Interconnected: Integration - whose job is it anyway?

In a multiplatform world, companies are striving to ensure brand consistency across all communications and customer journeys, while responsibility is also evolving in the boardroom. Meg Carter reports.

Interconnected: Integration - whose job is it anyway?

Not so long ago, any discussion about how best to ensure an integrated approach to marketing was based on an assumption that ultimate responsibility for this rested in the hands of just one person: the marketing director. In today’s multiplatform, omnichannel world, however, brand-owners are having to accept that integration is no longer solely a marketing concern.

For proof, look no further than the emergence of new roles and the redefinition of existing ones, as brand-owners grapple with ensuring a seamless experience at every step along the customer journey. For some organisations – in the US, especially – this has meant introducing the chief (marketing) integration officer (CIO) role. Condé Nast, American Airlines and MillerCoors are among the varied organisations to have chosen this path.

Although widely discussed closer to home over the past four to five years, the trend has been slower to take off in Europe.

Yes, CIO is a title currently held by senior executives at a range of organisations, including Lastminute.com, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Investec. But many more – from House of Fraser to Dow Jones, and, since September, John Lewis – have opted for a different title: that of customer director, or chief customer (experience) officer (CCO), instead.

The move toward CIOs – whether they formally hold this title or not – is happening on both sides of the Atlantic, and among clients and agencies.

People left to their own devices don’t naturally incline toward integration, but do their own thing.

"Roles are definitely changing, along with team structures, too, as in-house teams grow more diverse and cross-discipline in both their structure and function," says Jim Joseph, president of the Americas and chief integration officer at communications and PR firm Cohn & Wolf North America. "Because people left to their own devices don’t naturally incline toward integration, but do their own thing."

And yet, at first glance, the idea of creating a specific role to ensure marketing integration strikes some as a contradiction.

The pressures that might lead to the appointment of a CIO are understandable, but they believe that creating another silo by taking integration out of the central marketing function can’t be a solution.

For others, however, the idea of designating one person not just to keep everyone focused on ensuring marketing integration, but also ensuring that person has the authority to push through the organisational, structural and strategic changes that might be necessary to make integration happen, does make some sense. And the more senior that person within the organisation, the better.

A major obstacle to integration is when an organisation lacks, or struggles to convey to its employees, a clear vision or sense of purpose, according to Stef Gans, chief strategy officer North America at consultancy Interbrand.

The CMO is often best-positioned to drive integration through, because the single-most powerful, and unifying, communi­cations tool is a company’s brand.

"For this reason, the CMO is often best-positioned to drive integration through, because the single-most powerful, and unifying, communications tool is a company’s brand," he explains. "Perhaps the greatest challenge to achieving marketing integration, however, is when the executive briefed to do so does not have the authority to implement the full range of changes required to achieve it. And because of this, the executive best-positioned to deliver integration will need to be sufficiently senior to make decisions across different departments, not just marketing."

Whether or not the best-positioned senior executive is the CMO will vary by organisation, believes Dominic Grounsell, the global marketing director at foreign-exchange company Travelex.

"An important question is how that business defines ‘marketing’," he points out. "In more digital businesses, especially – where responsibility for digital products, such as apps, sits outside the marketing function in other departments, such as IT, ‘integration’ goes beyond integrating marketing communications to aligning every single aspect of customer experience."

A big issue in this debate is that integration means different things for different companies. Are we talking integration of communications channels or across all customer touchpoints? There’s a difference.

For the avoidance of ambiguity, Grounsell adds: "‘Chief customer officer’ or similar terminology works best for me as it spans product development, pricing and retail experience, as well as marketing.

"Often this will involve having a relatively dictatorial view. And you will need a clear idea of what ‘success’ looks like within your organisation, so people can work together toward delivering the same objectives across an increasing and increasingly diverse array of channels Integration is tough to achieve," he adds.

"But, once those seen to be doing it are [also] seen to be reaping the benefits of integration, then others will follow."

Integration in action

Monster Worldwide / where integration is the responsibility of the vice-president, marketing

Just who should have ultimate responsibility depends on the organisation and the nature of its business. But whoever holds it needs an ability to build bridges with, and secure support from, a cross-section of people from departments business-wide, says Monster vice-president, marketing, Andrew Warner.

"Key challenges to achieving integration are understanding the right balance between the generalist and specialist skills required in-house, and ensuring everyone is united behind a clear point of view with common perspective and objectives," he explains.

Often, a company without a clear message to the world lacks a clear message within, says Warner. This is why CMOs are uniquely positioned to be "the connective tissue within a business" – dealing regularly with HR on the skills required, with IT on channels, infrastructure and data, with finance, with sales and with commercial.

"We have brought customer experience in with marketing to ensure end-to-end delivery across different brands and channels is properly co-ordinated," he continues. "We’ve created a marketing leadership team who look after different elements of marketing and each work to achieve different parts of a single strategy. My role is to bring in the right people, bring them together to work on a brief and send them away to execute it, because someone needs to be the ‘adult in the room’ to bring everyone together to ensure this."

Lastminute.com / where chief integration officer is also deputy chief executive

The primary objective of the CIO at Lastminute.com is, in effect, to integrate two businesses post-acquisition. The aim is to create scalable and seamless structures and a business model with one technology platform, explains Matthew Crummack, the company’s deputy chief executive and chief integration officer.

In March, Lastminute.com was acquired by Bravofly Rumbo Group, a Swiss online travel agency, with brands offering desktop and mobile web platforms that allow users to search, compare and book flights, holidays, accommodation and other related services. It subsequently changed its name to Lastminute.com Group.

"We quickly integrated all marketing teams across the group to work under one umbrella, bringing together digital and brand expertise from both businesses. In addition, we’ve had the opportunity to redefine our approach in a number of areas, ensuring that we connect thinking across channels and activity," says Crummack.

"The group made Lastminute.com the core brand and announced increased marketing investment, with a new European brand campaign which launched in June across the UK, France and Italy. To maximise the return on brand investment, we designed a fully integrated plan to connect any meaningful emotional response from the TV ad with the target audience in any given channel."

He adds: "TV is still a powerful influencer among our customers but it can’t be viewed in isolation, so our investment was maximised through consistent activity across every customer touchpoint."

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