More than 20 years after “integrated marketing” became a buzz word across industry sectors, CMO’s and CEO’s often continued to struggle with this proven driver of ROI. In my view, this results from a misunderstanding of the concept and ultimately, poor implementation.
In the highly fragmented consumer market and multi-platform media environment, marketing integration is more important than ever. Add the complexity of organizational structures across corporate America, and effectiveness and efficiency are highly compromised. “How do we address the Total Market? Is the U.S. Hispanic market a factor? Why not do what we’ve always done? How do we deal with so many media options and channels? What do we do with social media?
First of all, we must understand that marketing integration is a business strategy, not a campaign execution. Oftentimes however, it is easier to address integration at the executional level in a campaign; or, with the inclusion of ethnic diversity, like Hispanics in the corporate boardroom. These actions are definitely important but they do nothing to leverage the strategic potential of marketing integration. As a strategy, integration begins at the outset of the business development process.
In my view, a well-directed, successful integrated marketing process should consider the following:
- It begins with the understanding that integration needs to occur at every level, from the inside out. Commitment comes from the top and is funneled through and across the organization to ensure your multi-functional team embraces the importance of working together toward integrated solutions that work across target segments, brands, trade channels and media.
- Integrated marketing requires the involvement of the entire business organization, not only the marketing team. From manufacturing and product development through strategic planning, packaging, communications and IT, all constituents are responsible and accountable for final output and business results.
- Marketing Integration starts and ends with the customer in focus. The best product or service will not be successful if it doesn’t deliver the desired customer experience. Consumer insights and research are fundamental in the initial stage of development, as well as the clear definition of main goals and specific objectives.
- To deliver to a total market, you must seek to learn and understand the cultural nuances that drive behavior and brand relationships among culturally diverse consumers. While ethnic diversity is important, you don’t need a boardroom that looks like a United Nations general session! You need engaged, smart people that are culturally sensitive and embrace cultural differences and nuances. The outcome will be integrated marketing plans that deliver the brand in a culturally relevant manner for a culturally diverse America.
- Of course, a solid integrated marketing plan mandates an integrated communications program that is seamlessly delivered at every customer connection point. Translation or copy/paste of campaign materials or slogans just don’t cut it! In fact, it’s not even necessary to execute the same campaign components at every connection point. What works in TV may not work exactly the same way in digital or shopper marketing because consumers engage differently in their usage or habits surrounding this media.
What’s most important is that the marketing methods employed, be it mass media, social media and/or shopper marketing, are implemented in a form that’s organic to the brand and importantly, to how consumers utilize the delivery system..
- Finally, measure, measure and then measure again! Sustainability of your brand programs largely depends on measurability because results must retro-feed future planning and brand strategy. To ensure sustainability, establish clear objectives early on and clearly set up the metrics and systems that will help measure success or failure.
Today’s business environment lives and dies on ROI. More than ever the value of marketing integration is paramount to brand success and relies on synergies to deliver a stronger market impact, a more coherent consumer experience and culturally relevant messaging.