Integrated Marketing

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The concept of integrated marketing emerged in the 1990s as a new discipline in the advertising industry, quickly becoming an essential element of most brand management operations. A pure integrated marketing strategy begins by considering the brand's marketing objectives along with the mind-set, lifestyle and habits of the target audience. Only then is a communications solution, such as a TV campaign, a print ad or a promotion, developed.

The integrated marketing model's most important legacy has been putting advertising and marketing messages into appropriate context and unifying those messages in a clear, consistent communications strategy. Another legacy of the rise of integrated marketing was the emergence in the 1990s of the position of chief marketing officer, an executive at a corporation charged with orchestrating a coherent marketing program through diverse channels.

Also referred to as integrated marketing communications, the discipline was originally defined as the process of unifying the themes of a brand marketing program so that advertising, sales promotion, direct response, direct and database marketing and public relations had a consistent look and feel. The goal of basic integrated marketing was to leverage an organization's investment in a brand campaign across all communications channels to increase impact while improving efficiency and effectiveness.

Diverse forces

The forces driving the creation of integrated marketing were diverse. As far back as the 1970s, major agencies began developing or acquiring related services such as public relations and sales promotion. Another factor was the recognition in the late 1980s of a shift in the balance of spending on brands. Spending was moving away from traditional print and TV advertising in favor of promotion, point-of-purchase efforts, couponing, direct marketing, sponsorships and local grassroots events, to the consternation of many advertising agencies whose main operations were creating TV and print ads.

By 1990, major advertisers, including Procter & Gamble Co., had acknowledged that traditional budget allocations had been reversed; instead of 60% for advertising and 40% for promotion, 60% was now being spent on overall promotion practices and 40% was going toward print and TV advertising.

At the same time, academics began to point out the benefits of coordinating all marketing and advertising messages under a unifying theme to achieve greater impact. Such practices would improve efficiency and effectiveness and make better use of corporations' investments in brand images. Universities with advertising departments began offering graduate degrees in integrated marketing communications in the mid-1990s; awards programs were developed to recognize leaders in the field; and advertisers began to embrace the concept.

Another major force behind the integrated marketing movement was the growing restlessness of agencies involved in creating materials traditionally considered below-the-line marketing, such as promotions, direct mail and public relations. As consumers' lifestyles and leisure habits began to change in the 1980s and network TV ratings began to fall, media channels splintered.

New competition

By 1990, it had become apparent that non-advertising programs were generally far less expensive than network TV commercials to produce and support, and in many cases they were extremely effective. The agencies creating these non-advertising campaigns began to promote the results of lower-cost efforts, getting the attention of advertisers. For the first time, promotion agencies were being invited alongside advertising agencies to pitch ideas for new product introductions and marketing campaigns.

Soon, agencies that had been limited to handling only "below the line" marketing duties such as promotions seized the opportunity to pitch themselves as full-service providers of integrated marketing and advertising solutions. Frankel & Co., a longtime Chicago-based promotions agency, used integrated marketing to catapult itself out of the below-the-line category for clients such as McDonald's Corp. and Visa USA, for the first time creating TV advertising in addition to its usual sweepstakes and in-store promotions.

At the same time, big agencies saw the arrival of integrated marketing as a wake-up call to reorganize. Many agencies had acquired subsidiaries during the 1980s and early 1990s; consequently, they had several divisions that handled direct marketing and promotion, but these were in different locations and under different management. A number of agencies chose to reorganize their operations under a single umbrella. Others established integrated marketing specialties within the traditional agency structure.

In the late 1990s, integrated marketing underwent another evolution, as the principles of customer relationship management seeped into the industry. The CRM revolution underscored the need to create relationships with customers through one-to-one marketing. By the close of the century, integrated marketing had come to recognize diverse communication channels; it took the context of those communications into account, and it sought opportunities to establish ongoing relationships with consumers.

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