For businesses small, large and anywhere in the middle, having an effective, multi-channel marketing plan is essential for success and growth. Don’t just take our word for it - 81% of marketers know that strategic planning is the most important aspect of their job, with 68% believing it’s even more crucial now than five years ago.
With customer expectations rising and communication channels expanding, businesses need to find a way to keep this strategic thinking at the centre of their marketing plans. An integrated marketing campaign does just that.
This article is an in-depth intro into integrated marketing campaigns. We'll look four key elements:
- What is an integrated marketing campaign?
- Five key benefits of an integrated marketing campaign
- Setting the strategy
- The four constants of a successful integrated marketing campaign for SMEs
So let's start at the beginning: what exactly is an integrated marketing campaign?
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Put simply, it’s a marketing campaign whose elements are fully aligned, unified - integrated - so that the customer receives a holistic experience, whatever the platform.
The oft-quoted 4 Cs of integrated marketing - coherence, consistency, continuity, complimentary - provide a good basis for understanding how all activities work together. An integrated campaign goes well beyond coordination on a micro level - resulting in a strategic whole that is far greater than the sum of its channel-by-channel parts.
So, what are some of the elements to think about?
1. What is an integrated marketing campaign?
At the centre of any integrated marketing campaign is brand identity - who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Your brand will guide your research, inform your messaging, and dictate the way you speak to your audience. As marketing guru Simon Sinek famously says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
Every single piece of content, collateral, and communication should reflect and reinforce your brand. Equally, a strong brand identity should be in constant alignment with all marketing messaging. Take a look at some of the greats - from the giants of Apple, to the rising likes of Airbnb - and note how their identities are seamlessly integrated into every touchpoint from website to app, to content and beyond.
The right research will impact every aspect of your campaign, telling you who your audience is, what they want from you, how they want to feel about your product or service, and how often they want to hear from you. 81% of marketers know that strategic thinking, powered by solid research, is the foundation of effective implementation.
Big Ideas: the mission and the message
The key difference between a single-use marketing campaign and one which is truly integrated is a message that deeply resonates with your audience. An integrated campaign is almost never about the what - new products alone do not motivate action. Instead, your core concept should tap into the emotions of your audience through messages of value that convey the personal benefits, not the technical features.
73% of major organisations hire someone to manage their content marketing strategy: clearly this is not always achievable for small or medium sized businesses, but it demonstrates the importance of managing content output cohesively. Sport England’s 2015 ‘This Girl Can’ campaign is a perfect illustration of powerful multi-channel synergy: women from each target segment were inspired by the emotive call to action through outdoor advertising, in-store POS, TV, social, and viral videos.
If content is the message, social media is the mouthpiece. With a third of millennials identifying social media as their preferred channel for communicating with businesses, it’s clear that any integrated marketing campaign should harness its power. The key challenge is to do so in a way that is in perfect harmony with your overarching goals. Three understood the effectiveness of hashtags to reinforce brand value, with their ‘Sorry for all the #holidayspam’ campaign, underscored by the network’s free mobile phone coverage abroad.
Cohesion must be achieved across all channels - traditional and digital. Magazines and print publications are still effective at reaching audiences, but now marketers have online, mobile, social ads, promoted posts, and PPC to extend their offerings. Most importantly, whatever channel/s are right for your business and your message, keeping the 4 C’s of integrated marketing at the forefront of your planning is key to success.
2. The 5 key benefits of an integrated marketing campaign
86% of senior-level marketers know it’s crucial to create a cohesive customer journey, and 60% of millennials expect consistent experiences when dealing with brands. An integrated - or omnichannel - marketing campaign offers the most effective way to achieve both imperatives.
Let’s take a look at some of the clear benefits for your company and your customers.
In marketing, trust is everything - 83% of customers would recommend a company they trust to others. How is trust gained? Through consistent reliability and reliable consistency - in other words, giving your audience what they want, when they want it. With the average attention span now shorter than a goldfish, and consumers exposed to over 5,000 marketing messages daily, a trusted brand with a cohesive offering is a reassuring encounter in a sea of fragmented marketing clutter.
Achieving brand recognition is a natural byproduct of placing brand identity at the centre of your campaign. The experiential nature of integrated marketing - messages that convey feelings rather than push products - drives brand recognition organically. 64% of people cite ‘shared values’ as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand - recalling John Lewis not for their range of garden furniture, but for the way they make them feel at Christmas.
A scattergun approach is the enemy of cohesive marketing, yet without an omnichannel plan it is an easy trap to fall into. Planning an integrated campaign from the outset will ensure your message is focused, both internally and externally.
Focus comes from within: when internal stakeholders understand the overarching strategy, productivity has been shown to spike - retailers who implement an omnichannel approach to marketing see improved employee engagement. Integrated marketing ensures all members of the marketing team focus on the common goal, and when this happens, it naturally projects to the outside world.
Integrated marketing naturally favours a lean approach to working: when everyone from your social media coordinator to your SEO whizz is focused on the same end goal, the staffing cost of duplicated efforts across multiple campaigns is reduced. Transactional costs are minimized too - when you standardize branding and promotional collateral, design and print costs benefit from scalability.
Case studies reveal that integrated customer journeys provide a competitive advantage - in some cases doubling sales year on year. Why? In part, because customers respond - and crucially take action on - familiarity. Conversely, the opportunity cost of not taking an omnichannel approach to marketing is a 10% dip in revenue. Having an integrated marketing campaign which ensures that wherever a customer encounters you, they experience the same message, means that they are statistically more likely to follow a call to action.
3. Integrated marketing campaigns: Setting the strategy
Now that you know what integrated marketing is all about - and understand its key benefits - you’re doubtless fired up and excited to launch your campaign. But hold that thought: before you begin composing so much as one single Tweet, you need to channel that enthusiasm into a winning strategy.
A marketing campaign without a strategy is like a football team without a formation: you might be able to pass a ball around, but you’re never going to win a game. Having a solid strategy in place before kick-off will help focus and frame your campaign, ensuring every shot is on target.
As we’re getting into the nitty gritty, we’d suggest you document each of these elements. Some will take longer than others to answer, many will be fluid, others may not be immediately obvious, but thinking about and documenting these points will form a solid foundation on which to build an integrated marketing campaign.
So what are the most important elements to include in your strategy?
Alternatively known as message, story, USP, or pull - your mission is the centre of your campaign, even your business. Just as everything begins here, every action will also refer back to it. Whatever you call it, what you do - and how you differentiate - will inform your entire operation, from research to evaluation and all the bits in between.
Creating a strong brand mission is about combining your value proposition with powerful emotional appeal. As marketing expert Seth Godin explains: “marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell”. Just look at IKEA’s brand promise: instead of focusing on their physical products, their story sells the ideal of “making everyday life better”.
One of our favourite talks is Simon Sinek’s TED presentation from a few years ago. His mantra is: ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’.
To get to the heart of your brand’s mission, ask: what do we do? How, why, and for whom do we do it? What are the values and benefits that transcend our function or features?
Don’t simply ask yourself as the business owner, ask your employees and customers too. Ask how they’d describe your business to others. What do they think you do? What do they think you stand for? The answers will give you valuable insight and inspiration while constructing the brand mission.
Knowing your audience inside out - and possibly upside down - is vital to any successful integrated marketing campaign. Knowledge enables you to create tailored content that will delight and motivate, plus understand how and when to best deliver this content.
Structure the research process with an audience persona: layers of information fleshed out with three-dimensional behavioural characteristics. The result? A workable human example that the whole team can use to keep messaging, tone, and visuals on-point throughout.
Here are some of the things to include:
- The basics: age, sex, job title, location
- Key drivers: what motivates their action, and fires their pistons? What are their goals, inspirations, dreams?
- Pain points: what are their challenges, fears, concerns, or turn-offs?
- Key attributes: are they time-rich, cash-poor or the other way round?
- Social: what do they do in their spare time? What do they read, watch, or listen to? How active are they on social media?
Next, let’s delve a little deeper into how you might curate the information.
This can be split into two separate forms: qualitative and quantitative. It might sound old-school in our data-rich marketing world, but a customer survey is still one of the best ways to effectively canvas customer opinion and insight. They require an understanding of effective questioning to ensure you elicit unbiased responses - think open questions rather than closed multiple choice - but can be administered very easily through programs like SurveyMonkey.
On the qualitative front, pick up the phone and speak to your customers directly. Don’t speak to anyone and everyone, pick your best clients - the ones with the best impression of you - and speak to them directly. Find out what they think of you, find out their first impressions, find out the problems you solve for them, that kind of thing.
At the same time, try and get a feel for what their days look like.What time do they wake up? How do they get to work? What do they read? What social media channels are they on? What newsletters do they subscribe to? The more insight you can get into their lives, the more focused your integrated market efforts will be.
Talk to other departments.
As well as speaking to clients, ask your sales team what they think makes a great lead. It will draw out some great behavioural insight. Don’t forget that other business functions - customer service, for example - hold a veritable treasure trove of customer insight, including frequently asked questions and common pain-points.
Use the tracking and analytic tools at your disposal to draw conclusions that will inform your marketing strategy. What search terms are people using to arrive at your website? What are your most popular blog posts, and what content flopped? Look closely at what themes can be extrapolated and used to hone your marketing strategy.
If you don’t know where the goalposts are, how to score, or what constitutes ‘winning’ before you begin, actions lose their potency and your campaign will lack cohesion.
A simple way to ensure your goals are effective is by following the SMART framework:
- Specific: Save the motivational battle cries for team-building - strategic goals should be focused and tangible.
- Measureable: For a goal to be effective, it needs to be quantifiable.
- Actionable: Are there clear steps you can take to achieve your goals?
- Realistic: Avoid the marketing equivalent of an overly-optimistic New Year’s resolution, and set the bar at an attainable - yet challenging - height.
- Timely: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and brand equity isn’t built overnight. Marry short-term wins with the longer term goals, and set a realistic time frame for success.
Rarely does one piece of marketing lead to a large chunk of business.The consistency, quality and focus of an ongoing integrated marketing campaign is what succeeds. Why does this matter? Because each element of the marketing mix should be judged solely on its purpose. A flood of leads is not a likely outcome from writing blogs, and expecting it is unfair on the work itself: it’s not their job.
There should be overall goals, but each element of your campaign should have its own desired outcome, and be measured as such. The point of email marketing, for instance, is to engage the readers, but also drive traffic to your site. Monitor open rates and click throughs.
Content on the other hand, should be about driving traffic to the website, and moving visitors through the purchase funnel. Monitor sessions on the website overall, organic traffic acquisition and time on site. Social media is more about awareness. Target follower growth and referral traffic from the social media channel to your website.
All marketing activity should be tied to metrics, but don’t expect more from each element than is possible.
Acquiring competitive intelligence is essential for any marketer setting their strategy: it enables you to stay ahead of the pack by identifying opportunities and threats as they arise.
Think back to all the fact-finding and scene-setting tasks you did when honing your mission and message, and replicate that for your competitors. What are they doing, and why? What are their big successes? What is their reputation? What information can you glean about their marketing strategy? Are there any mistakes you could learn from? Not just for the usual suspects, but for rising talent, and new players who may soon infringe on your space.
This should be food for thought, and hopefully you’ve been scribbling notes as you go. We urge you to assess and document all of these sections before you start any element of marketing. Trust us: the more structure and strategy you put in place up top, the better the results in the end.
4. The 4 constants for an integrated marketing campaign
If we had to pick just one of the 4 C’s of integrated marketing for a successful campaign, it would be consistency.
Statistically, consistent brands are worth 20% more than those who aren’t, while companies that don’t embrace consistency in their marketing risk eroding customer trust. In practice, applying consistency in your integrated campaign means making sure that every detail is playing on the same level field. Here are our picks of the most important constants:
Today’s audiences expect a consistent brand message: 60% of millennials want a business to make them feel the same way, consistently - whether on the phone, in store or online. The easiest way to do this is through clear marketing goals that convey your USP in the simplest, most emotion-driven way possible.
Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ slogan - first launched in 1988 - has made them the most recognisable sports brand on the planet. Campaign after campaign, iteration by iteration, their core message and ‘brand story’ have consistent longevity that speaks just as well to today’s health and fitness market as it did to the basketball playing youth of the early 1990s.
In essence: your mission should be the driving force behind every marketing output. It’s not enough to run an on-message email campaign if your social media accounts continue blissfully unaware. Plus, to really ensure consistency across all channels, your message should be documented and distributed to anyone involved in the marketing plan.
Tone of voice
A consistent tone of voice is an often neglected, but important, component of marketing: 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says, and how it says it. Through its powerful role in brand perception, your tone of voice can convey moods and qualities as varied as Apple’s effortless simplicity, Innocent Drink’s whimsical familiarity, or Old Spice’s tongue-in-cheek charm.
All very well for a company turning over £400 billion (Apple, at the latest count), but what about more modest enterprises? Well, message and tone can go a long way in differentiating your brand. Sometimes, having a strong and singular voice simply means believing in what you do, and letting that shine through in all your communication. One of our favourite examples of small-scale success is BrewDog: the Scottish craft beer company who started off with two employees (and a dog) in 2007, and - thanks to an epic tone of voice and impeccable consistency - now boasts over 500 employees (and the same dog - we assume).
The way in which you use tone, vocabulary, storytelling and structure to convey your persuasive message will come in partly as a result of the psychographic research conducted during the creation of your audience persona.
But it still requires a level of craft - and documentation - to ensure the words you are using to tell your stories reflect your audience’s unique reality, and connect them on a personal level. Throughout your marketing - from tweets to emails, adverts to Facebook posts - your tone of voice should be completely consistent with your message and brand promise.
A first impression is always seen - so getting your visual branding right, and applying it consistently, is crucial. Time spent developing a cohesive visual identity will never be wasted: colour alone increases brand recognition by up to 80%. But colour palette is just one of the many visual elements that should be considered carefully: lines, fonts, shapes, logo integrity, style and photography will all help you create a consistent experience throughout your campaign.
Aim to create a definitive style guide that can be referred to by anyone involved in the implementation of your campaign: everything from Facebook cover images to Twitter profiles, email templates to website design, should be instantly and recognisably “you”.
If the terms of your marketing success - or goalposts - are constantly changing, it stands to reason that your results will be unreliable, and your strategy vague. Make sure that you’re one of the 55% of marketers who have organisational clarity on what success actually looks like, by keeping your reporting constant.
We’ve talked about how to set the most effective marketing goals, so your campaign objectives will already be specific, actionable, timely and realistic. But when it comes to knowing whether or not your integrated marketing campaign has hit the mark, it is most important for marketing goals to be measurable.
Each element of your integrated campaign will have a slightly different KPI, measured against its own specific goals. But if you only ever check in with website stats once in a blue moon, while neglecting to assess email open rates or ignoring social growth, you’ll never get the overall picture. Take the time to develop a “what does success look like?” framework that can be applied on both a micro/weekly and macro/monthly level to make sure any results are interpreted consistently. For complete coherence, encourage the whole team to take a plan-implement-report approach to their marketing.
The bottom line
Whether you’re a two people and a dog kind of company, or operate on a slightly larger scale, we hope you’ve gained some inspiration, renewed your marketing enthusiasm, and picked up at least an idea - or four - along the way.
The benefits of having a clear, strategic, integrated plan - and applying insight consistently - will do wondrous things for your marketing. More than wondrous, you’ll bring your brand into focus, and sharpen your customer offering while having a real impact on your bottom-line. What are you waiting for?
Winbox takes care of the email marketing element of your marketing mix, and also partner with specialist companies in other marketing areas so you can efficiently run an integrated strategy. For help with setting up an integrated marketing campaign, contact Marc at Winbox.