I recently read an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek entitled “Integrated Marketing: If You Knew it You’d Do it,” which analyzed the need for marketing integration across a landscape that is marked by fragmentation, and pointed out the difficulty at which achieving true integration involves. In a nutshell, you must either have an excellent strategy or the ability to execute well in order to be successful at integrating your marketing efforts. The author writes:
If your strategy is weak or off the mark, you may need to do what Pepsi is doing and reexamine everything. But it may be that your problem is more a matter of execution. If so, your enemy is entropy: Everything in the universe (including your brand) tends towards disarray, and in that case your role is to be gravity. No one else is going to hold it all together.
Unfortunately, we’ve all seen bad examples of marketing. From pushing vs. pulling and bad automation, to focusing on the wrong metrics, more often than not, these types of approaches to marketing are based on guesswork, and can best be classified as one-off tactics that fail to tie back into any sort of meaningful strategy.
Integrated Marketing Strategy
The problem that I find most people have with understanding integrated marketing is that integrated marketing is as much about changing the culture within an organization to align itself with the needs of marketing as it is about having an operating strategy that works to tie together marketing efforts across multiple platforms into a single, unified voice. In this way, marketing’s role within the organization has changed over time from a separately functioning business unit that held all the power, to a core strategic discipline that needs to be woven through each and every facet of the organization in such a way that attracts and retains customers in both a meaningful and transparent way. In the Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, the author clarifies this concept:
Integration is not simply slapping a common tagline onto all your ads, using a single color palette, or force-fitting a message that’s suited for one medium into another … Integration means communicating a consistent identity from message to message, and medium to medium, and (more importantly) delivering consistently on that identity. It requires not only the identification of a powerful, unifying strategy and compelling voice for your brand, but the discipline to roll it into every aspect of your organization—from advertising to sales, customer service to customer relationship management programs (and beyond). It’s not for the faint of heart.
The Need for Execution
Just two weeks ago I finished reading Contemporary Strategy Analysis by Robert Grant and Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Rather than go into a dissertation here about how to conduct a strategic analysis and condition a culture that’s poised to execute well, I will say that execution is critical for achieving a company’s integrated marketing plan. Bossidy and Charan write:
When companies fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequent explanation is that the CEO’s (or CMO’s) strategy was wrong. But the strategy by itself is not often the cause. Things that are supposed to happen don’t happen. Either the organizations aren’t capable of making them happen, or the leaders of the business misjudge the challenges their companies face in the business environment, or both … without execution, the breakthrough thinking breaks down, learning adds no value, people don’t meet their stretch goals, and the revolution stops dead in its tracks.
For companies that want to achieve marketing integration, having the right leadership in place is essential. Below are a few key points from the book for achieving this:
- Leaders must know their people and their business; they must also know themselves.
- Create a framework for cultural change.
- Have the right people in place.
- Link people to the overall strategy and operations process by setting clear goals and priorities, rewarding the doers, and expanding people’s capabilities.
- Convert the strategic plan into an action plan based on realism.
- Conduct a strategic review.
In my own experience, having a strategy in place is one thing, but executing well can be difficult. When I think of a company that has done an excellent job of integrating its marketing, I immediately think of my own company, CBRE. Despite acquisitions and mergers, CBRE has built up a strong marketing discipline within the company that spills over into all facets of the business, from the structure of pitches and proposals, to the sale and leasing of properties, to the type of research that is put out, and events that are conducted. There is a consistent voice across mediums and a strong culture that ties business and marketing efforts together neatly across the globe. By developing a culture of execution and innovation, the company’s marketing efforts are continuously improving and employees are energized to take part in creating something that is bigger than themselves.
What are some examples of integrated marketing that you’ve seen executed well?