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 ( 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?

Ghastin: Yes, you're driving people to an environment where they have a voice, whether that's your website, whether that's a community, whether that's a social media platform. I think Best Buy has done a great job of this with their Twitter platform. 

Direct Marketing News: You mean their Twelpforce?

Ghastin: Yes. It is an absolutely incredible job they've done. They really used that piece of engagement, even retention with their existing customers to drive acquisition and advocacy. Integrated marketing is about looking at the entire lifecycle.

Cooperstein: That's how you take an integrated approach. You apply it to the brand experience. They're in a cycle and, at any point, can make a decision, “I'm engaged, but I want to see what else is there.” Or they're driving their car for years and have no relationship with the dealer. So, “It's time for me to go buy a new car. I'm going to pick up a magazine or read a review.” Engaging people is very important. 

Van Hoof: As far as multichannel versus integration, it is a challenge enough to bring all the channels together to have an integrated campaign. How do you deliver the end customer experience? That's not just a marketing function. It's a corporate function. The larger the organization, perhaps the more siloed, but just integrating across channels has been a challenge. To turn that on its ear and say, the consumer drives the experience begs the question, “What does that agnostic approach look like from a messaging standpoint?”

I would say it's one of our biggest challenges. Lining up the channels is a challenge. But to go to the next customer-experience driven step, it's which channels, which messages? How do you deliver the experience? What about the delivery of the product, the service, the follow-up, those constant interactions? Those don't always fall in the marketing suite. They fall into other parts of the company.

Ghastin: It is an overreliance on technology to try to empower integrated marketing as maybe a crutch to fixing processes that enhance the customer experience. About 90% of moving in the right direction is the culture within a marketing organization. You need to have the leadership that will break down those silos and be able to institute change. Technology is a tool, not a substitute for strategic thinking or ideas. A lot of companies want to buy some software, plug it in, and then all of a sudden we're integrated marketers.

Direct Marketing News: So that basically covers the last 10 years of customer relationship management (CRM), right?

Ghastin: Yes. Technology allows you to get there. But until you've fixed the root cause of the problems or do the enhancements of hardware, you're not going to get anywhere near having a competitive advantage.

Direct Marketing News: How do you reconcile tracking customers? Can you talk about data challenges?

Marianacci: There's a danger that you have all this information and you know how well this consumer is interacting with you online. You start to disregard the more traditional media, such as telephone books and newspapers. Yes, readership is down, but is advertising any less efficient in those channels? The danger is that we start to focus on the new thing and forget the old.

Lee: As a direct marketer, whether we do a half-hour infomercial or 60-second or one 20-second spot, we give a URL and an 800-number, but 50% of our consumers are now coming through online. Are they coming through Lifetime? Discovery? Are they coming from WGRZ in Buffalo? Because of that, we don't know what the real value is to us in buying these stations for $50,000 or $1,000. Is a Lifetime viewer a better online consumer than WMYW New York? We've tried using multiple URLs, and it doesn't work. We know how long they stay online, we know why they make the purchase, but we still don't know the driver of that behavior. It's very hard when you buy a national program.

Tingle: We're having that exact same challenge. We know we have a great relationship in particular properties, which is exactly what we want. But we can't scale that relationship because we can't find those properties elsewhere. That's one of the challenges of how do we blend the traditional with the digital.

Ziewacz: The traditional media can be an influencer but, unfortunately, the digital media is the one that's always being scrutinized and either to blame or reaping the success of the conversion.

You get into the concept of measurement and what's earned media and what are the KPIs, and you get back to the conversions and outcomes. It's like your broadcast heavy-lifting banner ads become drivers more so than media channels.

Van Hoof: As we talk about an integrated effort around the customer experience, we want to maximize the return, measure it to the nth degree. Then say, “This one's under-performing.” You change it, move it out, do more of another. When we talk about a customer experience, can you pull it apart that way? 

Digital in general is more measurable. Put it all online, but how do you measure the impact of that offline stuff?

Ghastin: It goes back to bringing that data into one place where it can be mined and used. As much as we like to say we're tracking the behavior happening on our website, it's very hard to bring in that click-stream data and match it up to a customer and then be able to get any kind of intelligence.

Until you get that figured out, you can't deliver relevance. These are all fundamental database marketing principles, but we let the technology, terminology and buzzwords cloud our view of our business objectives.

Direct Marketing News: How are you using social media?

Greenberg: We have a blog on called the Croscill Chronicle. Every time there is a new article written, any time new products are posted, we blast that out to Facebook and to Twitter.  

Direct Marketing News: So when you say anything new, when you blog and tweet, you're talking about content, not products?

Greenberg: Both. That's a  reason people come back. They're buying your product because they have some sort of affinity with the Croscill brand or with our different products. They're looking at our website and coming because they want the expert. They're not going through or or to find exact specifications about our product. We have the information and the designers. We have all of the merchandisers. So they're coming to us for editorial content and also product information.

Tingle: We've tried to “borrow” the blogging community. Valassis is focused on providing the consumer with savings. We don't necessarily want that direct relationship with consumers or think that we can own it directly with Red Plum. We know that there are moms blogging about savings and deals every day. We bring them value from our clients.  

Direct Marketing News: Often these folks are the strongest advocates of the brand, aren't they? 

Tingle: Absolutely, and they're smartest shoppers in any market. You can't do that on a national basis. You have to get very local, because deals are very local and retail is local. So you can't build a national blogging environment when you're talking about a local environment that's specific to Phoenix versus Atlanta. 

Marianacci: We've been talking about all of this  multichannel marketing as a broad-brush stroke  based on channel. But there are major things that we need to focus on intrachannel, as well as geographically. 

Not everyone in San Antonio uses social media the way they do in New York. So, how is your media, how is your message getting out there from a local level and a channel level? You have a very dynamic plan that you need to constantly adapt to, to drive your message. 

Direct Marketing News: Do you track results of integrated efforts? 

Van Hoof: Sometimes it's difficult to attribute. Some of it is brand health metrics. We do our best to measure that. Millions of views and hundreds of comments… They're not your typical ROI metrics.

Measurements are siloed. You can test your television creative, get a sense of your online efforts and click-through rates, but to determine the right integration and balance is still a struggle. As new platforms are evolving, it's a moving target. 

Marianacci: Online is self-contained and you can measure through “cookie-ing” and you have the offline challenge of how to bring these channels together. First you have to have the buy-in from the advertisers themselves to make sure those two components work hand in hand. We've had ads on TV and  done control groups with advertising in a TV station's website with banners. We see when we're not on TV, there's no lift in those banners that are on the TV station's website. When we are on TV, there is lift in the display ads.  

Ghastin: What we see is departments and groups within companies don't share business objectives. The only way to create consistency is through shared business goals and compensation across the entire company. It's the siloed business syndrome and, unfortunately, it permeates a lot of organizations. You have a board with a CEO who has a finance background, and they hire a rock star CMO who is expected to change the culture, and they expect it to be done within a year, and he's set up to fail from the beginning. 

Direct Marketing News: Marketers talk about the decrease in direct mail. Are you incorporating direct mail?

Greenberg: I think it has become more important because of the white noise, and the best way to use it is in conjunction with other media. So when you have an important sale going on, you send an e-mail and support it with a direct mail piece.

Lee: I've watched direct mail fall, and now I'm watching it rise again. People are using direct mail as an educational tool. If you can get the person to engage and open it, your lifetime value is much stronger vs. Internet or radio or TV. They've had to take so many steps to engage with the direct mail piece.

Ghastin: I recently saw a statistic from Alloy Media and Marketing that within the tweens, direct mail has significant impact because they don't get anything tactile anymore. It's all about electronic media. To get something in the mail that is personalized to them and customized has a lot of impact. 

Tingle: It comes back to relevance. If you have a singular message, direct mail is a great way to go. If you are communicating multiple offers, digital is the better way to go, because you can't get the scale in printing and direct mail that you will in e-mail. 

Saati: Without a doubt, I've seen the direct mail landscape evolve, and I've seen it come back. It's a very surgical layering of communication at the right time with a judicious use of data. Tying it back to barcodes and key codes and driving them to another channel using that tactile piece. I'm definitely seeing clients who've moved away from mail get back into it in a surgical, tactical way.

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