• May 29, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Integrated Marketing Remains Elusive

NEW YORK -- The Association of National Advertisers held its third annual Integrated Marketing Conference today at the Grand Hyatt New York. Since the inception of its Integrated Marketing (IM) survey in 2003, the ANA has since conducted three studies -- previous studies were in 2003 and 2006 -- revealing the results of its latest 2008 study this morning. The results were followed by a panel discussion about the best practices in integrated marketing.

The ANA illustrates the objectives of integrated marketing as:

  • optimizing the marketing mix;
  • integrating messages across the marketing spectrum;
  • managing multiple communications patterns; and
  • measurement of the effectiveness of each medium individually and as a marketing whole.
The biggest frustration, expressed Amy Fuller, group executive of Americas Marketing for MasterCard Worldwide and a panelist, is the "fundamental dissatisfaction" marketers have with themselves in terms of integrated marketing. Integrated marketing ranks as the top concern among companies that are employing IM for the second study in a row. Three-quarters of marketers (74 percent) reported that they are using IM for all or most of their brands, products and services. However, only 25 percent report that they are doing "very well" or "excellent" with this initiative, down from 33 percent in 2006. The ANA suspects that the reason for the drop is attributed to the increasing challenges in measurement and metrics as marketers are bombarded by more channels and more information.

By a vast majority with 34 percent, marketers ranked "general advertising" as their most valuable communications program in integrated marketing, followed by "in-store/point-of-sale" with 11 percent. Fuller agrees that in MasterCard's experience, general advertising continues to play a significant role in building the global brand idea. Nevertheless, the concept of "general advertising" has moved beyond just a batch and blast approach. "If we have a meeting just about television execution, then we've failed," Fuller said. "The idea," she added, is to create word-of-mouth opportunities [and] leverage other opportunities."

Tom Collinger, associate dean and chair of the integrated marketing communications department at the Medill School in Northwestern University, however, challenged the definition of general advertising: Does this mean all the big ideas are from general agencies? What about the biggest brand story in the last 10 years -- Google -- which rarely does advertising at all? Given that, "general" isn't so general anymore. Marketers, he said, need to evaluate where the big idea be coming from and where should it be applied most aggressively to connect with the customer.

That's where measurement comes in. Unfortunately, "measurement has always been the problem child," lamented Fuller, and it doesn't get any easier with an influx of channels. To work in silos makes things easy and neat, but blocks out necessary and influential outside factors; but, as marketers integrate, it becomes more difficult to separate and measure. In light of this, Fuller finds that the most significant convincing measurement tool is through regression modeling.

Still, measurement itself can just end up being a bunch of meaningless numbers. "You have this stubborn fact that 85 percent of consumers are multi-tasking with multimedia," Collinger said. Today, he argued, anything that's measurable gets measured because often times, the person with the best data gets heard, even if that piece of measurement isn't what marketers are supposed to be looking at. "The ability to see all of it in combination -- marketing mix modeling -- is a fabulous tool; but it requires someone to bring wisdom to the data," he said.

Regardless of what campaigns are deployed, integrated marketing has to be marked by consistency and continuity. With the voluminous amount of mindsets, products, cultures a company has to work with, it's understandable that marketing campaigns will be different. But what absolutely cannot change, warned panelist Glen Gilbert, vice president of brand management and marketing communications of personal computer manufacturer Lenovo US, is the brand proposition. With so many consumer touch points today, it's important for marketers to not get lost along the way. "Your viral should look very different from your TV spots or your print ads, but not at the expense of your marketing effectiveness," he said.

Marketers report that their biggest barrier to creating an effective marketing program is due "functional silos" within the organization (59 percent, down from 63 percent in 2006), followed by "lack of strategic consistency across communications disciplines" at 42 percent. According to Collinger, the alumni he interacts with who come back and reveal why they love their jobs are those who work in environments were the learning never stops. "Have people in different departments of the organization buddy up with another department," he said. While it may be difficult, especially among older employees, given the speed of change across all industries, this strategy provides an excellent educational experience. "It all starts with people," he said. "Integration starts with people."

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