Where’s your brand napkin? Why your media plan needs to be integrated.
At the end of 2018, Mailchimp users saw a strange notification when they opened up their dashboards: an invitation to send postcards to their subscribers.
Real. Paper. Postcards. In the mail.
If you received that notification, you probably had the same thought as I did: Jeesh? Postcards? Really? Has Mailchimp forgotten what digital marketing is all about?
Actually, looking back, Mailchimp—an automated marketing platform that knows more about your audience segments than you do—knew just what marketing was all about. They knew, for instance, that people actually liked holding paper in their hands. (86%
of us still look through our paper mail, by the way.) They also knew that direct marketing like postcards works 10% better
at bringing in new customers than email.
To put this into terms we may not want to hear, but should: Mailchimp knew that many CMOs and marketing teams had begun to see the trees for the forest. We had our eyes glued on Facebook and Google Analytics—tracking our Instagram likes, newsletter click-throughs and button conversions—but had lost sight of the big picture, which included other valuable marketing touchpoints.
In Mailchimp’s case, actual touchpoints: physical objects we held in our hands, put up on the fridge, and shared with friends. In a nutshell, Mailchimp had sent us a very timely reminder on the value of an integrated marketing strategy.
What’s integrated marketing?
In case you hate the post office as much as I do, integrated marketing doesn’t necessarily mean sending out postcards. In fact, individual channels aren’t even the point. Mailchimp’s marketing experiment had a different kind of lesson to offer: focusing on one set of marketing channels (your website, newsletter or social media channels) at the expense of others (print, radio or TV) is a trap.
A trap because you don’t build powerful brand experiences à la carte, a channel here, a touchpoint there. You build them by delivering a single, meaningful message to your customers across all the channels, platforms and touchpoints you use to reach your business and communication goals.
That, in a nutshell, is what you’re trying to achieve with an integrated marketing strategy: a single brand message that feels, looks and sounds the same wherever you want your customers to encounter it—digital or analog, in a newsletter or on a postcard, via a Facebook ad or a TV ad.
Integrated marketing strategies don’t happen by accident
Like Spaghetti Western composer Ennio Morricone’s famous remark about his soundtracks—when the music is doing its job, you don’t notice it—successful marketing teams work hard to deliver consistent messages that don’t distract customers from enjoying their brands.
To put that another way, if you found a red and yellow Starbucks logo on your Starbucks napkin, or a green and black McDonald’s logo on your McDonald’s french fry box, you’d literally do a double-take. You might even send your order back. But you never have.
That’s because McDonald’s and Starbucks take great pains to deliver a consistent brand message—colors, typography, logo, voice—wherever you encounter it.
Why an integrated marketing strategy is essential today
You may be thinking something along the lines of: “Well, good for Starbucks. But I’m not a giant multinational company with seven figures to spend on ads. I’m a local business with a local audience and a limited monthly budget. What do I have to gain from an integrated marketing strategy?”
It’s a fair concern. There aren’t many businesses that can compete with McDonald’s or Starbucks. But you don’t have to. Integrated marketing strategies pay off
at any scale. This is why.
You cement brand relationships
64% of consumers
cite shared values as the primary building block of their brand relationships. A lot of businesses assume that just appearing on popular social platforms like Facebook and Instagram is enough to cement those relationships.
The fact is, brand relationships aren’t built on Facebook or Instagram—or on any one marketing channel alone. They’re built when businesses deliver a unified message across the channels and touchpoints that matter to their customers.
So, if you’ve only been focusing on the usual suspects up until now, consider integrating other channels into your marketing strategy. Like Always feminine care did in 2014 when they set out to forge a powerful relationship with a new generation of customers via their integrated #LikeAGirl
Documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenburg’s video
, which combats negative gender stereotypes about puberty-age girls, was the #LikeAGirl campaign centerpiece (it was viewed over 85 million times on YouTube), but Always also used social media, print, and even TV spots, to get their message across. Without this multi-channel strategy, #LikeAGirl would never have managed to do what it did: convince 76% of young viewers to reconsider the stigma attached to the phrase “like a girl”.
The results Always saw with millions of dollars of ad spend, you can scale down to your own budget.
You amplify your message
Buzz is like a rolling snowball. It has a cumulative effect. Yes, a few thousand Instagram likes is great. But imagine how much more people would be talking if even a quarter of those IG followers saw your message in a magazine, in the street or on TV, too.
Domino Pizza’s 2015 Anyware
campaign is a case in point. When Domino’s wanted to get their customers to start ordering from any device with an internet connection, they didn’t boost a few social posts and sit back and wait for the change to happen.
Instead, they invested in a full bore, integrated campaign
over print, TV and digital media that brought in so many earned social media impressions (2 billion) that their message ended up on national talk shows in the US. 500,000 extra website visits wasn’t bad either.
Bottom line? Whatever you can accomplish with one channel is nothing compared to what you can accomplish with four or more, no matter how big you are or how much you spend.
You’re more efficient
Finally, when you have a unified message you’re delivering across the channels that mean the most to you, you save time and creative. There are two reasons for this. One, running an integrated campaign lets you repurpose your content across channels. Two, you’re only choosing the channels that can get the job done.
Unless you think Domino’s or Always had five different creative teams working on five different messages with five different visual identities. Or that both companies chose their marketing channels out of a hat.
Spoiler: They didn’t. They used the same message and identity, and repackaged it for the channels they knew would be most effective when combined together. That integrated approach streamlined their whole process, letting them get more done with less.
How to design and implement an integrated marketing strategy
Integrated marketing strategies may cut down on the hours, resources and budgets you pour into your marketing campaigns in the long run, but you still need to coordinate your delivery across a pretty daunting number of channels and customer touchpoints. Which is why a lot of businesses end up working with full-stack marketing agencies
to get their marketing strategies up and running.
However you decide to approach it—whether you’re going solo, have an in-house marketing team, or you’re collaborating with an agency—developing an integrated marketing strategy will look something like this.
Figure out what you want to accomplish
Anyone who’s ever run a company wishes growing their business was as simple as asking for 10,000 new Facebook followers. But even if there was a Facebook genie and he lived on your dashboard, a rash of new followers isn’t really what you need from your marketing strategy, it’s the result of doing something else right.
Most of us, however, have the opposite concern: we feel we aren’t growing fast enough because we’re doing something wrong (and we don’t know how to fix it). If only we had the budget for a website reboot
, a highway billboard, a TV spot, a trend-setting Instagram campaign.
But magical single-channel thinking won’t grow your business either. In fact, at this stage, you shouldn’t even be thinking about channels. You should focus, instead, on the one thing you want to use all your channels to accomplish.
Maybe you offer niche services and want potential clients to understand what you do. Maybe you sell products in a crowded market and want to stand out from the competition. You could simply be a new business and want to get the word out. Whatever you want to accomplish with your integrated marketing strategy, the first step is to articulate it, which is always harder than it looks.
Pick your channels, set goals for each
Once you’ve settled on your big picture business goals, you need to find the best channels to use to make them happen and then combine them for maximum impact. Just be prepared to think “off the screen” here. Because with an integrated strategy, while customer-first
is always the way to go, you aren’t limited to a digital-only approach.
Yes, you have pay-per-click advertising, but you have print, too. You have email marketing, but, like Mailchimp, you also have direct marketing. You have your website, your blog, your social media, but don’t forget your packaging, your in-person events, your in-store purchasing. (Even your napkins.)
The good news is that with an integrated marketing strategy, creating loads of on-brand content isn’t the chore it once was. When you’ve got a unified message and visual identity, you can repurpose and deploy your marketing assets wherever and whenever you need them.
Just don’t forget, even if you’ve got your branded content ready to launch, each of those channels and customer touchpoints needs its own goal, too. Otherwise, just like with your long-term business goals, you won’t be able to measure the success of the campaigns you use to reach them.
Speak to your audience
Almost any debacle in the history of marketing can be traced back to an audience that wasn’t there to receive it. So take this step seriously. The goals you set for your campaigns are ultimately measured in people.
Your LinkedIn audience, for example, isn’t necessarily the same as your Instagram audience, which is a far cry from the general public encountering your brand on a highway billboard or on TV.
While your visual identity and brand voice won’t change with an integrated strategy, you’ll always need to tweak your message to make it resonate with different audience segments.
See what you can afford
Fortunately, marketing isn’t all or nothing. Don’t have the budget to make five three-minute videos? Make one two-minute video. Can’t afford to run an ad campaign in your local paper for a month? Run it for a week.
Integrated strategies give you this leeway because you aren’t throwing away money on your message, you’re just deciding on when, where and how often your customers find it.
That said, setting budgets makes a lot of us uncomfortable. We know we have to spend money to make money, and that results don’t happen overnight. It’s just why do so many of our marketing euros go to Google and Facebook? This is a totally reasonable marketing concern.
The best way to conquer your “fear of ad spend” is actually to have an honest look at the numbers. The alternative—not keeping track of what you spend—will just fan your fear (and possibly bankrupt you).
Test your strategy
We don’t know how the Facebook-Apple cookie
wars will ultimately pan out, or how deeply Google’s newly announced Federated Learning of Cohorts (FloC)
tracking technology is going to change the face of data marketing. For now, it’s cookies
as usual. And since it is, you can still track your customer journeys in click-throughs, page views and session times—as long as they’re online.
So when it comes to testing your strategy, the data you track online aren’t the only performance indicators. Physical encounters with your brand still count for a lot, too.
Tweak it and try again
This isn’t the de rigueur “do it again!” point you find at the end of almost every search marketing listicle. Marketing teams really do love integrated marketing because, whether something works or doesn’t, their next campaign is a matter of tweaking their delivery, not reinventing their message.
If you’ve ever actually had to reinvent your message, I don’t have to ask you which of those two options is less of a drain on your budget and resources.
You might not be trying to combat gender stereotypes or change the way we order pizza online. But you do have the same tools at your disposal to accomplish your business goals as the businesses that are.
We talked about how content means different things to customers in different places. A billboard isn’t the same thing as a Facebook ad, for instance. But what is a billboard by itself? Or a Facebook ad, for that matter?
Integrating marketing has an answer to those questions: an isolated ad on a single channel is a fraction of what it could be.
An integrated marketing strategy doesn’t just give you a consistent brand message delivered across the touchpoints that matter to you and your customers, in other words, it seals customer relationships, amplifies your message with each outbound tactic you use, and streamlines your whole marketing process. If there was ever a good case for a brand being more than the sum of its parts, that would be it.