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April 5, 2008

JOINED-UP THINKING: an integrated marketing approach

Contrary to what some might have you believe, the modern marketer cannot live by experiential alone. Any live marketing campaign, whether it be product sampling or cutting-edge live engagement, needs the other marketing disciplines around it to maximise it’s potential, for example what is the point of collecting data and customer contact details if they are just going to wind up forgotten about in another department or agency?

“It’s all about joined up marketing,” says Fitch Live’s worldwide MD, Peter Cowie. “Events are the live part of an overall marketing programme.”


Tight fit: experiential is a key part of the marketing jigsaw


And that programme needs to ensure that all its elements work together because you need to be putting out a cohesive message, as Cowie explains: “An event strengthens and reinforces the messages delivered through other marketing media to create an integrated cohesive campaign. Otherwise a confused set of messages are sent out into the marketplace, which can undermine an entire campaign.”

Staying on message
Of all current marketing media, the live event seems to suffer most from straying away from the messages being more consistently delivered through other media within a company. “Perhaps this is because, traditionally, the decision making process for a company’s events has lay outside the marketing team,” says Cowie. “In any business environment where the key growth areas of marketing are online and experiential, it is vital for companies to rectify this problem and bring one of the most effective forms of marketing firmly within the marketing department to enable proper integration into its overall marketing strategy.”

In many cases, it is not simply a case of a live experience being integrated into an overall campaign. Increasingly the live experience is leading the campaign, with other marketing media spinning off it to support the event, so it’s equally important that all the individual disciplines are working in harmony together to get the best return on investment. This is creating a new breed of live marketing agency that offers an integrated approach, but full integration is not always the right approach.

“The most important thing is that agencies understand as much as possible about the other marketing disciplines and how they can impact on the success of the live aspect,” says Nick Adams, managing director of experiential agency Sense. “On the one hand this means that you can offer clients a fully integrated service, but on the other it means that you can, for example, talk to a client’s existing DM agency in their own language.”

Broadening your skills base

But do all experiential agencies currently have the skill set to do this? “Probably not,” believes Adams, “but we are not unique in looking to employ people from a wide range of disciplines, and each of those people will bring key knowledge into the company. I’m not suggesting that every campaign should be run by an integrated experiential agency, but if I were a marketing director I’d certainly want to be ensuring my agencies could work together as effectively as possible.”

Of course, some of the bigger agencies are acquiring the necessary range of skills through acquisition and merger and there are some very good integrated agencies out there, but there is still no substitute for specialist knowledge in certain circumstances.

Adams also points out that marketers need to be aware of this when they are putting jobs out to pitch. “We’ve been invited to pitch for some jobs where we’ve not been allowed to speak to other agencies in other skills,” he explains. “To my mind, this is ridiculous, if you want to have a holistic view of how experiential fits in to a company’s overall strategy, you need to be able to speak to other agencies.”

However, Adams explains that some of their clients have a much more forward-thinking and integrated approach. “We have one or two clients that have one brief for their agencies across the different disciplines, and we are supposed to work together to produce a united and fully integrated response. This is certainly a much more constructive way forward.”

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