Genuine integration only occurs when a campaign begins from inside the business. Mobilising all your staff to help deliver proposition propagation is just the beginning.
I have avoided opening this article with an awe-inspiring Steve Jobs quote, tempting as that is. There are many reasons for Apple's success, but if pushed for the single most important factor, one has to say it is its alignment.
For Apple, this means its total 360-degree business alignment that flows into the excellent product and consumer experience. Everyone from the chief executive down to the retail staff is aligned to a single-minded proposition that everyone understands and supports.
If you want people to love what you do, it starts with your own passion. Passion in your product and how you share that passion are more important starting-points than a fancy marketing campaign or TV ad. A culture of success starts from within an organisation - you set an agenda that everyone buys into and can believe in.
From here, if your story, message, product or service is credible, your failure is only due to effort. The greatest barrier to success for many organisations is risk aversion and all the processes built into corporations to minimise risk.
This creates fear cultures or, as a former client colourfully put it, "people are scared shitless of being different or challenging internal processes". This culture of fear forces people, even marketers, to play it safe and stick to convention.
The digital revolution has created new opportunities for internal engagement and real integration. But it requires brands to believe in the effectiveness of integration and the right level of 360-degree engagement. They must take time to understand their own stakeholders in order to align them; then, the next steps are operational changes that include how they work with agencies.
Silos within client (and agency) businesses can often be the biggest barriers to commercial success. The most innovative businesses, such as Dyson and Pixar, have open-plan offices and flat hierarchies to promote the sharing of ideas between departments. There is no real alternative to integrated thinking if an organisation wants to realise its full potential.
"To achieve victory, we must mass our forces at the hub of all power and movement: the enemy's centre of gravity." Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military strategist, is a point of reference because of the emphasis he places on an organisation's unity and focus. His theories about the role of leaders (chief executives, in our case) in creating the right balance in an organisation are also critical to our applications of his thinking.
At Forever Beta, we use this as the basis for our way of working, which is our own communications ecosystem, which focuses on "proposition propagation". P&L teams spend a lot of time building products and propositions. To ensure they are built to take advantage of every opportunity to engage, it's important to understand how a proposition might work across all platforms and channels.
Therefore, we start from within your organisation and help your campaign work from the inside out. All business departments work in alignment (brand, corporate, sales, internal comms). This strengthens your operation and results in deeper customer and consumer engagement.
Through our proposition propagation ecosystem, we interrogate the proposition and ensure it is single-minded. We examine it and prove it is campaignable across all relevant touchpoints, both internally and externally. We then show how to communicate it to your employees, in trade channels, to customers and consumers.
We believe campaigns will travel further if the whole organisation unites behind it. That way, you create advocates among your stakeholders and super-fans among your consumers. Just think how powerful this is, having every single foot soldier sharing this message clearly and at every engagement opportunity.
Integration is not just a load of similar work across various touchpoints. It is a way of thinking, a method of coherence and relevance (beginning internally) that engages existing and new stakeholders, customers and consumers. It also provides the brand communication tools to support marketing. The internal communications aspect is often overlooked by agencies because they may feel this is not a "sexy" thing to work on. When was the last time you saw an internal communications piece on an agency website or creds?
All good in theory, but how does it work in practice? One of our founding clients, Kingfisher beer, provides an ideal example. Kingfisher is the world's top-selling premium Indian beer. We were tasked to reposition the brand for Western markets by creating an emotive integrated campaign, dramatising all of its wonderful assets.
Normally, this would manifest itself in a brand awareness campaign, but with tight budgets we needed to be smarter. This turned out to be a great opportunity to re-engage and excite the trade.
The proposition we propagated was "celebrating India's favourite", because the beer is the number one Indian beer sold globally. With strong social and sporting associations, the beer was seen to be a "social unifier", as it is enjoyed at social occasions such as eating Indian food and watching cricket or Formula One races.
This led us to the brand positioning of "tastes better, together".
So where did we begin? We put our money where our mouth is and began with the chief executive and head of marketing. We believe there is nothing more powerful than starting from the leadership within the business - the chief executive in front of the troops, explaining the intent of their company. This got everyone behind the objectives of the campaign and helped them to understand their role in executing the plan. The message went from operations to sales, to the marketing team, then through their customers and, eventually, to consumers.
We identified and utilised the most effective platforms possible to reach Kingfisher's target audience. This included print, social media, a viral, cricket sponsorship, a Facebook competition app, trade communications and point-of-sale promotions.
Engagement planning and integration is most powerful when the whole organisation has 360-degree alignment, and Kingfisher's 2011 success is testament to this thinking.
Over the four months since the re-launch, we have seen a 31 per cent increase in sales in the core, UK on-trade. That's the value of integration from the inside out.
Robin Gadsby is the managing director of Forever Beta
- Total 360-degree stakeholder alignment is key to achieving commercial success.
- A credible and clear message will propagate throughout your own communication ecosystem, starting with you and your colleagues.
- Use integrated thinking to lead organisational change and use these changes to develop a channel mix that will deliver your objectives.
- Collaborate or fail.