Several studies, including one recently conducted by the Association of National Advertisers, indicate that achieving effective IMC campaigns is marketers' primary concern. But there is considerable uncertainty about how to staff, design, manage and measure the success of such programs.
Although 74% of firms we've surveyed say they are using IMC approaches for most or all of their brands, only 25% rated the quality of their IMC programs "excellent" or "very good" -- underscoring the need to identify best practices and address the barriers that can impede IMC efforts, including a lack of strategic consistency across communications disciplines; the absence of a common IMC measurement process; the existence of entrenched functional silos inside marketing organizations, as well as within their agency partners; and the dearth of cross-discipline skill sets among marketing staff.
So what it will take to overcome these obstacles? Four imperatives:
1. STRATEGIC CONSISTENCYAn IMC campaign should start with a compelling consumer insight that can be translated into a strong, differentiated marketing strategy. This leads to the development of a creative "brand idea" that drives each discipline's tactics. For many brands, however, a very different process typically takes place. Each discipline articulates its own strategy and develops its own brand ideas, which, executed independently, fail to deliver the exponential power that's possible with a strategically integrated campaign.
Procter & Gamble's brand-building framework requires that every marketer, multifunctional brand builder and agency understand who the target consumer is, what the brand represents in consumers' minds, and how marketing can be optimized to reach target consumers when and where they are receptive.
MasterCard's marketers took another path in creating the "Priceless" campaign. It was less about linking different media and more about connecting all components of the marketplace -- merchants, issuers and consumers. Each audience received tools that enabled the "Priceless" vision to seamlessly integrate across the business.
Ensuring consistency is the responsibility of the marketer, who must keep all disciplines -- people, messages, tactics and budgets -- performing in unison and must constantly guard against tactics straying from the overarching brand strategy.
2. COMMON MEASUREMENT PROCESSTraditionally, each marketing vertical uses its own measurement protocols. Vertical or function-specific measurements are useful, but we need to go further. Although organizations have become more skilled in crunching numbers, there is no single, consistent set of metrics that transcends discipline-centric measurements.
In a recent article in Ad Age, Jack Neff noted the "new opacity" arising from having a multitude of information but no common way to process it. The lack of a standard measuring process is one of the most serious integrated-marketing challenges.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Bob Liodice is president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. Prior to joining the ANA in 1995 as senior VP, he was VP-global marketing and sales for Grupo Televisa, a worldwide broadcaster.
In an ANA Advertiser magazine IMC roundtable, Karna Crawford, director of media and interactive integrated communications for the Sparkling Business Unit at Coca-Cola Co., discussed the importance of having the mentality to think differently and end some "tried and true" measurement approaches. In her opinion, "there is no 'silver bullet' change, particularly when you think of how TV is measured. That's a deeply held, entrenched, traditional approach that has all sorts of financial and systematic factors related to it. It will not be easy to get people or the system to change."
3. FUNCTIONAL SILOSFor too long, marketing functions have been vertically organized by media type. This siloed approach is mirrored on the agency side, with rewards based on discipline-specific P&L models. These silos must be torn down.
The client-side strategic integrator must involve and lead a team of colleagues who have the responsibility, vision, understanding and commitment to engage in a media-agnostic planning process. And this team of enlightened marketers must be willing to let strategic goals -- not historic patterns -- drive budget allocations.
Useful links: MasterCard (top) and Wachovia each connected with different parts of the marketplace -- consumers, marketers, analysts -- to make integrated approaches work.
All of Kraft Foods' brands, for example, use cross-functional teams to develop IMC programs -- an approach that has led to many successes, including its South Beach Diet initiative. Wachovia Bank created a triumvirate of resources by merging executives from finance, marketing and analytics -- a unique partnership that created the culture, organization and functional expertise necessary for its vision to succeed.
4. PROFESSIONAL SKILLSAchieving strategic integration requires a top-to-bottom reinvention of the marketing organization. This transformation must be led by "renaissance marketers" -- a new breed of holistic professionals who are system thinkers, customer-centric believers, innovators and dreamers.
These individuals should be cross-trained to understand the entire marketing spectrum and learn discipline-specific skill sets. Increasingly, these leaders will need strong quantitative skills -- a key finding in the ANA's Marketing and Media Ecosystems 2010 study -- in order to analyze the data-rich resources and leverage mathematical tools now available, especially if they are to drive cross-disciplinary approaches that fuse disparate consumer-engagement channels. Above all, they need to be superior team leaders who have the insights, talent and passion to take marketing integration to new heights.