You might have heard the phrase “integrated marketing” before. But what does it actually mean in practice, and how can it affect your business?
Integrated marketing is a simple but very effective concept. It’s a holistic approach to marketing which makes it easy to connect with consumers and educate them about your products. Mastering integrated marketing can help you increase awareness, brand loyalty, and ultimately, sales.
What is integrated marketing?
Integrated marketing is an approach that uses different forms of media, called channels, to tell a story or convey an idea.
An integrated marketing campaign might start with a TV ad featuring a memorable character. That character could then appear in other channels: on billboards and in-store displays, in social media posts, in the original TV ad reposted to YouTube, even in direct mail sent out by the company. By marketing their character across complementary channels, the company creates strong consumer awareness and association with the brand.
A solid integrated marketing campaign should include a striking logo and slogan as well as a consistent visual aesthetic. It’s important for all of these to be constant across every channel involved in the campaign. Consistency ties the message together and nurtures brand recognition.
Awareness and association aren’t the only desired outcomes. Effective integrated marketing campaigns also encourage consumers to get involved on social media, both by sharing content and, ideally, by creating their own.
Integrated marketing offers you the opportunity to engage with customers more deeply than is possible with traditional marketing. It also saves money. This is a boon for any business, but especially those with small marketing budgets.
Integrated marketing allows you to use the same content and assets in different formats. For example, you can post a video ad on multiple social media platforms. Instead of relying on separate ad agencies, PR firms, and sales departments, you can merge all your efforts into 1 marketing group.
The power of multichannel marketing
Some people assume that integrated marketing bypasses traditional formats like television ads and billboards, but that’s not necessarily true.
Integrated marketing uses every form of media necessary to relay the desired message. The key thing to remember about the approach is that it uses different channels in coordination with each other.
Great integrated marketing campaigns combine TV, YouTube, Twitter, and in-store displays to create a memorable, immersive experience for consumers. This technique is known as multichannel marketing. It uses storytelling, characters, and branding to drive customer engagement.
Why is integrated marketing important?
Integrated marketing is a concept that’s important for any marketer and business owner to understand, especially considering it takes an average of 6 touches to generate a sales lead. Positioning your advertisements in different channels can help you get the awareness you need to drive sales.
Most customers prefer to wait until they have more information about a product before making a purchase. Integrated marketing provides consumers with a large volume of information through a diverse range of sources, which can make all the difference when it comes to making sales and locking in loyal customers.
Consumers are bombarded by ads—and as a result, they are learning how to tune them out. This is doubly true for younger consumers. Studies show that millennials dislike traditional marketing. But millennials say that they do trust influencers on YouTube and on social media. They’re also very responsive to word of mouth endorsements.
The trend towards highly-personalized advertising fits perfectly within the integrated marketing approach. You can now reach your audience on the platforms that they use and value the most.
Because consumers are exposed to so many ads, most people forget branded content after just 3 days. That’s why an integrated marketing approach, which repeats the same, consistent message in a variety of places, is key to building brand loyalty.
Examples of successful integrated marketing
Coca-Cola’s 2014 "Share a Coke" campaign
One of the most famous examples of successful integrated marketing is Coke’s 2014 “Share a Coke” campaign. The campaign centered around the Coke bottles themselves. Coca-Cola swapped out its iconic logo on the 20-ounce bottle, replacing it with 250 popular names. Consumers were then encouraged to hunt for their names (or their friends’ names) on Coke bottles and to post about it on social media.
The campaign hashtag, #shareacoke, went viral. Over the course of the campaign’s 1st year, Coca-Cola’s customers shared more than 500,000 pictures using the #shareacoke hashtag. Coca-Cola also picked up about 25 million new Facebook followers. The campaign is considered the most effective in Coca-Cola’s history.
Apple's in-store experience
Apple is consistently ranked as one of the top brands in the world. The company has mastered brand integration to such an extent that even their physical locations—Apple stores—are immediately identifiable and designed similarly to their products and website.
Apple aims to create a consistent user experience for consumers at every single stage of their journey. The company’s products, their ads, and even their physical locations all share a recognizable look and feel. This consistency builds up identification and brand loyalty.
Old Spice's 2010 "Smell Like a Man" campaign
This famous campaign started out with a TV spot featuring Isaiah Mustafa as the now-famous Old Spice Man. Old Spice created additional Old Spice Man videos for YouTube and, as the clips became more and more popular, the company created more TV ads too.
Eventually, consumers started to tweet at Old Spice Man, who responded directly to their questions and comments. His responses—always filmed from the same shower set—drove more and more consumer engagement.
The campaign was hugely successful, with sales of Old Spice products increasing by 55% over the first 3 months. Because of the campaign’s interactive nature, it also had unusual longevity. In the 4th month of the Old Spice campaign, sales had skyrocketed by 107%.
Not all integrated marketing campaigns are fruitful. Even highly successful companies sometimes run campaigns that miss the mark. Here are a few examples of integrated marketing campaigns that have backfired in recent years—and what you can learn from their mistakes.
Walkers' 2017 selfie campaign
Walkers is a British snack maker whose potato chips are popular throughout the UK. In 2017, Walkers created a social media campaign called the Walkers Wave. The company asked consumers to post selfies, using the hashtag #walkerswave, as part of a competition. The winner would get tickets to the final match of the UEFA Champions League, a popular soccer competition in the UK.
It seemed like a great idea. But after consumers realized that Walker’s wasn’t monitoring the entries, many people sent in fake entries—all using the #walkerswave hashtag. The campaign quickly became derailed from its original intent.
Walkers canceled the campaign and issued a public apology. The takeaway is that while social media engagement is important to pursue, you also need to closely monitor what’s happening at all stages of your campaigns.
The Department of Education's Twitter typos
Even the United States Department of Education has to market itself. Unfortunately, in 2018, the Department of Education's Twitter feed got a lot of attention for posting a couple of misspelled tweets.
First, the Department of Education tweeted an inspirational quote from the civil rights hero W.E.B Dubois. The tweet contained a misspelled word.
Later, the department tweeted an apology—but misspelled the word "apology."
When you're marketing yourself, the details matter. Always make sure to check and double check everything you produce. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or colleague to proof your content.
U2 and Apple's mandatory download
Apple has had lots of success combining technology and music. But in 2014, the company automatically downloaded U2’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, into their users’ libraries. Apple users were irritated, and the whole episode shook people’s faith in the company.
Thanks to social media, news of the forced download spread quickly. The incident came to be seen as a rare marketing mistake for the company.
Apple’s misstep serves as an important reminder to keep potential customers’ freedom of choice in mind. There’s a fine line between personalized marketing and what consumers see as companies imposing their products. Soliciting outside opinions is a great option to make sure you’re not crossing a line or forcing anything onto your audience.
Integrated marketing guidelines
The best way to remember the principles of integrated marketing when designing a campaign is through the “4 Cs.”
The different parts of your campaign should convey a coherent message. Consumers will see components of your campaign on their phones, on TV, on billboards, and on the internet. You want those components to naturally connect so that they form a clear picture in consumers’ minds.
All of the components of your integrated marketing campaign should have the same look and feel as the others.
This doesn’t mean that they have to be carbon copies of each other. But just as the Apple store has the same look as the Apple website, the pieces of your campaign should be consistent. Pay attention to your logo, your color scheme, and your slogan, and use them consistently in every part of your campaign.
Your campaign needs to have a natural flow.
Think of your campaign as an exercise in storytelling. All the parts of the campaign need to tell the same story. They don’t always need to tell it in perfect order—after all, stories with flashbacks or fast-forwards are fun. But each new component should build on what you’ve already done.
Your messages work better when they’re together.
In an ideal campaign, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. Each new funny, exciting, or visually stunning component will add to the overall appeal of your campaign.
Integrated marketing can get your products on the map and help you convert hesitant consumers into loyal customers. This is an exciting time to be marketing new products, especially since social media and user-generated content are making it easier than ever for smaller businesses to compete in the same league as large corporations. There’s never been a better time to jump in and get started.