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Sunday 19th 2019f May 2019

The Problem


Thought for the Day

"Failure is art of learning, and we have to enjoy that art." Written in 2011 by Abbas Pachmarhiwala --- India

The Centre for Integrated Marketing goes independent

As of June 3rd 2011, the Centre for Integrated Marketing became independent of the University of Bedfordshire. The Centre led the research project featured on this site. At the time of the research, we were a leading research centre of the University (then called Luton). Centre for Integrated Marketing

Revolutionary added value

"I think your work on the Open Planning is the most revolutionary value addition to the marketing industry in a long time" says Frank Maina, Head of Mobile, 3Mice


future events

The Problem

Marketing communications pressure factors

  • The world is changing: it's more complex, the opportunities are more extensive, and the competition is smarter
  • Customers and other stakeholders receive more marketing communication than at any time in human history
  • There is an increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI
  • Success requires maximum efficiency and effectiveness
  • Current methods mean that efficiency is often not maximised
  • Even working with considerable efficiency and effectiveness, much marketing communications remains ineffective due to the competition's negating efforts
  • Even working at considerable creative effectiveness, excessive costs limit impact versus the competition's negating efforts and communication proliferation
  • Lack of precise, accurate and shared insight into both the brand identity and its stakeholder communities diminishes performance, and this appears surprisingly common
  • Lack of a governing idea for the communications spectrum diminishes performance, again surprisingly common
  • Failure to include all corporate functions and communication channels in planning sub-optimises performance
  • Fragmented, competitive practice, habit and payment methods in the marketing communications industry sub-optimise efficiency and effectiveness of performance
  • Narrow, discipline-specific and prejudiced communication objectives determine creative technique and goals adversely
  • Organisational structures based on excessive discipline polarisation sub-optimise performance, leading to skills, creative approach, objectives and research being channelled through silos on both client and agency side.
  • Planning and evaluation tools based on individualised communication disciplines do not reflect present planning and evaluation needs and bar inter-discipline planning and learning
  • Many communication perspectives, discourses and assumptions are inconsistent and sub-optimal (see below)

Current assumptions ...and why they are not true

Structural issues in the industry

'Above the line' and 'below the line' were accountants' structures for different agency payment methods, yet they still define roles and tools and planning language for marketers - indeed we noted many marketers who found it hard to hold a discourse without reference to this paradigm.

It is not logical to define marcoms by the way the agency gets paid, not least because the methods of payment have changed. Instead we should understand communications on the basis of the way it operates. The CIM sponsored Media Neutral Planning research group (cited in the methodology section) concluded that these terms were both derogatory and meaningless.

Our research shows that PR is not considered as an 'advertising' or marketing activity by many academics and senior managers. PR agencies are rarely included in initial campaign briefings. Frequently there is no PR agency reporting to a senior marketing manager.

Other senior agency representatives and clients we interviewed regarded the attitude as incomprehensible. PR drove the launch of the new Ford StreetKa model. IPA Effectiveness award applications frequently reference PR coverage as important elements of success. We note PR's importance to such different brands as IBM and Budweiser.

FMCG trade channel promotion is usually an independently managed budget/activity despite its proven impact on marketing.

The separation of this activity from integrated communication planning means that total timing and spend is not optimised.

Disciplines and media are measured in different ways

Multi standard measures define the perception what the disciplines and media can do in ways that limit creativity. Direct marketing is measured for response because direct marketing is better at measuring response. Therefore response becomes its competitive advantage and defines its role.

However, response is only one potential facet of direct marketing. Direct marketing and sales promotion are rarely tested for brand image effects, yet where they are there is strong evidence of both positive and negative results (depending on quality). From our research, Skoda, Land Rover, National Trust, Sainsbury and others have proved the brand-developing power of direct marketing. We also found SEEBOARD Energy and BT mail packs that very significantly shifted overall customer satisfaction with the company.

Advertisers pursue awareness and ad recall when this is only a surrogate for the real objective(s). Because ad and brand awareness is the easiest way to measure ads, so the measure becomes the objective.

Guinness White horses ads created significant levels of awareness, without corresponding sales. A Levi Strauss Marketing Week conference presentation (July 2003) of a pan-European campaign cited ad awareness achievements. Private discussion with the European CMO confirmed that ad awareness was definitely not the objective: consumers' beliefs are what matter. Millward Brown's BRANDZ studies of thousands of brands worldwide shows that brands have very different profiles in the development of customers from brand presence through higher levels of relationship towards 'bonding' and that this is the most significant cause of market share performance. (Source, BRANDZ database).

'Advertising' is often not tested rigorously for sales effects.

An IPA effectiveness award for VW cites their national advertising's goal and success in creating brand attitude effects amongst inactive buyers (the objective was to put VW into the consideration set), whereas their own econometric analysis surprisingly showed advertising spend was directly and strongly correlated with actual immediate sales to active buyers.

Since 'direct' and 'sales promotion' are in practice not deemed to affect the brand (since our research shows brand measures are rarely implemented), the rules for creativity historically ignore issues that 'advertising' would not be allowed to ignore. And 'advertising' and 'PR' are allowed to ignore sales performance objectives that 'direct' or 'events' or 'promotions' are not.

The differentiation of creative objectives and rules goes beyond the actual differences in the disciplines. Direct mail can be targeted to build brand image and PR to create sales, or indeed why do either? The reality is that it is obvious that all marcoms positively affect both brand equity and sales, if they are any good. That means that there should be more learning and involvement between the creative communities and their partner analysts, and common methods for defining and measuring.

TV is often the preferred advertising tool because TV seems to be the best way to achieve the required awareness. However, other media are rarely tested.

Boots found that mail media generated 27% more recall at 64% of TV cost when launching a new Boots No. 7 product to the target audience.

Websites are planned, designed and measured for hits and stickiness as a surrogate for their real purposes because these are easy to measure.

54% of UK category buyers are 'bonded' to Amazon based on BRANDZ data. This is an extremely high bonding level (around 5 times a typical category leader). Customer loyalty and commitment are the real 'stickiness', anything else is a guideline proxy. 'Hits' are an important measure but not the objective.

PR companies rarely collaborate with media agencies over publication mix and target audience.

Why is the wealth of media knowledge not relevant in planning PR? Why are PR objectives not included in the same media planning schedule?

Fuzzy concepts define our disciplines, and don't adequately define what is actually done

A press release is PR - but 'advertising' or 'direct mail' that gets press/media coverage is not, even if it gets more coverage effects than the press releases

Marmite's controversial TV ads generated a wealth of press/media coverage and work as PR.

10 million mail packs or door drops are not considered to be advertising, but a single poster in a ladies' toilet is. This is because advertising is incorrectly defined by the media it uses rather than what it does.

Defining 'advertising' by the type of medium rather than its effects blocks creativity and distorts communication concepts. AOL, Air Miles, MBNA and other brands have used mass mail as a powerful tool for developing brand perceptions alongside sales. Websites are often designed as elaborate advertisements or brochures. In many cases brands would improve their 'direct' and 'promotion' communications if they realised the 'advertising' effects.

The presence or absence of a telephone number on an ad changes its discipline and agency and measurement criteria. (By contrast, the presence or absence of a URL on an ad probably doesn't change the discipline or agency or even perhaps the measurement criteria.)

To define communication by whether or not it has a response device again misses the real creative and planning issue: which is what attitudinal and behavioural change(s) are you trying to bring about? What matters is the total communication effect to be achieved and how this converts into business results.

The statement is possibly American Express's single most powerful communication piece. What marcoms discipline is it? Young people standing outside St Pancras handing out cards announcing the availability of a new web booking service precisely mimic medieval street criers, whose activities are the dictionary origin for the term 'advertising'. But what are they today? (Probably they were 'bought' as 'promotions'). When Virgin hand out ice-cream with their in-flight movie, what is this? When Costa Coffee spent their TV ad money on café redesign to boost the brand, what was this in the product / service / communications mix? When Apple designed iMac to look so stunningly different, was this not 'reality advertising'? When the advertising agency proposed to a Buenos Aires property company that it built a fine pedestrian bridge across the river, what discipline was that? What type of communication is a row of 20 Chrysler Cruisers lined up down a busy Northampton pedestrian-only street by a sponsored owners club?

The industry is characterised by insularity in thinking and tools and measures and creative practices that contradict the theory. It is useful to have various design skills but is it useful to fracture our attitudes to them? Marketing communication concepts are fuzzy and most of the celebrated work effectively breaks the boundaries. Marketers do not even share quality terms and language for the basic bricks of marketing communications: e.g. the concepts of 'target audience' (not a 'target', nor an audience!), 'a connected sequence of communication events', 'media planning' (when in fact it doesn't mean just media space!), the 'set of ideas that govern and harmonise integrated communications', 'brand definition elements', the real communication objectives, 'above the line' (what line!), and more. The examples above are not just verbal or mental tricks, nor is the aim to find a 'solution that works' for each. The point is to recognise that all kinds of thinkers/agencies could come up with these ideas, and pigeon-holing them in one discipline is not helpful. Instead, a media and discipline-neutral approach will enhance effectiveness.

In summary, the marketing communications industry is achieving excellent results in its parts. However, it reflects decades of fragmented and competitive practice, habit and payment methods. The consequences include some mental and organisational structures that sub-optimise performance and polarise practitioners. Consequently, the concepts that underpin some marketing communication tools are inadequate for the contemporary challenge and the skills that marketers acquire are frequently dysfunctional or sub-optimal.

We note numerous examples of improvements in integration and media neutral thinking that lead to improvements. For example, IBM took 5% of its 2001 TV budget and funded a major integrated campaign to the City of London, achieving an attributable 7000% ROI and other benefits in the first year alone.

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