Revisiting the IMC construct: a revised definition and four pillars

Jerry Kliatchko
University of Asia and the Pacific


The breadth and depth of academic research in the field of integrated marketing communications (IMC) has come a long way since its initial conceptualisation as a formal field of study in the late 1980s and early 1990s. From the pioneering work of Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, in cooperation with the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and the Association of National Advertisers in the United States in 1991 to the mid-2000s, scholarly work on IMC has evolved from a limited view of coordinating communication tools to a strategic process (Madhavaram et al. 2005).

A review of IMC articles published in academic journals (i.e. this study excludes textbooks and other trade publications on the subject, but includes one white paper on IMC gathering views of several scholars) from 1990 to 2006 shows that recurring themes and issues emerge, particularly those related to the theoretical development and definitional issues of the IMC concept. A few, more in-depth, literature reviews on IMC have been undertaken and sufficiently discussed by other scholars in the recent past, and therefore will not be repeated here. Of particular interest are those undertaken by Swain (2004), which tackled key areas on the definition, acceptance, leadership and measurement issues on IMC; Jones et al. (2004) on an excellent discussion of the historical and theoretical perspectives and development of the IMC concept; and myself (2005) on the different points of view surrounding the articulation of the IMC concept since its inception. My intention, therefore, in the discussion that follows, is to examine the trends in IMC research through time, since the initial academic literature on the topic emerged in the early 1990s up to the present time of this study (i.e. 2006). Moreover, this review limits itself to an evolutionary and cursory approach of examining academic research on IMC, and makes no claim that this selection of academic journal articles is complete.