In the previous posts, we looked at the connection between integrated marketing and technology and how politics is enemy number one for integration. Today, we look at the top challenges to integrated marketing, ranked by the marketers dealing with them.

We wanted to explore the obstacles to integration through the lens of companies’ sophistication. The working assumption was that the primary challenges would vary depending on where respondent organizations sit on the maturity scale.

Indeed, there are a number of differences, but first let’s define “sophistication.” That word can mean a lot of things in marketing; organizational structure, technological maturity and the ability to use data are all valid measures, among others. The one we’d like best is simply a measure of return on each dollar invested by a company’s subsector, but that’s a difficult calculation that most companies simply can’t make accurately and won’t make public.

For our purposes, we created a point system based on the grades respondents gave themselves across a number of integrated marketing activities. We also asked them to evaluate their companies in general. Overlapping the two gave us a small but sufficient group of sophisticated marketing organizations to compare with the mainstream, which is a better way to think of this group than as “unsophisticated.”

Here’s the table that resulted when we asked marketers first to name the challenges their companies face in practicing integrated marketing, and then to rank only those challenges they’d encountered.

The challenges and their ranks are relatively consistent for the two groups in five cases, and significantly divergent in two. We’ll look at all of them, in the order that “sophisticated” companies ranked them. Rankings by the “unsophisticated” companies are in parentheses.

Challenge #1 (2) – Management Support and Resources

No matter who you are or what your organization’s annual revenues amount to, you want more support. If you’re in a marketing department just coming to grips with integrated marketing and its component and related parts, you’re hoping for more money to put systems and technologies in place.

If you’re already well on your way, then you’re proving the return and want more resources to put behind the effort, or want to add higher level resources around data, attribution modeling or creative.

Challenge #2 (5) – Cross-media Creativity

The most interesting difference between the two groups lies with their views on creativity in integrated marketing. As we read the data, it suggests that as organizations mature, they get past the trials of technology and data, of process and politics. When they’ve done so, they’re left with the original problem of marketing – how to engage and inspire customers with ideas and images.

Of course, digital adds some wrinkles to this challenge, because “creative” doesn’t just mean a TV commercial with complimentary print ads. It means all that, plus a multiplicity of paid, earned and owned campaign elements across three major types of devices.

Unfortunately, even paid creative doesn’t port well from one environment to another, let alone social/earned media. On the other hand, good ideas themselves are not just portable but aggressively viral. That’s the essential challenge and opportunity the sophisticated organizations are grappling with.

The mainstream puts creative into the bottom half of challenges, because they’re preoccupied with the plumbing of integrated marketing and digital marketing in general. What will be stored and where? How will we segment? Can we apply what we know about a customer in one channel to another? How do we tune our media mix as it becomes more complex?

It’s easy to see why creative can be an afterthought. But that’s a mistake. All of the algorithms, processors and hi-def screens are simply vessels for ideas and the images that capture them.

The trope “right ad to the right person at the right time” is often used to describe modern marketing. In the quest to perfect capabilities in identifying the right person and the right time, many companies aren’t devoting their time and money to what’s arguably the most important piece – the idea that makes it the “right” ad.

Challenge #3 (3) – Unifying technology

No disagreement here, as technology is fundamental to the rest of integrated marketing. Results are naturally limited if organizations are without the backbone to tie the data together – both before launch for targeting and segmentation as well as after launch for results and attribution.

The good news for companies still climbing the mountain is that they’ve got a wide array of choices and a growing army of vendors who want to help them, from retooled agencies and traditional integrators to management consultants. Of course, that’s also the bad news.

Challenge #4 (1) – Strategy

Along with creative, strategy is a point of divergence between sophisticated companies and the mainstream.  And it should be. Having and practicing a real strategy could itself be a viable definition of sophistication. Capability without direction is at best inefficient and at worst counterproductive.

For marketers working in the trenches and constantly bombarded with the “new” it can be easy to be skeptical about the value of another meeting, deck or document that explores a nebulous idea of the way forward. And if that’s all the “strategy” is, they’re right to nod, smile and never think of the thing again.

A true strategy is useful above all else. It’s a set of principles that should applicable in everyday situations. For example, a principle might be “We believe that mobile is the defining trend in our sector.” From that springs the mandate “We will behave like a mobile-first company.”

So even though the company is only seeing roughly 15% of their traffic from mobile devices, their decision making when it comes to mobile analytics, for example, is from the perspective of a company that’s already getting most of its traffic or revenue from non-desktop sources.

If you’re thinking about the big issues and how they apply to daily life, take a moment to read Econsultancy’s updated Manifesto for Modern Marketing. Some of the principles it posits might be helpful.

Challenge #5 (4) – Unifying/Sharing Customer Data

How to collect, handle and use customer data is intertwined with technology, and the only reason it ranks lower is because the tech piece precedes more specific questions about how to deal with customer information once it’s captured.

Those who are focused on these questions may find our recent report Business Intelligence Meets Web Analytics: Breaking Down the Silos valuable. It looks at the connections between approach and results, what data is most valuable and how to use it, as well as giving a number of detailed examples.

Challenge#6 (7) – International Issues

International issues rank low in general, but there’s more internal variation in the data at the bottom of this table than at the top. In other words, international issues are relatively easy to deal with, unless they’re not. They can be a significant thorn to integrated marketing, especially for those organizations without local agencies to help with unique media consumption, cultural norms and local competitive landscape.

Some of the intricacies of dealing with disparate markets are explored in The Internationalization of Ecommerce – A Best Practice Guide.

Challenge #7 (6) – Unifying/Sharing Brand Assets

A bit like #6, unifying and sharing brand assets isn’t an issue for many, but is an acute one for some. The hope for organizations that deal with a vast array of new and legacy creative assets is that workflow tools are improving. A look at the various integrated marketing platforms shows a new priority in the day to day processes that manage and share assets among teams and partnering organizations.

What are your top challenges to integrated marketing? How do you deal with them? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


To get the entire Integrated Marketing Study, join Econsultancy and the DMA at Integrated Marketing Week, June 10-13 in New York (or become a subscriber).