Integrated marketing as a concept and strategy is not something new. We may have been hearing about it for less than a decade, but it has been around much longer than that. But it is only in recent times that technology has opened up so many new channels for marketers to reach out to consumers â€“ forcing them to at least leverage, if not master, an integrated approach to marketing brands.
If we simply go by the definition of integrated marketing, you are likely to find multiple versions loosely defining what integrated marketing is, but time and again it has been shown the one-size-fits-all approach does not yield success in this area. For marketers, this brings up the challenge of clearly defining integrated marketing and how they can have a unified approach in applying it to sell their brand.
Contrary to the general perception, there is no one single consistent definition of integrated marketing. In fact, different marketers like to approach and focus on the concept differently. Mostly, it is defined as leveraging multiple channels to send out a consistent message to customers. A brand communication approach where a brandâ€™s core message is seamlessly presented across various mediums with similar tonality. But as markets, customer behaviour and technology evolve, the understanding and application of integrated marketing has also changed.
There are some fundamental changes taking place on how integrated marketing strategies are being conceived. Often at times, marketers see integrated marketing to be about maintaining consistency of content and messaging across channels, whereas it should be all about customers first. Customers should be put at the centre of all strategies followed by execution across mediums.
Second, marketers should also give emphasis to how seamlessly customers move between different channels they are being targeted with. Each touch-point, including email, messages, websites, physical collaterals, and so on, should allow them to move from one channel to the other without interruption, so as not to lose their valuable attention.
A well thought-out integrated marketing plan will ensure this is well taken care of and does not suffer from intermittent breaks. This brings up another related aspect of integrated marketing which should be key to marketers who wish to create value over the long haul. An integrated strategy should not be just about one event or campaign, but should envision beyond.
It is not an isolated event where interactions are happening for a limited period, but it should constantly flow back and forth beyond one campaign. When customers are engaged in a sustained manner, transcending multiple campaigns, it can lead to greater profitability towards the end and a longer brand recall.
Performance indices and benchmarks from a single campaign are key to any marketer, but they should not lose sight ofÂ the long-term goals of marketing activities. Another job of every marketer is to cut down the functional silos that exist inÂ any company which hampers successful assimilation of collective expertise in integrated marketing activities.
If a strategy is designed with customers at the centre, it is a no-brainer that not only the marketing function, but sales and servicing professionals also have some form of insights into their customer base. All of their insights could be valuable to any marketer.
How they react and interact with customers also impacts a customerâ€™s relationship with a brand. In todayâ€™s world, content is seen as king and it is rightly called so, at least for now. Good content can drastically boost an integrated marketing programme and make it successful.
A marketer should push for great content to become the base for communicating the core message of the brand, and make it part of the planning from the very first day. This brings us to this conclusion:
Integrated marketing isnâ€™t limited to definitions and sacrosanct methodologies that guarantee success.
But, it lies in understanding who it is intended for, getting clarity on what the brandâ€™s business is about, and how it links to theÂ intended audience. It is about selecting the right mix of marketing strategies with appropriate channels, activities, media buying, tactics and methods.
In the end, the integrated marketing goal isnâ€™t limited to just one campaign and a one-time performanceÂ measurement, but a sustained value creation for the brand that it can leverage through multiple campaigns. And, this is only possible when integrated marketing becomes customer-driven marketing more than anything else.
The writer isÂ Amit Tiwari, director marketing, Philips India.Â
This article was first published in Marketing Magazine Singaporeâ€™s Jan-Feb 2016 print edition. To read more views from senior marketers click here.