We're All Chasing Integration

This morning, I attended MIMA's "Integrated Communications Panel." The event was moderated by Andrew Eklund (CEO, Ciceron) and included panelists Paul Ratsky (VP, Interactive at OLSON), Glenn Karowski (Managing Director, The Business of Ideas) and Eric Erickson (former VP, Creative Director, Target). Throughout the discussion, the panelists discussed what brands and agencies should strive towards as we work on combining communication strategies and brand tactics into an "integrated" marketing approach. The conversation was rich, lively and timely. Throughout the conversation, three main themes surfaced. Here's my take on what went down.

We're Always Going to be Chasing Integration

Brands and agencies have always been chasing integration in their marketing communication efforts and always will be. Innovation and advancements in technology will never let us. What used to be print, radio and TV is now web, social and mobile. It's challenging to predict what the future of communications will look like. Add on top of this the complexity of understanding consumer behavior and we've got quite a cluster on our hands. In short, marketers are always going to be chasing integration.

Brands Are Responsible for Driving Integration, Not Agencies

Brands and their agency partners should always push for integrated marketing strategies. But the reality is that most large companies work with multiple agency partners who specialize in different areas of marketing (e.g., brand strategy, design, advertising, interactive, direct, loyalty). While agencies may do their best to integrate the work they do into other ongoing marketing initiatives, they don't have access to the resources and knowledge the client does. Agencies don't know the overall business / marketing objectives and strategies as well as the client. Agencies don't have a clear perspective on what the other agency partners are doing. In fact, agencies are always trying to do a little bit more for a client with the hopes of extending their services into different areas within the company. It gets complicated quickly. This is why I argue companies should not pin the idea of integration solely on their agency partners. Brands should be held accountable for this.

Listening to Consumers Will Drive Integration

As much as we want to encourage brands and / or agencies to own marketing communications integration, consumers are in charge. As interactive communications specialists, we need to remind ourselves that we're in the business of creating experiences for brands that encourage interaction with people. In order to do this, we need to have a deep understanding and appreciation of how people are going about their daily lives. Where, how and when they prefer to interact with brands. More importantly, where, how and when brands can add value to people's everyday lives. If we truly understand this, integrated marketing communications is a possibility.