Integrated execution

Whether they are navigating a course for a company in a rapidly evolving media environment or persuading buy-in from the C-suite, the challenges are plentiful for today's CMOs.

Whether they are navigating a course for a company in a rapidly evolving media environment or persuading buy-in from the C-suite, the challenges are plentiful for today's CMOs.

After a quarter century with General Mills, CMO Mark Addicks says, “In the last five years, we have made more structural changes to the way we use marketing than in the previous 20, by far.”

Those structural changes aim to help brand teams such as Cheerios, Yoplait, or Häagen-Dazs operate more like newsrooms. Addicks says by watching and listening to traditional and, in particular, digital and social media, these brand newsrooms can quickly respond to and engage with consumers on relevant and timely issues, and identify sources of inspiration for content creation.

“That has been our biggest change,” notes Addicks.

Yet he points out there is no handbook on how to move away from the outdated, traditional push model of advertising, while ensuring the principles of marketing 101 remain intact. That's why General Mills has turned to its lead agency partners, asking them to share best practices they have gleaned from other clients who approach marketing with a newsroom mentality.  

General Mills works with a number of PR firms including Cone Communications, Olson PR, and Ketchum.

The organization has taken “deep dives” into the inner workings of marketing operations at companies in the finance, travel, and insurance sectors, some of which seamlessly blend marketing and IT. “These are marketers who have married the newsroom mentality with a high use of data given today's networked world,” Addicks explains. “We are all over that approach.”

The newsroom gameplan also elevates the role of PR in the integrated marketing mix, he adds. “Now, we are really seeing PR and social media skills come to the forefront. What is a great news story? What is a great way for us to develop relevant content people can engage in? These questions are about relevancy and that has
always been in the wheelhouse of PR.”

General Mills is just one of many major companies looking to take a more real-time, data-driven and, above all else, integrated approach to brand marketing. As five CMOs for a cross section of consumer-facing businesses tell PRWeek, the role of marketing is no longer about creative prowess expressed principally through paid media.

The modern CMO has to help companies navigate an on-demand media environment evolving at an incredibly rapid pace and being driven by new technology.

“It doesn't matter anymore to the consumer if it is traditional advertising, social media, PR, or digital – they don't compartmentalize these channels anymore,” explains Vinoo Vijay, CMO at TD Bank. “That's why at TD Bank marketing and corporate communications are aligned as one team under the CMO.”

As a result, Vijay says “a CMO today has to have the ability to combine strategic planning, creative acumen, and a sound understanding of all communications channels.”

In addition to the above, as corporations remain cautious about expenditure, the CMO also has to draw a direct line between metrics such as customer conversion, market share, and revenue to marketing spend.

“Looking forward, marketers need to be able to not only tell what conversion and market share it drives, but also the value of the customer it attracts,” he adds.  

Merged communications units
Leontyne Green joined home-furnishings retailer Ikea North America in 2006, and was promoted to CMO in 2009. “In my first year in the role, there was definitely a need to clarify what marketing does and the value it can add,” she says. “I wanted my peers, including our CFO, to understood what we were doing and the responsibility we were ultimately taking to drive the business.”

To deliver on that responsibility, Green merged all of Ikea's communication units including print, digital, traditional, and PR, into one team called Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). Within that team is also a strategic insights manager. External agency partners are briefed simultaneously and required to work in partnership.

“It wasn't that all those elements were working in opposition before, but we weren't leveraging all the insights and efficiencies by having everyone work independently,” she notes. “Integration allows us to create more opportunities for ideas so our team and agency partners can find nuggets we can use across all media to engage consumers and, ultimately, move the business.”

Ikea's Life Improvement Project, a campaign that includes a virtual home populated by user-submitted projects; national in-store events; and financial support of local
community projects, is a by-product of this integration.  

“The idea came from [our PR agency partner] Ketchum when thinking about how to bring the Ikea brand closer to consumers' hearts,” says Green. “By having the type of agency partnerships that work together, we were able to take this nugget, broaden it across different partners, and enable it to become a clear part of our business plan.”

Sales from 2011 to 2012 at Ikea's 38 US stores increased 8%. Green credits the growth in part to a clear brand identity, made possible only through the integration of earned, paid, and owned media. “It is not about competition [between media] or an agency owning an idea, but creating a positive environment in which we do things together,” she explains. “We talk about it in terms of being ‘one' Ikea.”

MasterCard's Priceless Cities leverages the insights of an integrated marketing team.

Convincing the C-suite
Challenges for CMOs navigating a new world of integration and partnership become even greater when a company has adopted an entirely new business model.

For example, the insurance industry finds itself no longer in the b-to-b environment, now that healthcare reform laws will require most Americans to carry at least basic health insurance starting in 2014. Companies must now directly communicate their brands to individual policyholders.

Benjamin Karsch is the CMO at health services company Cigna, charged with turning the company into a consumer advertiser. In creating Cigna's first integrated media and branding campaign, called Go You, Karsch had internal and external teams work in tandem. That included its global PR AOR Fleishman-Hillard, which Cigna hired in July 2011. The two have since parted ways.

“We think of it as a multichannel approach that combines traditional, paid, and earned media, and newer channels including social media,” says Karsch.

The additional challenge comes from helping the greater organization understand how all the different elements work to drive results.

“Because the role of PR, brands, and marketing in general is becoming much more important, it takes time for that role to be very well understood among all of our peers,” adds Karsch. “But we've made enormous progress.”

“It's been a combination of establishing a very clear vision for the role marketing communications plays, using external examples of customer-centric companies and the way they operate, and then celebrating successes,” he adds.

The latter is particularly important for a financially savvy company such as Cigna. “We've built very sophisticated ROI models,” he adds. “Proving our successes will generate strong support for marketing across the company.”

Brands are looking for even more integration within their internal marketing teams and agency partners.

That has been a key push for MasterCard, which led McCann Worldgroup to create McCann ExtraBoldCondensed (McCann XBC), a new division devoted to the MasterCard business. It is made up of executives from IPG agencies converging expertise in areas such as digital and social media and sponsorship and media planning.  

MasterCard Worldwide CMO Alfredo Gangotena says the move will ensure brand cohesion as it rolls out new platforms for its “Priceless Cities” positioning. The campaign invites cardholders to purchase one-of-a-kind experiences in more than 20 major metropolitan areas. In New York, for instance, cardholders can get a walk-on role in the Broadway show, Rock of Ages, as part of a special purchase.

“We have moved from observing priceless moments to enabling them. Now we want to bring that to life in TV advertising, print, and outdoor, but also engage with consumers in PR, digital, and social,” Gangotena adds. “With this new integration and global positioning, hopefully 2013 will be the year of the integrated execution.” 

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