And this is perhaps why the subject won't go away - we haven't really worked out how to deliver it yet. Integration at its best is about bringing to life a central communication idea in cohesive, focused and relevant ways that mutually reinforce each other, while building an enduring relationship between a brand and a consumer.
To do this effectively, it must also do more than pay lip service to the shopper and retail customer needs; rather, integrated marketing communication must embrace a combination of all of these dimensions. It means creating focused cohesion across all forms of communication - easier said than done.
A NEW OPPORTUNITY
For many years, integration has been seen as the same creative idea leveraged across different touchpoints.
Clients and agencies looked at the consumers they wanted to attract with their product proposition in a bi-dimensional way, simply by understanding who they were and where they went. Even though buzzwords such as channel planning, touchpoint management and integrated communication planning have been around for years, the one-size-fits-all approach has continued to prevail.
Today, a surge of digital communication - driven by the consumer need to interact, participate, co-pilot and consume information - means individuality is key. In addition, word-of-mouth recommendations are more valued than ever. Our most trusted sources - our peers - know us and talk to us in the right way, saying the right thing at the right time: all qualities integrated brand communications must adopt to be effective.
We can no longer underestimate the importance of a third consumer dimension: who they are, when they are where they are. Today, we need to understand the identity of those people we want to talk to, the many elements that form their identity and which elements of those identities play a dominant role when we approach them. We must now look at consumers, not as one individual but a cluster of individuals within one person, sharing deep values, visiting channels and interacting with touchpoints that share a common denominator around which those identities converge.
This presents a multitude of new possibilities for brand communications. In order to create a true connection between the brand and consumer, we need three capabilities: i) Data intelligence - to identify how people differ and which attributes of a brand proposition appeal to which audiences; ii) A robust communication planning process - to maximise existing product assets and value chain resources and effectively communicate these qualities to meet variegated consumer needs; iii) Self-serve technology - to enable consumers to select the right information for their needs on the media platform of their choice.
This compels us to put data at the core of our planning, to leverage creativity, to focus on the reputation management of the brand we are promoting and to put technology at the heart of our delivery platforms.
A NEW MODEL
In addition, we can no longer assume that management must sit at the heart of the solution. The truth is: integration can never really be created by management. Rather, it can only be driven from the product side - meaning that, first and foremost, it requires an "integrated planning" approach. That may be at the holding group level; or within bigger agencies or agency groups, working with multiple disciplines; or across individual agencies.
A triumvirate of communications planner, creative and data analyst must do it, regardless of whether they work for the same agency or not. They must know and respect each other; and, in developing integrated plans together, must sit together, spar, get honest with each other and spend as long as it takes to get down to the detail.
While this planning triumvirate must lie at the heart of any properly integrated solution, the quality of the plans will also depend on the insight the team starts with. And the insight itself needs to be homogenous and integrated from the start.
A NEW INTEGRATING CONSTRUCT - WITH PLANNING IN THE DRIVING SEAT
The most useful, directional insight will be based on an integrating construct that it can wrap itself around.
To achieve this at G2, we have developed a construct we call "The Purchase Decision Journey" that looks beyond touchpoints to observe and understand actual consumer behaviour and its underlying motivations. The PDJ naturally integrates consumer and shopper marketing, onand offline, media and channels - and leverages all the key qualities we mentioned previously: data, technology and creativity.
As the name implies, the PDJ is the journey a consumer takes from need arousal to fulfilment. Each journey begins with a trigger, leading to a sequence of interconnected but non-linear steps that end in purchase and consumption. By analysing each step (to understand the action being taken, the underlying decision need, the target's mindset and relevant touchpoints) and by quantifying the significance of each step and the strength or relationship with other steps, we can identify the points of influence along the journey where a brand can engage most meaningfully and effectively.
It's important to recognise that for each need, there may be different, emotional or rational triggers and the consumer journey for any particular category may vary by target, brand, occasion and shopping mission. If we think of a drink like Coca-Cola, different consumers will undertake different steps to purchase, depending upon a number of variables. It's equally likely that a single consumer will undertake a different journey dependent upon his or her need-state or "identity".
For example, the steps undertaken by a mother shopping for drinks to be consumed at family mealtime may include writing a shopping list, checking prices, asking friends for advice on nutritional concerns, or matching drink to recipe plans. That same mother, feeling thirsty while walking down the street, is likely to undertake a more simplistic journey that involves looking for the nearest retailer and reviewing alternatives in the chiller cabinet. Both journeys will be different to those of an office worker choosing a drink for lunch at his desk, or a group of teens asking Mum for their favourite drink and snacks for a Nintendo night in.
A NEW BEGINNING
Ultimately, the strength of the insights we use, how we apply these and interact around an integrated planning process will be the measure of integration the consumer will see in the marketplace. We agencies need to stop trying to own and control the whole process; rather, we must support and facilitate our best creatives, planners and data analysts to work together and make it genuinely happen.
- Integrated marketing today must step away from communication disciplines and channels and focus on the identity of the individuals we want to talk to
- To make it most useful and directional, the insight that fuels the planning needs to be based around an 'integrating construct' that works across consumer, shopper and consumer (retailer) dimensions
Pietro Leone is the chief executive of G2 EMEA and Jim Taylor is the executive director, communications planning, at G2 Worldwide
(From Campaign's "What Next in Integration" supplement, December 3 2010)