Integration is a marketing catchphrase of the moment. Its value propositions seems unquestionably strong—the whole of a marketing initiative can be greater than the sum of its multidisciplinary parts if those parts work tightly together to assist one another.
While certainly capable of delivering on this promise, integrated marketing is not without its inherent vulnerabilities. One area of definite risk with integration lies in its rigidity—its inability to handle change and dynamic competitive forces.
The need to coordinate a host of disparate marketing disciplines in a united cause tends to slow integration's ability to make on-the-fly decisions and act upon them. One can readily foresee situations where more maneuverable competitors could take fierce advantage of the difficulties of an integrated initiative to turn on a dime.
I would therefore argue that as integration continues to mature, the importance of marketing agility and maneuverability will grow in importance—both as a defense for and offence against integrated efforts.
An Integrated Background
The idea of integrated marketing is hardly new. Walt Disney was using what he called “synergy” in the 1950s and 1960s to drive the Disney company forward using coordinated marketing efforts in print, television, movies, merchandizing and his Anaheim theme park. Each part of the Disney marketing mix promoted other aspects of the mix that together built the Disney brand and revenue stream.
In the last 20 years, a wide range of marketers have begun to embrace integration as a mantra for their efforts in large part due to the increasing problems that exist with our mass mediums, which are presently fracturing and becoming growingly inefficient. This crisis in mass marketing has an ironic origin in the success of these mass mediums as advertising venues, which has in turn fed the growth of greater media complexity. This complexity has led to increasing difficulties reaching truly mass audiences as consumer media options become more diverse and segmented in an ever-growing sea of choices.
Integration has offered a partial fix to this problem by facilitating marketing efficiencies through a smart management of a total marketing mix. These efficiencies first took the form of the various media coming together to support a primary medium's effort (usually television) using consistent messaging across the secondary and tertiary communication channels.
Matthew Syrett is a marketing consultant/analyst—a hybrid marketer, film producer, technologist, and statistician. He was vice-president of product development at the LinkShare Corporation and vice-president at Grey Interactive. Reach him via syrett (at) gmail (dot) com.