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  • Writer's pictureMary Nice

How Integration Became the Heartbeat of Marketing Strategy

Exploring the shift from channel-centric efforts to synchronized audience experiences.

a timeline that reflects the change in integrated marketing from the 60s to today.

If it seems like we’ve been talking about creating seamless consumer experiences forever, well… we have. 

Prior to the 1960s, strategies were channel-centric, with marketers focusing on isolated channels like print, radio, and television, and often creating separate campaigns for each channel without much coordination between them.

As we transitioned into the 1960s and 1970s, the advent of integrated marketing began to take shape as marketers recognized the need to align their efforts across multiple channels to create a unified brand experience for consumers. Influenced by foundational concepts like Neil Borden’s marketing mix and the 4Ps framework, the practice of integrated marketing planning began to take shape– and started the transition from sales-led planning to marketing-led planning.

Integrated Marketing Meant Dealing with the Digital Deluge

The 1990s and early 2000s brought about significant changes in marketing planning with– you guessed it– the rise of the internet, social media, and e-commerce. Enter CMOs starting to use the phrase “a rapidly evolving landscape” (that we still hear on the daily in 2024…). Consumers had access to all new channels and platforms, and omni-channel planning as we now know it became a cornerstone of engaging consumers across online and offline touchpoints.

Content Marketing Made Integrated Marketing More Complex

Initially, content was often treated as an afterthought, with marketers focusing more on promotional messaging than on providing valuable content to consumers. However, as consumer preferences shifted towards more informative and engaging content, marketers began to prioritize content planning as part of their integrated strategies.

That advances us to the mid-2000s, when content marketing became a notable, distinct discipline within the marketing landscape. Enter the early systems of content calendars, editorial workflows, and content distribution strategies aiming to deliver consistent messaging and storytelling across touchpoints.

The increasing use of influencers and content creators to disseminate brand messages added complexity, with multiple teams producing substantial content across various systems to manage it.

The Audience Experience Gap is Widening

With technology now enabling ultra-relevant, personalized, and dynamic audience experiences, the need for synchronized, integrated marketing built on coordinated planning is critical. 

Marketers can now leverage advanced analytics, automation tools, and customer data platforms to get pretty close to delivering the right message at the right time, at the segment level. With AI, we are now ridiculously close to being able to do that at a 1:1 level at scale. 

But a stark contrast remains between brands that effectively leverage those tools to deliver seamless, personalized experiences and those that present as disjointed interactions. 

Let’s look at a few examples of the disjoined interactions that are bleeding retention efforts dry.

email marketing example from Tuckernuck

It could be as simple as a graphic not delivering the expected result. I was recently served an email from retailer Tuckernuck, and was interested in looking at this dress. I clicked on the image in the email, but rather than be taken to the dress, I was taken to the 189 new arrivals.

Guess what I didn’t have the patience to do? Search through the entire site to find the dress I wanted to look at from the email.

screen shot of a headline HomeGoods is abruptly shutting down its online shopping site

Or a disjointed experience could be as consequential as shutting down an entire operation. HomeGoods shut down its online operation last year after failing to recreate the thrill of the chase their audience loved in the stores. 

Even with advanced tools at our fingertips, we still face significant challenges that prevent us from fully delivering on a stellar audience experience. 

Many organizations still find success despite their frustrating inconsistencies across different channels. However, we know consumers have increasingly limited patience and are quick to distinguish and reject subpar experiences. Brands continuously ignoring the need for seamless integration across all touchpoints risk being decisively left behind.

Let's explore the common obstacles that keep many brands from delivering truly seamless and effective marketing experiences:

Common Challenges Prohibiting Integrated Marketing Today

  • Lack of unified goals across channels

  • Fragmentation of creative content across the organization’s distribution channels

  • Underutilization of marketing technology 

  • Limited cross-functional data visibility crossing customer transitions

  • Lack of a cohesive, documented vision

  • Absence of dedicated ownership over the audience experience

At the fundamental level, our silos are preventing us from success. Integrated planning for a unified audience experience can paradoxically become the responsibility of both no one and everyone, leading to accountability, coordination, and implementation challenges.

But it’s not all negative! There are some amazing examples of brands breaking through with an excellent audience experience. 

Let’s take a look at a few:

Check out this example we saw from Vacation, Inc. as described by Will Evans. You can see the full flow that he detailed via his site. (We have no affiliation with him or Klayvio…he just did a great job mapping it).

The audience experience is ridiculously unique and aligns so well with the essence of their brand, which is definitely an 80s resort vibe.

LinkedIn post from Will Evans

Images from Vacation marketing
Images from Vacation marketing

Trip Advisor is embracing zero-party data drivers like AI trip builders and quizzes to gather the data needed to scale personalization. 

Images from Trip Advisory marketing

This year, they announced another layer coming to the metaverse. 

Headline that says TripAdvisor Says It's Entering the Metaverse: Try Before Your Buy

If you are like the many organizations rushing to make structural changes to address this, remember the sage advice of A.D. Chandler, professor of business history at Harvard Business School and Johns Hopkins University: structure should follow strategy.

With endless channels and messengers to line up, it can stack up into an overwhelming planning process.

Our advice: approach it like a scientist. Gather the key information and create hypotheses to inform an action plan to improve your audience experience.

To help you get started, we’ve designed the following discussion guide to foster a constructive conversation among your team about what may be holding you back from achieving seamless audience experiences through an integrated marketing approach.

Discussion Guide for Marketing Leaders: Enhancing Audience Experience through Integrated Marketing

Historical Context and Evolution

  • Reflect on the Past: How have our marketing strategies evolved from channel-centric to integrated marketing over the years? Are there legacy practices that still hinder our progress?

  • Tomorrow’s Opportunity: Where have we best adapted to changes in consumer behavior and tech advancements and where do we have opportunities for tomorrow?

Assessing Current Strategies

  • Integrated Marketing Assessment: Where in our planning processes do we communicate vs. coordinate vs. synchronize? Note that different times call for different approaches. Where do we need to move from one style to another?

Image that shows the distinction between communicate, coordinate, and synchronize

  • Audiences: What audience segment approach are we taking across our experience? Are they consistent? Are all of our marketing teams using the same segments?

  • Content Strategy Review: How is the content we are creating across the organization being used to power the audience experience? Where are there opportunities to make it more efficient?

Leveraging Technology

  • Current Technology Utilization: Do we know what marketing technology we have and how we are/aren’t using it? 

  • Tomorrow’s Technology: Where do we have opportunities to explore better technology utilization? What are the barriers, if any?

  • Data Integration: Discuss the integration of customer data across platforms. How well are we using this data to inform and adapt our marketing strategies? What are the barriers, if any?

Challenges and Barriers

  • Identify Key Challenges: What are the most significant challenges we face in creating a unified audience experience? Consider aspects like siloed departments, underutilization of technology, or lack of clear and laddered goals.

  • Role of Leadership: Is there clear ownership and accountability for ensuring a cohesive audience experience within our organization? How can leadership better support these efforts?

Closing Reflection

  • Commitment to Improvement: How committed are we to making the necessary changes to enhance our audience experience? What resources or support will be required?

  • Setting Expectations: Establish clear expectations for the next review period. What benchmarks and KPIs will we use to measure our progress in improving audience experience?

The transition from channel-based to integrated marketing planning is not just about adopting new tools or technologies, but also about transforming organizational mindsets to actively identify and remove the barriers holding your teams back from creating excellent audience experiences. 

By prioritizing a cohesive brand experience and maintaining flexibility to adapt to rapid changes, brands can stay relevant and competitive in today’s complex marketing landscape. Next week, we will explore the building blocks and strategies necessary to build and maintain a cohesive audience experience.


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