When Sears hired Robert Raible a little more than a year ago, it was a clear sign that the retailer was ready to think about its marketing in a different way. As the company's first VP of integrated marketing communications, he has big plans for integrating all forms of communications, from PR and advertising to in-store and online.
“If we were doing sky-writing, I would want that in,” Raible notes.
Sears' first big foray into integrated marketing came in spring 2008, he explains, with its “Reimagine You” campaign. Promoting the message of changing and improving one's surroundings, the initiative used PR, advertising, and in-store marketing. The company also partnered with several media outlets covering house and home to showcase Sears merchandise.
That successful integration encouraged Sears to continue with a back-to-school campaign featuring High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens. The tween idol was incorporated across different channels, focusing online, an area where many of her fans live. Raible reports that Sears is still seeing success from online assets created for the campaign, including Web videos.
“That was very powerful and strong,” he says of the popularity of Hudgens and the integration. “It started to move the needle in terms of getting actual business and changing public consideration of the brand.”
Keeping Hudgens on for the holiday campaign, “Don't Just Give a Gift, Grant a Wish,” Sears incorporated other celebrities, LL Cool J and Ty Pennington, across all platforms. The celebrities worked with the PR teams, participating in SMTs and RMTs for the effort.
Now, the company is working on infusing its new tagline – “Life. Well Spent.” – into all of its communications.
“It is really trying to enhance communications across all the various media channels,” Raible says. “What we find is, the more you can have consistent messaging across multiple channels, it really adds up. We're really starting to get into some deeper capabilities.”
As integrated marketing becomes more of a reality, many companies are seeing the benefits of efficient communications, cost-effective strategies, and the additive effect that different marketing efforts can have. Several companies have proven successful in this area, using integrated marketing to reinforce overall branding, instituting teams and organizational structure to support integration, and figuring out where the pieces fit within the larger marketing puzzle.
Integration's many meanings
Integrated marketing communications can mean different things for different companies, but the majority of people define it as a way to incorporate consistent messaging and branding across all communications channels. Called everything from a holistic approach to 360-degree marketing, an integrated campaign requires a company to pull together its internal communications teams and its various agencies to develop messaging, strategy, and tactics that work throughout the company.
“When you say the words ‘integrated marketing communications,' what it means to people and how they practice it is as different as the different interpretations of a Rorschach ink blot,” says Tom Collinger, associate dean and department chair of the integrated marketing communications program at Medill at Northwestern University. “For some it means ensuring that PR and advertising work well together. For others it means the management of an entire communications strategy across an enterprise… and any other number of interpretations.”
Sears works with several agencies on both a project and retainer basis, including seasonal AOR Euro RSCG Worldwide PR and lead advertising agency Y&R Chicago. As a retail company, Sears brings together its agencies throughout the year to plan different seasonal and overall campaigns.
“It's retail, so we're always in the midst of a program or plan development,” says Andrea Morgan, MD and EVP of consumer brands for Euro RSCG. “We do all come to the table at the start to really put the best thinking together on behalf of the brand or the business.”
Morgan adds that her firm also collaborates with Havas advertising agency Arnold on some work for Sears, and partners with other Havas and non-Havas agencies for work with other clients.
“Now we're seeing that with different disciplines, the lines are getting blurred in communications,” she says. “What's great is you are exposed to new thinking and new minds that don't necessarily sit in an office next to you.”
At these meetings, Raible says, Sears encourages the agencies to share more of their plans and what is coming up for that discipline.
“Agencies will say, ‘That's a great idea. I can integrate that into what I am bringing to the table,'” he says. “Through this open sharing of ideas and initiatives from various channels, we actually get to a better place in the end game.”
Morgan says that while Sears and its sister company Kmart have provided the agency with the most opportunities for integrated marketing communications, other clients are increasingly starting to incorporate it into their strategies.
Barri Rafferty, director and senior partner at Ketchum who oversees Ketchum New York and Ketchum Digital, says the agency has been doing more integrated work for clients such as Frito Lay, Doritos, and Kodak.
“Often, a program or idea would be in the center and we would all create a campaign around it,” she says of the way integrated marketing worked several years ago. “Now we, in many cases, sit in [on a briefing] from the marketing team, with all the disciplines in the room, and we create the strategy from the ground up together.”
Ketchum recently worked with Kodak on its “Print and Prosper” campaign for its inkjet products. Featuring a strong TV component, the campaign showed how much customers would save on printer ink by purchasing Kodak products. An online element, the “Ink Calculator,” allowed visitors to calculate how much they spend on printer ink. Ketchum worked with Deutsch and Partners & Napier.
The team from Ketchum took the messaging – about the costs of ink – and incorporated it into its media relations and influencer outreach, including an event for mommy bloggers. The agency also put a human face on the campaign, with help from finance expert Laura Rowley, who did media interviews and an SMT around the campaign. When it came to online aspects like Facebook and Twitter, all the agencies pitched in.
Internally, Kodak started working in fall 2008 to incorporate integrated marketing throughout its businesses. The company formed an agency council, which works to bring together agencies on a regular basis to discuss integration, campaigns, and the future of the company.
“We really believe in blended campaigns because they work, get a 360 view, and we can integrate with a number of agencies,” says Kodak's CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett. “The agencies go off and work on our behalf, based on the direction we've asked them to move. It helps us drive our costs down and be more effective.”
Rafferty and Hayzlett agree that as agencies work together – either in a large group setup or in smaller meetings – there is creative tension and increased competition that leads to better ideas and higher-quality output.
“It helps us have our agencies compete and try to one-up one another,” Hayzlett says. “Really, they are focusing on our business, which is where we want them to focus.”
All ideas are welcome
Another benefit of Kodak's everyone-in-one-room integration is that any department can come up with the idea that will eventually lead the project, Rafferty says.
“You know you've hit on that central idea when every-one in the room has energy for it,” she adds.
As CMO, Hayzlett oversees integrated marketing communications internally for Kodak, with help from leaders in branding, advertising, b-to-b, and corporate communications sectors within the company.
Kodak incorporates a lot of sectors into its integrated marketing communications, but there are even more than can be a part of the process. Along with PR and advertising, they can include in-store, direct marketing, online and interactive, and even employee communications.
Insurance company Nationwide demonstrates how employee communications can play a part in an integrated marketing strategy with its recently launched campaign “I am on your side.” The campaign included messaging to employees to convey the key points of the effort.
Internally, Nationwide's structure includes an integrated campaigns team which takes the lead, working with various agencies and internal teams to keep all campaigns and programs from the brand integrated, says Jennifer Hanley, SVP of marketing services, who oversees that team and reports to the CMO. The company works with its creative AOR McKinney, Fleishman-Hillard on PR, Rosetta for interactive, and Carol H. Williams and Dieste for multicultural advertising.
The new “I am on your side” program features Nationwide associates talking about the ways in which they serve customers, providing a backdrop for the messaging. That campaign integrates media relations, traditional advertising, social media, an iPhone application, and employee relations, including an “All Associates Week” where the CMO discussed the campaign.
Nationwide has been involved in integrated marketing strategy for more than a year and a half, Hanley says, and it has a different approach than Kodak when it comes to integrating all its agencies.
“The [advertising] AOR is responsible for bringing in the other agencies as needed,” she explains. The AOR and Nationwide's PR agency, Fleishman, “work together with the campaigns team and corporate communications department so we can integrate our messages.
“We have briefings together,” adds Hanley. “We're talking about the early ideas from a creative perspective and then the agencies' roles within that process. It's important to identify the ‘swim lanes' so the agencies aren't stepping on each other.”
Another aspect which demonstrates the company's work in the space is how Nationwide leverages its partnership with NASCAR. As a sponsor of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the company teamed up with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a campaign that included elements of PR, advertising, in-person events, and online outreach.
“We take all the strategic pieces of that and we worked with Dale to create a campaign that tied back to what we were trying to accomplish, with PR, social media, trying to find affinity opportunities to link back to his fan club, and in-market activation at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, [NC],” Hanley explains. “We brought that to life at the very local level, where you could have that one-on-one interaction with the consumer.”
Integration has many benefits for companies, and providing cost-effective communications is at the top of the list. With corporate restructuring and changes, whether or not they are due to economic challenges, companies look to integrated marketing communications to provide more ROI when it comes to marketing spend.
“As companies have streamlined and as they've looked at how to create efficiencies in their organizations, creating efficiencies has actually led to a greater degree of integration,” Rafferty says. “And also, as the roles have collapsed a little bit, people have more accountability for broader areas.”
“It comes down to economics,” Morgan says. “If you're coming up with one idea that can then be used across five different marketing disciplines, it just makes the idea much stronger, that much more cohesive when you are communicating it to your audience, and it makes your dollar work that much harder.”
“In a very competitive environment, you've got to make every dollar work as hard as it can,” Hanley adds. “It's very important for us to be consistent. It's brand-building. It helps with our awareness.”
Raible agrees that integrated marketing helps make “every dollar productive against a message.” This also helps build up a company's brand, profile, and messaging long-term. One focus for Sears is working to ensure every message is “additive, versus off in its own world,” he says.
Hayzlett echoes this sentiment, saying that every campaign Kodak does has a “halo effect on all of our businesses. You're not just pushing one particular product, but it ties into our overall theme.”
What the future holds
Hanley predicts that companies will assign either a team, like Nationwide does, or an individual to be held accountable for integration efforts. These internal leaders will make sure messaging is consistent across all touchpoints and communicate top-down the messages and plan for the brand.
“There is going to be more changing in marketing, messaging, and media over the next five years than we've seen in the past 50,” Raible predicts.
Citing the use of Tivo and Internet ad blockers to control what messages consumers receive, Raible says, “ultimately, things are going to move to one-to-one marketing. The consumer is in control.” With this more consumer-centric atmosphere, companies will have to integrate across all channels and incorporate relevant messaging, so they can continue to reach prized consumers, wherever they are.
And, Hayzlett says, in order to succeed in the future with integrated marketing communications, a company has to have smart agencies working with it.
“You have to have partners who are willing to play positions and share the spotlight a little bit,” he explains. “Partners like that want to look out for the client rather than always looking out for themselves.
Roadblocks to integration
If a corporation's PR team isn't connected to the other teams in the marketing space, the company may need to do some restructuring before integrating internally
Without strong CMO leadership, and if PR doesn't have a direct line to the top, various departments will not have guidance as they integrate
If a corporation feels its agencies cannot successfully work together, it won't take the leap into integration
A disconnect within the overall organization and its online presence can prevent a company from truly integrating
* The title of this story in print appears as "Creative collaboration"