The birth of integration

A marketing career is punctuated by the regular appearance of grammar-defying new phrases that purport to describe what we do.

A marketing career is punctuated by the regular appearance of grammar-defying new phrases that purport to describe what we do.

I have really struggled to come to terms with a recent one: ’360 degree message.’

Like many of the customs and practices of marketing, this one has seemingly sprung from nowhere and immediately become an almost mandatory concept.

I believe that it came about as a response to the nasty, horrible sales guys bastardizing our carefully honed brand personalities with their ‘Buy One Get One Free’ promos in Price Chopper’s flyer. Once these day-glo orange monstrosities started plopping onto the doormats of the brand custodian, the innate control freakery of the average BM was fully activated into a multi-level plan of counter-attack.

Stage one was the emotional phone call to the poor miscreant in Moose Jaw: ‘It’s supposed to be a premium brand, you moron! HELLOOO!!!’ When that failed to achieve the desired effect, stage two was rolled out: ‘Right, I want to approve every flyer!’ This would usually last three weeks before the white flag would be raised, the BM not having been able to do anything else other than plow through a seemingly infinite pile of flyer ads, 90% of which had already gone to press.

So sterner measures were needed. If advertising messages could be designed at source to work in every conceivable location, from TV to urinals to Price Chopper flyers, then content could be supplied to all and sundry, accompanied by dark warnings of instant dismissal should the Encyclopedia Britannica-like style guide not be slavishly followed. And hence was born the insatiable demand for advertising agencies to come up with integrated messaging.

I for one do not hold the view that having the same message in each and every medium is in fact the best approach.

Firstly, I totally believe that all messages about a brand to the consumer should be cohesive; but not that they should be identical. This is because such messaging completely ignores the varying rational and emotional stages that are gone through with purchases.

Think about buying a car. It usually starts at the emotional level, either seeing one next to you at the lights, or watching the slo-mo beauty shot in the TV ad. Then the rational stage kicks in with specs, prices, options and checking out other manufacturers’ similar vehicles in brochures or on the Internet. Then, when one gets to the dealership, the heart skips a beat at the first sight of the impossibly shiny showroom model, but the approach of the salesperson immediately punctures the mood, and intense rationality kicks in. And when the deal is all but done, the sudden mention of a $500 dollar sports package upgrade option prompts an immediate impulse purchase and everyone is happy. If the same trite message were given at each stage, it would irritate the punter to the point of boycotting the brand for life.

Every product or service has its own rollercoaster of facts, feelings and powerful emotions where, at each stage, there needs to be the right message delivered in the right way. I call this the Consumer Influence ChainTM.

It is our job to figure this out using a combination of purchase cycle observation, common sense, research and hypothesis testing. And when you do finally figure

it out, marketing suddenly seems a whole

lot easier.

Twenty-plus years in marketing were enough for John Bradley; he left to do other things which interest him. He writes this column to help the next generation of marketers simplify an overly complex profession. He values and responds to feedback at‘>‘>