Branding's Brave New World

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Integrated marketing has been a branding buzz phrase for 20 years. We all profess to do it, with claims generally larger than our actual successes. Integrated communications across multiple media is hard work, right?


Let me be the first to welcome you to the brave new branding world, where integrated marketing - in the way we've known and practiced it until now - no longer earns you a gold star. Because soon integrated marketing won't be a choice. It will be a basic condition of operation.


One reason is the emergence of broadband, which blurs the lines that traditionally have separated marketing media. Another reason is the emergence of the connected consumer, which gives marketers interconnected touchpoints for reaching their target.


It's adios, marketing silos; hello, immersive brand experience. As a result, the way companies create brands - and the kind of marketers who can successfully drive branding initiatives - changes completely.


As much as we tout the integrated marketing message, our branding initiatives are still medium-specific. Our organizations reflect these silos. Any average marketing vice president has an organizational chart that carves territory into distinct fiefdoms -advertising over here, direct marketing over there, brand management and online marketing over by the window. This segregation is also reflected in the bewildering array of agencies that have sprouted up.


Broadband changes everything. All of the traditional distinctions to separate one communications vehicle from another simply crumble. Imagine you've bought a 30-second TV spot to promote your new line of lawnmowers.


During the spot, a target customer clicks on the ad and is shot automatically to your Web site for a broadcast-quality demo, which in turn triggers an e-mail blast offering the target a special promotion on the model he lingered over longest.


Or imagine a Web surfer who sees an Internet ad for your mowers that isn't a tiny rectangle with an animated GIF, but the kind of emotion-creating, brand-building experience that, before broadband, was available only through broadcast.


Marketing media are no longer connected by consistent messaging and look-and-feel; Now they're literally connected.


Add to this mix the plethora of ways we can now reach our target consumers, such as pagers. cell phones and PDAs. As marketers, we have to factor the new connected consumer into the marketing equation. Do consumers want to be bombarded with marketing messages at all of these new potential touchpoints? If you offer them explicit value, they will. But you can't go about it by adding "Wireless" or "Emerging Technologies" or some other new box to your already segregated organization chart. The technology dictates that we can no longer brand medium by medium. Instead, we have to create media-blurring experiences.


That's the marketing reality we're heading for, and it's not far away. The number of connected consumers grows daily. On the broadband front, we're already in the early adopter phase, which should last for the next 18 to 24 months. We'll see widespread adoption in the next four to five years. That may seem an eternity in Internet time but it's going to take us at least that long to reorient our marketing thinking.


What can you do now to start preparing?


First, stop thinking in terms of marketing silos. Start thinking instead about how to rearrange your strategies and teams around immersive marketing approaches.


Consider staff cross-training so you'll have the versatile team you'll need to make"immersive marketing work.


If you work with an agency on your marketing initiatives, ask the tough questions about how they view integrated marketing in light of broadband, connected consumers and the great media blur that is just around the corner. How are they aligning for the future?


Plan pilot broadband projects now. What does it take to do broadband successfully? What kind of resources do you need? What do customers like, and hate? The answers to these and a million more questions that inevitably arise in the pilot process will give you an invaluable lead over companies that wait to jump in the game.


Start thinking about the kind of services you can provide today that will enhance your brand with the connected consumer. A major airline, for example, is planning to roll out an initiative to keep customers informed via pager about their scheduled flights -late, on time, departure gate and so on. The more early value you can deliver to new connected consumers, the more brand loyalty you'll build.


Finally, prepare yourself for a wild ride. The changes the Internet has wrought on marketing to date are nothing to what will happen in the next few years. Remember that in times of revolution, it's the innovators who survive.

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