The idea behind integrated marketing was that the whole would really be bigger than the sum of its parts. And, when done right, integrated marketing can deliver on that promise and take marketing to the next level. However, somewhere along the way it became a misused term that is reducing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns everywhere.
Wikipedia defines integrated marketing communications as the “application of consistent brand messaging across both traditional and non-traditional marketing channels and using different promotional methods to reinforce each other.” Or put even more simply: you communicate the same message across multiple tactics to amplify your marketing campaign. But the reality is this is rarely done in practice.
The simple reason is that many so-called integrated marketing campaigns are not integrated at all. They may combine a few tactics but the messages across them is confusing or not consistent at all. And most campaigns could be even better, if they were expanded more and subsequent tactics build on the others.
For example, how many companies go to an event and put a lot of time and effort into it but there is no follow-up afterwards. Or, how many times do companies launch a product to great fanfare only to not do anything afterwards to promote it further because the team is onto the next launch. Or how many different messages are communicated to the same audience across any campaign.
If not combing tactics and/or not using the key messages consistently were the only reasons that marketing campaigns don’t live up to expectations, then it could be solved by first developing an overall campaigns strategy that includes a strong brand platform and ensuring each and every tactic supports the strategy, communicates the key message and contributes to the overall effectiveness. Easier said than done for some but not something that’s insurmountable.
What’s happened at the same time that integrated marketing became misused is the rise of a new set of buzzwords from content marketing to social media marketing and outbound marketing to mobile marketing. Now I’m not saying any of these new marketing tactics are wrong but what is wrong is that they are making things even more isolated as they are performed in silos and/or pitched as the only solution for all of your marketing plans.
The reality is these new tactics should be seen as more key ingredients in your marketing mix and the more integrated they are with the other tactics then the more effective your overall campaign will be. However, this seems to rarely be the case as many disciplines fight to own the new shiny object. For example, many organizations struggle with who owns social media, whether that is marketing or communications or some other group. It’s not either/or but all of the above.
At the same time, you now have more communications vehicles where you need to ensure you are communicating the message consistently. If different groups own these different areas, that’s rarely the case as each will tweak the message slightly until it becomes unrecognizable by the originators.
Combining these points with what I’ve seen in the industry has led me to the question: is integrated marketing dead? Or does it just need to be revisited? Over the next few posts, I want to explore this topic in more detail and see where we end up. Should I give up on integrated marketing or is there a new concept that replaces it? Stay tuned…