Any marketing strategist will tell you that integrated communications are crucial to the success of a marketing campaign. What they may not be able to tell you is what “integrated marketing” actually means.

Integrated marketing is a complex field, and it’s changing rapidly. Recent definitions have characterized it as a cohesion of promotional tactics across multiple media, including social media, print advertising, online content, and in-store campaigns. While this designation is accurate, it presents a two-dimensional perspective that doesn’t fully consider a key participant: the consumer.

Even companies that think they have implemented effective integrated marketing communications strategies will miss the mark if they don’t involve the customer. Modern integrated marketing doesn’t only take into account the various channels across which its messaging spans; it takes a holistic view of the entire customer experience from the inside out.

How Companies Accomplish Effective Integrated Marketing

In its simplest form, integrated marketing happens when a company’s online and offline marketing communications present a unified front. But how do businesses achieve this?

1. They do their homework.

Making assumptions about your target audience without hard data often leads to missed opportunities. This is why market research and customer feedback are important.

Consider this example: According to a recent study, 81 percent of millennials still make purchases in physical stores and scour newspapers for coupons. But because of this demographic’s reputation as the “digital generation,” many retailers focus exclusively on online marketing strategies, missing the boat on these consumers.

2. They do some soul-searching.

Before they can implement a killer integrated marketing campaign, a company must determine an overarching philosophy to inform everything they do. It should define the character and style of the company, its target audience, and what effect the company’s product or service has on the customer’s life.

Ultimately, companies won’t achieve true integration through catchy taglines, matching color schemes, or trying to make the same messaging work across disparate media. Once they identify and commit to an all-encompassing brand concept, it will manifest organically in every communication.

3. They treat everything they do as part of the customer experience.

When a business adopts a philosophy, it should saturate everything the company does, whether an operation is customer-facing or not. From web design to customer service hotlines, each department must function with the mission in mind.

When companies allow a disconnect between their marketing and their service or product delivery, they lose customers’ faith quickly. Conversely, when customers’ experience with a company is “as advertised” from start to finish, they become loyal followers.

4. They take their time.

Successful integrated marketing doesn’t happen overnight, over a week, or even over a month. It requires a sustained and consistent effort. With thousands of brands competing for consumers’ attention on a daily basis, the most successful companies aren’t necessarily the ones that launch new marketing initiatives every month; they’re the ones that persist in what they believe.

Give your integrated communications strategy time to soak into customers’ consciousness, and they won’t soon forget you.

Case Studies: Brands that are Winning at Integrated Marketing

Although few and far between, a few companies have successfully adapted their integrated marketing strategies to reflect a mercurial market. Some of these include the following:

  • Pepsi. This iconic beverage brand went back to its roots after falling behind Coke and Diet Coke in sales. Pepsi explored its company’s history and endeavored to discover what differentiated the brand from its fiercest competitor.

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After determining that its appeal is in “timeliness” (rather than Coke’s “timelessness”), Pepsi launched the “Live for Now” campaign, which appeals to target consumers’ freewheeling ethos. With increased spending on marketing and “reignited” components such as vending machines and licensed items, Pepsi is poised to wrestle its way back to the top of the market.

  • Red Bull. Possibly the king of unified messaging, Red Bull boasts one of the most iconic taglines today: “Red Bull Gives You Wings.” It combines online, TV, and social marketing communications with appropriate sponsorships and endorsements to feature the brand as not only a beverage, but a way of life.

  • BirthdayPak. You may not have heard of it (yet), but BirthdayPak is already making its mark on the direct mail marketing industry. This up-and-coming startup maintains an “offline” (direct mail) strategy when many companies are going completely online.

How it works: BirthdayPak sends direct mail to women during their birthday month, offering a birthday message and gift cards to nearby businesses. Recipients can then visit the BirthdayPak website and sign up for emails. Talk about marketing synergy!

Some Implementation Methods to Consider

Although the hardest part of developing your integrated marketing strategy will be discovering your company’s unique unifying message, you can streamline its application with a few useful tools and techniques.

To extend your reach to customers across multiple channels, consider methods such as the following:

  • Tracking apps. Once customers download your app, track their purchasing behavior and use this information to tailor future marketing efforts.
  • Hybrid print advertisements. To ensure you don’t miss customers looking for deals in newspapers or magazines, continue investing in print ads – but include links or QR codes so they can interact with you online as well.
  • Responsive eCommerce websites. Few things are more frustrating to a consumer than not being able to find and purchase a product from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Creating a responsive website gives you a blanket policy against customer abandonment.

A Few Final Thoughts about Integrated Marketing

Whatever the size of your company, understanding the importance and implementation of integrated marketing is essential to a healthy bottom line. Copying and pasting the same messaging across multiple channels is no longer enough; you must engage with your company and customers at a deeper level.

The good news is that once you’ve done the hard work of getting to know yourself and your target market, you’ll have built the framework for integrated marketing that will last for the long haul.

How is your company effectively utilizing integrated marketing?