Integrated Marketing in a Digital World

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Integrated Marketing in a Digital World "October 18, 2016
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As a digital-first marketer, I’m curious about what the term “integrated marketing” meant before the trilogy of the digital revolution (internet, social, mobile) created seismic transformation in the marketing and communications landscape.
By Matt Chun, Vice President of Digital Strategy, PCI.

I imagine that integration—in the sense of combining various marketing efforts to yield stronger results—has always been a strategic aspiration. I also imagine that budgets, executive egos, and lack of cross-functional understanding have always been its primary obstacles. So—while my personal take on integrated marketing undoubtedly reflects work done long before I was exploring FTPs via telnet—my approach is also colored by a chaotic journey with digital.

For more than a decade, my keen interest in digital pegged me as the “computer guy,” the “blogger,” the “viral guy,” and the “social media guru.” I was often called upon by executives across various business units to share ideas and recommendations. As digital propelled me to the top of my game, however, it simultaneously left a wake of destruction around me. As a young administrator at Sony Music, Napster (to which I was personally addicted) not only robbed my industry of revenue but also robbed me of a future music marketing career. Soon thereafter, I rose through the ranks in the independent film industry by leveraging digital as an staple of grassroots marketing. Ironically, independent studios closed shop as digital piracy and Netflix proliferated. While working in TV marketing as an early social media marketer, I authored engagement strategies for social media to drive ratings. Digital significantly eroded live television viewing, however, as Facebook took well-cultivated social communities hostage and social media marketing became an industry of self-proclaimed experts. Now, as a digital strategist in an increasingly mobile world, I’m challenged to develop omni-channel strategies where the notion of going online is not just about using a desktop. Digital has shown herself to be an unstoppable agent of change and, at times, I’ve felt my career is just along for the ride.

As a result, I truly believe in the power of digital. It’s akin to a faith-based belief, because I believe we all need to embrace it—especially amidst doubt or lack of understanding. Putting faith into action may seem elusive, but from my years of championing, developing, and “kumbayaing” digital strategy and tactics, I’ve recognized recurring elements and honed best practices of successful integrated digital marketing.

Commit to the work. There must be a collective agreement, or at least a desire, to be more effective or innovative when mapping out an integrated marketing strategy. This leads to a shared commitment among teams to work towards a common goal, despite how uncomfortable or unprecedented the work may be.

Invite digital early. This is crucial. While it may be typical to hold off on inviting a digital strategist to initial strategy or client meetings, digital should not be considered just another tactical to-do item on a PowerPoint slide. Rather, every strategic decision should be immersed in digital, because our audiences are immersed in a digital world. Ensure digital strategy from the start by inviting key digital members to the table, a disproportionately large number when possible. This leads to a strong voice from the digital team, and it sends a clear pro-digital message. If digital team members are too junior to be invited to high-level executive meetings, chances are a more senior digital strategist needs to be hired.

Address timing and money. These two tedious items may require a little head scratching and extra coordination across teams—but it’s well worth the effort. Often, integrated strategy results in budget items that need to be shared or reallocated. Integration also requires a collective timeline that may supersede, or even hinder, a department’s typical timing or process. In a fast-paced environment with investments on the line, it may be tempting to revert back to a simple execution plan. Therefore, it is best to address these items early to preserve maximum ROI of an integrated marketing strategy.

Establish fluid brand and messaging. The idea of strict brand guidelines and communication lockdown is antiquated, because the digital space is a cohabitated community. Branding should be created in flexible frameworks so messaging and creative can be adapted and leveraged for various communication purposes across multiple digital platforms. If your creative team enforces strict brand sizing and colors, your brand’s visual identity may not translate well in digital execution. Similarly, if your messaging statements are six paragraphs long with no deviation allowed, you miss a key opportunity to leverage social media communication.

Map out your consumers’ path. It is more important than ever for marketers to map out potential consumers’ journeys. Consumers now have unlimited access to researching and purchasing new products and services, because they are fully immersed in a digital world. As a result, consumer behavior has been significantly altered. By considering your target consumers’ intent, and digital access points, necessary marketing integration becomes surprisingly clear.

I believe digital is absolutely the strategic path forward to all integrated marketing approaches. Every day serves as a resounding reminder of that conviction. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m working. Slouched on a couch, my laptop is perched at an obtuse angle against my stomach and my iPhone is sandwiched within my arms. I am typing in a shared Google Document while my Facebook profile communicates with an open Safari browser tab I’ve long forgotten. A weekend playlist is streaming to my Airplay speakers from my desktop in the other room. I remember, we are connected everywhere, all the time.

Today’s digital innovation and technology is far beyond most of our understanding, but we are all its avid consumers nonetheless. Digital has permeated every aspect of our lives and taken root in behavioral science. It has empowered us as consumers, and we’ve grown quite demanding. We sit at the bulls-eye center of the marcom whirlwind, and integration is the only way we are reached. We don’t care about marketing titles and budgets. We are channel agnostic, unaware of departmental silos. We expect simple, well-orchestrated marketing melodies that resonate in harmony. Otherwise, we’re swiping left.

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