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Is it integrated marketing, or parallel marketing?

DATE PUBLISHED: March 01, 2010
Are you integrated? Of course you are. In fact, we are all integrated, full-service, multi-channel, media agnostic, 360-degree brand driven agencies. We have fabulous charts we toss up on the wall in all their PowerPoint glory to show the clients we know how to take all the ticking pieces of today’s marketing machine and make them sing. We are results-driven, customer-focused, and revenue-aware.

Did I mention the research? We have every online measurement tool known to man. We have demographics, psychographics, and behaviorals. We eyeball the consumer when they are shopping. We snoop on them when they are at home. And we can count the exact steps they take between the two. So how come we feel like we still don’t have a handle on things?

Something happened on the way to the forum, and this is what it was: it turns out that every channel has its place. Indeed, this does seem like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but stick with us for a moment and we shall explain. Online, something is happening that is starting to change how we view behavioral data, and it may change how we view that most important crutch we have all been leaning on: the cookie.

Cookies were based on a basic assumption. I surf, therefore I am. The sites and pages I visit create a trail of digital goodness that marketers can use to target us more efficiently. And in the days of simple sites and single content destinations, that was great. But as sites became more complicated, so did our challenge. For instance, one day I may visit CNN.com and read about health care. The next day I may go to CNN.com and read about baseball spring training. As far as the cookie is concerned, I am the same person.

This is where things are starting to come loose. Thanks to RSS and other types of syndication, figuring out why people are on sites is becoming more difficult. The content they are viewing at that point is in fact more important than the site itself. What we are seeing is the beginning of a new layer of audience segmentation. We have gone from demographic segmentation to behavioral segmentation to something new: consumption-based segmentation. Now the assumption is this: I view, therefore I am.

This may seem like semantics, but maybe not. In our previous post we spoke about the importance of applying the funnel to your marketing assets, and here we go again. If you are a car company, and you put the same banner on caranddriver.com and vehix.com, you may be missing the big picture. Sure, you are displaying a car banner on a car site in front of a car audience. But if you think of it through the lense of consumption-based segmentation, you quickly realize that those viewers are in different places in the funnel, and consuming content for different reasons. In this case, you may not be doing integrated marketing; you could be doing parallel marketing.

What’s the difference? If you send the same asset down to the same audience via different channels, you could be missing your audience when they are most passionate and ready to take action. Sending the same creative down multiple channels to audiences that are in different places in the funnel is really more parallel than integrated marketing. Why is this bad? Well, not only may your messaging be off, but it could cause unintended consequences. You may be getting people interested in a product, but not effectively closing. Which means your marketing dollars are in fact being spent to get people excited about buying other company’s products.

How do we avoid parallel marketing here at Palmer? We use three questions before any audience sees any advertising. First, what content are they consuming? Are they reading articles? Blogs? Watching videos? All of these are hints to what is their passion at that moment. Second, what does that tell us about where they are in the funnel? Someone watching a video on Car and Driver about the new BMW has not made his decision. The same person on Vehix.com viewing BMW dealer inventories has. They are in different places and your creative has to be aware of this. And third, what channels are most likely to move the audience further down the funnel at that moment?

This last part is where true integrated marketing comes into play. In a perfectly formed campaign, the audience is a baton, handed off from channel to channel, from asset to asset. Each step builds on the last, each channel is the perfect one to deliver the next message. Or you could just keep blasting out the same campaign everywhere, and risk losing the customer in the process. I am sure your competitors will thank you for it later.

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