (3) brand
communication can be meticulously planned or unplanned,
and (4) some important brand (equity and/or identity) contacts are not controllable by the brand strategist (Duncan and
Moriarty 1998; Schultz 2003).
Integrated marketing communication has been advanced
as a strategic business process that could contribute to building brand value (Schultz 2004a). Although systematic research
on several strategic and tactical aspects of IMC is gaining
momentum, it is widely accepted that effective communication is critical in enabling the formation of brand awareness
and brand image, that is, brand equity. Brand equity has been
identified as a valuable source of competitive advantage for
many organizations (Aaker 1991; Bharadwaj, Varadarajan, and
Fahy 1993; Keller 1998). Given the importance of brand equity, it is not surprising that many organizations devote considerable amounts of resources to developing strategies that
will allow them to build and/or maintain strong brands
(Schultz and Barnes 1999). For Duncan and Moriarty (1998)
and Duncan (2002), marketing communications is the glue
that enables the connection between the firm's efforts and
customers' favorable responses. .
As Schultz (20()4b) notes, brand equity is not merely built
through independent forms of communication (such as advertising or public relations), but is generated by managing
brand equity contacts via IMC. IMC, with synergy among
the various communications vehicles as its fundamental con-

73

cept, could potentially create the greatest persuasion effect


in consumers" encounters with brand contacts (Chang and
Thorson 2004). Indeed, based on their empirical study, Naik
and Raman (2003) conclude that by adopting an IMC perspective, marketers harness synergy across multiple communication vehicles to build brand equity across products
and services.
Brand Identity Strategy and IMC
Creating and maintaining a brand identity is regarded as the
first step toward building strong brands (Aaker 1996; Keller
2003). Almost a decade ago. Shocker, Srivastava, and Ruekert
(1994) claimed that research on the development and importance of brand identity is required to retain the significance
of scholarly brand management research to the practice of
marketing.
Although brand identity helps in establishing a relationship between the brand and the customer by generating a
value proposition involving functional, emotional, or selfexpressive benefits (Aaker 1996), it is extremely difficult for
brand image to match perfectly with brand identity due to
the complex nature of the communications system. According to Aaker"s (1996) conceptualization, brand image is one
of the inputs and should be an integral part of strategic brand
analysis wherein the brand strategists carefully analyze their
own existing brand image and competitors' brand images to
help them determine their own brand identity. This is represented by the feedback loop from brand equity to brand identity strategy shown in Figure 1. The feedback loop refers to
the influence of the firm's own brand equity and the environment in terms of competitors' brand equity and changing
consumer preferences and needs.
De Chernatony (1999) discusses the next stage after the
organization creates a brand identity. He contends that the
organization should consider the suitability of the intended
positioning against the brand's identity. That is, after the organization develops a unified brand, it should consider the
ways in which the identity is to be communicated to all brand
stewards (employees and agents) responsible for marketing
communication with customers, prospects, and publics. As
per de Chernatony (1999), there is a potential for conflicting
messages as different communication options have different
points of contact with different message receivers. We prescribe that brand identity should influence IMC in creating
and maintaining synergistic and effective messages. We define an effective brand identity strategy as one that informs,
guides, and helps develop, nurture, and implement the firm's
overall IMC strategy through various brand identity contacts. In the next section, we provide and discuss a conceptual framework that details how brand identity contacts and
brand equity contacts can potentially influence the firm's

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The Journal of Advertising

brand equity. In doing so, we argue that the firm's brand


identity strategy and IMC strategy are essential in maintaining effective brand identity contacts and brand equity
contacts that, in turn, contribute to brand equity.
A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
AND RESEARCH PROPOSITIONS
In the preceding section, we provided a schematic of brand
equity strategy that (1) incorporates brand identity strategy
and IMC strategy as critical components; (2) details the two
interfaces between IMC strategy and brand equity and brand
identity strategy and IMC strategy using the concept of brand
equity contacts and brand identity contacts, respectively; and
(3) discusses the need for the feedback loop from brand equity to brand identity strategy and rhe need for incorporating
analysis of the market environment, brand equities of competitors, and changing customer needs and preferences. But
is this schematic useful? Can the schematic be operationalized?
We answer in the affirmative for both questions, and respond
to calls of various researchers with reference to measurement
issues.
Based on our brand equity strategy schematic, we present
a conceptual framework and empirically testable research
propt)sitions. This conceptual framework is based on two foundational theses: (I) Effective management of brand equity
contacts leads to high brand equity, and (2) effective managemen[ of brand identity contacts leads to highly integrated
marketing communication. Drawing from IMC research,
brand equity research, and brand identity research, we propose specific relationships among brand identity factors, IMC
factors, and brand equity. Specifically, we argue that (1) brand
identity contacts can be effectively managed through brand
identity factors, including a brand identity-oriented culture,
top management support, and an internal market orientation;
and (2) brand equity contacts can be better managed through
brand equity contact fectors such as IMC synergy and IMC
effectiveness (see Figure 2).
Brand Equity
Keller conceptualizes brand equity as "the differential effect
of brand knowledge on consumer response to the marketing
of the brand" (1993, p. 2). Furthermore, Keller (1) proposes
brand knowledge as central to the definition of brand equity
and contends that high levels of brand knowledge increase
the probability of brand choice, and (2) defines brand knowledge in terms of brand awareness and image. Following
Rossiter and Percy (1987), Keller conceptualizes brand awareness as the strength of the brand trace in memory that is reflected by the consumers ability to identify the brand under
different conditions. Next, Keller defines brand image as

"perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory" (1993, p. 3). There are
ways of measuring brand equity besides customer-based
brand equity, however. For example, there are (1) financial
measures of brand equity based on stock prices (Simon and
Sullivan 1993) and potential value (Mahajan, Rao, and
Srivastava 1994), and (2) measures involving consumer behavior, such as purchase (Kamakura and Russell 1993). For
the purposes of this paper, however, we propose measuring
brand equity in terms of brand knowledge perceptions, for
two reasons: (1) If the firm has a portfolio of brands, measuring brand equity based on stock prices becomes problematic,
and (2) consumer perceptions are precursors to behavioral
manifestations of brand equity (Cobb-Walgren, Ruble, and
Donthu 1995).
Brand Equity Contact Factors

"

We propose chat the brand equity contacts can be effectively


managed through integration of marketing communications.
Therefore, factors associated with the successful integration
of marketing communications such as IMC synergy and IMC
effectiveness will be valuable in managing the brand equity
contacts and, hence, are related positively to brand equity.
IMC Synergy

Synergy is a phenomenon whereby the combined effect of


multiple activities exceeds the sum of their individual effects
(Belch and Belch 1998). Naik and Raman (2003) (1) note
that che combined impact of multiple communication activities can be much greater than the sum total of their individual effects, and (2) use modeling to furnish empirical
evidence of synergy between television and print advertising.
Reid (2003) makes a similar claim, arguing that through IMC,
firms can atcain synergy among all of their marketing communications, which, in turn, leads to enhanced performance.
Following the works of Duncan and Moriarty (1998), Eagle
and Kitchen (2000), and Hines (1999). Reid notes that synergy ensures char the use of multiple communication tools is
mutually reinforcing. Therefore, following Belch and Belch
(1998). Duncan and Moriarty (1998), Eagle and Kitchen
(2000), Hines (1999), Jap (1999), Naik and Raman (2003),
and Reid (2003), we conceptualize interactivity, strategic consistency, and complementarity as synergy constructs. For
Duncan and Moriarty (1998), interactivity refers to che processes thac link customers to che company and its brands, and
strategic consistency refers to the coordination of all messages in
the promotion of brands. In addition, we contend chat
complementarity of marketing communications, which refers
to che reinforcing effects of individual communication efforts, helps in achieving communication goals chac are be-

Winter 2005 75

FIGURE 2
A Conceptual Framework

Brand identity contact factors

Brand equity contact factors

Brand
identityoriented
culture

IMC synergy
Constructs
Interactivity
Interactivity consistency
Complementary

Top
management
support

Brand equity
A wareness
Image

IMC
etTectiveness
Internal
market
orientation

Suurct: Madhavaram (2004).


Note: IMC = integrated marketing communitation.

yond the individual communication options. Therefore, we offer the following propositions linking IMC synergy with brand
equity:
Pla: Positive interactivity is related positively to hrand
awareness.
Plb: Positive interactivity is related positively to brand image.
P2a: Strategic consistency is related positively to hrand
awareness.
P2b: Strategic consistency is related positively to brand image.
P3a: Complementarity is relatedpositively to brand awareness.
P3b: Complementarity is related positively to brand image.

IMC Effectiveness
Synergy among the various marketing communication activities should potentially make IMC more effective. Adapting
the business performance measures used by Jaworski and Kohli
(1993) and Narver and Slater (1990), we propose that IMC
effectiveness can be measured as the perception of firms as to
the effectiveness of their IMC efforts compared with their
competitors" IMC efforts. For example, the key informants
from the firms can provide the assessment of IMC effectiveness when compared with competitors' IMC programs. Hence,
as harnessing synergy through IMC builds brand equity of
products and services (Naik and Raman 2003), effective IMC
leads to higher brand equity. Naik and Raman (2003) dem-

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The Journal of Advertising

onstratc a link between IMC synergy and sales. We posit that


an increase in cuscomer-ba.sed brand equity is a mediating
factor in this relationship.
P4a: Positive interactivity
effectiveness.

is related positively

P4b: Strategic consistency is related positively


effectiveness.

will be better at integrating their marketing communications. Therefore:

to IMC

P6a: Brand identity-oriented culture is related posititJely to


positive interactivity.

to IMC

P6h: Brand identity-oriented culture is related positively to


strategy consistency.

P4c: Complementarity is related positively to IMC effectiveness.


P5a: IMC effectiveness is related positively to brand awareness.

P6c: Brand identity-oriented culture is related positively to


IMC complementarity.
P6d: Brand identity-oriented culture is related positively to
IMC effectiveness.

P3b: IMC effectiveness is related positively to hrand image.


Top Management Support

Brand Identity Factors


Tbe identity of the brandthe brand concept from the brand
strategist's perspectiveis rhe tbundation of a good brandbuilding program (Joachimsthaler and Aaker 1997). Furthermore, the brand identity helps the brand achieve high equity.
Therefore, this paper proposes that a well-conceived and wellcommunicated brand identity contributes co building brand
equicy by positively influencing che IMC processes. That is,
ic proposes that by effectively managing brand identity contacts (those between che brand strategist and the brand stewards) through (1) a brand identity-oriented culture, (2) top
management support, and (3) an internal market orientation,
firms can effectively inform and integrate their marketing
communications.

Brand Identity^rhnted

Cult$/re

Reid (2003) suggests that IMC synergy and IMC effectiveness are based on cultural and managerial factors. Recently,
Urde (1999) introduced the concepc of brand orientation
tliat is centered on brand identity. For Urde, "brand orientation is an approach in which the processes of che organizacion revolve around the creation, development, and
protection of hrand identity in an ongoing interaction with
target customers with the aim of achieving lasting competitive advantages in the form of brands" (1999, pp. 1 17-118;
emphasis added). Throughout his paper, Urde draws parallels between his concepts of brand orientation and market
orientation. Therefore, drawing on similarities between
Urde's notion of brand orientation and Slater and Narver's
(1995) conceptualization of market orientation as a culture,
we conceptualize brand identity orientation as a culture that
(1) places high priority on rhe profitable creation and maintenance ot brand idenriry/identities, and (2) provides norms
for behavior regarding the organizational development of
and responsiveness to brand identity-related information.
We argue tbat firms with a brand identity-oriented culture

For Joachimsthaler and Aaker (1997), a clear and effective


brand identity should have understanding and buy~in throughout che firm. Furthermore, they observe that many U.S. companies (1) do not have a single, shared vision of cheir brand's
identity, and (2) allow the brand co drift, driven by the oftenchanging tactical communication objectives of product or market managers. Also, many times, the identity of the brand gets
lost along che way to che customer. But how .should che firm
ensure that all brand stewards responsible for marketing communications understand the brand identity? We argue that there
should be top management support for ensuring the effective
management of all possible brand identity contacts.
Schultz and Kitchen (1997) surveyed agencies and found
chac in the opinion of the agencies, marketers or firms should
take the responsibility for integrating various marketing communication efforts. That is, many agencies seem to believe
that, given client support and commitment to the integration process, chey can create effective marketing communication programs. Schultz (1998) notes brands to be central to
integrated marketing communication. Further, Joachimsthaler
and Aaker (1997) recommend that one person or team inside
the firm should be responsible for che brand. In addition, chey
claim thac the challenge is co create a strong, dear, rich identity and to ensure that the implementation groups (the brand
stewards), whether inside or outside the company, understand
thac identity. As obtaining support from senior management
is often essential in strategy implementation (Whitney and
Smith 1983), we contend that as a pan of implementing the
brand identity strategy, the support of top management can
ensure chat everyone responsible tor marketing communications understands the firm's brand identity and, thus, can successfully integrate its marketing communications.
P7a: Top management support is related positively to positive
interactivity.
P7h: Top management support is related positively to strategic
consistettcy.

Winter 2005
P7c: Top management
complementarity.

support is related positively

to

Pld: Top management support is related positively to IMC


effectiveness.

Internal Market Orientation

Among other things, relationship-marketing theory highlights the importance of personal interactions for employees
within the firm. That is, as Duncan and Moriarty (1998) note,
in order for firms to integrate their external marketing communication, they should first achieve that integration internally. Hacketal. (1998) note that IMC requires, as a precursor,
a high degree of interpersonal and cross-functional communication within the organization, across business units. Also,
firms often use external agencies/firms for their marketing
communications purposes. That is, many employees who are
responsible for marketing communications may not be employees of the marketing firm. Gummeson (2002) labels all
such employees as "part-time marketers." In order for the firm
to implement a successful brand identity strategy, full-time
and part-time marketers of the firm need to supply each other
with all the required information so they can agree on specific
identities for individual brands. Employees can be influenced
most effectively through the concept of internal marketing,
and hence can be motivated to be customer conscious by applying marketing-like approaches and activities internally
(Gronroos 1982). That is, the success of an external marketing program such as marketing communications is dependent on internal market orientation (Piercy 1995). Recently,
Lings (2004) proposed that (1) internal market orientation
has a positive relationship with internal aspects of firm performance, and (2) internal aspects of firm performance have
positive relationships with the external aspects of performance.
Therefore:
P8a: Internal market orientation is related positively to positive
interactivity.
P8b: Internal market orientation is relatedpositively to strategic
consistency.
P8c: Internal market orientation is related positively to
complementarity.
P8d: Internal market mentation is related positively to IMC
effectiveness.

DISCUSSION
Consistent with recent developments in the understanding
and application of IMC, the proposed conceptual framework
(1) applies IMC as an integral element in a successful brand

77

equity strategy; (2) treats IMC as a strategic activity rather


than as a tactical activity; (3) places in the hands of the brand
strategist the responsibility for the development and coordination of the IMC program through its brand identity strategy; and (4) incorporates feedback from customers, prospects,
and competitors into the brand identity strategy. The focus
on brand identity enables the marketing firm to accurately
and consistently communicate this identity, through brand
identity contacts, to those brand stewards responsible for developing and implementing the IMC strategy. A fundamental
thesis of this work is that these brand identity contacts will
lead to a more synergistic and effective IMC program. The second fundamental thesis is that such an IMC program will lead
to stronger brand equity through brand equity contacts.
The testable propositions suggest that certain characteristics of the firms will lead to a more synergistic and effective
IMC program. These characteristics include a brand identityoriented culture, top management support for the brand identity, and internal market orientation. Furthermore, the more
synergistic (i.e., consistent, interactive, and complementary)
and effective the IMC program, the higher the resulting brand
equity. As used here, brand equity means strong brand awareness and a favorable brand imagea brand image that is congruent with the aspirational brand identity.
Our brand equity schematic and conceptual framework have
many implications for practitioners. The successful application of the proposed framework begins with a "fully defmed
and operational zed" brand identity. Therefore, firms should
focus on efforts that define and develop brand identity. Next,
the brand managers and employees of the firm should concentrate on communicating that btand identity to every individual responsible for the firm's marketing communications
efforts. After the brand managers clarify their aspirations for
the brand, and are able to clearly and accurately communicate these aspirations to the brand stewards, the IMC program should commence. Whether internal or external to the
marketing firm, if the brand srewards have a clear and accurate understanding of the brand identity, they are better able
to develop a comprehensive, strategic IMC program that more
clearly and accurately communicates that brand identity. Finally, feedback from customers, prospects, and publics regarding the brand awareness and image, along with feedback from
other entities in the environment, including competitors, will
enable the brand owner to adjust its brand image strategy,
and/or its IMC strategy. Therefore, the firm should pay particular attention to brand-related market information from
the environment.
With reference to academics, the conceptual framework
and research propositions that are presented in this paper answer the call for research on (1) the role of IMC in brand equity, (2) the relationship and interaction between IMC and
brand management, and (3) more theoretical work in the do-

78

The Journal of Advertising

main of IMC research. By integrating the works of various


researchers, this paper provides a theoretical foundation in
[he form of a conceptual framework. It should be noted, however, that what we present here is a conceptual framework
and not the conceptual framework. We expect this paper to
generate a more intellectually stimulating and informed debate that contributes to IMC research. Toward the goal of
developing a high-quality IMC research program, we look
forward to critiques, extensions, and rivals to our proposed
conceptual framework.
The testable research propositions that we have developed
from our conceptual framework and che works of various researchers provide evidence thac we are on che right pach coward developing IMC theory. Again, we hope that in addition
to our future research in this area, IMC as a field of research
can accracc more scholars to develop a robust IMC theory. Here,
we present a few directions for future research.
FUTURE RESEARCH
The proposed conceptual framework and the testable research
propositions offer multiple avenues and opportunities for future IMC research. Various qualitative and quantitative scudies would be appropriate for chis endeavor. With reference to
qualitative research, case studies could follow the brand equity strategy of a single brand, or a portfolio of brands, through
brand identity development and IMC scracegy chrough co
brand equity. Such studies may provide a rich understanding
of the brand equity strategy process. In addition, depth interviews of brand managers, marketing communication managers, and employees of agencies responsible for marketing
communications could provide further insights into enriching che conceptual framework and the research propositions.
Focus group discussions among select groups of customers
exposed to the firm's proposed communication options could
provide additional inputs for better integrating the marketing communications.
Wich reference co quancicacive scudies, the proposed concepcual framework can be empirically cesced. Mechods such
as survey research could potentially offer more generalizable
results. Published scales are available for several of the constructs in the proposed framework. Scales for che remaining
constructs can be developed using items adapted from other
scales or created anew. Using surveys, researchers could study
the brand owner or che IMC agency. Future research could
test our conceptual framework in partschat is, (1) brand
identity factors leading co brand equity factors, and (2) brand
equity factors leading to brand equity. A more sophisticated
study mighc involve dyadic, or even criadic, research, studying the brand owner, brand stewards, and cuscomers.
Future research could also investigate other brand identity
factors thac might lead to synergistic and effective IMC pro-

grams, as well as other characteristics of che IMC program


chat mighc lead to higher brand equity. Other research might
focus on the measurement of brand equity, especially as it
relates to brand identity. Specifically, measures of brand imagebrand identity congruence should be developed. Also,
researchers could look inco organization structures and culcures that are conducive to developing efFective brand identity strategy and IMC strategy. In conclusion, we present our
paper as (1) a foundation for further theory development, (2)
a starting point for more relevant and rigorous research, and
(3) a small buc significant contribution with potential implications for academics and practitioners.

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