Marketing is an integral part of all organisations’ operations and taking into account the competitive and dynamic nature of the business environment, organisations need to adopt marketing strategies that will ensure such organisations acquire a competitive advantage over their rivals in order to ensure continued success. It is through marketing that organisations get to create value for their products in the eyes of customers and potential customers, create strong relationships with customers, and in return acquire value from such customers when they purchase products and remain loyal to the organisation. Good marketing strategies result in increased sales which translate into a high level of returns and consistent company performance. This contributes to the level of sustainable growth a company is able to achieve both in the short run and in the long run. The most important aspect of marketing is communication as it is the platform through which a company creates awareness for its products to customers and potential customers thereby enabling them to form opinions about these products and adjust their attitudes towards the products (Schultz, Tannenbaum & Lauterborn, 1993, pp. X). One of the strategies companies may choose to adopt in marketing communication is the Integrated Marketing Communications approach.
According to Shimp (2008, pp. 10), Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) refers to the communication process that involves planning, creating, integrating, and executing different aspects of marketing communication to deliver information about a product to an organisation’s target market, which is the already existing and potential customers. The different aspects of communication include sales promotions, publicity releases, advertising, sponsorship marketing, public relations, personal selling, events marketing, direct marketing, and database marketing among others. They are integrated in order to function as one as opposed to functioning individually thereby providing a holistic approach to the marketing communications process. IMC is aimed at influencing or directly affecting the target audience’s behaviour and uses different channels of communication that the targeted audience is likely to come into contact with, whether online, print and broadcast among other forms of media. The main characteristic of IMC is that the message delivered is consistent despite the channel of communication where the channel of communication is dependent on the audience the organisation is targeting. Organisations using IMC seek to maximise the impact of their message on consumers in order to increase their level of sales and thus profits while at the same time minimising related costs. All the elements of the marketing mix are integrated into this process, which are the product, price, place and promotion. The main features of an IMC include the following:
Consumer-Oriented: Due to technological advancement, consumers are becoming more and more in control of what they choose to watch and listen to when it comes to advertisements. This, therefore, means that in order for a company to successfully reach its target audience, it must carry out the necessary research to determine the mode of communication the target audience is likely to be connected to and when they are most likely to use this channel. By doing this, the organisation will be in a better position to provide consumers with information when and where they want it.
Relationship Building: IMC focuses on building relationships with both individual and group consumers who have the ability to influence the perception of other people in the market as far as an organisation and its products are concerned. Long-term value relationships with consumers are what most companies are after and IMC provides that by maintaining consistent information and quality customer services to already existing and potential consumers (Stuart, Sarow & Stuart, 2007, pp. 155).
Interacting Opportunities: Integrated Marketing Communication tools offer the consumers a chance to communicate back to the company and this way they are able to give their opinion or general feedback to the company, which in turn uses this information to serve the consumers better.
Database Use: Due to its holistic and integrative approach, IMC allows for the use of databases that contain information that is availed to everyone in the organisation, the consumers as well as other stakeholders. This means that the company can be able to communicate specific messages to specific target groups and thereby address their individual needs.
Consistent Messages: IMC allows a company to send a consistent message to target audiences since all communication operations are handled under one umbrella. This eliminates the element of confusion that may occur if, for example, a company uses different agents to advertise on its behalf, such as hiring a different company to deal with public relations issues and another to deal with promoting its products. Continuity in communication is also important as it allows customers and potential customers to acquire information when they require doing so.
Appropriate Forms of Communication: The Integrated Marketing Communications approach allows a company to use the most appropriate form of communication to pass information to particular consumers. For example, in some cases, advertising may be appropriate, in others public relations or personal selling is appropriate (Stuart, Sarow & Stuart, 2007, pp. 156). This paper seeks to discuss how Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company uses Integrated Marketing Communications in developing its promotional programs and the impact this has on the marketing and other operations of the company.
Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company
Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company, with its headquarters in Orlando, was founded in the 1980s and has since grown to become one of America’s largest private companies dealing in the selling of gourmet coffee and tea. The company prides itself in its ability to provide quality products and services across the globe where it holds a number of branches. The company offers different flavours of coffee including decaffeinated coffee (Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company, 2009, para. 1).
Barnie’s tea and company compete against both established companies and small cafes that sell similar products like the Dandelion community cafe, Infusion tea, Barney’s coffee and Tea Company located on the sand lake road, Badass coffee, the Royal Pacific Resort, and Disney’s Animal kingdom lodge.
Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company has been able to build a strong brand name for itself. The company is commonly associated with green awnings and has an extensive network of stable outlets nationally. The company’s operations have since its inception is known to be handled by experienced and respected managers in brand building. The company’s employees are also known to be very courteous to their customers and this could explain why the company has been able to remain in business since 1980. All this served as an indicator of the company’s strong image not in only Orlando, but also nationally (Everage, 2003, para, 1-6)
The Use of Integrated Marketing Communications in Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company
Just like any other organization, Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company recognises the benefits of an integrated marketing communications approach and has been using it to communicate to their customers and potential customers for a number of years. The following are some of the IMC tools used by Barnie’s in its daily operations.
Online/Internet Marketing: In the year 2000, Barnie’s agreed with Connextions.net, which is an e-commerce and fulfilment outsourcing company, in a bid to enhance Barnie’s speedily expanding internet sales division as well as to enable the fulfilment of the company’s expansion over time. Connextions.net is a private company that specialises in combining the latest e-commerce technology with day-to-day customer services in order to achieve customer fulfilment on behalf of its client companies. This agreement was set to offer support to Barnie’s direct selling to consumers over the internet as well as the distribution of its products to retail store chains, using inventory storage and management systems, customer service, order fulfilment and shipping, web application systems, project management, and customer relationship management systems developed by Connextions.net (Business Editors, 2000, para. 1-3) This partnership was warranted by the fact that in the previous year, 1999, Barnie’s had managed to make impressive mail order and e-commerce sales in Japan and California yet they did not have a local presence in the two markets. Because of this, Barnie’s management decided to explore the potential of the two markets through e-commerce management systems that would enable them to deal directly with their clients.
Direct Marketing: Direct marketing refers to the direct delivery of promotional information or messages to prospective customers on an individual basis as opposed to the use of mass communication channels. According to Franco (2001, para. 2), Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company is a strong believer in direct marketing and does so through the use of catalogues and website sales. This is despite the fact that this method of communication does not account for a large number of sales for the company. In the year 2001, sales resulting from cataloguing and website marketing resulted in a mere 5% of the total company sales but the company’s management believed direct selling as a marketing channel had the potential of growth and even exceeding sales made from its retail chain stores and has since been investing in it (para. 4).
Sales Promotion: Sales Promotions refers to those activities that are aimed at offering customers incentives on the products they buy so as to induce more sales on the part of the company. These activities are conducted for short periods of time and offer customers more of a product but for the normal price. They may include price reductions within certain periods of time, coupons, discount cards, and free gifts among others. Barnie’s uses coupons as a sales promotion technique. The company does this by mostly advertising them online. This means that customers and potential customers can easily acquire them and use them in any of the company’s retail outlets. Such coupons enable Barnie’s customers to purchase their products at lower than normal prices. The company also offers discounts on its products for customers from time to time as it seeks to improve sales. Information on such discounts and coupons offered by Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company can be found on websites such as couponcodes4u.com.
In another of its sales promotion strategies, Barnie’s came up with the concept of Barnie’s coffee clubs which enables its customers to join programs they are most comfortable with and get the benefits that come with these programs. Some of the benefits include free shipment to the members’ doorsteps, lower prices and complimentary gifts among other benefits. The membership is given for a minimum of three months and a maximum of twelve and the members are expected to adhere to certain stipulated rules (Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company, 2009, para 1-4).
Personal Selling: Personal selling refers to the model of marketing used by companies to reach their customers or potential customers by communicating to them directly and trying to persuade them into buying the company’s products. Initially, personal selling is meant to create a relationship with the individual or group of customers but the main goal is to make a sale. Barnie’s engages in personal selling campaigns where some of its employees are sent out to market its products to potential customers. This has enabled the company to increase its level of sales and increase its general performance. Most of the company’s outlets are located in malls and therefore this gives the company access to a wide range of customers and potential customers to whom it can directly market its products to.
Public Relations: According to Sriramesh & Vercic (2009, pp. xxxi), Public Relations is the form of communication used by an organisation to establish and maintain mutual relationships with the public and most importantly customers and other stakeholders in the company. It also acts as a way of introducing new products and services to the public and as such acts as a marketing tool. It is combined with other forms of promotional tools to achieve the desired results. In order for public relations communications to be effective as an IMC tool, the right media or channel of communication should be used and the message communicated should be consistent with the messages communicated through other channels such as those who engaged in other marketing and promotional strategies like personal selling, direct selling and sales promotions among others. Barnie’s uses public relations as a marketing communications tool to make press releases concerning issues such as the introduction of new products into the market and company reports such as profitability reports and new acquisitions and expansion projects. This ensures that the company’s customers are furnished with new information which they can use to make informed decisions concerning the products to purchase.
Advertising: Advertising is a marketing strategy by organisations that are intended to convince the target audience to purchase a certain company’s products. Advertisements are communicated through different channels of communication in order to reach either viewers, listeners or readers. The information included in such advertisements tells customers products or services name(s) as well as additional information that would prove beneficial to customers in the decision-making process and more so to convince them to purchase that particular product. Advertising is continuous and is aimed at reminding the target audiences of the presence of a particular brand of products in the market and the good qualities associated with that product to make it appealing to them. Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company engages in continuous advertising both in the print, audio, and visual media channels because this helps in branding their products and services in the eyes of the consumers and constantly keeps them aware of the products the company offers through repeating its product names, characteristics representing the products high quality and the name of the company which is also an important aspect of advertising.
Barnie’s Brand Image and Marketing Messages
Branding involves using names, symbols, signs, logos, design, or a combination to make organisations products or services easily identifiable by their target markets by differentiating them from other organisations similar products (Randall, 2000, pp. 5-7). It is however important for companies to note that branding is not necessarily meant to make the target market choose one company above the other but to get the target market to see the specific company as the provider of products that offer them the best solution to their problems. By doing this, the company will be in a better position to getting and maintaining a long-term relationship with the specific customer as far as long-term product use is concerned. Effective branding should therefore communicate the intended message directly and clearly, confirm the company’s credibility, motivate the buyer to purchase the product being advertised, elicit a connection with the buyer and also ensure that the buyer’s loyalty is captured and maintained over time.
Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company ensures that all its products contain their name and company logo making the products easily identifiable from different places like in retail store counters. This kind of branding is done mostly on the package of the different coffee products offered by the company and the company name is in some cases made part of the brand name of the product. The company also uses signage outside its retail stores to ensure that everyone can tell it is Barnie’s retail store or restaurant and is aware of the products being offered there. The company’s website also displays branded products with different prices which enable customers to easily identify the brand that best suits them and know how much it will cost them. Some descriptions accompany the different brand products, which appeal to the potential buyers on an emotional level and this helps them to connect with the brand by telling them what the product is likely to do for them upon consumption.
For example, on the company website under the product “NEW! 8oz European Cafe Collection” there is an accompanying explanation that enables the target market to connect with the benefit of the brand which in this case is given as a stimulating effect. The company recommends that after a hectic day as is normally the case in Europe’s urban centres, taking this brand of Barnie’s coffee would leave one feeling stimulated and refreshed (Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company, 2009, para. 1). The target market, in this case, are European’s working in the urban centres and the accompanying message is most likely to endear them into buying the particular brand of coffee.
The Company name is mentioned in all the advertising and promotional messages that are sent out to different target markets and the messages are normally consistent as far as the provision of quality, differentiated products is concerned. Store locations indicating where to get these products are also availed in these messages. The company clearly understands what customers and potential customers need both in terms of products and services and has gone a long way in offering them what they need, which is quality, affordable products, and good services at their coffee shops. This has seen the company increase their sales as they have been able to change the perception of their target audiences, customers, and potential customers through the coffee shop experiences, product branding, and the image the company has created in the coffee business as well as their other products. Barnie’s also engages in continued research in order to continue providing customers with what they need. This is an important aspect of branding as it enables companies to create products customised to the needs of their customers and helps them to have a competitive advantage over the other industry players.
According to Laura (2003, para. 1), Barnie’s succeeded in branding its products and building its image right from its signage to its customer service and the ambiance in its coffee shops and retail stores which offered a wide range of coffee brands from across the globe. All these factors played into the expectations of its customers who have always been endeared to the high quality of the company’s products.
Barnie’s Main Competitors
Barnie’s main competitor in the coffee products and retail business has been the Starbucks and McDonald’s McCafe. Barnie’s and Starbucks have always been rivals in that specific market and their presence was challenged by the entry of McCafe in the market around 2003. McCafe brought new challenges for the two companies through renewed vigour and numerous campaigns and advertisements in the media and engagement in other sales promotion tools like free drinks on specific days of the week and lower prices. This pulled away customers from the higher-priced coffee restaurants and coffee shop. Getting better reviews on their products also attracted customers to their establishments. The fact that Barnie’s has been in the industry for a long time and has already established itself in terms of its branding and product differentiation gives it an edge in the market. This is because it does not solely sell coffee in restaurants but it also sells unprepared coffee and tea products such as coffee beans which gives its customers a chance of brewing their own coffee in the comfort of their own homes. This is convenient for customers because they do not have to move out of their homes to go out for coffee in coffee restaurants every time, they feel like taking the beverage.
Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company’s Image Compared to that of its Competitors
Barnie’s company is very much different from the other competitors mostly based on its image for this it is ranked as the best performing among other companies offering these products. It is different in the following ways: –
Barnie does not follow the model of a typical café but instead, it takes the form of a mall and puts more emphasises on the coffee accessories and hardlines. In these, the customers are able to get a wide range of selection of tea and with quality customers’ service. In this, the image of the company outdoes the others making them lead the market.
In branding, the Barnie company has different types of quality merchandised, roasts with fair pricing, and gifts offers. In order to serve their customers better they deal with the franchise and outside sales hencee they are in a position to reach out to teach and every customer. This brings out the difference in customer contact.
The range of products and the operating hours differ from that of the competitors in that it does not open until 10 am this makes them miss the major hours when the customers consume the tea. With this, they focused on offering what others cannot offer through the market and product differentiation. They do not deal with beverages alone they provide other products such as beans accessories and teas so that customers can prepare their favourite drink at home. Unlike McDonald which does not open at lunchtime, Barnie’s malls remain open for this purpose.
Barnie’s is therefore benefiting from the image that it has established over the years and it still posses a big challenge to some of its top-ranking competitors. It has established itself as a strong contender in the market and has developed an image that has been well taken in the market. Compared to its competitors the company’s image is better, putting it in a better position to compete against other players in the industry
As a mall-based operator, Barnie’s has been able to develop a strong brand identity due to high customer traffic, and since there is a captive audience in malls, fewer advertising dollars are required to promote their stores. Additionally, Barnie’s has a distinct advantage over other coffee retailers whose storage space is limited and the time customers spend in the store is limited as well, in that they have greater potential to sell retail products that generate greater margins than beverage sales.
For the company to better improve its performance and ensure profitability and sustainable growth it needs to make a few adjustments in various approaches. These include the following:
Internet Marketing: Internet/Online sales in Barnie’s still do not make the company as much returns as it was expected they would and this is affecting the company’s profitability and general performance. This is because of challenges associated with operating the systems where most of the company’s employees still find it challenging to use these sales systems leading to delayed order deliveries to customers. The costs associated with training employees to use these kinds of systems are also high and therefore eat into the profits of the company. This is because the operations of the systems are sometimes too complex and require long periods of training. The ever-growing and changing information technology industry brings in new technologies, meaning the company has to adopt these technologies. Shifting from the old to the new upgraded technologies is in most cases costly. There is also the possibility of a backlog of orders especially during holiday seasons where the number of online orders grows in an unprecedented manner (Rama, 2004, para. 2-4).
To tackle these problems, the company should hire temporary employees over the holiday season to reduce the number of delays to customers or eliminate them completely as prolonged delays have a negative effect on the perception of customers towards the company which may make them cancel their orders and avoid the brand completely meaning that the company will lose in terms of its sales figures. Since the adoption of new more efficient technologies is unavoidable, the company should find ways of changing to these new technologies without affecting the operations of the company in a major way. The company should also reduce its overreliance on internet selling and continue the use of the more traditional methods of selling interchangeably with internet selling.
There is also the occasional problem of communicating inconsistent information to the public. The company should therefore ensure that cohesiveness and open communication exists between different team members in the IMC team to ensure the release of similar information to members of the public and avoid confusion. Inconsistent information affects the image of a company and the elimination of these mistakes will improve the image of the company in the eyes of the existing customers and potential customers.
The company should also engage itself in vigorous market research so that it may continue staying in touch with the preferences of the consumers as well as other market trends in order to provide better services to its customers and be able to acquire new ones. Ensuring that it is able to meet the needs of the markets will go a long way in improving the general image of the company. The physical appearance of the company is also important and it should find ways of improving such image in those stores and restaurants that have been worn down. Services in its retail stores and coffee shops should also be improved as this will keep customers coming back and help the company to maintain its already acquired market niche and attract new markets for its products.
Integrated Marketing Communications has been largely warranted by the ever-changing business market and environment both at the national and the international level due to the major influence globalisation has had on all types of businesses. In order for companies to remain competitive, they have had to come up with new marketing strategies to ensure that such competitiveness is maintained both at the national and international levels. With new entrants and the major restructuring that is taking place in different organisations as far as new technology use and the introduction of new products in the market is concerned, no company can risk being left behind.
Barnie’s Coffee and Tea Company has also adopted the new approach to marketing, which is IMC and has over time seen its benefits. The company can interact with its customers at an individual level and get feedback from them which means it can be able to produce better products that are more appealing to their customers’ needs. Using different channels to communicate information about the availability of different products has also worked for Barnie’s as customers and potential customers can easily access this information when and where they want it and as such base their purchasing decisions on it. Barnie’s also engages in different marketing and promotional strategies thereby continuously being able to capture the attention of their target market which translates to higher sales and in effect higher profits and growth for the company.
The company has also taken to passing on consistent messages to its target markets meaning that this information is taken to be credible and therefore highly acceptable by customers. IMC is centred on the customer and this has helped Barnie’s pay more attention to their customers meaning that they can easily adapt to the changing tastes and preferences of customers as well as the demand trends in the market. Customers respond to companies which they feel pay attention to their needs and by doing that, Barnie’s has been able to create long-term relationships with their customers and in effect customer loyalty. This protects them to a certain extent from their main competitors but does not mean their efforts should stop at this point, they have to do even more to maintain their already carved out market niche as well as attracting new customers in order to increase their customer base and in effect the level of their sales and general company performance.
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