Back in the '80s, it was a big deal when marketers realized consumers' brains absorbed all they experienced about a brand -- from TV and radio ads to print promotions, PR and direct mail -- and processed it holistically to form a single impression of a brand. For marketers, this was the birth of what was called integrated marketing.
Today, integrated marketing has become far more complicated and comes with a wide range of expectations to control cost, align agency and client teams, deliver on a consistent brand promise and meet the demand for increased sales, share and ROI.
The trouble is, today's ambitions for integration are great in theory but tough in reality. While a survey by the ANA revealed that 72% of brands engage in integrated marketing, three-quarters of respondents confessed considerable dissatisfaction with their results.
What's the problem?
Some point to the time integration requires. Many lament too much data and too little insight. Others blame difficulties aligning teams in overly matrixed organizations. Most everyone feels immobilized by the complexity of all they're expected to consider, organize and optimize.
They are grappling with an exponential increase in the number of consumer touchpoints and, for whatever the resulting mix, a number of agencies to execute it all, each needing to be managed. To further complicate things, as consumers are becoming increasingly digital, interactive and social, so are the media vying for their attention. At the same time, brands themselves are becoming media.
When combined with a dizzying array of devices designed to enable consumers, brands and media to be more mobile, social and local (including WiFi, pocketable computers and geo-locaters) consumers and brands aren't online or offline today but rather, they live in the media 24/7.
These changes in the world of marketers are so interwoven they can't be untangled and reassembled to draft an integrated plan as idealized in the '90s. It's time for a "next-gen" approach. To jumpstart it, here are five key steps to consider to bring your integrated marketing into the 21st century.
Step 1: Start by listing the orthodoxies and best practices about how marketing works, who your target is and how they make decisions. Then double-check them. Are you sure they're still true? What's your proof? In-depth research by Byron Sharp of the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science is debunking many long-held tenets of marketing, including the belief that customer retention is less expensive than acquisition.
Step 2: Unearth, imagine and create a meaningful role that gives your brand a reason to be in the lives of your target . Coca-Cola's promise to refresh us to a happier state of mind has proven effective because of its timeless, universal appeal. Coke's World Cup sponsorship is a 21st-century case study on how to integrate and optimize in a global and local way.
IBM is another brand that's found meaning so game changing it has affected its preference, sales and even stock price. Its resonant role? To be the world authority on the use of data modeling to create a smarter, more livable planet. This has contemporized and expanded the brand and given the company a whole new reason to be in the lives of executives in health care, government, traffic or water management, education and yes, the population as a whole.
Step 3: Have a clear behavioral objective that defines success overall and the behaviors you are trying to achieve with each tactic. Without knowing what, for example, you want Twitter to achieve, it is impossible to define whether it has a reason to be in your plan or measure whether or not it was successful and worth the time and investment.
Step 4: Become an expert in the science and practice of organizational change. Chip Heath, Stanford professor and co-author of bestsellers about how to get people to change when change is hard, wisely reminds us that employees are no different than consumers: They're best motivated by emotional benefits rather than rational ones. What's more, if you craft for your brand a meaningful role in the lives of customers, that same meaningful role will give employees inspiration to come in and work on it every day and go a long way to integrate and align them.
Step 5: Whether you want to call it design thinking or creative intelligence applied to today's world of behavioral-based marketing, the central idea is still the same: Every organization needs to foster and encourage leaps of creativity. The only way to be ready for the fast pace of change in today's complex, dynamic marketplace is to be extraordinarily open to big, game-changing ideas. Creating an environment that regularly embraces the hypothesis-driven, "a-ha"-seeking and iterative nature of design thinking goes beyond the typical standardized process woven into most organizations today.
These five are among the most important elements of a next-gen foundation for integrated marketing leadership in the 21st century. But of course there are more. And overall they require more than the coordination of colleagues and agencies, and more than the coordination of messages across media to influence a brand's perceived value. They require organizations whose culture, workspace and systems are built for 21st-century work processes: nimble, always on, interactive, in a continuous state of improvement.
Any one person's success will be determined by their degree of commitment to being an agent of change over old marketing and old organizational orthodoxies. How passionate are you about searching for what others don't yet see? About finding ways for colleagues to see what's on the horizon, too? About imagining and piloting game-changers for everything from your brand's meaning to your company's business model?