Integrated Marketing: An Introduction to Building a Seamless Brand
The secret of brand projection in a multimedia world is to present a consistent, seamless, multi-dimensional identity across a range of media, and see the digital and traditional approaches as complementary, rather than separate. This is integrated marketing.
What can you expect from this article?
- What is integrated marketing?
- How to build an integrated marketing strategy
- Using social media within integrated marketing
- The role of traditional marketing channels in today’s world
What is integrated marketing?
In a world with so much noise, it can be an ever-more daunting job trying to establish a corporate image, gain brand recognition, and generate leads and sales. As potential customers are constantly bombarded with content of every variety, it’s only the brands with the strongest and most enduring identity that remain strong and sustainable.
This has become more pertinent with the rise of digital media and, whilst much is made of the need to have a presence on each of the plethora of different platforms available, simply saturating them with your brand can have the opposite effect to that intended.
For well-funded startups and SMEs, the secret of brand projection in a multi-media world is to present a consistent, seamless, multi-dimensional brand across a range of media, and see the digital and traditional approaches as complementary, rather than separate. This is integrated marketing.
Integrated marketing is the process of combining traditional marketing methods with new media, generating a unified customer experience across the board. Broadly, it’s about combining a range of different marketing tactics to deliver a single overall strategy. It can also be applied in a purely digital context for online businesses, in which all digital channels represent a single brand voice.
It’s more important than ever to integrate the online and offline world. Modern consumers expect to find things super quick. If they hear a radio advert, they expect to find the brand online immediately, via their smartphone or tablet device. Instant information is everything, so to use traditional marketing without incorporating the latest technology can hinder reach, and damage reputation.
Integrated marketing isn’t about using as many different methods as possible. It’s about bringing together multiple marketing platforms within the range of the overall marketing strategy, deciding what works and what doesn’t, then utilising the channels accordingly.
Deliberately blending the online and offline approaches, then using options that don’t just sell your service but make that service more saleable, can help to build the reputation of your brand. This includes the use of video, written content, paid advertising (online and offline), PR placements (online and offline), social media, email marketing, SEO, and more.
Such a combination of tactics can do so much more than simply sell your product. It emphasises expertise and develops the perception of competence and integrity within your field. Of course, using such an approach suits large multinationals very well, but can still be applied to smaller companies to gain competitive advantage and increase sales.
How to set up an integrated strategy
Here’s a brief introduction to setting up and delivering an integrated strategy, although each business will have its own unique spin. For more detailed information about how a similar approach could impact your brand’s marketing success, get in touch with Kurve.
- Establish SMART objectives and business goals
- Conduct detailed audience research
- Decide on marketing channels (online and offline)
- Devise a content and social strategy
- Plan the required skills and resources
- Create and deploy the campaigns
- Measure and track performance
Start by establishing SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) objectives, and ensure that marketing goals match overall business goals. Next, build an in-depth understanding of customer attitudes towards your business and your products, and the place of the brand within the market.
Once this has been achieved, it’s time to define your brand and campaign messages. This must remain consistent across all channels. Especially when startups are considered, integrated marketing doesn’t necessarily mean using every channel, but only the ones on which you’ve identified a targetable audience for your business. For the digital sphere, Moz put together this useful guide on how to choose the right channels.
Then, align your content and social strategies, and understand how one feeds the other. Create detailed editorial and social calendars, and understand how outside forces can impact the campaign (i.e. Christmas, a royal wedding, etc.). Within this, consider the resources required in terms of manpower and budget, and plan the task responsibilities on a top-level, although allow for future alterations to the plan.
Next is the creative stage. Content must be created that aligns with the overall integrated campaign message, adapted for each channel. For example, your Instagram followers could benefit more from a series of ten-second video clips, rather than the maximum of a minute. LinkedIn followers may prefer a crowdsourced white paper. A display advertisement on the London Underground will need to be clear, concise, and visual. Each channel must convey a consistent brand message, adapted for the audience and the context of their experience.
This useful article by Smart Insights discusses some of the pitfalls of integrated campaign planning. The same author, Alex Heaton, published a look at three case studies for brilliant integrated campaigns, which focused on their coherence, consistency, continuity, complementary, and effectiveness.
Social media and integrated marketing
A modern day integrated marketing strategy involves embracing a wide range of platforms, in addition to traditional marketing techniques, in order to achieve the desired marketing outcomes for your business. Whilst traditional channels still have a place in the marketer’s toolkit, social media is paramount for B2B and B2C brands alike.
Building the social element of the strategy
It’s imperative to embrace social media as a key element of an integrated strategy in the modern age. This isn’t a gimmick, and isn’t a phase. Social is here to stay, and has formed one of the planet’s most important forms of communication. Therefore, it should form a key element of your brand’s customer-centred integrated marketing campaign.
When considering social media, it’s important to maintain an agility that allows adaptation to day-to-day market changes and the sudden opportunities that arise.
Using social media
It’s worth stopping to remember that most of this stuff barely existed ten to fifteen years ago. This quite a revolution, and for that reason we’re still in the early stages of using these digital channels within an integrated approach.
Well-known social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will likely form some element of your campaign, but there’s a plethora of options available to marketers in today’s world. As I mentioned earlier, the research and planning stage should determine which channels are most relevant. This depends on demographic groups, brand message, USP, and other factors. It may be applicable to become an early-adopter for new channels, as a method of establishing your brand as a forward-thinking leader in the field.
Social media will enable you to engage directly with your audience, and resolve problems in real time. This is where you also consider if your integrated marketing absorbs customer service practices. By understanding your audience’s concerns and addressing them via social channels, customer service generates PR and marketing benefits.
Jay Baer wrote about incorporating social media within an integrated marketing approach. Here, he talks about integrating social media with email, virtual events, live events, and market research. According to Baer, social media “isn’t a solo act, it’s a jazz combo.” He’s got that right.
The role of traditional marketing channels
One of the most important aspects of integrated marketing is that it involves multiple media working together for a common end.
What Kurve does is help drive marketing success online, through content, social media, SEO, paid media, and much more. Having said that, it shall not be overlooked that within an integrated campaign, the brand should project a consistent message across all channels, including more traditional offline activities.
Ultimately, people still operate in a physical space. Because integrated marketing is about the customer experience at every touch point, this is important to consider. Simple and unfashionable items such as letterheads, presentation templates, and business cards still have a function in the modern world, and should be treated as a customer touch-point with equal importance to a social profile. Consistency is key, across the board.
Physical posters and advertisements could incorporate a QR code to link the offline voice with an online one. “But QR codes are dead!” I hear you cry. Well, granted they’re not thriving, but they do have a relatively solid user base, as highlighted in this HubSpot article. Again, marketers must consider the context of where their QR codes are placed. Nobody’s going to scan the side of a moving bus.
It’s quite simple really; if you can provide a consistent brand and campaign message, adapted to the context of the audience in each channel, you have an effective integrated campaign.
Concerns about the integrated approach
Integrated marketing has so many advantages for modern businesses, but there are downsides to consider, too. Without an overarching marketing strategy (aligned with business goals), the integrated approach can cause conflict and contradiction across the media spectrum. If the planning of a campaign fails or is misjudged, it can do damage to a brand. The approach needs to universally adopted by everyone within the team to be effective, and executed to perfection.
Marketing automation tools must be optimised and monitored to ensure that the output is as expected. Whilst these platforms can significantly reduce administration time and enhance your targeting success, they shouldn’t be left to their own devices forever.
Should it be necessary, it also becomes more difficult to re-brand all or part of your business at short-notice, as so much of the brand image will be interlinked and mutually complementary. However, with a strong core brand these concerns should be easily outweighed by the rewards.
Essentially, success comes down to the full commitment to an integrated approach.
Integrated marketing is a mindset, and an approach that’s been rightly taking hold in large and small brands alike. For startups it represents a positive kickstart, ensuring that a speedily-growing audience is experiencing consistent brand interaction across the board.
An integrated approach also opens up new avenues and channels. One example; in a world where mobile is ruling (it now represents 65% of digital media time), people are experiencing life through their smartphones and tablets. 85% of all time spent on a mobile device is spent in apps, which means that marketers have the chance to attract a captive audience by launching a mobile application. This could take the form of an interactive game, an educational tool, or a simple content-feed; depending on what the audience needs.
This app should have its own promotional strategy to get off the ground, and its function should be incorporated into the wider integrated online and offline campaigns.
As with any strategy, the audience is at the centre of your considerations with integrated marketing. It’s about how you connect with audience members in the areas where you can make an impact. After identifying the needs and wants of your target audience, it’s time to establish which channels you can reach them on, and create a unified brand experience.