There is more and more integrated marketing happening between some messaging channels of campaigns today. But it’s still a challenge for most marketers to create an integrated marketing campaign where integration is happening between ALL the messaging channels. We’re seeing progress but campaigns are often missing one particular component that keeps a multi-channel marketing campaign from being a true integrated marketing initiative. That component is alignment.
The familiarity principle and alignment
Achieving alignment is not that hard to do when you understand why integration demands it. Alignment within integration helps create what’s known as the “mere exposure effect,” or the familiarity principle. The familiarity principle is the tendency for human beings to develop a preference for things (people, products, ideas etc.) which they see more often. In other words, mere exposure to something tends to make it more attractive. It’s part of consumer psychology, and explains the popularity of certain celebrities, brands or even political candidates. Lack of exposure makes others scratch their heads when it comes to the stickiness of the Kardashians, Red Bull or of course our current president.
Frequency in advertising is somewhat based on the familiarity principle. Marketers used to say that you needed to see a message seven times before it would “stick.” The ability to independently curate information based on preferences, and the proliferation of messaging channels has made it really hard to hammer home a message in one particular medium enough to achieve familiarity. Instead of seeing something seven different times, within integration we focus on our target audience seeing it seven (or more) different ways. What’s challenging is that the message must still fit each independent medium. That’s where alignment comes in.
To increase the results of an integrated marketing campaign, familiarity is bred through alignment. I’ve written plenty about targeting and marketing to audience behavior. Hopefully by now you understand how to message based on a target audience’s curation preferences. Let’s look at ways to gain alignment within those chosen channels to boost the results of an integrated marketing campaign.
Four points of alignment to pursue in an integrated marketing campaign
Common visual assets. Photos or other visual assets don’t need to be exactly the same. But establishing a tone or even a specific model or set of models from stock photos can be very helpful in creating alignment across every messaging channel. Gathering a set of visual assets as a standard for use across every messaging channel helps keep the look familiar to an audience. Too many marketers feel that the visuals need to be different based on the medium. Even more active inbound and outbound marketing campaigns should try to incorporate common visuals beyond just brand positioning. This goes for video as well. A friend of mine uses a zebra in all of her messaging channels and it’s become an iconic, very familiar piece of her messaging. At first her audience thought it was strange to use a wild animal in her marketing campaigns. Now that they’ve seen it a lot, they like it.
Common messaging components. It’s not always a good idea to use the same message across different channels but what you can do is align every message with an integrated strategy statement. The ISS should contain the very basics of the brand or campaign message. Since it’s not external it doesn’t have to be pretty. It becomes the foundational message for your subsequent external messages. That keeps everything in alignment while still maintaining important “translatability” for different channels. State Farm might have the rather boring “State Farm will be there when you need them” as their ISS, while everyone knows the externally facing message “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” If you reviewed this iconic brand’s social media, press materials and owned content, you would find many, many translations of that initial statement helping to create alignment across the brand’s various messaging channels.
Use of Personas. Personas have been traditionally used for consumer-facing marketing campaigns, but integrated marketing uses them for everything. Having strong personas, in particular those that identify specific behavior, helps keep every element of the campaign aligned to the specific needs, wants and motivations of a very narrow target audience. When we really understand how to create personas – their engagement levels, their content curation behaviors, their psychographics, and every other characteristic – they become a pillar of alignment within the integration and help us make better choices from defining objectives, to determining our next set of linked tactics.
Re-introducing Strategy. Strategy seems to have gotten lost in modern marketing but it’s critical for alignment and integration for that matter. Strong integrated strategies drive the synergies between messaging channels that produce such extraordinary results for integration. Building strategies that are implemented across multiple channels keeps the campaign driving toward objectives. Yet it still leaves room to change tactics for any number of reasons. It’s the reason Flo from Progressive is so impactful. It’s why Coke had such success with American Idol.
An integrated marketing campaign needs to be persistent, consistent and focused. Keeping an eye on the alignment within the campaign is the way to accomplish those goals.