Raising the Stakes for Integrated Marketers

With the rise of the web in the past several years, marketers have faced the challenge of ensuring brand consistency across online and traditional media.

This involved a lot more than simply repurposing graphic images from a print campaign onto a web site or delivering consistent calls to action. The real challenge was to help clients deliver on the promise of integrated marketing campaigns, leveraging what traditional messaging vehicles are good at — achieving great reach and saturation — while making best use of the unique offerings of the web — its interactivity, the power it gives to the user, its capacity for personalization, and its measurability.

Yet most interactive agencies and internal marketing teams have really only begun to exploit the promise of integrated marketing. Even the most progressive integrated marketers maxed achievement with campaigns like the whatever.nike.com hybrid TV/web initiative. We’re still trying to inspire many clients to move beyond brochureware and understand that having a web site is not the same as having an Internet strategy.

Unless the Nasdaq correction has you cowering under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that Internet evangelists are now spouting off about “anytime, anywhere” Internet access via mobile devices, interactive TV, kiosks, and even such devices as game consoles and vending machines. Thus marketers are now faced with an even greater challenge.

The advent of multiple digital channels — each with unique functionality and utility — means that content and marketing messages must be integrated into a completely brave new world of content, commerce, and community. Now marketing campaigns, content, and brand attributes must be integrated across offline media, the web, and wireless devices, iTV, kiosks, and the like.

The mission of marketers just got a whole lot more difficult — and a lot more exciting!

Field Work

The first step is to think like a cultural anthropologist and conduct thorough research to truly understand your target audiences and how and why they use the web, how and why they use other digital channels, and what context they use them in.

We’ve heard it before: The value proposition of the mobile Internet is simple, personalized information that is best served in a time-sensitive and location-based context. So although I find short message service (SMS), travel updates, stock updates, and city information most useful, I’m not really interested in e-commerce and video, even if delivered over state-of-the-art 3G networks.

Mobile is about taking the ubiquitous Internet to the next level and deepening the relationships companies have with their customers by providing them with the services and information they need when they need it: when they are on the move, need a piece of information, and need more context to make a purchasing decision.

iTV on New Terms

In the early ’90s Internet entertainment execs salivated over the prospect of 500-plus programming channels, and pundits predicted that video on demand would put Blockbuster out of business. iTV is now back in fashion, albeit at much lower expectations. Featuring functionality such as two-screen convergence, which lets you take online polls or quizzes while watching a TV program, and time-shifted viewing, which allows you to play, record, and pause programs at your leisure, iTV allows users to interact with the programming and tailor content and advertising to individual preferences.

However, TV — whether interactive or old school — probably will not be the active, user-initiated experience the web can be since the TV experience has a widely accepted culture, one more driven toward pure entertainment. iTV faces challenges similar to those faced by the mobile Internet in that navigation and interactivity will be even more important than it is on the web.

Taking a cue from iTV developments in Europe, one of the leading consumer applications could be digital program guides that help people locate a program they want to see amid the overwhelming options.

Opportunity Abounds

American companies should look at business models established outside the U.S. for clues on how consumers will adopt non-PC based Internet delivery. Japanese convenience stores, for instance, have tapped into several distinct characteristics of Japanese life (e.g., convenience stores on every corner, consumer distrust of online credit card usage) to deliver services such as those undertaken by 7-Eleven Japan.

7-Eleven Japan has created 7dream.com and installed Internet kiosks in each of its 8,000 locations. A customer who visits 7dream.com can extend his or her shopping experience with 7-Eleven by perusing more than 100,000 products and services online, then scheduling pick up and payment of the Internet purchase at his or her neighborhood 7-Eleven store.

The relationships companies will have with their customers, employees, and business partners will be like wireless technology itself: an always-on connection built through a series of integrated experiences over time. But such opportunity brings with it definite challenges. The ubiquitous Internet may be a godsend for some and a disaster for others.

The victors will be companies with “sticky” content and applications, intuitive user experiences, and a respect for users’ privacy and time.

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