Opinion: Perspective - Is integration just a luggage-matching exercise for you?

What's the point of integration? Spending all that time trying to get everything to look the same, line your digital ducks in a row with your Twitter and the latest TV spot.

It's hard work, it's complicated and if you try to do it all on your own, you'll probably end up stretching yourself way too thin, get a bit beyond your comfort zone.

Not only that but it's getting rather crowded as well, with everyone all heading to the same place, albeit with different strategies, different starting points, different skills, competencies and expertise.

The act of repiecing together the increasingly fragmented media each of us may have worked upon over the years is partly born of a desire to get back to the good old days, where everything was under control and understood; a place for everything and everything in its place.

It could be that it's driven by a crazed land grab to shore up budgets, regain the upper hand, block out competition from new entrants or models that may come to dominate. But more than likely, we're just doing what's expected of us, as the self-inflicted business pressure to be seen to be good at everything is immense.

What got me thinking about this was an article from the Harvard Business Review (which I found via Twitter), which asked why most CEOs are bad at strategy. In it, the author argues that a "good" strategy most often results from the creative combination of two disparate logics; for example, the most fundamental combination is "where to play and how to win".

In a great strategy, both of these choices would be smart and differentiating. However, all too often, the desire to pursue integration singly for its ability to allow us to "play" everywhere is often done as an end in itself. The more important question is: what are we actually going to do to win when we get there?

Does integration of its own accord actually make the creative work any better?

If we are to avoid integration becoming merely a box-ticking exercise, we need to be sure it's driven by more than a desire to achieve matching luggage. It's often said that rather than only pursue 360-degree integration, we should instead seek to optimise a brand's continuous activity over 365 days.

What this has to mean in practice is: by all means understand the full extent of our exciting, ever-changing and converging new world, but be clear on what you're good at and be comfortable playing to your strengths; leave space for others to fill in the blanks. Have a go, of course, with the new-fangled stuff, but make sure everything you do choose to create is as good as the rest.

In successful integration, it's not just the taking part; the winning counts as well.

- Mark Cridge is the chief executive of glue London.

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