Integrated Marketing

It seems that one of the most used terms that the industry throws around these days is “Integrated”
What does the term mean to you?
Do you use this term to describe how you align your capabilities to the marketer’s needs?
Are you really just cross-selling traditional in-house departments and resources?

Here is an industry article that speaks to my concern, and made me decide to write these thoughts:
Marketers embrace integrated marketing
But ANA study also finds several factors are hampering companies’ best efforts

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In working with agencies, I see a good amount of self-delusion in agencies attempting to re-package their capabilities, rather than really constructing themselves in a way that deliver integrated solutions. Integration is important in today’s communications. Not just a box to check during a marketer’s agency search process. Often, agencies use a cool looking graphic representation of the agency structure, but these do not truly represent how the agency actually operates, or even thinks about solving big issues. If you still have strictly defined departments built in your organization, you are potentially not really delivering integrated solutions.

And just as many marketers have not grasped, nor utilize, this valuable thought-process in their own business operations. They do not always fully embrace the agency that really does deliver integrated solutions. Few seem to grasp how to make it all work together. So, most marketer-agency relationships only touch upon the term called “integration” and do not take full advantage of the huge potential is has to offer in successfully reaching customers, audiences, and their own company. Plus, marketers are also too often relying on limited measurement systems that tend to heavily weight traditional media solutions. They are missing the real opportunities in order to justify budgets and their traditional roles.

Of course this “integration” thing is very hard to do. It means essentially means throwing away the traditional departmental roles and long lists of defined capabilities that are assigned to each person or group within the company. How can you deliver holistic solutions, when everyone is only responsible for the area noted on their business card? Or when the group manager is judged only on the profitability of their department. You sustain an environment that manages specific tasks, not promoting leaders that seek to expand into new territory. You have to start fresh. You must think about what you want to accomplish, then work backward toward the kind of talent and structure that can see what’s possible. You need thinkers. You need believers. And, you will always need talented creative producers. You need creative people, in every area of your business. Then, let loose of the constraints.

Is your team constructed in a way that values innovative ideas, or is your income based on a producing pre-arranged scope of work? Are you truly “media-neutral”, or is a substantial portion of your income derived from paid media? Hard to be agnostic about media use when you make better incomes from certain buys. Do you consider options outside the traditional “advertising/PR” world that will produce results? Like customer service, display options, advocacy groups, web ordering procedures, how the company answers the phone. Do you think about the same sort of issues within your own agency? How often have you brought the client ideas that do not involve a spot, layout, or design?

The value in applying the real meaning of integration is the ability to understand the audience with enough clarity of vision to see opportunities to connect within each of them, in a way they need to be engaged, not the way you want it to happen. Then evaluate each and every interaction between audience and company. What’s a better way? Build your agency around developing strategic IDEAS, not production or media solutions. Then deliver a seamless set of interconnected activation points that will drive toward the required successes. And, yes, measure them all. Constantly adjusting according to what you learn. Integrate information, strategy, ideas, and connectivity.

I know this is just the tip of the discussion. And its just my opinion.
What do you think? Give this direction some thought. It can only make you, your agency, and the marketer, better.