Don't Confuse Integrated Marketing With Multichannel Marketing

After a week that included no less than three conversations about the difference between "integrated" and "multichannel" marketing, I felt the need to raise the topic here. Most experts and practitioners generally agree that integrated marketing is more than mere coordination of the marketing message across channels. Way back in early 2003 we too noted this. In The Essentials Of Integrated Marketing, Forrester defined the next evolution of integrated marketing as:

Weaving together digital and physical channels to engage consumers' emotions, deliver brand experiences, and form ongoing relationships.

Fast forward more than three years to today and compelling integrated marketing case studies are still few and far between. Why?

We think it's because true integration of the marketing process requires that firms make a philosophical shift in how they approach marketing. Today, most marketing organizations have three centers of power that vie for predominance: brand marketing, direct marketing, and interactive marketing. Furthermore, these functions are all goaled and measured differently – often with competing metrics. Of course, reorganizing marketing to inherently support an integrated approach is easier said than done. As Pete Kim pointed out in our conversation: "inertia is easy – it's much easier to stick with the status quo than to risk failing." We're not going to let Pete off the hook that easy, however. Stay tuned for his new research later this quarter that will focus on how the role of marketing needs to change to meet corporate demands, capture the voice of the customer, and ensure ongoing innovation.

In the mean time… As you try to better integrate your marketing efforts, remember some of the basics:

Different media have different strengths. A few of us recently attended a Webinar on integrated marketing best practices. The presenter shared a case study in which a high tech manufacturing firm executed a campaign for a new product launch. The campaign incorporated print, Web site, email, and online ad tactics. The message and the creative were consistent across all of these elements. Unfortunately, this firm missed the critical fact that different media have different strengths. For instance, TV can be great at eliciting an emotional response whereas the Web is good at engaging visitors in an experience and the human interaction of the phone can help build relationships.

Point to the next step in all communications. The other thing this high tech firm failed to address in the program that consumers use different media and channels at various stages of the buying process. If a consumer clicks through a paid search ad and sees the same exact message on the landing page, then an opportunity to push the prospect forward in her consideration cycle has been squandered. Marketers must make it easy for consumers to follow up on their heightened interest.

There is no technology silver bullet. Eager to capitalize on market hotspots, technology vendors are messaging heavily about their integrated marketing "solutions" and "suites". But, as we learned with the CRM craze, technology is not the answer. At best, it is an enabler. At worst, it can be a very costly diversion.

Finally, for those with access to Forrester's syndicated research, I'd recommend a review of several classics:

The Essentials Of Integrated Marketing

The Integrated Marketing Self-Test

The Guide To Integrated Marketing Success

Integrated Marketing Best Practices: Unilever

Integrated Marketing Best Practice: Volvo Cars

If you have case studies to share or thoughts on what it takes to organize to effectively integrate the marketing process please post your comments here or contact me at eanderson@forrester.com.