Digital behaviours have long overtaken traditional media in terms of hours spent per day.
Even long-form and premium content, once the preserve of linear distribution, has been steamrollered by connected devices and new entrants to the market. The upshot of this shift in behaviour is that brands need to communicate through channel-agnostic ideas that come to life wherever the audience is.
Key to this shift is integration—an openness to integrate with audiences and understanding of their needs and motivations.
What Does It Mean?
One definition of “integrated” is the delivery mechanism itself—where a single idea is taken through as many varied assets and locations as the audience can be found in, from Above-The-Line TV ads, through to social media, loyalty schemes, retail, and even product promotion.
In principle, taking an idea into all of these spaces is straightforward. The excitement comes when technology and data enable us to tie these experiences together, making it feel like one very sophisticated and personalised experience for the individual customer, which, ultimately, results in some kind of transaction.
Marks & Spencer’s recent U.K. campaign, “Spend It Well,” is a brilliant example of proper integration. Not only because the idea has been translated so appropriately across every channel, including in-store and the Sparks loyalty programme, but because it has united business divisions around the customer—food, clothing, and soon the bank.
Often it’s these organisational dynamics and culture that are the biggest challenges in achieving true integration. How integrated are your people in their skillsets and mindsets? Do your team structures and processes facilitate multidisciplinary thinking and execution? To most effectively land an idea, all disciplines (data, insight, technology, brand, and marketing) need to be working together, focused on the customer and led by what matters to them. At the very least, the insight department should be championing and facilitating a co-ordinated approach.
Considering digital specifically as part of this integrated channel mix forces us to consider the “always-on” effect when it comes to brand engagement, because we can’t switch social channels on/off, your app is always on their mobile, and people visit your website on their agenda, not yours. The value of digital channels is cumulative, so it’s risky to place too much investment in campaigns and not enough into creating continuous engagement with customers.
We also can’t ignore the moments of interaction that really matter to people, such as the fundamentals of delivering an exceptional customer experience, recognising loyalty, and using data to create personal content, offers, and experiences.
The beauty of digital and data, always hand in hand, is their ability to create this continuity for the customer, beyond seasonal campaign activity—so your story feels like a continuous dialogue with the customer.
Start Something New
B&Q’s 2017 Spring/Summer campaign, #startsomethingnew, made a big success of integration and demonstrated good use of the full channel mix. Building on the TV idea, digital channels were used to engage people in different ways with the view of starting their own project. Mobile advertising and search drove people to local stores through a snap-and-win competition. Social channels were used to celebrate people’s own garden makeovers, share project inspiration and expertise, while events such as 30-minute planter box workshops and pop-up gardens were targeted and activated geo-locally.
But this wasn’t just a one-off campaign. It’s a continuation of B&Q’s always-on brand behaviour of encouraging people to live better by creating smarter and more sustainable homes, and to embrace DIY. The role of each campaign, then, is to inspire people to start a new project.
Why Is It Important?
The second, more holistic definition of “integrated” is a way to create ideas with meaning in people’s lives. However, I’d argue that most brands don’t matter to people at all. We recently commissioned a study into the brands that do matter, why, and how to achieve it. We found that most brands are massively letting consumers down on the functional stuff like giving them support in their preferred channels, and using their data (responsibly) to keep them informed. It’s not sexy, but it’s what matters!
We also found that people care about brands that care about them, and it doesn’t take much to show you care! The adage of “right time, right message, right channel” still stands. And the channels mentioned more than any others were those that offer instant gratification—text reminders, app notifications, replies to tweets, instant messaging, and video chat.
An example cited by many of our research respondents was the banking app Monzo, which not only sends app notifications to users, it tweets and texts them back quickly and efficiently—a stark contrast to the banks of old. The Trainline was also singled out for making the effort to text and email customers on the day of travel with the reference code for them to pick up tickets at the station. Not having to search your phone and inbox to find your original booking is a small difference, but incredibly useful when you’re on the move and an easy way of saying: “We remembered and we want to help.”
How Can Brands Get It Right?
The four fundamentals:
- Get the basics right. Be there when your customers need you, and, most importantly, when things go wrong. Delivering on functional attributes is key to building everyday brand loyalty. Reassess the ability of your brand to satisfy consumers’ baseline expectations. Brands can choose to differentiate themselves with a focus on exceptional delivery.
- Be transparent. Consumers get annoyed when they can see brands are not dealing with them transparently, or treating new customers better than loyal ones. Blanket deals/sales are less attractive than targeted or personalised offers and even sometimes seen as a con.
- Show recognition. Recognise the customer wherever and whenever they are interacting with you—in and out of campaign periods. People want to be loyal, but brands aren’t letting them.
- Think mobile first … or mobile only for Gen Z and Gen Y. This isn’t a nice-to-have anymore, it’s essential. Create a preference centre in your database, allowing customers to choose how they want to engage with you for different purposes, for example, customer service alerts by text, news by app notifications, and inspiration by social.
Truly understanding your customers’ needs and behaviours, as well as a willingness to integrate with, rather than interrupt, their lives, are the foundations upon which modern digital brands are built.