The concept of integrated marketing is attractive and growing in popularity in Hong Kong – and why not? One brand, one message, many channels – it makes sense no matter how you look at it.
But this common sense isn't being translated into action – there are still very few integrated marketing service providers that can manage campaigns from strategy to execution across the necessary spread of marketing tasks: i.e. advertising, PR, media buy, social media campaigns, and so on.
So why are clients still turning to different agencies and running fragmented, cluttered campaigns?
Even top tier, big name agencies often fall short when it comes to integrated marketing – they may run a full range of agencies that offer every conceivable service, but these sub-agencies often operate independently.
We've all been there – the potential for confusion and miscommunication when the same briefing is given many times to different parties is enormous. This fragmentation occurs at both the strategic and tactical level and is often the result of a silo mentality, with individual teams working in isolation on discrete projects.
Things are often no more integrated on the client side. Generally, large organisations are divided into different units – channels, product marketing, marketing communications, PR, customer relationship management, and so on – with separate unit heads responsible for their own specialised areas and each having their own independent budgets.
Often, the division heads work with different agencies to spend these budgets and deliver on their division's marketing targets. All in all, this is about as far from integrated as you can get!
Some organisations are beginning to 'get it'. In an interview article, one of the theme parks in Hong Kong spoke about how they use an integrated approach to stay ahead in their fast-changing industry. They have their experienced in-house marketing team design the overall communications strategy, but use outside agencies to provide "new and different perspectives along the process".
But many others still lag behind, stuck in the past or navigating the slow-moving mechanics of organisational change.
Connecting the dots
The root of the problem is that most agencies and their business partners are still focusing on short-term campaigns and 'quick wins', meaning businesses are missing out on the many benefits of integrated marketing.
So how do we get everyone on the same page? The best way is to reinforce integrated marketing’s trifecta of undeniable benefits: greater reach, deeper trust, and lower cost.
When the same message is delivered through all marketing channels at the same time, the company's brand becomes more consistent and more recognisable; increasing the brand's familiarity to a wider audience and thus deepening its competitive advantage. One key factor boosting this reach is the current proliferation of digital advertising channels.
Companies who have a holistic, integrated strategy are sending out coherent and consistent messages across all channels, ensuring that digital media users get the same messages as those using more traditional channels like TV or print advertising – and vice versa.
Being confronted with different advertising messages saying different things creates confusion. This can lead to a potential customer switching off or worse, distrusting the brand.
On the other side of the coin, a coherent, integrated approach to marketing helps create trust by sending out a consistent, clear, and unambiguous message. Reinforcing your messaging by saying the same thing in the same way on every channel builds credibility.
Brands taking an integrated approach actually reduce their average marketing costs. As we all know, producing advertising is an expensive business, so using the same messaging is more efficient in terms of images and content. By unifying your strategy, there is also no need to develop separate campaigns for each channel, saving both time and money.
Integrated in action
Held in Hong Kong earlier this year, the Singapore Weekend event celebrating Singapore's 50th anniversary was a good lesson in how to get rid of the hassles inherent in unnecessarily dealing with multiple agencies.
A holistic, unified campaign was developed and every possible channel harnessed to promote the event, which achieved all its objectives: creating awareness and boosting interest in Singapore's many family-friendly tourist attractions, and creating an authentic and vibrant atmosphere to attract and engage Hongkongers with Singapore, encouraging them to plan their next holiday there.
The success of this event and others like it proves that integrated marketing works wonders in both small- and large-scale projects. Integrated is something that every company should be looking at today.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Lawrence Chia is the Chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong-listed Pico Far East Holdings (Pico Group) (SEHK: 752).