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By now you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘integrated marketing’. You’ve probably also wondered if it’s just another newly minted catchphrase – or maybe, something you should spend time adding to your marketer’s tool chest? What is integrated? How is it defined? And, does it matter to me? In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into the principles of integrated marketing and why you should be paying attention.
The fundamental promise of integrated is bold. Namely, that marketers, like us, can tell a single, contiguous, and cross-channel story about our products across any given business or consumer ecosystem. The logical conclusion of omnichannel marketing – integrated aspires to a completely connected brand experience that gives shoppers your why, how, and what, in a compelling way, on or offline. In doing so, it alludes to the holy grail of marketing – a completely connected brand experience, where customers can move fluidly between ecosystems while learning about, engaging, and conversing with your brand virtually anywhere.
More importantly, integrated marketing refers to the informed application of cross-channel marketing strategy in a way that amplifies the collective impact of your initiatives. Integrated marketing is, at its heart, a matter of communications and project management, as much as creativity and planning. When we think about the typical integrated campaign, we expect to see this amplification played out in dramatically extended reach, awareness, engagement, and in the end, conversion metrics.
But what are the defining principles of an integrated marketing strategy? How do we know an integrated campaign when we see one, and more importantly how can we build one? What separates integrated from more traditional or even similar omnichannel marketing strategies? And finally, what are its core principles – the checkpoints through which we can put our most recent strategy and plan future outreach?
You’re probably not shocked to find that the topic of “marketing operations” doesn’t pique a huge volume of interest from communications leaders. After all, most of us didn’t start a marketing career based on the drudgery of collaboration and project management methodology. Neither are marketing operations a “quick fix”. Improving them won’t make you the darling of your company’s communications program and their impact on the bottom line will take time to become apparent.
They can, however, represent one of the most rewarding and deeply transformative changes you can make to your communications program over the next five years. That’s because team collaboration and management is at the heart of some of the most elusive and impactful topics in marketing today, including brand sentiment, evangelism, and loyalty.
Integrated marketing strategies, therefore, represent a supercharged operational framework that gets to the heart of these indicators with outcome- rather than channel-based solutions. That includes the use of integrated MOPs strategies to create deep collaboration between strategic, creative, and technical experts with a deep focus on building omnichannel brand experiences. The result is a marketing operations strategy that allows brands to leverage the full power of today’s marketing ecosystem.
” The result [of integrated marketing] is deeply compelling messaging delivered at the right point in the buyer journey to influence purchasing behavior at scale.”
We can use the relationship between traditionally divergent ends of the marketing ecosystem – like SEO and public relations – as a great case to showcase the functioning and impact of integrated marketing. While experts in these areas normally wouldn’t sit on the same floor (nevermind in the same room) and have entirely different tasks and workflows, they are, in reality, deeply connected.
One generates demand for your products and services and the other optimizes them to be found by those with that demand. Collaboration on what in the past have often been described as independent arms of the marketing ecosystem can offer deep value-added insights that show how one SMEs strategy can impact another SMEs results.
By definition, omnichannel marketing offers multiple types of integrated outreach over a single timeline. In this instance, the benefit is greater than the sum of its parts. Well planned integrated campaigns have the power to bind a single cohesive brand narrative across many independent platforms, channels, and devices, each working collaboratively to deliver a single core objective. The result is deeply compelling messaging delivered at the right point in the buyer journey to influence purchasing behavior at scale.
Buyer beware – the “integrated marketing” term is sometimes co-opted to reference siloed marketing strategies running in parallel. True integration is more than that. It’s the collaborative application of these strategies in a way that tells a cohesive omnichannel story about your brand – one that shapes a buyer’s sentiment through seamless omnichannel brand storytelling. Integrated marketing isn’t just a function of scale. It’s a result of deeply collaborative planning.
“Discovery” is the experience of anticipation, met. It can be as subtle as the feeling you get opening the next door on an advent calendar or awe-inspiring as walking through Cinderella’s castle into Disneyland for the first time. A combination of anticipation, excitement, and mystery, discovery is one of the oldest elements of gamification and it’s a powerful tool.
In integrated marketing we use discovery – as shaped by interactive storytelling – to usher your audience along the path from awareness to interest to engagement, and so on. Each new experience drives a desire to gain a greater understanding of the whole. Discovery isn’t about linear stories though, it’s about completing the puzzle. The most successful integrated strategies use discovery to entice, delight, and convince.
The author Clare Boothe Luce once said that “simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”. If you’re a fan of that school, then you’re likely wondering why you’d want to force a notoriously difficult cross-channel engagement with your audience – seemingly, for the sake of doing so. Isn’t our goal as marketers to keep it simple? Get the click, drive conversions, and build the bottom line as quickly as possible. Can’t we achieve the same thing with an omnichannel campaign?
The easy answer, of course, is that you wouldn’t. Using cross and omnichannel marketing strategies synonymously is one of the most common misconceptions about the integrated approach. We use an integrated strategy to build meaningful engagement that facilitates memory recall and understanding. While omnichannel is certainly capable of conveying a message, it often accomplishes that goal through pure repetition.
It may seem like the most important application of integrated is in larger-scale dynamic campaigns with many moving parts. When we dig deeper, however, the methodology can be implemented at any level. Integrated branding, for example, seeks to communicate a story about your customers in a way that drives deep ownership via cross-channel messaging. To do that, we might build a multi-layered narrative about how these products define your customer’s lives in different places and mediums.
If we had to boil down the last decade of marketing industry growth to a couple of hard bullet points, attribution (the ability to measure each step on the customer’s path to purchase) would almost certainly be at the top of that list. Our ability to generate deep insights through omnichannel marketing strategy has almost been the exclusive progenitor of the digital revolution. While cross-channel attribution will continue to grow over the next five or ten years measurement planning for integrated strategies is still challenging and often gets left by the wayside. Don’t let great be the enemy of good though. Each step along your customer’s journey is important to understanding how your integrated campaign is moving the needle on growth. Tools like Tableau, Zapier, and Google Analytics Attribution can go a long way towards measuring both offline and online components of your campaign.
If you’re looking to build your own integrated strategy, remember to use these principles to guide your next campaign, not limit it. Integrated is a quickly evolving discipline and we’ll likely see advancements in our ability to implement it for the next decade or so. Have fun, make mistakes and let us know if you have any questions.
Omnichannel marketing offers communications leaders a powerful strategy for creating relationship-driven brand storytelling . It can be enormously effective at growing a loyal following, but delivering on that promise is often more complex than it first appears....