In a market environment where products and quality are becoming more and more homogeneous, the so-called communication competition is added to the classic product competition. Companies must try to be perceived differently by their target groups through professional communication. This held up Manfred Bruhn already in 2009 in one of his numerous publications firmly. Bruhn is Professor of Marketing and Management at the University of Basel. Today his books are an integral part of the training of communication professionals.
The main goal of integrated corporate communication is to anchor a positive image of the company and its products among the reference groups of a company - primarily its customers. It should "create a uniform appearance in terms of content, form and time for the target groups" (Mast 2013: 40-41). According to Manfred Bruhn (2011: 102), the coordinated use of the various measures can achieve a greater communication effect than if the individual instruments were used in isolation. In addition, integrated communication is essential because customers who are generally ready to make quick changes today are unsettled by inconsistent or contradicting communication (Mast 2013: 46).
The figure above (based on Bruhn (2009: 97)) illustrates the various forms of integration. It shows in an overview which points have to be considered in the integrated communication and indicates the respective time horizon. Therefore it is not enough if messages and statements are uniform. They must be conveyed using the same colors, fonts and key frames. Attention must be paid to continuity in the deployment planning.
In the following sections we will look at these different forms of integration in more detail:
The integration of content often represents the greatest challenge within integrated communication. It ensures that the various means of communication convey a uniform appearance (Aerni, Bruhn 2012: 31). This thematic connection of communication measures forms an important part of integrated communication. Bruhn (2011: 103) writes that in the context of content integration, all communication instruments and means are coordinated with one another using so-called connecting lines. However, this is meant more symbolically: for example, uniform core messages or key images can serve as such connecting lines.
As can be seen in the figure above, this level of integration has a long-term time horizon. Thanks to the thematic coordination and by means of uniform messages and arguments, the communication appears consistent, congruent and independent.
In contrast to content integration, formal integration is easier to implement. Here, the various instruments and means are linked to one another through design principles. Font type and size, colors, images or logos represent such formal guidelines (Aerni, Bruhn 2012: 32).
The formal integration of communication is essential!
It is very important to follow these guidelines consistently in every communication activity! Unfortunately, this is something that is often forgotten in practice. Ideally, the specifications are recorded in writing in a corporate design and are also followed for classic communication. According to Bruhn (2011: 207), difficulties often arise when it comes to the consistent implementation of the design principles in newer instruments such as direct marketing or social media communication. But here, too, there must be uniformity so that the higher communication effect much cited by Bruhn (2011) can be achieved.
On the one hand, communication measures must be coordinated with one another in terms of time, and on the other, they must be used continuously. With the temporal integration, all communicative instruments and resources are coordinated in the short to medium term, also between different planning periods. Again, the perception of a uniform appearance should be strengthened in this way (Bruhn 2011: 107). In addition, through the short-term deployment planning, an attempt is made to enable optimal timing of various measures and instruments. The continuity mentioned at the beginning serves to create a certain learning effect in the target groups. If messages change too often, this learning effect does not occur. On the contrary: If the statements of a company deviate too much over time, this not only prevents the learning effect, it can even lead to a loss of credibility (Aerni, Bruhn 2012: 33).