For the next wave of integrated campaigns, it will be commercial coherence we need to deliver, not creative coherence. As more of the purchase process goes online and we have more data, the more we can follow the money.
The fascinating thing about the data we have now is that we can see parts of the decision-making process that were previously held in the privacy of people's brains. We can look at the search data as intention data; we can look at sentiment analysis to witness the filtering process happen, we can look at website analytics to see why attention converts to actions and why not.
Following the online purchase process allows us to deliver the appropriate message at each stage and maximise conversion from interest, to purchase, to advocacy in a way that could never happen in the offline world. Integrating our messaging around that journey becomes the focus of marketing and the commercial metrics finally become the measures of success.
The importance of online is driven mostly by whether distribution and customer service is delivered through the web or not. Integrating across those silos is becoming the challenge we all face.
So, in real life, the next stage of integration will be to connect onand offline customer journeys to create a commercially coherent programme. Until we bring commerce and creativity together into the one simple framework of a single, and complete customer purchase and ownership journey, we are doomed to reach for integration and then fail as the money men pick it apart.
Integration is something best left to the customer, not the marketer. That's why the integrating framework needs to be customer-based, not brand-based. As Jeremy Bullmore has pointed out, integration is something that either happens or doesn't in customers' minds. As they experience various exchanges with your brand, it is up to them whether they assimilate them as a coherent whole which lodges more firmly in their minds or receive contradictory signals which therefore become forgettable.
This goal for integration is often defined as brand coherence, as if this was an objective in its own right, rather than an intermediary step to a long and loyal flow of income. We all used to go off and define our overall brand narrative, our overarching brand view, our pivotal insight, the singular brand idea (or cluster of ideas) which, when executed beautifully and coherently by all concerned, would make it easy for our customers to make us part of their mental furniture and not put us in the mental skip.
That's great, but then the money men arrive. Brand coherence or integrity is not their ambition, but returns, sales, income, margin, profit, ARPU, ROI, DCF and KPIs. Our brand temple falls, our architectures wobble, the onion peels, the key jams, the pyramids crumble. A tactical retreat to the beachhead of a single-minded brand campaign is ordered. The troops are rallied, the charts churned out, the perfection of the idea exhibited, the entrails of the focus groups examined.
Agreement is reached, script(s) approved, but the money has gone! Stolen away by short-term campaigns, promotional devices, trade support, golf sponsorships, viral videos and mobile coupons.
The answer? Follow the money from the start. Integrating the commercial objectives into the marketing and communications objectives at the beginning is what matters most. Integrating the short term and the long term, the rational and emotional, the targeting of new or existing customers, the expectation of margin or income, the role of offline and online sales, integrating each stage of the customer journey.
Follow the money: it's the relative investment behind these objectives which needs to be hammered out before creative pen is put to paper, and then put into a common framework - the best of which I think is the customer journey. It's not new. Stephen King's purchase process is the original and is 30-plus years old but it works and is very appropriate to now.
We are using the customer journey as a way to integrate objectives, investments and assets at each stage of a proto-typical journey. It doesn't matter how you define it. Every sector's different and you could argue every customer is different, but as long as you have a circular process which includes a "buy" or "act" stage, it will include all actions that need to be considered.
It's not just Mindshare that believes this. McKinsey has formally killed off the funnel and now uses the CDJ (customer decision journey) as its recommended framework. Now, of course, we all know that no one person actually goes through a journey in clear sequential stages, but if you want to make sure that all your actions are coherent, whenever and in whatever order people see them, it's best to at least complete a whole journey plan.
We also use it because each stage can be discussed, reworked and renamed, in collaboration with all the stakeholders. It acts as an integrator of people and teams as much as concepts and money. We can drive awareness through search or TV, drive involvement through print or viral, drive action through mobile or in store, and drive sharing through traditional PR or social.
Commercial coherence along an onand offline customer journey will be the next challenge for integration.
It offers marketing services a glimpse of achieving our ambition of getting back to the top commercial table. But we won't get there without some pain and without letting go of some long-held beliefs, or at least rediscovering some that have been buried in the "big idea" era.
The most important of these is that marketing is about money, not about brands. Simple, isn't it?
Follow the money - Use the customer journey framework
- Integrate brand and commerce
- Let go of intermediate information
- Make offline follow the online data rules
- Put the customer journey data at the heart of your strategy
Marco Rimini is the leader, business planning worldwide at Mindshare
(From Campaign's "What Next in Integration" supplement, December 3 2010)