Failed icon. Sounds like dismal hook to hang one’s hat on doesn’t it? Especially given that most of us have such an aversion to failure in life and business—or even being associated to failure in any way.
When you think of failure, would you consider someone who:
- has spent a large amount of their career on educating and helping corporations and marketers to become customer-centric;
- is a Professor Emeritus at a well-known university that has a graduate program to educate students in being data-driven to ensure that customers’ needs and wants are met;
- has written over 10 books on subjects like driving and determining brand value and measuring ROI; and
- was named one of the 80 Most Influential People in sales and marketing a failure?
No, I wouldn’t either.
And yet, that’s exactly how Don Schultz, one of the founding fathers of integrated marketing communications referred to himself at Blur (‘The Conference that Erases Lines’), the recent PMA Annual Integrated Marketing Conference.
Schultz stated, “…that after 20 years of integration, IMC, IM and all the other versions and visions that we’re no closer to developing a holistic, customer-focused, marketing and communication system than before.”
20 years have gone by and companies are still no closer to putting the customer first? Seems odd that a company wouldn’t put the people who willing to part with their hard-earned cash to buy their products and services first, doesn’t it? But that is reality for the majority of businesses out there.
Integrated Marketing Communications: It Isn’t What You May Think It Is
When IMC was first introduced, the mission was simple: “One sight and one sound.” Because then the challenge revolved around multiple, siloed departments reaching out to customers in accordance with their revenue generation or communications plans. On the receiving end were the customers, who were left to analyze and pull together all of the assorted messages in order to make sense of what it was the advertiser, marketer, publicist, and sales person wanted them to do. As we know today, that simply doesn’t work (and it most likely didn’t work then either).
According to Schultz all of these years later, “…it only added value to the marketers, not the consumers. It was all “outbound” where we were trying to influence and persuade the customer to buy/try our product/service…”
And yet, most companies that practice integrated marketing communications today are still in this phase of “one sight and one sound.” That’s where, unfortunately, the notion of what IMC is has come to rest in most marketers’ minds.
Barriers Are More Dangerous than Silos to your Business
It’s rare to see a company organized completely around its customers and it will probably be another 15 years before we are even close to that being the norm. As in the past, there are still many silos today. But at least the silos are seemingly working together (branding and marketing communications; marketing and PR; or customer services and sales, for example) to achieve one sight and one sound. It’s not enough, but it’s a good start.
Barriers to becoming customer-centric include:
- Resistance to change
- Organizational structures
- Functional separations and budgets
- Capabilities and control
- Marketing planning systems
Whether as customers or employees, we have all seen these barriers. And they are as smart as putting a concrete barrier in front of your corporate headquarters.
The good news? The world has indeed changed.
Schultz went on to say that “…when he and the rest of the marketing “icons” weren’t looking, the world changed. Today’s information technology has given consumers control.”
If IMC is So Good, Why Isn’t It Being Implemented?
This very question was asked by Loyd Pettegrew, Ph.D. in his 2000 article of the same name. Dr. Pettegrew points out eight conditions that a company must adhered to accurately reflect the practice of IMC:
- Must speak to all stakeholders with a single, consistent voice
- Must assume the consumers’/customers’ point of view
- Strategic communications disciplines must be internally integrated
- It must have a clear and consistent message that is more effective and efficient than competing messages
- Messages must cut through the increasingly cluttered commercial landscape
- Must foster two-way dialogue between consumers and itself
- Must build bonds that lead to long-term, consumer-to-brand relationships
- Must not place excellent marketing ahead of corporate reputation
I’d like to add a number nine: Top-down management buy-in for becoming customer-centric.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? I hope you are making the natural bridge to social media. As Don Schultz has stated, consumers [and customers] now have control. As such, it will be hard for companies to not start adhering to these 9 conditions if they want to be successful socially. If not, we will begin to see a lot of failed icons in the social media space.
Failed Icon or Visionary?
I am going with the latter. Let’s just hope that this time around, we all get it right. Because in the age of social media I don’t think consumers and customers will give us a second chance (as we’ve seen evidence of already).
[Image Source: The Gig Girl]