The move to integrated marketing has become an imperative for brands and organizations in an environment where customer touchpoints blend, cross, and register as one.
So what does it really take to build a truly integrated marketing team? How can public relations, advertising, and other marketing disciplines work in alliance to ensure a holistic effort is delivered to the target audience?
Marketing and brand leaders say it requires breaking down silos and old ways of thinking and collaborating, and scaling integration across not only departments but geographies, products, and channels.
Take the bad with the good
The first order of business: Cultivate a mindset of transparency across departments.
“We have to learn to share our successes and roadblocks in equal measure,” advises Nicole Portwood, VP of marketing at PepsiCo for Mountain Dew, Energy, and Flavor beverage brands.
Portwood says a lot of companies fall victim to glossing over their setbacks, and that isn’t conducive to open collaboration across departments.
“It’s like Instagram-envy syndrome that can take root when you see your friends’ lives through curated, soft-focus images and little else,” she says. “If all we share outside of tight teams is the wins, I think there’s this automatic visceral response that leads to unhealthy competition [for budget and attention].
“If we instead share the great stuff and then also reach out when we hit a challenge we can’t overcome on our own — if we are humble enough to seek guidance and support from our cross-functional partners — it gives everyone a shared sense of purpose and a genuine joy when the goal is reached.”
Portwood, who before joining PepsiCo helped make Tito’s Handmade Vodka the top-selling spirits variety in the U.S., adds of sharing successes and challenges: “It also builds bridges and the confidence that next time it’s safe to reach out and ask for support. It won’t make you seem weak or incompetent — quite the opposite, in fact. It will make your team feel engaged in your success rather than envious or spiteful about it.”
Trust the process
Michael Collins is MD and CMO for the CFA Institute, which aims to set the standard for professional excellence and credentials of investment management professionals worldwide.
“You need to have a mindset that ‘we are all in it together,'” Collins says. “That starts with building a shared vision of our purpose as marketers as well as having a very clear understanding of the organization.”
He says an understanding that “marketing is not an end in itself” is also important for teams to take to heart.
“It’s very much a means to achieving business outcomes,” Collins points out. “When the team sees how what they do fits into the bigger picture and they understand the importance of their piece in the mosaic, then the integrated part takes care of itself.”
The most important ingredient for making this happen?
“Frequent, clear, and consistent communication,” Collins asserts.
It starts at the top
Jerilan Greene, global chief communications and public affairs officer for Yum Brands, which owns restaurant brands KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, stresses the importance of strong leadership.
“Comms and marketing naturally go together, but the challenge for true integration of the two stems from the fact that both disciplines are incredibly dynamic,” Greene says. “Leading integration of the two takes a leader who is focused holistically on results and can understand and match real-time the needs of a constantly changing consumer, media, and stakeholder environment.”
“The secret sauce is, integration has to be led by the right leader with a productive understanding of all the tools and values that communicators and marketers bring to the table, not simply the right structure,” she adds. “The most successful leaders of communications and marketing integration are equal parts symphony conductor, data strategist, and transformation coach.”
When it comes to fulfilling these roles, the client leaders say you need to have the right technology platforms in place. These should allow for benchmarking and information sharing across disciplines, and setting the course for departments toward shared goals.
“If we are all marching toward the same outcome of increased sales, and the ‘why’ behind that outcome is grounded in our values and purpose, it becomes much easier to then determine the way each team leverages its particular ‘how’ to bring it into being,” Portwood says.
This also fosters trust across departments – “trust that our colleagues have the same goals, trust that they understand their role in achieving those goals, trust that allows us to always assume positive intent and engage when things feel out of whack, and trust to share the credit or the blame at the end of the day,” Portwood adds.
CFA uses software for content marketing optimization, digital marketing automation, and PR analytics, among other things.
“It helps us to keep track of the work of the various teams and stop us from bumping into each other,” Collins says. “It’s hugely important in helping us to be efficient by helping us see where we have duplication of effort between teams.”
With 159,000 CFA charter-holders in 162 countries and regions, and nine offices globally, the organization has also looked for tech platforms that prepare all that information in a digestible manner.
“As our activities become more regionalized, it’s important for us to be able to take our regional activities and roll it all up into a global view for our leadership team,” he says. “I appreciate having marketing dashboards that give our executive team all the information they need in one place.”
“It’s important to have the right tools and partners to help set benchmarks and survey your clients, and the technology to help you track and record your activities,” Collins adds. “Some of this doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re truly committed to equipping your team to do better and to optimize their work, then you should be prepared to set aside a portion of your marketing budget to this effort.”
“It pays dividends in the end.”