Imagine seeing a billboard advertising a car rental company. The billboard has a red and blue color scheme and sports the slogan “Car Rentals Done Right!”
You remember the brand name, so later, when you get home, you visit the rental car company’s website. The site has an orange and yellow color scheme and uses a slightly different slogan: “Do Your Car Renting Right!” You might be asking yourself if this is even the same company.
What you have just experienced is a disjointed brand experience. This hypothetical car rental company gave you a different look and a different message on different marketing channels.
As a small business owner, avoiding such customer confusion is probably in your best interest. You do this by employing consistent messaging throughout all your marketing efforts. This is known as integrated marketing communications.
What is integrated marketing?
Integrated marketing is the delivery of a unified brand message through strategic coordination and seamless integration of multiple marketing channels. It involves aligning advertising, public relations, social media, content marketing, and other promotional efforts to create an impactful customer experience.
Companies with an integrated marketing strategy strive to show customers the same visual aesthetic, the same slogans, the same promotions, and the same overall tone across multiple channels.
Whether these customers engage with your product via a digital ad, a billboard, or an in-store experience, they’ll see a unified look and feel.
Benefits of integrated marketing
Successful integrated marketing campaigns can yield many benefits for both small businesses and large corporations.
Increased brand awareness
As a marketer, you want that customer to receive a consistent message that they can rapidly associate with your brand.
A potential customer who sees a company’s ad campaign, product packaging, and social media presence all featuring the same colors, fonts, and overall design will be more likely to remember that company’s name and product.
Multiple opportunities to connect
When your demographic encounters your company across multiple channels, you get multiple chances to deliver the same consistent message.
You can also use different marketing strategies to reach your target audience on each channel. For example, you might use search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your website’s ranking on Google or retargeting ads to reach customers who have already visited your site.
Integrated marketing helps stretch your digital marketing budget. Because you will use very similar creative across multiple marketing channels, it’s like getting several campaigns for the price of one.
You also can collect customer data from all different platforms and use this valuable information to inform future marketing decisions.
Improved brand loyalty
Integrated marketing allows you to build a rapport with your target audience and create long-term customer relationships.
You can establish trust with potential and current customers by delivering a consistent message across all channels. When customers trust your brand, they’re more likely to do business with you and recommend you to others.
To thrive in the digital commerce economy, many marketing managers embrace omnichannel marketing—which involves a presence on everything from TV to social media platforms to Google Ads.
An integrated marketing strategy helps your marketing team manage all these platforms and channels because you’ll be using the same slogan, color scheme, and sales promotions on all platforms.
How to create an integrated marketing campaign
Here’s how to build an integrated marketing plan for your next campaign:
- Understand your campaign goals
- Know your target audience
- Select your marketing channels
- Decide on creative direction
- Create a plan to collect leads
- Coordinate your launch
- Analyze results
- Adjust your campaign and repeat
1. Understand your campaign goals
The first step in any marketing campaign is to understand your goals clearly. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Drive online sales? Boost foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar store?
Your campaign goals will shape the rest of your marketing strategy, so it’s important to get them right from the start.
2. Know your target audience
The next step is to understand who your target audience is. This step is critical because your target audience will dictate which marketing channels you use, what type of creative you develop, and what type of message you want to communicate.
For example, if you want to target millennials, you might develop a social media campaign featuring influencers. Or, if you want to target baby boomers, you might invest in some television commercials.
3. Select your marketing channels
Once you understand your target audience, you can start selecting different channels to reach them. There are many options to choose from, but some of the most popular are:
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Display advertising
- Affiliate marketing
- Referral marketing
- Event marketing
- Content marketing
This involves determining specific creative executions for each channel, and your plan for distributing the creative across channels.
- Your design team may work on a revamped look for your company website, or develop a new landing page for your integrated campaign.
- Your social media team may develop assets for Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, each with their own twist on the program or campaign.
- Your performance marketing team might develop ad copy variations for Google ads.
No matter how many channels you use, they must all work toward the same goal: presenting your brand image in a consistent way across all platforms.
4. Decide on creative direction
This is the look and feel of your brand or the big idea behind a singular campaign. It includes color, typography, and voice. As your marketing team selects each of these components, think about whether they can adequately manifest on all of your platforms.
For instance, if you choose a special font to represent your brand name, make sure you have a plan to replicate that font anywhere your brand appears. If you render it on a website using HTML5 code, ensure the font is supported on all the platforms you use.
5. Create a plan to collect leads
The next step is to create a plan to collect leads. Depending on your campaign goals and your selected marketing channels, there are many ways to collect leads.
For example, if you’re running a Facebook ad campaign, you might drive potential customers to a landing page where they can sign up for your newsletter. Or, if you’re running a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign, you might drive potential customers to a product page where they can make a purchase.
6. Coordinate your launch
With all teams in place, and each team united in its integrated marketing strategy, it is time to launch your campaign. Your new creative hits your website, social channels, and ads. Launching isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, but it should look that way to your customers.
Once your creative is complete, you can start to implement your campaign. Depending on your budget and the marketing channels you’ve selected, this might mean launching a social media campaign, setting up a Google Ads account, or sending out promotional emails.
7. Analyze results
After running your campaign for a while, it’s important to analyze your results to see how well it’s performing. You can track many metrics, but some of the most important ones are:
- Reach: How many people have seen your campaign?
- Engagement: How many people have interacted with your campaign?
- Conversion rate: How many people have taken the desired action?
- ROI: How much revenue have you generated from your campaign?
8. Adjust your campaign and repeat
Based on your analysis, you might need to make some adjustments to your campaign. For example, if your reach is low, you might consider adding more marketing channels. Or, if your engagement is low, you might want to consider changing your creative.
Once you’ve made your adjustments, you can start the process again. This is the beauty of an integrated marketing strategy—it’s flexible and can be adjusted based on your results.
Types of integrated marketing communications
Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is an approach to marketing that uses all of the available channels to reach the target audience. This can include advertising, public relations, direct marketing, social media, SEO, paid search, email, and landing pages.
- Paid advertising is paid communication, usually through print, television, radio, apps, or banner ads. Advertising can reach a wide audience with a consistent brand message.
- Public relations refers to how you engage with the public, including digital media relations, crisis communications, and issues management. An organization’s public image can be boosted by public relations by building relationships with key audiences.
- In direct marketing, you communicate directly with potential customers through telephone or direct mail. It's an effective way to get a personalized message to them.
- Social media marketingcan be a great way to build a community around your brand and reach potential customers. Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn can help you engage your customers.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) is optimizing a website to show up higher in search engine results. It allows potential customers to find your website and learn about what you have to offer.
- Using paid search, organizations can bid on keywords for which potential customers are searching. This allows them to reach potential customers actively looking for your products.
- Email is a form of direct marketing that allows organizations to send messages directly to potential and current customers. Email can be a great way to stay in touch with customers and promote new products or services.
- A landing page is a web page that converts visitors into leads or customers. It often includes a form that allows visitors to provide their contact information. Your business can benefit greatly from landing pages because they can increase conversion rates.
Integrated marketing examples
1. Mack Weldon
Mack Weldon is a men’s basics brand that started in 2011 and has expanded its product line to include underwear, t-shirts, socks, and sweatpants. Led by CMO Talia Handler, a former ecommerce strategy consultant at TikTok, the brand took a 360-degree integrated marketing approach throughout the pandemic.
The brand's latest TV-centric campaign was centered on the expression “Buy some time” and what the company calls its Daily Wear System. Handler doesn’t just focus on TV, however. The company thinks about every touchpoint throughout the funnel, from TV to social media and its customer loyalty program.
The company wants everyone to walk away and understand who Mack Weldon is. “We’ll start, over time, to see how those integrated marketing efforts are building our bottom line in the short term and helping to keep customers more engaged and [learn] more about us. And we can start to track that over time, to prove and respond to that long-term change in customer sentiment,” Handler said in a recent interview with Glossy.
“It has been amazing to see that growth over the past few months with our new integrated campaign and our more integrated go-to-market approach.”
As Coca-Cola launched its Diet Coke Plus product in the early 2000s, it used integrated marketing tactics, including print ads, online banner ads, and television commercials that all featured the same tagline: "Now you can enjoy Diet Coke even more."
By aligning its various marketing channels, Coca-Cola was able to effectively communicate the benefits of its new product to consumers.
Nike is another company that uses integrated marketing effectively. The sports apparel giant has a long history of running successful marketing campaigns that span multiple channels.
For example, Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, which launched in 1988, included television commercials, print ads, and billboards that all featured the same slogan. Nike has also used integrated marketing to support the launch of new products, like its Nike+ line of fitness products.
Final thoughts: Consistency rules
Very few customers consciously judge a company based on the consistency of its marketing efforts. Subconsciously, however, your marketing coordination (or lack thereof) sends many subtextual messages to your audience.
You probably wouldn’t trust your business to a bank or a wireless company whose ads all seemed different and who had multiple slogans and color schemes.
Why, then, if your ad campaigns were equally disorganized, would a customer put that kind of trust in you? Today’s small business owners can’t afford such a risk. They create integrated marketing campaigns with a consistent brand image, giving customers tacit permission to trust them and do business with them.