Integrated efforts call for full participation from the start

This month's feature examines how several companies are approaching the concept of integrated marketing.

This month's feature examines how several companies are approaching the concept of integrated marketing. It's been something of an aspirational buzzword for years, yet there are few organizations that have been able to figure out how to achieve true integration.

From a marketing standpoint, the benefits of such an approach are clear. Having several disciplines working closely helps strengthen the brand message and can provide an additive effect in terms of consumer awareness. Also, in a climate where every dollar matters, integrated campaigns can actually provide a more cost-effective way of getting out the desired message.

While there is little disagreement that integrated marketing is a necessary ingredient for successful efforts, there are very different views on how exactly it should implemented. For some companies, integration happens from the planning stages. All departments and appropriate agencies meet for a brainstorming session on the best way each discipline can contribute to the effort. Yet many companies are still only integrating at the tactical phase, thereby discounting the very value that integration provides.

The true concept should be about an integration of ideas, and not simply a combination of tactics. A collaborative environment, where PR can learn from advertising's mistakes or direct marketing can benefit from the successes of the media buying or planning teams, is something that can provide enormous value in the long run to both clients and agencies.

As lines between marketing disciplines continue to blur, having all involved from the very beginning seems only logical. Over the years, I've written about many integrated campaigns where the central PR concept came from the advertising agency or vice versa during an early brainstorming session.

While agencies can convey to their clients the value that early integration provides for a campaign, it really should be a philosophy that comes from within the organization. Having a position dedicated to integrated marketing is a start, but not if that person looks at the concept through outdated glasses. Given the fact that certain tactics, like digital, are being embraced – and fought over – by every discipline, a cohesive integrated strategy that is devised by all involved is the best way to achieve marketing success.

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