Magazine article Marketing

Integration: Sally Laurie, Dr Kathleen Mortimer, Northampton Business School - Integration Demands Effort from Everyone

Magazine article Marketing

Integration: Sally Laurie, Dr Kathleen Mortimer, Northampton Business School - Integration Demands Effort from Everyone

Article excerpt

Client organisations need to be fully behind integrated marketing communications strategies if they are to have a chance of success.

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is becoming increasingly relevant and necessary in today's multichannel, multiplatform world. IMC recognises that clear brand values need to be communicated through every touchpoint, so it is necessary for an integrated approach to be adopted at a strategic level within organisations so that all internal and external stakeholders communicate those values. But is that how the client sees it? When they ask for an 'integrated solution', is that what they mean?

As most academic research into IMC concentrates on the agency-side of the business, we had to do something new. Agencies suggest clients need to move toward integration within their organisations before they are in a position to ask agencies to put together integrated campaigns. The 2006 IPA report Magic And Logic says responsibility is shared, but agencies are limited if clients are not adopting best practice. Clients have to make the first move towards integration before agencies can influence the process.

Is that how the client sees it? Few studies have examined the client's understanding of what IMC is and how it should be implemented so, with Campaign and Marketing, we have taken a step toward addressing this. We gained access to more than 50 influential people on both the client and agency side of the business. The findings are illuminating.

Clients do recognise the need for IMC to be implemented at a senior level within an organisation, where its influence can be felt across the whole business and incorporate all stakeholders, including human resources, finance and operations.

This recognition of strategy was identified more strongly by the clients (87% of participants) than by the agencies questioned (63%). Clients feel they face a number of significant challenges in implementing this approach. They still perceive IMC as a difficult concept to understand and explain to others. This is, perhaps, not surprising when it continues to be given many names and definitions by both agencies and academics.

Second, because of existing organisational structures, turf wars and internal cultures, it is difficult for marketing departments to have influence over other departments within an organisation, where they may have little authority. Nearly 90% of our clients and 94% of our agency participants saw this lack of influence as a significant barrier. As one client put it: 'This is very difficult to achieve in practice, given that the marketing function is rarely the core department, capable of wielding the influence to drive this approach.'

Some clients talked of marketing being 'reduced to functionalities' and that 'strategic marketing thinking is absent'. Others spoke of the need to have the support of the chief executive, or someone at board level, to enable changes to be made across the organisation.

Unfortunately, some chief executives 'think they know best when it comes to marketing strategy. Their thinking on the issue is often outdated.' If marketing is seen as a cost, then to attempt to introduce company-wide structural and cultural changes can fly in the face of finance-led corporate objectives and short-term goals. However, without this support at board level, and the opportunity to involve all staff in the brand communications, clients and agencies can end up tinkering at the edges of integration, which creates poor results and further disillusionment.

Education

This all sounds rather depressing, but it shouldn't be. …

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