Since the pandemic, digitalisation and the use of online methods to carry out many functions, including online shopping and financial transactions, has been on the rise globally. And, in a world where everything is more connected, many brands need help to stand out from their competitors. Many startups in Southeast Asia provide goods and services. Still, they are all vying to grab the consumer’s attention, making it a challenge to guarantee that the message getting to the consumers is consistent with the brand and reaches the target audience. 

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a vital element in how companies deliver a cohesive message. It uses a combination of strategies that guarantee financial returns and helps establish a branding foothold in an already crowded market. 

Integrated marketing communications in a nutshell

IMC involve several tactics across multiple channels that help provide a unified statement aligning with the company’s mission. Using different tools and strategies, a brand will deliver a unified message to its customers that guarantees a compelling and consistent image. The channels through which the brand can deliver this message are several, but not limited to, traditional advertising, public relations via news outlets, social media interactions, events, and content marketing. The main results of this unified approach are the following: 

Brand awareness: Capturing people’s attention is and has always been king. Businesses fight to stay relevant, and the more cohesive the approach to your customers is, the more they’ll stay in the minds of the consumers. IMC strategies help reinforce vital messages, create a visual identity across multiple channels, and help create trust and credibility in the brand.

Engagement with customers: it’s vital for the public to remember you and interact with your brand. By being available through multiple channels, brands create loyalty, build a community of brand evangelists and provide an interactive experience to their clients.

Improved conversion and optimisation of resources: A unified message makes it easier for brands to send customers down the sales funnel and helps save money on advertising by streamlining marketing efforts. Whether via a press release, an Instagram-led promotion, or a fundraiser event, each channel will suit a specific purpose, avoiding redundancy in the overall marketing plan.

Challenges in Southeast Asia and IMC examples

Two main challenges Southeast Asian startups face are limited access to digital channels and high market competition. In rural areas of Indonesia, for example, a digital divide has been found between younger and older residents, according to a study by Onitsuka, Hidayat, and Huang for Kyoto University. Even though the country has the highest population of internet users, the penetration rate is still below the regional average. 

An example of high competition is the ride-hailing services market, with Grab, Gojek and Uber all competing for a foothold. How do these companies set themselves apart? 

It is difficult to talk about startups in Southeast Asia and not mention the region’s decacorn, Grab. Grab has established itself as a super app for the past few years and utilises IMC tactics in its promotion and communications. Starting as a taxi-booking service, Grab has grown into a multi-service app, providing financial, food and parcel delivery, online payment and transportation services to its 24 million monthly users

Kee, Rusdi, and Mokhtar et al., writing for the International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality In Asia Pacific, have shown how Grab has permeated the Southeast Asian market. By conducting a survey asking respondents if they recognised the Grab logo, used Grab services, and more, they show that 100% of survey respondents recognise the logo, 96.1% have used Grab services, and 73.5% of respondents have used Grab’s transportation services. Furthermore, the study highlights the company’s use of rewards and subscription benefits to attract and maintain user loyalty. 

Another key example of a startup in the region using IMC is Tokopedia’s eCommerce communication, as outlined by Fiati, Aras, Indrati, et al., from Bina Nusantara University in Jakarta, Indonesia. The online marketplace uses five critical requirements for its IMC, enabling Tokopedia to stay true to the three main elements of its DNA: Focus on Consumer, A Growth Mindset, and Make it Happen, Make it Better. 

The five IMC requirements it employs are:

  • A top-down approach that commits to the use of all communication channels.
  • Organisational agility to make quick changes if needed.
  • The use of an incentive system to create effective marketing communications programs.
  • Customer focus in accordance with the company’s first DNA.
  • Specialised training for marketing personnel and others in the company structure. 

These are just a few examples of how startups in Southeast Asia use integrated marketing communications to stay relevant in the region. The innovative businesses in ASEAN use these specialised marketing strategies to keep them on the path to becoming a major economic hub in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.