Marketing a product or service has many challenges. First, there is a need to raise awareness of the brand and promote it's promise; second, the marketing activity must drive sales and get customers to sign on the dotted line. Creating a truly joined-up marketing campaign is the ultimate challenge for every marketer.
Traditionally, marketers have thought in terms of above-the-line for brand building and below-the-line for response. Now the line is more blurred. Pressure on budgets means there is rarely room for campaigns that do one thing or the other: we are being forced to think holistically.
The danger of enforced cutbacks is that we think excessively about channels and too little about target markets and niches. The standard response to reduced marketing budgets has been to make wholesale cuts to specific media and channels. The most dramatic cuts have occurred in newspaper and magazine advertising, swiftly followed by direct mail and sponsorship. The principle beneficiary has, of course, been e-mail marketing and social media, not I suspect because they work, but because they are quick and cheap.
We need to carefully consider if these lower cost media are really effective alternatives.
Rather than scrambling for social media programmes, marketers need to step back and realise that it is the interaction of a variety of media that raises awareness and ultimately drives a purchasing decision. A reduced budget should be addressed with focus on a more tightly defined and better understood target audience, not 'we cannot afford to advertise' or 'we cannot afford the direct mail programme'.
An integrated marketing approach is not, in itself, a strategy: it is the tactical implementation of a marketing strategy. The distinction is important, because without the right strategy, no amount of talk about integrating channels and mediums will make any difference.
When all is said and done, an integrated marketing approach is not an option, it is essential. The notion that different channels perform different roles is wrong.
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