Thursday, November 20, 2008

Integration... an art?

We hear a lot about integrated tactics -- which simply means that when we are presenting our company or organization to our audience we all are singing from the same song book.

We call that song book a Brand Document.

Let's start with fundamentals. Whether you are a non-profit with the goal of raising awareness and funds or a for-profit selling a product or service -- the offer and the ultimate sale are #1. Revenue and profit margins (Return on Investment) is our growth goal. We all understand that.

The question bandied about is the importance of brand integration in overall revenue growth. We've all witnessed the poo-pooing of brand, especially in today's economic climate. It's only a recent move for agencies to even associate brand and direct response (however baffling that may seem to me).

At Barefoot Creative we constantly see results affirming that brand and fundraising or sales strategies work in synergy to increase revenue.

Especially in times of economic depression.

The growth of Kellogg's is an important case study on the potential when we invest wisely. Even in the early 1900's, W.K. Kellogg believed in brand advertising and invested heavily. During the depression, as consumer spending plummeted, Kellogg's directors voted to cut all advertising dollars. A seemingly sound judgement considering the sales environment.

Catching wind of the decision, Kellogg rushed back to head office. New meeting, new insight. The company invested $1 million in advertising. The growth curve increased sharply over the depression years, increasing company sales by more than 27% during the 20th century's lowest economic period.

But more importantly. As consumer dollars were freed up, Kellogg's was there, a well-known, appreciated consumer choice.

Back to integration....

When your foundational brand message does not echo through every piece of marketing, communication, fundraising and sales collateral you lose momentum.

W.K. Kellogg, more than 100 years ago, recognized that advertising and promotion set you apart in a world of many like products. Let's be honest. While each of us has a unique contribution to make in our world, we are not alone in that uniqueness (an irony which I appreciate. After all, mass marketing is an intriguing study on the similitude of the unique). BRAND sets us apart because it is the unique edge we have. Whether we protect children from abuse, sell homes, provide educational services, distribute software -- there are companies that do very similar work or provide similar services. Critical to your success is the development of a unique personality that captures the attention of your audience.

Once the brand personality is established, the hard work begins.

Every campaign, every marketing piece, every communication needs to echo that personality -- everything. While packages and templates designed for someone else will work in the short term, they will not build long term organizational growth.

Today's marketing challenge is complex. With each new communication innovation: print, radio, TV, outdoor, guerrilla, web-based (quick sweep -- you get the picture) we are required to integrate more. Radio did not do away with print, nor did TV high jack radio... Internet marketing has not reduced the need for print, radio or tv. But each innovation in communication has increased message clutter, increasing the importance of brand.

The foundation of integration is brand. The foundation of increased revenue over the long haul is integrating a strong brand message with tested direct response activities that lead your customers or donors to complete the transaction.

Is integration an art?

I think so. True growth oriented marketing, communication, sales and fundraising activities are based on foundations applied by talented creators.