It’s an omni-channel, context-sensitive, hyper-personalised world out there, and customers expect consistent brand interactions across every touch point. Paid, earned and owned – someone’s going to have to bring it all together. Jonathan Cotton asks who and how?
Here’s a challenge: provide an integrated brand experience for customers across a dozen on- and off-line channels – all while producing real McCoy business outcomes, please.
Sounds good, but it’s actually a bit hard.
“Marketing is becoming so complex and the variety of internal and external stakeholders is growing,” says Rufus Chuter, managing partner and head of strategy at Together.
“Not only do you need to understand the brand, the overall creative idea and the strategy, but you also need to understand the multitude of contexts that your messaging is intercepting people in, and how, therefore, the messaging might need to flex relevant to the context.”
Bridging the divide between campaign, platform, and tactic, integrated marketing seeks a whole greater than the sum of its parts. With integrated marketing approaches, every touchpoint complements every other, creating a consistent brand experience in the mind of the customer and a greater likelihood of purchase.
That’s a lot of moving parts to manage. It wasn’t always this hard. Just a few years ago, there were fewer channels to engage with, and a common creative idea (or a ‘matching luggage’ approach) was enough to meet the market.
“Everything just matched up,” says Chuter.
Not so now, as channels fragment and touch points proliferate. The truth is, there’s never been a greater number of ways that consumers can experience a brand, and collectively we’re still figuring out the right approach.
First and foremost, a marketing strategy needs to serve business strategy. What business problems are you trying to solve? What, ultimately, is the measure of success?
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking to your mate down the pub who’s got a side hustle and wants to pick your brains about Google Ads, or you’re talking to the CEO of a multi-million dollar organisation,” says Chuter.
“Fundamentally, you still need to start with ‘what’s the business actually trying to achieve?’”
“Then you can decide what role marketing will play in delivering that.”
There’s been a huge amount of technology investment from agencies in the last few years, especially in the area of analytics capabilities, and with that has come a lot of data – not all of it useful.
The onus is on marketers therefore, not just to collect what’s available, but to make sure they are measuring the things that really matter.
“That’s never been easier, given the level of sophistication in data analytics and tracking that’s available these days,” says Chuter. “But it’s so important to actually be measuring that brand activity for the business outcome that you’re trying to achieve.”
The work of people like Peter Field and Les Binet shows that brand metrics are the ones that significantly shift business KPIs.
How we bring technology to bear on softer marketing metrics such as brand salience, brand consideration and brand preference – metrics that are arguably more powerful for long term business growth – remains to be seen.
“The challenge in the industry,” says Chuter, “is that [these sorts of insights] are far harder to track than Google Analytics-surfaced website insights, so there’s an ongoing opportunity to better quantify the business benefit of brand metrics.”
And while there’s ever more powerful technology available, people skills still matter. Even given the best-of-breed software, marketers might need support in getting the most out of them.
“CTOs aren’t marketers, and many marketers aren’t strong in the technology space,” says Chuter. “We often find ourselves acting as a connector to translate those goals into technology requirements, as well as helping marketers understand the opportunities that certain technology investments that have already been made represent for them.”
“Sometimes CMOs can get handed a Ferrari, but they just don’t feel equipped to drive it”.