Integrated marketing is more than a vague concept or a buzzword: It's a state of mind. It takes a lot more than talk to free separate marketing disciplines from their silos. It's even tougher getting them to cooperate and seamlessly interact to produce a unified, coherent message. Here are 10 companies that get it right, while showing different interpretations of an integrated approach.Absolut Vodka doesn't just sell itself. At Absolut, it takes a task force to let consumers know that its product - such as its latest incarnation Absolut Vanilia - can make their evening more enjoyable. For such a launch, the Swedish company deploys a task force led by a product manager who considers all possible means of reaching consumers, from PR to point-of-sale marketing, explains marketing director Michael Persson. Just as important as getting all the in-house disciplines in line is finding firms that aren't territorial. (His PR agencies include Ketchum and FitzGerald.) Persson says he doesn't want to work with firms that don't want to share ideas and strategy. "It's hard to find one agency that does everything well," adds Christina Bergman, internet communications manager. "It's critical that the firms we work with have an open attitude and culture." Those agencies are brought in at the same time to work with in-house staff to develop campaigns, such as the one for Absolut Vanilia, which Persson says wouldn't have been a hit if not for integrated marketing. "It lets us say the same thing to different consumers," says Persson, "and say something to the same consumer in different ways." American Airlines Integrated marketing at American Airlines soars because every marketing team member realizes how important it is that all the channels work together and that such an approach isn't an option but a way of life, says Roger Frizzell, VP of corporate communications and advertising. "It's then a function of executing to make sure that we live up to that philosophy, which is one of our highest priorities. As a result, our internal and external teams [which include Weber Shandwick] work together to plan and develop our messages, and to ensure that all communications reflect an integrated, cohesive message." Internal and external teams meet regularly to discuss projects and programs, as well as challenges and strategies. This philosophy is ingrained into everyone, so that thinking beyond one's own marketing discipline becomes routine. BASF In order to make integrated marketing a part of BASF's pesticide division, senior marketing manager Karl Kisner put an end to using more than one external agency. Kisner had used separate agencies for PR and advertising, but found they didn't work well together. So he hired one firm - Ferrare & Fleming - to help his in-house team. Kisner found that if PR, advertising, and other disciplines didn't collaborate to impart a consistent message, then the strategy would fall flat. "However we hit the customer, it needs to be consistent," he points out. It's important that the agency believes not just in integrated marketing, but also in cooperating and making that a reality, as BASF's in-house team works with its agency daily. Baird & Warner Most real-estate companies only have a couple of in-house marketing people, and then outsourcing the rest, explains Jim Schiefelbein, VP of marketing at Baird & Warner, the 149-year-old real- estate company in Chicago. He adds that such a structure leads to those in-house marketers simply taking orders from executives. Schiefelbein has assembled a team - both in-house staff and external firms - that works together and lets the integrated marketing be "dynamic and responsive. Everyone is cross-trained and can play different roles." This starts in the hiring process, as Schiefelbein looks for team players. He considers himself an "alchemist," making sure there is chemistry between all facets of marketing. "If that happens, then we develop that spirit we're looking for, and we celebrate individual and collective accomplishment equally. Anyone who works in silos is crazy." Best Buy Integrated marketing is not a one-size- fits-all solution, cautions EVP & CMO Mike Linton. If you try to run everything through the same filter, you end up killing the ideas you worked hard to develop, so PR and advertising needn't have the same strategy to be integrated, says Linton. For the consumer electronics retailer, weekly meetings between the PR team and other marketing channels work on marketing plans, and discuss what each channel can do to augment the overall plan. But the marketing team also finds itself communicating daily as plans evolve. "An idea may start with PR or event marketing and then flow into other areas," explains Linton. "The relationships are so great that ideas don't spend much time crossing from one team to another. And that's important, because it's crazy to think everyone reads the weekend circular. And not all audiences hear the message the same way. You must use all channels to maximize the idea and message." Georgia-Pacific Integrated marketing is just as much a necessity as it is a way of life at Georgia- Pacific. The company can't match the marketing dollars of rivals like Procter & Gamble, so it embraces integrated marketing as a way to be more efficient with marketing resources. "Without integrated marketing, we would just have a media plan on its own, and that would just compete with a competitor's media plan," says Rob Lorys, VP of marketing for North America consumer products. The various disciplines, and in-house and agency teams - including DVC Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, and Edelman - all work so seamlessly that a visitor couldn't tell who worked for PR or advertising, or who worked for an agency or in-house, he says, adding "there's no pride of authorship. Everyone works together. The firms even call each other." It took a bit of coaching to get everyone comfortable with such an approach, which Lorys has used for the past eight years. He says the firms in particular resisted integrating, but now they completely embrace it. Hartford Life Marketing meetings don't start by asking "what is the message?" but instead "what is the business goal?" And helping the life-insurance firm achieve its business goals requires everyone in marketing to work together. But it has not always been easy, says Amy Fry, VP and director of corporate relations. "This has been three years in the making. But when you present a business goal, everyone has the business in mind, and what they can do to benefit the business." Once the various teams come together to meet that goal, developing a common message is much easier. Momentum builds through the consistency of that message, which is integrated into the overall marketing mix through various touch points, says Fry. And that helps turn what the company sells into a much more promising proposition. Siemens Medical Solutions "If someone messes up, if our message is communicated incorrectly, then our audience - whether that's the government or the media - doesn't have a good idea of what we stand for," says Kimberly Cooper, PR director. The company's singular message and vision comes from the top, specifically from CEO Dr. Erich Reinhardt. Cooper says his support helps get everyone in marketing on-board. Heads of each discipline, from employee communications to advertising, come together to discuss what the goals are for the company and marketing, and how to attain them. The company also holds annual meetings where all the communications and marketing teams come together to discuss everything from messages and guidelines to the process of developing strategy and execution. "We're very serious about this," says Cooper. "The medical business is very focused, so we must be as well. It makes us more efficient and effective. We make sure there's never the possibility of someone communicating something that is out of synch." Sun Microsystems Andy Lark, Sun's VP of global communications and marketing, argues that integrated marketing is a lot of hype. It's not so much making sure that every discipline is represented in a campaign as it is building an integrated team in-house. Lark says he's seen too many campaigns where integration is an afterthought, where messages and strategy are developed in isolation, and then all the marketing functions are brought on board to execute that vision. At Sun, integration of team members is so seamless that it's hard to tell who specializes in what discipline. "It's crucial, because the vast amount of your marketing dollars will just go down the toilet if you don't drive synergy." Under Lark's leadership, integration starts with strategy, so that each discipline knows exactly what is expected of them and how they must execute to make sure the messages stay consistent and cohesive. Union Rescue Mission The marketing team at this LA-based nonprofit, much like its corporate counterparts, believes in using integrated marketing to deliver consistent messages. But for Robert Hobbs, VP of marketing and communications, PR often leads the charge and makes the other disciplines more effective. Months of planning led to a front-page story in USA Today about the changing face of homelessness, which led to an appearance on The Sharon Osborne Show, which led to a report on 60 Minutes II. The mission was able to use that media coverage to bolster advertising, direct- mail, and fundraising efforts. "I know a lot of nonprofits say, 'How can we afford to do PR?' But how can you not? It's so important to everything else we do with our marketing. It plays one of the largest roles for us." And even if PR is leading the charge, having all disciplines at the table is vital, so they don't accidentally undermine each other's efforts.