Four reasons why marketers should care about integration

Integration is becoming an even more significant principle of brand building because of changing technologies and the growth of real-time, multimodal, multi directional communication.

A longstanding principle for marketers has been to make all aspects of a brand immediately recognizable and memorable. This is integration at its most basic level and it can be achieved by ensuring that all marketing communications exhibit the same identity and character.  When done well, the brand becomes not only recognizable and memorable, it also looks more “together” and therefore of higher apparent quality.

Integration has taken on a new broader meaning as it now refers to how disparate elements can be tied together online so the brand is more likely to be found, the online experience is pleasing and encourages purchase.

Here are four aspects of integration that marketers should care about:

1. Growth of the search ecosystem

When someone is considering buying a product or service they often conduct an online search. What they find, on Google and other search engines, as well as information from news sites, review sites, directories, videos and place-based searches, are presented together, so like it or not, there is a level of integration. The online experience will affect their attitudes towards a brand and their behavior. Marketers therefore need to concern themselves with making sure their brand is found ahead of competitors' and then ensuring their audience has a positive and helpful experience.

2. Increasing convenience of online hubs

Consumers expect information and services that relate to a brand to be conveniently accessible via its website. Website are now hubs integrating information, resources and services together. For instance when a consumer visits Virgin.com they are able to book a flight, manage their money, top up their mobile phone plan or find up-to-date news about the company.

Another example is the Apple iTunes app store that aggregates software and information from thousands of app programmers, presenting them together with reviews provided by users. A single destination integrates together the products themselves, their promotional messages, along with product delivery, billing and customer service.

3. Growth of social media

Participation in social media continues to grow in the double digits. As people spend more time with social media it becomes more important as a communications medium. It also changes the nature of communication allowing consumers to participate and sometimes control the dialog with brands. Some have been successful at using social media to spread their message. For instance Unilever’s campaign for Dove, The Dove Real Beauty Sketches went viral with over 54 million views on YouTube.

4. Growth of mobile

The growing penetration of smartphones with fast internet connectivity means that marketers need to take into consideration integration between the online experience and place-based experiences. For instance when a consumer downloads the Target app they are able to receive coupons to their phone. The coupons are stored on their mobile device and can be redeemed at the checkout by presenting the coupon barcode to the cashier.

The above trends are affecting purchase behaviour so significantly that they are upending traditional marketing theory. For instance the identity of a brand, its reputation and how easy it is to find are more foundational for brand building than say the “four Ps” of marketing. If a brand is easy to find online, and it looks like it has its act together and it offers value, and it is easy to purchase then it will likely succeed. The totality of the experience is the clinching principle rather than the details of the product, its price and how it is promoted.

Companies that make their brands consistently appealing online and off will prevail over companies that take a piecemeal approach.

What examples of effective integrated marketing have impressed you? Comment, like and share to contribute to the discussion.