A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a talk by Mark Ritson in which he introduced the ten most important factors in the success of marketing strategies. He talked then of the need for marketers to be a bit broad-minded (my words) and less exclusive in their choice of media channels. He was talking “integrated marketing”

The background to integrated marketing

This is the “integrated marketing” philosophy upon which my Full Effect Company was founded thirty years ago. My principle then was that there are no right and wrong channels. Any marketer worth the title should be striving to create unique formulae of channels and initiatives in direct response to the objective that drives their chosen strategy. And you know what … Nothing has changed on that score. We still need to work that way. It’s just that the tools available to us are proliferating, which makes the task of those marketers who get it far tougher.

The principle of integrated marketing sounds straightforward enough doesn’t it? So why aren’t marketers doing it right even now? 

Channels, tools and integrated marketing

Three decades after the era of the integrated marketing debate I continue to encounter businesses that promote their current favourite, narrow disciplines and channels as the panacea for all businesses’ ills. There can only be one reason for this. The marketers concerned really aren’t up to the job.

The point is, of course – and Mark Ritson’s robust analysis of years of Effie data proved so beyond doubt – no one channel can do it alone. There isn’t even one channel that stands out as more effective. In fact, the Effie data proved that the more channels a strategy adopts, the more successful it is. 

This may be disappointing for businesses with small budgets, but that’s exactly why smart marketers earn their money. They’ll give any business a disproportionate advantage by inventive combinations of the minimum channels. It really is just a matter of how good a marketer you are.

There’s no magic formula

While marketing may be about combining tools and channels in unique formulae, some folks still don’t understand this. Every day I encounter agencies, communications people and even marketing leaders who try to convince us – and possibly are convinced themselves – they have a cut and paste solution. be it social media, content marketing, Account Based Marketing or e-commerce. There is no such thing. 

To make matters worse, marketing may always have been a case of achieving more with less, but now we are in the digital economy this much is table stakes. Communications, advertising, tech and other specialists have to accept they are only small components of formulae that marketers build and manage. You may be a social media, CX or advertising specialist, but that doesn’t make you  “the answer”. 

There is no magic formula for integrated marketing. What works, works and you are not going to find the mix that delivers what you need at a specific point in time unless you maintain a broad church and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in all areas. 

Integrated marketing requires a different support model

If you don’t you won’t know what you can do with all the tools in the box and you are therefore unlikely to create efficient solutions. However, many of the specialities on offer are far too complex for a single person, or even an agency, to hope to master more than a couple. This is what proved the demise of the traditional agency model. We’ve moved on from that … hopefully.

Today’s marketing sector has a new structure. One where strategists and project managers work with a wide range of independent specialists as-and-when their input is required. It’s the model I was promoting with the launch of The Full Effect Company all those years ago and it’s the way I, and pretty well every successful organisation, works today.  

What makes a good marketer is an awareness of all the options, which gives them the ability to keep the empirical process to a minimum. Nevertheless, in the digital economy, everything, including products, is in a constant change of flux. Nothing is ever set in stone, no formula is correct beyond the moment and products go to market unfinished and evolve and morph to meet ever more clear consumer demands.

Integrated tactics and strategy

I’m always playing around with the relationship between strategic and tactical elements. Every tactical communication carries with it a strategic message – that’s why I put so much store behind the idea of defining your brand before you do anything else. In fact, if you don’t leverage this, you are not doing your job as a marketer. It’s equally true that tactical messages need the framework of a clear strategy to really deliver their potential. If you don’t squeeze all an element can deliver, you are being wasteful and that’s a sin you simply can’t afford in the digital economy.

Once your brand is defined you at least have a chance of ensuring it is represented consistently in everything you do. Your strategy is the back-drop against which your tactical initiatives make sense. It creates the “authority” that gives your tactical messages credibility. 

Brand model, internal and integrated marketing

Those who are familiar with my work, know I create, what I call a Brand Model to help with this. However, from that point it’s a matter of discipline, which, apparently, few businesses have. That’s where another element of my Brand-Led Business Transformation will help – internal marketing that unifies the thoughts and actions of all your stakeholders.

We may understand why there’s no magic formula for the relative emphasis of tactical and strategic elements. Whether or not marketers recognise this is always a good indicator of how good they are. What works, works and it’s a case of empiricism – constant testing and refining. What a really good marketer can give you is a faster route to an efficient solution, but to do that they have to know their stuff.

How famous brands make tactical and strategic work together

There are two old brand strategies that perfectly illustrate how it should be tackled. The first emerged in Tesco’s “Every little helps” campaign and the second, Philips’ “Sense and simplicity”.  These both worked because they resonated, not only with customers, but with every stakeholder segment. As any brand message should. 

As such they could be leveraged, not only in direct conversation with customers, but indirectly, via internal stakeholder segments like suppliers, investors, partners and employees, each of whom respond to the message by modifying their interaction with other community segments like customers. When your brand operates this way you know it has a future.

The relationship between brand and integrated marketing

The brand development of most organisations is superficial. They tend to think of brands purely in the context of the relationship they have with end-users. What they often miss, is that this is dependent upon the far more important relationships with your internal stakeholders. Getting this to work means ensuring your internal marketing channels and tools also conform to your brand model and it’s “promise”. For many, this is a previously disregarded aspect of integrated marketing, but it simply can’t remain so.

Your “brand promise”, the message at the centre of your brand, has to focus your entire brand community on a single brand objective. In Tesco’s case this was helping it’s brand community (remember – not just it’s customers) with life’s burdens, not necessarily with any big idea, but with a lot of small initiatives that together made a big difference – synergy!

Philips’ focussed it’s stakeholders on a single objective in the same way. Working their brand promise internally to influence internal structures, practices and eventually product design. Making everything sensible and simple – a sure-fire route to the efficiency every organisation needs to survive the digital economy.

Integrated marketing is work for highly skilled and experienced marketers

Getting this right is hard and meticulous work. Your brand model has to be robust, your brand identity rigorous and detailed – Philips, for example, stipulated that the words “simple” and “sensible”, or their derivatives, had to appear in every piece of copy. It’s perhaps a sign of our time that it’s easier to quote businesses and brands that get this wrong than it is to find shining examples of how it should be done, but it’s a tough world out there and getting tougher.

You’ll be getting the idea by now that marketing is the driver of any business in the digital economy and that has to be integrated. It takes a load of people to deliver a contemporary strategy and someone smart and knowledgeable to coordinate them all. That’s why demands on marketers these days are far greater than say ten, maybe even five years ago. If you haven’t kept up with what’s happening, you’ll not make the grade.

Integration means integrating strategic and tactical messages as well as all the channels and tools. You have to do this not only to build the powerful brands that facilitate successful transformation, but also to operate any kind of organisation in the digital economy.

The question to ask yourself is “With marketing now in the driving seat are your marketers up to the job?”

Phil Darby
December 11, 2019

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