Editorial: Simplicity helps in integrated age

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Often simple ideas are the ones that resonate with your audience and end up defining your brand. Think JetBlue's customer bill of rights, LL Bean's return policy, or Apple's user manual. In the last week, many brands enhanced their communication strategies. Whether it was CDW adding digital elements to their campaign plans, Valpak launching a mobile couponing program or 1-800 Flowers selling bouquets direct on Facebook, these additions reflect a brand's effort to simplify communications by going where their buyers are.

Integrated marketing has been talked about for a long time, and I expect it will be much of the buzz at this year's annual Direct Marketing Association conference in San Diego. Thanks to the advancements in database and digital technology, we are beginning to see integrated marketing fulfill its promise. Having more channels of communication is just one way to make life easier on your customers. More important - and arguably more difficult- is your message. Core brand ideas all begin with the moment you identify an unaddressed customer need and communicate an easy answer.

And while it sounds simple, well articulated, customer-focused offers are surprisingly rare. Much of the marketing I see in my role at DMNews and as a consumer is written with a product — not a person — in mind. For example, nine times out of 10, the standard offers I get from my bank will cover rates, terms and conditions and security of a new card or program, but say nothing to reinforce the reasons someone would actually open a new line of credit. Instead, its tone is congratulatory as if depositing money in this bank was an elite opportunity; the institution itself becomes the focus, not the customer. Similarly, many e-commerce e-mails or catalogs are positioned as updates to what products are available and, while we are slowly seeing brands use practical tips, comparison tools or fresh editorial to back up the claim that buyers need a new gadget, more often the copy addresses product features, not customer needs or benefits.

What prevents an industry that has virtually all the information it could need on its target audience from boiling its marketing down to an understandable promise? A strong unique selling point requires knowing your product and your customer inside and out. It also requires a commitment from everyone on the campaign to speak to a customer's need and not their wallet. Why does your target need your product or service? The more straightforward and compelling the answer is, the more you will connect with buyers today. Technology allows integrated marketing to enter customer's homes, communities, inboxes and mobile devices. We have a responsibility to keep it simple and germane.

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