In today’s world of marketing and advertising, there seems to be some confusion around the term “integration.” Most news outlets and trade publications are reporting that agencies (large and small) are working to find ways to merge their online and offline capabilities to better serve their clients’ needs. This process of ensuring that digital and traditional marketing teams and media outlets are operating as one has been coined “integration.” In my opinion, integration is much bigger than simply ensuring that the online and offline tactics of your marketing program are in sync.
At our marketing strategy firm, we specialize in revitalizing brands that are stalled, stuck, or stale. We like to say that we solve our clients’ business problems using marketing expertise. Since we are often heavily involved in working with our clients at the organizational strategy level, the term integration takes on a whole new meaning for us. In our case, integration actually goes back to addressing the very fundamental marketing categories — the four Ps — that impact the entire company:
As we begin new relationships or new projects with clients, we take a purposeful and sequential approach to developing an integrated marketing program. One key step involves the development of a long-term, strategic communications plan where we consider how each of these four Ps should work together.
Product (offerings and services)
Price (amount the customer pays)
Place (physical or perhaps virtual location)
Promotion (consumer-facing communications)
The key to a successful communications plan is ensuring that the entire customer experience with your brand is seamless. Regardless of the stage in the buying life cycle (attraction, conversion, retention, or engagement), the customer should have the same feelings about the brand. Said another way, wherever interaction occurs with your brand (at the store, on the phone with customer service, buying from your website, with the packaging, on your Facebook page, watching a TV spot, etc.), the customer should have the same expectations of the brand.
When developing these integrated marketing programs for our clients, we often take the “day-in-the-life” approach and create theoretical customer brand situations. For example, we would imagine that a customer could experience our client’s brand in this fashion over the course of six months:
As you can see, integration (or integrated marketing) is not just about digital tactics meshing with traditional ones; it’s about making strategic decisions with the client at the organization level to determine how best to create a continuous, consistent customer experience from top to bottom and left to right.
Sees a TV ad during her favorite program (promotion)
Reads a PR story in an online publication (promotion)
Scrolls past a Facebook “Like” of a Friend (promotion)
Is served an online banner and clicks to the website (promotion)
Checks the price of the product in which she’s interested (price)
Looks for that same product at the mall (place)
Has a Q&A conversation with the salesperson (place)
Buys the product and provides her email address to receive her receipt (place)
Tries out the product then decides to call the 1-800 number with a question (product/promotion)
Checks her email and sees a request for a product review (promotion)
Shares her review on a website and clicks to Like the brand on Facebook (promotion)
Sees a web banner for an accessory for her product (promotion)
Clicks the banner and orders the accessory online (promotion/place)
And on, and on, and on…
Emily K. Howard, a marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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