I just received an interesting comment on my "For Hire" post that asked:
"Are there really any leading authorities - aside from published authors - on integrated marketing and communications? There are a lot of self-promoters who claim expertise in what is usually "the obvious".
This comment, while obviously an attempt to discredit my experience, made me realized that there are probably many marketing professionals out there that have the same misunderstanding and misperception when it comes to understanding the theory and benefits of true integration.
I want to help fix that.
From the dawn of its time, which would be about 1993, when the "Fathers of Integration" Schultz, Tannenbaum and Lauterborn wrote The New Marketing Paradigm: Integrated Marketing Communications, integration has always been based in customer-centric (putting the customer at the center of the organization) and data-driven marketing. Unfortunately, marketers conveniently ignored the customer-centric, data-driven part of integration. We'll get to that in a bit...
What Integrated Marketing Is Not
Integrated marketing is not consistent branding and messaging across tactics alone.
Yes, you heard that correctly.
One of the many challenges that The New Marketing Paradigm attempted to address were silos (other challenges included the lack of customer-centricity, planning, and measurement). Messages and branding from marketing, communications, branding, and PR were consistently out of whack with each other-leaving customers and prospects to put the pieces together themselves. Talk about ineffective.
Fast forward. Silos still rear their ugly heads (we see social media putting a spotlight on them), but for the most part organizations have gotten smarter about why it is smart to integrate their branding and messaging.
That said, marketing and communications today still seems to be lead by the basic and simple act of integrating tactics to feed the lead generation beast. That mindset presents new challenges. By thinking that tactics have been integrated across channels it's a job well done, marketers put themselves at risk of wasting precious resources, time, and budget. Why? Because integrated tactics alone do not deliver on*:
Without truly knowing who customers are, when they are open to messages, how they prefer to respond, if they relate to the brand, and how they feel about the organization, it is nearly impossible to be targeted. That is where the data-driven part of integration comes to bear. Without outside-in data, "spray and pray" marketing will continue to be prevalent.
Obviously, I am simplifying this to make a point. It would take a book to dive in deeper!
(*To learn more about the Five R's and the value they deliver, be sure to pick up a copy of IMC, The Next Generation : Five Steps For Delivering Value and Measuring Financial Returns by Don E. Schultz and Heidi Schultz.)
What Integrated Marketing Is
"GE executives described a stagnant GE when Jack Welch took over as CEO in 1981: "[GE is a company] ... with its face to the CEO and its ass to the customer."
I pulled that gem of a quote from Ranjay Gulati's most excellent book, Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.
Which direction is your organization facing? Let's dive in before your backside catches a chill.
IMC: The Next Generation presents eight guiding principles of integration:
- Become a customer-centric organization
- Use outside-in planning
- Focus on the total customer experience
- Align customer goals with corporate objectives
- Set customer behavior objectives
- Treat customers as assets
- Streamline functional activities
- Converge marcom activities (this one we get, what about the others?)
The main struggle for product-centric companies when it comes to integrated marketing is the ability to realize customer-centricity and treating customers as assets.
In Reorganize for Resilience, Gulati observed the following traits of truly customer-centric companies. They:
- Changed the conversation with their customers to one that is more outside-in and focused on how they can help address customer-articulated needs;
- Became problem solvers, not sellers;
- Focused on the set of customer problems they want to solve and are less concerned with the means and more focused on the ends;
- Developed a culture where customer centricity and outside-in behavior is their way of life.
Jay Galbraith describes the same tenets in his book, Designing The Customer-Centric Organization. Customer-centric companies focus on:
- Personalization and customization for the best customer solution
- Strategy supporting the most profitable, loyal customers
- Structure based on customer segments, teams and P&L
- Rewards given to employees who save customer business
- Sales bias on the side of the customer
Integrated Marketing, It's "The Obvious," Right?
We hear about the success of the same companies repeatedly. You know who they are: Dell, IBM, Cisco, FedEx, Lafarge, Best Buy, Target, and Southwest. There is a reason for that. The pool of customer-centric companies with truly integrated marketing is more like a puddle.
It has been with purpose for the past year that I have blogged about integration. I truly believe in integration and the value it delivers (how can the evidence be disputed?). As well, I have helped companies with integration in my career and know that it works.
(Note: integration is tough work and it's not easy to become truly customer-centric, but that isn't an excuse to move forward with it.)
For those marketers solely guided by revenue generation and shareholder wealth, try this stat on for size:
"...customer-driven companies were significantly more successful than shareholder-driven ones, providing a 36 percent advantage in shareholder returns, compared with their industry median; shareholder-aligned organizations provided only a 17 percent advantage." - Reorganize for Resilience
Who wouldn't want those returns?!
Your Job Moving Forward
The next time an agency or consultant is offering integrated marketing be sure to request a plan that is truly integrated (especially the five R's) and data-centric and see what you get in response. If it's full of tactics that have been "obviously" integrated with lack of regard for much else, you know what to do.
Integrated marketing: it's the not so "obvious" marketing... after all. (Sort of like the "other white meat.")
P.S. If you truly want to understand integrated marketing and it's benefits, pick up the books mentioned in this post along with Kellogg on Integrated Marketing.