Why Integration Is a 4-Letter Word

For years, marketers have been singing the praises of integration – the notion that an idea should live across channels to provide a consistent brand story. All in all, it’s a solid strategy and comes from a good place. But over time, we’ve gotten a bit lazy as an industry, and now integration can do more harm than good.

Years ago, I went to a friend’s wedding – and in addition to awkward dancing, the event also provided me an interesting lesson in marketing – and it’s all about French horns (I promise, this will make sense). At this wedding, the music was provided by a brass quartet, and as a jazz fan I was thrilled. But there was a surprising twist – the quartet was comprised of all French horns. Now, while I have nothing against the French horn, it was a tad disappointing to say the least. I’m not sure if anyone has ever heard a French horn quartet, but I’ll be honest it’s not exactly a beautiful symphony. You see, orchestras (and quartets) have different instruments playing together for a reason – because when different sounds are put together at different times, they can create an amazing song. Listening to the same note and tone over and over again lacks nuance and can create boredom.

That’s where integration in marketing can often go wrong. Brands occasionally fall into the French horn quartet trap – the same content plastered across all marketing channels with little thought to relevance, strategy, or how it all fits. It’s why I believe what brands need to focus on is orchestration, not integration.

Orchestration is about using different channels to tell different parts of a brand story in order to build stronger relationships with consumers. It’s about storytelling, not consistency. Here is a look at a few key elements in creating an “orchestration” strategy.

Define Your Story

First off, understand the larger story you are trying to tell. Not what you want to do on Pinterest, or Facebook, or what Instagram filter to use – think bigger. Define the narrative you want your consumer to get sucked into, and what role you want the brand to play in that narrative. Only then should be thinking about channels.

Understand Strengths and Weaknesses of Platforms

When you know the story you want to tell, begin to identify what individual platforms do well for your brand, and how that can be leveraged for different parts of your story. Does your narrative involve a visual chapter? Think Instagram. Do you want consumers to be able to choose a path for the content they interact with? Think YouTube.

Think beyond “best practices” and what people like me tell you. Look at your own data – how does your Facebook community react to different types of content? What conversations occur with your Twitter followers? These insights can drive really effective channel strategies for your brand,

Compose the Right Notes in the Right Places

Once you know the story, and how channels can help you tell it, begin to “compose your music.” Think about how consumers will interact across channels and platforms, and provide them new and interesting ways to engage with your brand. Stop replicating posts across platforms, and stop worrying about whether or not the copy lines match every time. People connect most with brands that they feel a personal connection to, and people have nuance, character, and personality. Don’t be afraid to let your brand have the same.

Image via Shutterstock.

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