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Integrated Marketing Association

What does Integrated Marketing mean?

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Don E. Schultz, professor (emeritus-in-service) at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism is considered the grandfather of integrated marketing, having first coined the phrase in the early 1990s.

A great amount of research has gone into understanding why an integrated marketing strategy is so important to a company’s success. As an example, Forrester Research reported that an integrated marketing approach could outperform a non-integrated approach by as much as 800%.

Thanks to the internet, the adoption of new technologies, and a plethora of consumer devices, many marketers have tried to update the term “integrated marketing” with new terms, like “multichannel marketing” and “omni-channel marketing.” However, these new terms all have different meanings.

Multi-channel marketing utilizes more than one channel, so that marketers can reach the largest number of customers within their target audience. The focus is on the campaigns and tends to be an “inside-out” approach.

Omni-channel marketing still uses multiple channels, but in a different way. In this type of marketing, every platform used to get your message out to potential customers needs to be aware of the other channels and devices. The focus is on whether each channel interacts properly with the other channels. The same campaign does not have to work across all channels, but they must “play well” with one another. This type of campaign tends to be an “outside-in” approach, keeping the consumer approach in mind.

I reviewed several definitions of integrated marketing, of which two stood out to me.

Northwestern defines integrated marketing as “a strategic marketing process specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications strategies are unified across all channels and are centered around the customer.” The IMC process emphasizes identifying and assessing customer prospects, tailoring messaging to customers and prospects that are both serviceable and profitable, and evaluating the success of these efforts to minimize waste and transform marketing from an expense into a profit center.

It’s easy to understand the idea that our messages need to be unified across all channels, centered around the customer or prospect, but I particularly liked the idea of tailoring the message for service and profit, transforming marketing from an expense to a profit center.

However, I was talking to Brian Bennett, owner of the Stir Agency in Milwaukee, and his definition was slightly different: 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 creativity and production, opportunities for added value and bonus which cumulatively produce extraordinary brand equity and ROI.

Brian’s emphasis was on the importance of leverage. He went on to explain you don’t necessarily have to have the same message across all channels, but instead focus on leveraging the right channels for that message, which made a lot of sense to me.

Think about it, not all of your customers interact with your brand across all channels. Example, millennials are more likely to interact with your brand on social channels and mobile devices, while baby boomers might prefer a desktop, phone, or direct mail.

Regardless, I think Professor Shultz said it best in Kansas City at our Integrated Marketing Summit (2010), “Until we put the customer in our company org charts we will never truly be integrated marketers.” This means we need to be capturing customer and prospect communication preference into our CRM systems in order to leverage the right channels for the best ROI and profit for each campaign. We also need to understand the interactions that happen between the customer and prospect with each department within our company before we will ever achieve integrated marketing success. Integrated marketing impacts every person in the company, from the janitor to the CEO, not to mention every person these people interact with.

Do you think we deserve a place at the C-Suite table?

Damn right, we do!

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