Integrated Marketing has tremendous power. It can cause the fortune of brands and companies to rise or fall dramatically.
Most agencies and corporate professionals practice integrated marketing to some degree. The majority of them misunderstand and underutilize the more refined and powerful aspects it offers. This is likely because of true Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) – performed at the highest levels – is not something that can be delegated. It takes broad knowledge sets, vision and the ability to control many specialized aspects of marketing, and there are very few people in these positions in the traditional agency environment.
A fallacy held by many professionals in our industry is that integrated marketing is simply about the generation of consistency of message and presentation of the brand. Business Week defines it in basic terms as “communicating a consistent identity from message to message, and medium to medium, and (more importantly) delivering consistently on that identity.”
BusinessDictionary.com offers a definition that encompasses complementary elements reinforcing marketing impact and states that integrated marketing is a “strategy aimed at unifying different marketing methods such as mass marketing, one-to-one marketing, and direct marketing. Its objective is to complement and reinforce the market impact of each method…”
But each of these definitions fails to provide the full scope of what integrated marketing truly entails.
True IMC is the development of marketing strategies and creative campaigns that weave together multiple marketing disciplines (paid advertising, earned media/PR, promotion, owned assets and social media) that are executed across a variety of media, and selected to suit the particular goals of the brand. IMC is designed to leverage the intrinsic strengths of each discipline to achieve greater impact in concert than can be achieved individually. It inherently provides multiplied benefits that include a synchronized brand voice and experience, cost efficiencies generated through creative and production, opportunities for added value and bonus which cumulatively produce extraordinary brand equity and ROI.
The distinction between our definition for IMC and the others is like the difference between addition and multiplication. Where others seek to combine marketing methods or to simply speak with consistency, we recognize the ability of each marketing method to perform better when integrated with all the rest.
In other words, the difference is leverage.
While it might appear that only experienced marketing pros with mighty brands and ample budgets can effectively practice and benefit from IMC, this is not the case. IMC can benefit small- and medium-sized operations as well as big guys. It can work equally well in a business environment or a consumer market.
Practicing IMC requires a feel for marketing. That feel can be learned, but it’s not quite like learning to ride a bike. It’s more like learning to fly a plane because in addition to feel, it requires knowledge of systems, atmosphere, conditions, situational awareness, and cause and effect.
We’ve written our blog entries, e-books and videos with this in mind. By consuming them you can gain and understanding of the principles. You may still require the help of an agency to reap the benefits of IMC, but you will be an educated client. Marketing is very much a participation sport, with the client in a position to push the campaign to new heights or to limit its potential based on their level of imagination, resourcefulness, enthusiasm and involvement.