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What Is IMC? Integrated Marketing Communications Explained



What Is IMC? Integrated Marketing Communications Explained

Integrated marketing communications is a requirement for long-term marketing success. The effectiveness of all your marketing campaigns largely depends on it.

One can easily get lost in what it entails, though. Some universities even offer degrees in marketing communications. On top of that, there are now more media and marketing channels than ever before.

But don’t worry, we’ll only focus on the most important aspects of integrated marketing communications. In this article, we’ll go through the following:

Let’s start with a proper definition.

What is integrated marketing communications?

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is the process of unifying a brand’s messaging to make it consistent across all media that the brand uses to reach its target audience. It’s a strategic approach that guides communication and tactics used across all marketing channels.

Why is integrated marketing communications important?

Every organization uses multiple channels to communicate with its audiences. We’ve come a long way from having a relatively small number of “traditional” channels like TV, radio, newspapers, out-of-home advertising, and mailboxes. In today’s digital world, it can get difficult to keep track of all the media you can reach your potential customers with.

Focusing on multiple marketing channels at once is a necessity for many companies. This omnichannel marketing requires a strategic approach to make it all work together toward achieving marketing objectives. This is when IMC comes into play.

There are four main reasons why IMC is important:

  1. Need for consistency throughout the whole customer journey
  2. IMC helps with brand-building
  3. Properly using right mix of marketing channels helps boost campaign effectiveness
  4. IMC contributes to marketing channels reinforcing each other

Let’s expand on each point a bit more. Some of the research findings included may even change the way you look at marketing.

1. Need for consistency throughout the whole customer journey

The next time you buy something, think about when you first heard of the brand of the product, the product itself, and how you arrived at the decision to make the purchase.

Besides commodities, chances are that you’ll not buy a product the first time you see it. You usually go through a whole buying journey that may be done from start to finish on the same day (clothes) but can also span several years (cars):

Infographic of three stages of buyer's journey: awareness, consideration, and decision

This is related to the marketing funnel. It’s a model that depicts how people become customers—from first learning about the brand to making the purchase:

Funnel with four sections. From top to bottom (Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Conversion)

In principle, increasing your customer base is straightforward: get as many people to the top of the funnel as possible and minimize the leaks between stages of the funnel. The way you achieve that is, of course, much more complicated (otherwise we marketers wouldn’t have jobs).

But one thing is certain.

Communicating in a consistent and recognizable way across all your marketing channels creates a smooth customer journey throughout the whole marketing funnel.

You ideally want to build on the product and brand associations you create in the Awareness stage and guide the potential customers further down the funnel. This is what IMC largely contributes to.

Take Wise, for example. No matter when and how you encounter its communications, that will always revolve around the company promising the best exchange rates and no hidden fees for its money transfer and exchange services. This is all accompanied by blue, its brand color.

Here’s an excerpt from one of its top-of-the-funnel organic search landing pages:

One of Wise's search landing pages showing a currency converter

Then we have an example of its PR campaign:

And lastly, here are a few of its most visited PPC search ads that people can encounter further down the funnel in the U.K.:


Consistency is one of the four Cs of IMC introduced by David Pickton and Amanda Broderick in 2001 in their book, “Integrated Marketing Communications.” The other Cs stand for coherence, complementary, and continuity.

I’m covering the four Cs of the IMC model here in this article, but I refuse to refer to them as such. That’s because there’s already a more famous four Cs marketing model that refers to the marketing mix. Just be aware of the ambiguity of the four Cs.

2. IMC helps with brand-building

Let me expand on some of the previously mentioned points. Communicating in a consistent and recognizable way is a big part of brand-building. You want people to join the dots between all your campaigns to build and strengthen the set of associations they have with your brand.

It should now be obvious that you should strive to deliver the right message at the right time. But the key to brand-building lies in accompanying all your communications with brand codes to increase distinctiveness.

A brand code, or distinctive asset, is anything that you consistently use in your communications. See how this intertwines with IMC? Codifying your communications should be part of integrating it. That way, you can better link together all your campaigns, maintain salience, and bolster your brand image.

The most common brand code is a logo. Every company has one. The logo alone doesn’t cut it, though. Most companies also have certain visual styles, but that’s about it. You should strive to have three to five brand codes in total.

At Ahrefs, besides our logo and the color blue, we also have two more brand codes. The first is our custom font:

Excerpt of Ahrefs' homepage showing text with our custom font

The second is our bearded guy mascot, who’s often accompanied by a corgi. You may have noticed them in the header image of this article:

If not, here they are again:

Ahrefs' mascots holding hands/paws and moving in a circle; notably, our bearded man and corgi make an appearance in the image

One last point is regarding brand codes and IMC. When you start to think that you’re pushing the codes into your communications too much, codify even more. As marketers, we perceive this differently from the target audience. What’s overwhelming for us may just be the threshold for people consistently noticing the codes.

3. Properly using right mix of marketing channels helps boost campaign effectiveness

IMC makes you rethink what marketing channels you’re on and how you use them. There are now myriads of ways to reach people online and offline. But let’s face it: Unless you’re selling products to the mass market, you should be rather picky with your choices. You can’t likely do much with an industrial B2B product on TikTok, and it is hard to integrate that with the rest of your communication channels.

On the other hand, you should strive to have a great presence on all the relevant channels and media. Research suggests the more media channels in the mix, the more effective the campaign is likely to be. I know. It’s easier said than done, given the limited resources in every company.

Speaking of resources…

Generally, the most ideal approach to integrating your communications is to spend 60% of your budget on the brand-building part and the remaining 40% on uplifting sales. This is based on one of the most insightful and valuable marketing researches of the past two decades:

Line graph showing effects of short- and long-term focused promotion. Line for long-term generally goes up over time. Line for short-term goes up and down repeatedly over time

Your marketing channels mix should reflect the approximate 60:40 ratio. Some are more suitable for brand-building (TV, billboards, YouTube ads), while others are better for sales activation (search ads, remarketing ads). There will be overlaps in the purpose of many channels too, so don’t worry about trying to be accurate here.

4. IMC contributes to marketing channels reinforcing each other

When you do communication right, marketing channels have the ability to make each other more powerful as your company grows. This concept of “marketing flywheel” was popularized by Rand Fishkin, and the best way to explain it in detail is to show you one of the flywheel diagrams:

Flywheel cycle: attract fans, optimize funnel and reward loyal fans, launch media campaigns, build press relationships and get coverage, boost coverage

As long as your marketing channels are properly integrated, you can rely on this flywheel effect. Ahrefs is proof of that. The main marketing driver behind our growth is the long-term, compounding effect of word-of-mouth marketing combined with SEO and content marketing.

Three examples of good integrated marketing communications

Enough theory. Let’s take a look at three specific examples of well-integrated marketing communications in practice.

Patagonia – Reflecting what it stands for

There are not many companies like Patagonia, a brand that reflects core values in its communications and actions.

Patagonia constantly succeeds in making the point that it cares about the planet and sustainability. This was its Black Friday ad, for example:

Except of ad with these large words in all caps: "Don't buy this jacket." Below, cropped picture of a gray jacket

It sometimes goes way beyond anyone’s expectations, such as cutting off one of its main marketing channels for good:

This directly affects its business and goes against the practice of utilizing as many suitable marketing channels as possible. But this may be balanced by the reinforcing of its brand image and it staying true to the company values.

If that’s not enough, the company even gets political at times. Patagonia sued former President Donald Trump’s administration to support its environmental causes with this:

Clothing tag that reads, "Vote the assholes out"

I don’t know how this activism affected sales, but one thing is clear: Patagonia is consistent and believable in what it stands for. You can’t say that about many other companies promoting a “higher good.” Just recall some controversial Pepsi or Gillette ads.

Sephora – Masterclass in codifying communications

Remember the part about codifying what you put out into the world to the point where it seems exceedingly overwhelming to you? Sephora does a great job at maximizing the exposure of its distinctive assets.

First of all, it has a carefully selected palette of brand codes:

Sephora utilizes its name, the curved “S” logo (some people refer to it as “flame”), black and white stripes, and the color red as a contrasting element. These are simple yet effective when you look at the brand’s communications.

Here’s one of its sales activation FB ads running at the time of me writing this article:

Sephora's Facebook ad about its sale, the "Spring Savings Event"

Basically, when the target audience sees a cosmetic ad that’s black and white with some red elements, Sephora is most likely what comes to mind for most of them—and they may not even need to check the ad’s details.

But I think Sephora’s real-life presence is even better (from a communications and branding perspective). Its store design is a branding masterpiece:

Then you can see its customers walking around with this:

Yes, even a simple paper bag can be a tool that you can integrate with your communication strategy.

To wrap this up, here’s a good celebration and summary of its brand codes usage in a rather unusual ad format:

Ahrefs – Everything revolves around the product

It would be hypocritical to sell you the idea of implementing IMC if we didn’t adhere to its principles ourselves. So here’s an example based on our own approach to marketing and communications.

Ahrefs is a product-led B2B SaaS company. We didn’t have a single dedicated marketing team member in the first four years of our existence. We still don’t have a sales team despite being a $100M+ ARR company. The value of our SEO product is the main driver behind our growth.

We now have solid marketing operations in place, but the focus is still on the product. We don’t shy away from communicating this focus on our product even in somewhat unusual ways:

Photo of Ahrefs team and banner with rough sketches on it

Nevertheless, the most important part of our communications is product-led content. Browse through our blog, watch our YouTube videos, and check out our social media posts. You’ll encounter countless ways of our product naturally being part of the conversation:

Excerpt of Ahrefs' article about CAC

Talking about SEO and showing Ahrefs’ interface as a natural part of discussing multiple ways to reduce customer acquisition cost.

This YouTube comment on one of our videos perfectly sums up what we’re going for:

YouTube comment praising Ahrefs for our valuable and free content

We even have our own private community (made up of our customers) that gets to learn about all the news first:

Tim's post in Ahrefs Insider about Overview 2.0

But rest assured. This information then gets shared on all the other distribution channels mentioned earlier.

Final thoughts

If I have to summarize the essence of IMC and its best practices, I’ll do so with these four points:

  • Be consistent with the message you send out to the world
  • Make all your marketing channels work together in the long term
  • The more channels you use, the better—as long as you can find your audience there
  • Split your marketing budget into approximately 60% brand-building and 40% short-term sales-boosting

Basically, if you have a good marketing strategy based on solid market research, you’ll be great at IMC without even knowing you do IMC.

Got any questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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Google Updating Cryptocurrency Advertising Policy For 2024




Google Updating Cryptocurrency Advertising Policy For 2024

Google published an announcement of upcoming changes to their cryptocurrency advertising policies and advises advertisers to make themselves aware of the changes and prepare to be in compliance with the new requirements.

The upcoming updates are to Google’s Cryptocurrencies and related products policy for the advertisement of Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts. The changes are set to take effect on January 29th, 2024.

Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts are financial products that enable investors to trade shares in trusts holding substantial amounts of digital currency. These trusts provide investors with equity in cryptocurrencies without having direct ownership. They are also an option for creating a more diversified portfolio.

The policy updates by Google that are coming in 2024 aim to describe the scope and requirements for the advertisement of Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts. Advertisers targeting the United States will be able to promote these products and services as long as they abide by specific policies outlined in the updated requirements and that they also obtain certification from Google.

The updated policy changes are not limited to the United States. They will apply globally to all accounts advertising Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts.

Google’s announcement also reminded advertisers of their obligation for compliance to local laws in the areas where the ads are targeted.

Google’s approach for violations of the new policy will be to first give a warning before imposing an account suspension.

Advertisers that fail to comply with the updated policy will receive a warning at least seven days before a potential account suspension. This time period provides advertisers with an opportunity to fix non-compliance issues and to get back into compliance with the revised guidelines.

Advertisers are encouraged to refer to Google’s documentation on “About restricted financial products certification.”

The deadline for the change in policy is January 29th, 2024. Cryptocurrency Coin Trusts advertisers will need to pay close attention to the updated policies in order to ensure compliance.

Read Google’s announcement:

Updates to Cryptocurrencies and related products policy (December 2023)

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SEO Trends You Can’t Ignore In 2024



SEO Trends You Can’t Ignore In 2024

Most SEO trends fade quickly. But some of them stick and deserve your attention.

Let’s explore what those are and how to take advantage of them.

If you give ChatGPT a title and ask it to write a blog post, it will—in seconds.

This is super impressive, but there are a couple of issues:

  • Everyone else using ChatGPT is creating the same content. It’s the same for users of other GPT-powered AI writing tools, too—which is basically all of them.
  • The content is extremely dull. Sure, you can ask ChatGPT to “make it more entertaining,” but it usually overcompensates and hands back a cringe version of the same boring content.

In the words of Gael Breton:

How to take advantage of this SEO trend

Don’t use AI to write entire articles. They’ll be boring as heck. Instead, use it as a creative sparring partner to help you write better content and automate monotonous tasks.

For example, you can ask ChatGPT To write an outline from a working title and a list of keywords (which you can pull from Ahrefs)—and it does a pretty decent job.


Create an outline for a post entitled “[working title]” based on these keywords: [list]


ChatGPT's outline for a blog post. Pretty good!ChatGPT's outline for a blog post. Pretty good!

When you’ve written your draft, you can ask to polish it in seconds by asking ChatGPT to proofread it.

ChatGPT proofreading my content and making it betterChatGPT proofreading my content and making it better

Then you can automate the boring stuff, like creating more enticing title tags…

ChatGPT writing enticing title tagsChatGPT writing enticing title tags

… and writing a meta description:

ChatGPT writing a meta descriptionChatGPT writing a meta description

If you notice a few months down the line that your content ranks well but hasn’t won the featured snippet, ChatGPT can help with that, too.

For example, Ahrefs tells us we rank in position 3 for “affiliate marketing” but don’t own the snippet.

Ahrefs showing featured snippets that we don't own, despite ranking in the top 3Ahrefs showing featured snippets that we don't own, despite ranking in the top 3

If we check Google, the snippet is a definition. Asking ChatGPT to simplify our definition may solve this problem.

ChatGPT rewriting a definition and making it betterChatGPT rewriting a definition and making it better

In short, there are a near-infinite number of ways to use ChatGPT (and other AI writing tools) to create better content. And all of them buck the trend of asking it to write boring, boilerplate articles from scratch.

Programmatic SEO refers to the creation of keyword-targeted pages in an automatic (or near automatic) way.

Nomadlist’s location pages are a perfect example:

Example of a page from NomadListExample of a page from NomadList

Each page focuses on a specific city and shares the same core information—internet speeds, cost, temperature, etc. All of this information is pulled programmatically from a database and the site gets an estimated 46k monthly search visits in total.

Estimated monthly search traffic to NomadListEstimated monthly search traffic to NomadList

Programmatic SEO is nothing new. It’s been around forever. It’s just the hot thing right now because AI tools like ChatGPT make it easier and more accessible than ever before.

The problem? As John Mueller pointed out on Twitter X, much of it is spam:

How to take advantage of this SEO trend

Don’t use programmatic SEO to publish insane amounts of spam that’ll probably get hit in the next Google update. Use it to scale valuable content that will stand the test of time.

For example, Wise’s currency conversion pages currently get an estimated 31.7M monthly search visits:

Estimated monthly search traffic to Wise's currently conversion pages (insane!)Estimated monthly search traffic to Wise's currently conversion pages (insane!)

This is because the content is actually useful. Each page features an interactive tool showing the live exchange rate for any amount…

The interactive currently conversion tool on Wise's pagesThe interactive currently conversion tool on Wise's pages

… the exchange rate over time…

The exchange rate over time graph on Wise's pagesThe exchange rate over time graph on Wise's pages

… a handy email notification option when the exchange rates exceed a certain amount…

The email notification option on Wise's pagesThe email notification option on Wise's pages

… handy conversion charts for popular amounts…

The handy conversion charts on Wise's pagesThe handy conversion charts on Wise's pages

… and a comparison of the cheapest ways to send money abroad in your chosen currency:

The useful comparison table on Wise's pagesThe useful comparison table on Wise's pages

It doesn’t matter that all of these pages use the same template. The data is exactly what you want to see when you search [currency 1] to [currency 2].

That’s probably why Wise ranks in the top 10 for over 66,000 of these keywords:

Wise's keyword rankings for currency conversion pagesWise's keyword rankings for currency conversion pages

Looking to take advantage of programmatic content in 2024 like Wise? Check out the guide below.

People love ChatGPT because it answers questions fast and succinctly, so it’s no surprise that generative AI is already making its way into search.

For example, if you ask Bing for a definition or how to do something basic, AI will generate an answer on the fly right there in the search results.

Bing's search results for "definition of mental health"Bing's search results for "definition of mental health"
Bing's search results for "how to add drop down list in google sheets"Bing's search results for "how to add drop down list in google sheets"

In other words, thanks to AI, users no longer have to click on a search result for answers to simple questions. It’s like featured snippets on steroids.

This might not be a huge deal right now, but when Google’s version of this (Search Generative Experience) comes out of beta, many websites will see clicks fall off a cliff.

How to take advantage of this SEO trend

Don’t invest too much in topics that generative AI can easily answer. You’ll only lose clicks like crazy to AI in the long run. Instead, start prioritizing topics that AI will struggle to answer.

How do you know which topics it will struggle to answer? Try asking ChatGPT. If it gives a good and concise answer, it’s clearly an easy question.

For example, there are hundreds of searches for how to calculate a percentage in Google Sheets every month in the US:

Estimated monthly search volume for "google sheets percentage formula" via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerEstimated monthly search volume for "google sheets percentage formula" via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

If you ask ChatGPT for the solution, it gives you a perfect answer in about fifty words.

ChatGPT's answer to the Google Sheets percentage calculation formulaChatGPT's answer to the Google Sheets percentage calculation formula

This is the perfect example of a topic where generative AI will remove the need to click on a search result for many.

That’s probably not going to be the case for a topic like this:

Example of a topic that AI shouldn't impact too muchExample of a topic that AI shouldn't impact too much

Sure. Generative AI might be able to tell you how to create a template—but it can’t make one for you. And even if it can in the future, it will never be a personal finance expert with experience. You’ll always have to click on a search result for a template created by that person.

These are the kinds of topics to prioritize in 2024 and beyond.


None of this means you should stop targeting “simple” topics altogether. You’ll always be able to get some traffic from them. My point is not to be obsessed with ranking for keywords whose days are numbered. Prioritize topics with long-term value instead.

Bonus: 3 SEO trends to ignore in 2024

Not all SEO trends move the needle. Here are just a few of those trends and why you should ignore them.

People are using voice search more than ever

In 2014, Google revealed that 41% of Americans use voice search daily. According to research by UpCity, that number was up to 50% as of 2022. I haven’t seen any data for 2023 yet, but I’d imagine it’s above 50%.

Why you should ignore this SEO trend

75% of voice search results come from a page ranking in the top 3, and 40.7% come from a featured snippet. If you’re already optimizing for those things, there’s not much more you can do.

People are using visual search for shopping more than ever

In 2022, Insider Intelligence reported that 22% of US adults have shopped with visual search (Google Lens, Bing Visual Search, etc.). That number is up from just 15% in 2021.

Why you should ignore this SEO trend

Much like voice search, there’s no real way to optimize for visual search. Sure, it helps to have good quality product images, optimized filenames and alt text, and product schema markup on your pages—but you should be doing this stuff anyway as it’s been a best practice since forever.

People are using Bing more than ever before

Bing’s Yusuf Mehdi announced in March 2023 that the search engine had surpassed 100M daily active users for the first time ever. This came just one month after the launch of AI-powered Bing.

Why you should ignore this SEO trend

Bing might be more popular than ever, but its market share still only stands at around ~3% according to estimates by Statcounter. Google’s market share stands at roughly 92%, so that’s the one you should be optimizing for.

Plus, it’s often the case that if you rank in Google, you also rank in Bing—so it really doesn’t deserve any focus.

Final thoughts

Keeping your finger on the pulse and taking advantage of trends makes sense, but don’t let them distract you from the boring stuff that’s always worked: find what people are searching for > create content about it > build backlinks > repeat.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter X.

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Mozilla VPN Security Risks Discovered




Mozilla VPN Security Risks Discovered

Mozilla published the results of a recent third-party security audit of its VPN services as part of it’s commitment to user privacy and security. The survey revealed security issues which were presented to Mozilla to be addressed with fixes to ensure user privacy and security.

Many search marketers use VPNs during the course of their business especially when using a Wi-Fi connection in order to protect sensitive data, so the  trustworthiness of a VNP is essential.

Mozilla VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN), is a service that hides (encrypts) a user’s Internet traffic so that no third party (like an ISP) can snoop and see what sites a user is visiting.

VPNs also add a layer of security from malicious activities such as session hijacking which can give an attacker full access to the websites a user is visiting.

There is a high expectation from users that the VPN will protect their privacy when they are browsing on the Internet.

Mozilla thus employs the services of a third party to conduct a security audit to make sure their VPN is thoroughly locked down.

Security Risks Discovered

The audit revealed vulnerabilities of medium or higher severity, ranging from Denial of Service (DoS). risks to keychain access leaks (related to encryption) and the lack of access controls.

Cure53, the third party security firm, discovered and addressed several risks. Among the issues were potential VPN leaks to the vulnerability of a rogue extension that disabled the VPN.

The scope of the audit encompassed the following products:

  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for macOS
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for Linux
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for Windows
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for iOS
  • Mozilla VPN Qt6 App for Androi

These are the risks identified by the security audit:

  • FVP-03-003: DoS via serialized intent
  • FVP-03-008: Keychain access level leaks WG private key to iCloud
  • VP-03-010: VPN leak via captive portal detection
  • FVP-03-011: Lack of local TCP server access controls
  • FVP-03-012: Rogue extension can disable VPN using mozillavpnnp (High)

The rogue extension issue was rated as high severity. Each risk was subsequently addressed by Mozilla.

Mozilla presented the results of the security audit as part of their commitment to transparency and to maintain the trust and security of their users. Conducting a third party security audit is a best practice for a VPN provider that helps assure that the VPN is trustworthy and reliable.

Read Mozilla’s announcement:
Mozilla VPN Security Audit 2023

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Meilun

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