By Mark Weiner, CEO, PRIME Research Americas
Given the common sense of integrated marketing communications – complimentary messaging, consistent targeting, and continuity across marketing channels — I was sure that by now, the benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications would be widely recognized and effectively practiced. When I first encountered Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) in 1993 it seemed reasonable to expect that organizational marketing and communications – advertising, trade, employee communications, PR, etc. – would be integrated and aligned for the optimal customer experience, manifesting itself in efficiency, effectiveness and return on investment. Unlike the often disjointed and discordant approaches of the past, I reasoned, new technologies and advanced methods for uncovering audience attitudes and priorities would naturally lead to a unified approach to meet the target’s preferences for frequency, function and form of communication at the same time that it met the business’s demands for a return-on-investment. As a result, businesses would flourish and all forms of marketing – including PR– would blossom together.
The benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications are as great as ever, even if the overwhelming majority of marketing organizations can’t live up to its promise. Technology is even more advanced than even just a few years ago. And marketing is under even greater pressure to do more with less and for less given the disintegration of traditional media, the decline of mass marketing advertising and a general lack of trust (and interest) in marketing messaging.
So in the past 15 years, why haven’t marketing investment decision-makers demanded the advantages of IMC? Why hasn’t Integrated Marketing Communications emerged to dominate the marketing landscape? Why is it common practice – and even preferred practice – is so distant from the theory?
Isolating the challenge
Could it be that having been exposed to some of the realities of integrated marketing, executives now know that truly integrated marketing can only be derived from a truly integrated organization? A truly integrated organization understands that IT, product development and engineering are as much a part of marketing as marketing is related to accounting or manufacturing because each is rooted in the customer experience. Genuinely aligning an organization extends beyond most marketers’ sphere of influence and oversight. The unwillingness of the organization to become more fully integrated in its thoughts and actions can be an insurmountable obstacle.
Even those organizations claiming to deliver integrated marketing communications, are most commonly delivering integrated tactical outputs rather than an infrastructure aligned to deliver a positive, aligned customer experience. Most commonly, an organization’s ambassadors are in silos, asked to assume a narrow specific role. In many cases, these silos do not share priorities with one another and in some cases even compete and conflict with other departments. Add poor research, a lack of accountability, poor internal communication and it’s surprising that any level of integration is ever achieved.
What’s missing? Unified standards and metrics. Consistent analytics for assessing customer experience. Organizational collaboration and accountability for acquiring customers and keeping them happy.
Until CEOs extend their expectations for accountability within marketing and communication and throughout the organization, integrated marketing will not take root and companies will suffer the consequences.
Public Relations professionals are in a good position to lead the dialogue with their marketing and communications peers: The discussions alone will help to create a more integrated marketing communications environment and the outcomes from these conversations may lead to meaningful business results for now and into the future.