Integrated marketing begins with experience

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Direct Marketing News convened a group of professionals in September for a Valassis-sponsored roundtable to discuss issues inherent in creating direct marketing programs. Participants met at Direct Marketing News headquarters in New York, conferring with editor-in-chief Carol Krol over a range of issues including the challenges and advantages in integrating marketing messages; integrating emerging channels such as social media with tactics such as direct mail; and differences between multichannel marketing and integrated marketing.

Direct Marketing News: What is your integrated marketing strategy today?

Tim Van Hoof (State Farm Insurance): We've talked about integrated marketing. We've wrestled with it. But as we dig deeper into consumer preference, it's been more of a challenge to integrate at a high level.  

Certainly, there's a brand level of integration. We want things to look, feel and sound consistent. But when we ask what should we be about in the young adult sphere, and what's that conversation like in social media versus multimedia push messaging, we're still learning and refining. The experience is what really needs to be integrated. We look at not only what we say and how we interact, but how we deliver.

So we ask, “How do we tailor it so it feels like it's the same brand and a consistent message but allows the consumer to interact, engage and tailor it to their needs?”

David Cooperstein (Forrester Research): There's a big distinction between multichannel marketing and integrated marketing. One is everybody's doing the same thing. The other is actually planned to be unique but with the same brand message. 

People are moving away from the idea of a campaign and more to a platform that has a life to it. That's a much more integrated approach than saying, “we'll create this campaign for TV and repurpose it online.”

The challenge is multichannel marketing means that you've still got all the silos in your organization. 

Chad Ghastin (WeightWatchers.com): You have to break down the silos if you're going to get any integration internally and go beyond just sending off a campaign that matches up with the color palette, tone and manner and then you never see it again. 

The blatant example is Zappos. Their culture is complete integration. They've broken down the silos, where the CEO sits pretty close to the call center. Most companies talk about doing it, but they never seem to. I think that starts at the leadership level. 

Van Hoof: I love the distinction between multichannel and integration, because we thought of integrated as multichannel for a long time. Those who are doing it best have already “leap-frogged” a lot of other brands. It isn't about what channel. It's about the experience that particular audience is seeking. 

Fern Lee (Factor Nutrition Labs): We do multichannel integration. We marry TV, radio, print and direct mail with online.

Tom Marianacci (Converge Direct): We're a direct response agency. We work with national advertisers looking to generate new customers. We encourage them to be media agnostic. Everything is ROI-driven, so it's not about how one specific channel is doing but how you're getting the most bang for your buck out of your overall budget. We're constantly pushing them to do multichannel marketing, online, offline and looking at the integration between those efforts. 

Doug Ziewacz (MapMyFitness): We're marrying mobile and Web and thinking in terms of indirect communications like e-newsletters and e-mail. 

Laura Saati (e-Dialog): As marketers, sometimes we're distracted by the bright, shiny object, and this is the time when, everywhere we look, there are bright, shiny objects. It's very rare that there is any sort of gatekeeper, somebody thinking about that integrated approach. Marketers think that having an e-mail program, a social strategy, an app and maybe a little bit of print, radio and TV means they are multichannel and they can check that box.

Amanda Greenberg (Croscill-Living): The biggest challenge that we're facing right now is which channels are right for our customers, and which channels are right for our prospects? Where do we need to put our time, resources and money? It's all about avoiding that shiny object and figuring out where are the best places for our organization. And if that's not right for us, if that's not where our consumers are or where our expected consumers are, then we're going to take a pass. 

Cooperstein: One of the big lessons that integrated marketing is teaching people is that you can't be brand or direct response. You've got to be both.

Direct Marketing News: What are your biggest challenges in terms of integrating marketing programs?

Greenberg: The biggest challenge we're facing right now is knowing what the customer wants and speaking to the customer. I think it's very easy, from a traditional b-to-b [perspective], to speak to our buyers at our retailers, but to actually focus on talking to the consumer is an entirely different mentality. You need to think like a consumer. How am I going to be able talk to them and start a conversation?

Curtis Tingle (Valassis): We work with clients in various verticals. So much of traditional media is a shotgun approach of “Let's create awareness and let's acquire consumers.” But when you evolve into a digital conversation, the consumer gets control. When the consumer has control, how do you bring your brand to the forefront, and how do you reach that consumer in a nonthreatening, non-spam-like manner to create that relationship? The digital evolution and augmentation is great for integration and retention, but acquisition is a key to ongoing business. We're finding our clients are really struggling with that point. How do they continue to maintain a presence if the consumer is not looking for them?

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