By now you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘integrated marketing’. You’ve probably also wondered if it’s just another newly minted catchphrase – or maybe, something you should spend time adding to your marketer’s tool chest? What is integrated? How is it defined? And, does it matter to me? In this post, we’ll take a deeper dive into the principles of integrated marketing and why you should be paying attention.
What is Integrated Marketing?
The fundamental promise of integrated is bold. Namely, that marketers, like us, can tell a single, contiguous, and cross-channel story about our products across any given business or consumer ecosystem. The logical conclusion of omnichannel marketing – integrated aspires to a completely connected brand experience that gives shoppers your why, how, and what, in a compelling way, on or offline. In doing so, it alludes to the holy grail of marketing – a completely connected brand experience, where customers can move fluidly between ecosystems while learning about, engaging, and conversing with your brand virtually anywhere.
More importantly, integrated marketing refers to the informed application of cross-channel marketing strategy in a way that amplifies the collective impact of your initiatives. Integrated marketing is, at its heart, a matter of communications and project management, as much as creativity and planning. When we think about the typical integrated campaign, we expect to see this amplification played out in dramatically extended reach, awareness, engagement, and in the end, conversion metrics.
But what are the defining principles of an integrated marketing strategy? How do we know an integrated campaign when we see one, and more importantly how can we build one? What separates integrated from more traditional or even similar omnichannel marketing strategies? And finally, what are its core principles – the checkpoints through which we can put our most recent strategy and plan future outreach?
The Principles of Integrated Marketing
Integrated Marketing Tells a Story
As a medium, the concept of “storytelling” has gotten an outsized portion of screen time over the last couple of years. Popular as the idea might be though, marketers often come up empty-handed when trying to explain how stories can be leveraged to generate growth. For integrated marketing teams, stories are the byways through which we convey information and move potential buyers along the path to purchase.
When we talk about storytelling, we’re not saying that you need to (or even, should) add a seven paragraph intro to your recipe for ham sandwiches. It’s more tangible in nature. When it comes to integrated marketing, storytelling is just a nuanced way of threading what may otherwise be a disconnected set of messaging across channels. In order to reap the benefits of integrated, your audience needs to recognize and follow your narrative.
Integrated Marketing Is Interactive
Building engagement through personal investment is at the core of integrated strategies. To do that, each customer has to become more than a third-party observer; they have to become a participant in your message. When considering the principals of integrated marketing and how they’ll play out in your campaign, remember to take the user to take a journey with you. That means going beyond the call-to-action.
When we make the user a core part of our story instead of a casual observer, we don’t just drive engagement, we build advocacy. If we can create an exchange of value between the brand and consumer, we’re more likely to build a personal relationship. We’ll accomplish that by leveraging many of the same principles that drive experiential marketing – namely interaction, or the sharing of values.
Integrated Marketing Employs Discovery
“Discovery” is the experience of anticipation, met. It can be as subtle as the feeling you get opening the next door on an advent calendar or awe-inspiring as walking through Cinderella’s castle into Disneyland for the first time. A combination of anticipation, excitement, and mystery, discovery is one of the oldest elements of gamification and it’s a powerful tool.
In integrated marketing we use discovery – as shaped by interactive storytelling – to usher your audience along the path from awareness to interest to engagement, and so on. Each new experience drives a desire to gain a greater understanding of the whole. Discovery isn’t about linear stories though, it’s about completing the puzzle. The most successful integrated strategies use discovery to entice, delight, and convince.
Integrated Marketing Crosses Channels
The author Clare Boothe Luce once said that “simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”. If you’re a fan of that school, then you’re likely wondering why you’d want to force a notoriously difficult cross-channel engagement with your audience – seemingly, for the sake of doing so. Isn’t our goal as marketers to keep it simple? Get the click, drive conversions, and build the bottom line as quickly as possible. Can’t we achieve the same thing with an omnichannel campaign?
The easy answer, of course, is that you wouldn’t. Using cross and omnichannel marketing strategies synonymously is one of the most common misconceptions about the integrated approach. We use an integrated strategy to build meaningful engagement that facilitates memory recall and understanding. While omnichannel is certainly capable of conveying a message, it often accomplishes that goal through pure repetition.
It may seem like the most important application of integrated is in larger-scale dynamic campaigns with many moving parts. When we dig deeper, however, the methodology can be implemented at any level. Integrated branding, for example, seeks to communicate a story about your customers in a way that drives deep ownership via cross-channel messaging. To do that, we might build a multi-layered narrative about how these products define your customer’s lives in different places and mediums.
Integrated Marketing Is Measurable (Hopefully)
If we had to boil down the last decade of marketing industry growth to a couple of hard bullet points, attribution (the ability to measure each step on the customer’s path to purchase) would almost certainly be at the top of that list. Our ability to generate deep insights through omnichannel marketing strategy has almost been the exclusive progenitor of the digital revolution.
While cross-channel attribution will continue to grow over the next five or ten years measurement planning for integrated strategies is still challenging and often gets left by the wayside. Don’t let great be the enemy of good though. Each step along your customer’s journey is important to understanding how your integrated campaign is moving the needle on growth. Tools like Tableau, Zapier, and Google Analytics Attribution can go a long way towards measuring both offline and online components of your campaign.
If you’re looking to build your own integrated strategy, remember to use these principles to guide your next campaign, not limit it. Integrated is a quickly evolving discipline and we’ll likely see advancements in our ability to implement it for the next decade or so. Have fun, make mistakes and let us know if you have any questions.