Integrated Marketing… or Integrated Business?

Customer Experience Diagram

I’ve recently completed an IDM course in Digital Marketing, and one of the topics was ‘Integrated Marketing’. This has become a widely-used term but everyone believes that they know what it means – which puts me in mind of a quote about Big Data I recently saw on LinkedIn: “Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…”

Even Wikipedia has problems defining it. I’ll admit that my pre-conception of the term ‘Integrated Marketing’ probably ran along the following lines: “an integrated multi-channel campaign where all messaging and creative elements follow a similar impactful theme to achieve a business target”. British Airways new advertising campaign using the hashtag #ToFlyToServe being a case in point. In the course, this was described dismissively as having ‘matching luggage’, and it was contended that the real meaning of integrated marketing was “to have a consistent customer experience across multiple communication channels”. So a customer of a bank could have a similar expectation when accessing their account whether its via desktop, smartphone, tablet or on a call.

Though this is an admirable goal and increasingly prevalent trend that consumers come to expect, I’m not sure it should be necessarily laid at marketing’s door. Of course, the marcomms team should play an integral role in informing the customer experience, but really there are very many other parts of an organisation that need to be involved from the customer support department, to sales, IT, finance/billing, all the way up to management. It’s having an ‘Integrated Business’. If a business as a whole does not understand the customer experience or has a siloed approach to communicating with that customer, then no amount of clever marketing is going to help.

A case in point is LinkedIn’s iPhone app – I like many others find it incredibly frustrating to use but am a keen advocate of their desktop website. Companies can risk harming their brands if they immediately jump on the multi-channel approach without keeping up with their customers’ expectations.

How to address this in your business? It’s simple to say, but harder to do – form a cross-functional group focused on your customers and take it one step at a time – solving challenges and planning improvements together in an integrated fashion.

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