Monday, August 9, 2010

Integrated Marketing Communications are dead. Long live integrated marketing communications.

The term integrated marketing communications should be eliminated from modern vernacular and anyone in the industry who uses it should be scrutinized very closely.
This may sound a bit harsh but let’s consider the definition of the term (thank you Wikipedia):
Integrated Marketing Communications is a term used to describe a holistic approach to marketing communication. It aims to ensure consistency of message and the complementary use of media. The concept includes online and offline marketing channels.(…) Integrated marketing communication is integration of all marketing tools, approaches, and resources within a company which maximizes impact on consumer mind and which results into maximum profit at minimum cost.
Take away consistency of message across media and what’s left? One doesn’t have to look far for examples of the importance of integration within marketing communications before the term was actually coined (early 1990s as far as I have been able to find). Iconic brands from the 1980’s are great examples of the most successful marketing and branding campaigns in history. ‘Where’s the beef?” wouldn’t have had the impact it did if the slogan sometimes appeared as ‘What’s up with beef?'. Or ‘Just do it’ wouldn’t have been the same powerhouse brand if the infamous ‘swoosh’ logo changed from campaign to campaign. These examples are only familiar to us because they illustrate an invaluable truth: consistency and coordination between messaging and media has always been key to successfully building a brand or communicating a message.
Yet since the early ‘90s, books on this topic have been published and (shockingly) continue to be updated. Their very existence implies that there is some other valid approach to marketing communications. As time goes by and kinds of media evolve and change, knowing what you want to say and saying it clearly, consistently and to the right audience is the timeless thread weaving together the stories of many successful brands.
Perhaps my opinion is most pointedly summarized by the following moderator message at the top of the Wikipedia entry for the term integrated marketing communications: It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Marketing communications.
I concur! Marketing communications are inherently integrated.

Those marketers in the ‘80s who obviously “got it” didn’t need a new term to describe what they already recognized as being fundamental to the success of marketing communications efforts. They knew that consistency and coordination were always king.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Simple is often the best approach

Over the years that I have worked in marketing communications, my eye has been drawn to posters, letters, really any type of communications material that crosses my path, be it on the bus, on the TV or in the mail I receive at home. The tendency to scrutinize and evaluate what I see has become natural for me. I've seen examples of successes and of misguided attempts resulting in failure. I've been asked advice on how to best word something to how to engage a particular audience to how to create a magazine. The scenario may change, but the best approach boils down to one philosophy: keeping it simple.

The more straightforward your message, the better chance at being understood and engaging your audience. This sometimes means modifying and eliminating words, organizing a layout in a particular way or refocussing the message itself.

Regardless, the exercise of keeping a communications message simple is a challenge. The very process of creating a message or markcomm product (like a newsletter, magazine, website, etc.) involves many puzzle pieces - images, text, font, layout, content, etc. Marketing communications is an exercise of balancing these areas, which really are their own disciplines - writing, graphic design, printing, etc.. Creating great marketing communications products means finding ways to work with the people who are masters of these domains, while staying on time, within budget and on target with your message.

In spite of immense challenge the coordination of all these elements presents, this line of work also brings many rewards. It requires constant re-evaluation and ongoing learning and encourages thoughtful discussions. The focus of this blog is to discuss ways to keep things simple. I'll contemplate topics as they arise and ones that have come up so often, I could write a book about them. I hope that it will be engaging, insightful and most importantly, help anyone who is tasked with creating marketing communications products.