…and, is it relevant anyway?We’ve all heard this term, integrated marketing communications or IMC (yes it has an acronym!). Yet is it relevant I wonder, shouldn’t marketing be integrated by definition? Integrated states the obvious! Marketing of old was relatively simple, from a marketer’s perspective advertising was straightforward, retail wasn’t complicated and the Internet didn’t exist. Integrating marketing communications was relatively easy to achieve. Today there are many more disciplines and channels than consumer attention can cope with, and we obsess over them. From a consumer perspective, there’s much more information to take in now than say pre 1995. There’s more TV programming, radio choice, print options, and outdoor potential, not mentioning online and mobile platforms, of course! In turn, advertisers are quick to hit people with more marketing messages because of that choice, new communication channels are quickly exploited and as a result audience attention fails faster and we struggle to get brand cut-through.
What’s IMC and is it the solution?It was the mid-nineties when IMC was first referenced – “one sight, one sound, one voice” (Schultz & Schultz) – and we’re still talking about it in 2012! In short, IMC is the re-orientating of marketing around the customer, that’s the key part, and by “marketing” we mean:
- Marketing channel selection
- Message selection
- Brand identity and creative
- Consistent communication at every touchpoint, pre and post purchase
5 things that you can do t become more integratedTo fight off fragmentation of your marketing across Reach, Act, Convert, and Engage, we think there should be an integrated approach. But we need to think how and work hard, because aligning the disciplines doesn’t come naturally; we’re seeing the opposite is in fact true. We think there are 5 keys to implementing steps for IMC practically in your organisation:
- Sense check – on a simple level, audit examples of what your company says and does and make an honest evaluation against your communication objectives. If it doesn’t add up for you in some meaningful, consistent way, then it won’t for your customers and prospects, either. Think about this much wider than pure marketing, how do sales and customer services communicate for example, these are all touch-points. Zappos are famed for getting this right.
- Strategic view – Not so long ago, it was enough to have great strategy and a big idea, yet now even the best ideas have a hard time getting cut-through as consumers’ attention spans grow increasingly short and fragmented. We all know perfect integration is unachievable, yet companies that do the best job of harmonising their marketing efforts will logically have an advantage. A recent article in Ad Age covers just how seriously Pepsi are taking this challenge since their fall in the cola market behind Coke and Diet Coke
- Leadership – Strategy and a big idea alone isn’t enough. With good marketing comes good leadership, it tie’s consistency into the wider business. Everything in the universe (including your brand) tends towards disarray, and so someone needs to be gravity. If not you, then who else is going to hold it all together? There probably isn’t a better example than Starbucks here, on organisation that continues to re-invent itself from the top down.
- Customer at the centre – we must focus on the entire marketing mix (product, price, place, promotion) from a customer’s perspective (customer needs, price, convenience, communications). Modern communications are two-way and out of the marketer’s control. We can however assess the consumer honestly and try to reach them at the best time, and in the best ways possible (including channel, mechanic and message). With tools available to us across social media monitoring, crowd-sourcing and marketing automation there are many ways to make this happen.
- Do consistent work – Differentiated communication is the name of the game. Smart communicating in an integrated marketing environment is as important as the act of integration. Consistency of messaging is critical, but if your message is “same old, same old” all the integration in the world won’t grab consumer eyeballs or sentiment. McDonalds seem to achieve this having maintained a successful singular focus on brand and brand messaging since 2003 when Justin Timberlake (not Bieber!) launched the ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ campaign. Imagine the money they could have, but haven’t spent, re-inventing the wheel.