In the marketing village, the thing we call integration has been a hot topic of debate for at least a decade now. Despite this, there still seems little agreement over how best to plan campaigns across the multitude of marketing disciplines at our disposal.
Thankfully, some much-needed fact-based analysis has now been published on the subject of integration. It’s by no means conclusive, but it does add more light than heat to a fierce marketing catfight – an achievement that is noteworthy in its own right.
It comes to us courtesy of the IPA, which took an unsensational and almost scientific approach to the production of its New Models of Marketing Effectiveness: From Integration to Orchestration report. With a title like that, Dan Brown need have few worries about his airport sales this summer.
I describe its approach as “almost” scientific quite deliberately because the methodology is by no means flawless. The analysis is based on the IPA’s databank, which comprises 256 case studies derived from the last seven years of its annual Effectiveness Awards competition.
It’s not a huge sample size and the sample frame is slightly skewed by the fact that, until recently, digital, direct and promotional agencies (and their clients) were under-represented in this competition. Bitter experience has also taught me that not all clients are happy to have their successes (and secrets) disclosed in such an open forum.
However, in our imperfect world, the IPA databank is probably the best public domain repository of communications strategies and results we have. And it has certainly provided a rich hunting ground for Kate Cox, John Crowther and the other luminaries who have written this study.
The report identifies four models of integration. The first is No Integration, the second is Executional Integration” – the “matching luggage” model, where all communications in all channels look and sound more or less the same – the third model the authors describe as Idea-led Orchestration, which involves organising a campaign more loosely around a single creative idea, and the final model is Participation-led Orchestration, where the campaign is organised around some form of experience or consumer participation, across multiple channels.
The report is rich in analysis, covering everything from which product categories tend to use which model, to how certain models have proved more or less popular over time. All of this is very interesting, but what really captured my attention was the report’s dissection of the relative effectiveness of each model.
The IPA offers one very big and – for some – surprising insight into the matching luggage model. It works, but no better than the no integration model and appreciably worse than the model of idea-led orchestration.
Specifically, the matching luggage model delivered a large hard business effect in 72% of cases, while the no integration approach yielded similar results in 74% of cases. Meanwhile, the idea-led orchestration model delivered results of a similar order in no fewer than 79% of cases.
Why is it that the idea-led orchestration approach appears to deliver bigger hard business results more often? No definitive answer is offered by the report, but I suspect it’s because each medium is allowed to perform to its best advantage, while still benefiting from the 2+2=5 effect of repeated exposure to a core idea.
Any creative will tell you that there are things you can do on TV that you can’t in print and vice-versa. The same is true of web, radio and direct mail. This stands to reason. Have you ever tried to fold a TV commercial? The adherents of the matching luggage model have, believe me.
Perhaps there’s also something else going on. The advocates of the matching luggage approach often refer to the “surround sound” effect they believe is delivered by their uniform messaging.
However, there’s a problem with this analogy. As any hi-fi bore will tell you, the genius of surround sound is that each speaker delivers a different part of the soundscape. The sounds they emit are subtly different, which gives the listener a more realistic and intense experience.
Maybe, at some deep neural level, this is similar to the effect achieved by the idea-led orchestration model of communications.
But how does the participation-led orchestration model perform? At first sight, the results don’t appear too encouraging. This model delivers large hard business effects in just 38% of cases. However, when this approach is employed with existing brand users, the figures are more impressive than those achieved by any of the other models.
My personal theory is that, in too many cases, we are expecting uncommitted prospects to participate in a brand without providing them with a large enough reward for their activity, either in terms of entertainment or utility.
In other words, consumers’ participation is not something that can be demanded, it needs to be earned. We might return to this another time.
For the time being, however, it’s one more piece of useful learning that we would be well advised to carry around in our mental set of matching luggage.