Sometime around the late 1980s a major shift occurred in marketing. The old world of three giant TV broadcasters was fragmented by the arrival of cable networks. Where it was once simple to send out one clear message to one giant audience, advertisers were suddenly faced with a newly multifaceted market. If they wanted to communicate with just homemakers or news junkies or sports fans, they could.
“The digital omnichannel is your opportunity to reach a wide audience in a highly-personalized manner.”
While this development spurred advances in narrow targeting, it also depreciated the overall effectiveness of their marketing efforts by negatively affecting the consistency and seamlessness of their campaigns. Consistency is brand building superfood. It takes numerous repetitions for consumers to absorb a marketing message and even longer for the brand to become both familiar and welcomed.
Many Messages, One Goal
What marketers needed was a way to connect with people over a newly diverse set of channels, each with its own particular quirks, but in a manner that all worked together towards a unified whole. The solution was called integrated marketing communications (IMC), a process built around creating messaging that was optimized by channel and audience but consistent with an overarching brand vision.
“Regardless of platform, make certain you are instilling the unifying message your campaign needs to get across.”
So, while the homemakers, news junkies, and sports fans were exposed to content personalized to their tastes and needs, the global message was consistent and the overall brand gained a larger aura of trustworthiness, familiarity, and coherence.
As it often does, history appears to be repeating itself. The rise of digital technologies is further fragmenting the media landscape and adding new stations to the omnichannel, seemingly all the time.
IMC is being updated for the internet age to tackle this problem as well. Integrated digital marketing is a holistic planning process that coordinates marketing communications across platforms to maximize reach and return on investment without splintering or diluting the brand message.
Integrated Digital Marketing
Take a look at a quick rundown on the six major digital channels every brand should be building integrated digital campaigns on:
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is paid placement in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It’s done by bidding on keywords relevant to your product, service, brand, or industry so that your name comes up when potential customers search for something you’re selling.
The effectiveness of your SEM endeavours will primarily come down to your budget and the quality of your keyword research—bearing in mind that optimal keywords are rarely static and should be continually updated. Also, short and common keywords are often very expensive and used by so many competitors that they are of little use. Focus on long-tail (more niche) keywords instead.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the organic counterpart to paid SEM efforts. Because Google and other search engines are constantly refining and updating their search ranking algorithms, getting your brand to the top of SERPS is a moving target.
The humble email might seem dated in the age of messenger apps and video chat, but make no mistake, this simple tool is only growing in importance to marketers. The ROI on email marketing is the highest among all digital channels. Data Marketing & Analytics pegged it at $38 for every dollar spent.
The key to getting that level of return is a focus on list management. Buying email lists can help kickstart newer brands, but they will never be enough to sustain growth. To do that you need to be building your own lists, ideally from online signup forms that customers and prospective customers opt-in to.
4. Social Media
Unlike other digital channels, social media is a truly interactive platform. You can talk to your customers and they can make their opinions known just as easily—and just as publicly! So, post with discretion and always closely monitor and respond to comments.
Because it’s not an exclusively commercial channel, your communications should avoid hard sales tactics. Instead, seek to engage your audience, build connections, and prove your value and thought leadership status with relevant and helpful content.
5. Digital Display Advertising
The rise of ad blockers and the prevalence of banner blindness (people’s innate tendency to tune out online ads) has somewhat devalued digital display ads over the last few years.
However, the market hasn’t dried up completely, and the metric analysis from click-through rates is still incredibly useful for optimizing campaigns. Plus, unlike traditional offline display ads, the digital variants are adaptive: the ad buy can show different ads to different web users, based on their preferences and behavioral data like their browsing history.
6. Content Marketing
With outbound, interruptive channels like display ads diminishing in prevalence, inbound, permission-based methods are growing. If audiences won’t look at ads, don’t try to force them to. Instead, create a content stream that they will actively seek out.
Blogs, podcasts, explainer videos, infographics, webinars, and whitepapers are all great opportunities to share your brand’s knowledge and culture. Get to know what your audience is searching for and be their go-to source for answers.
Make Your Voice Heard
With so many channels to communicate on, it can seem daunting to customize your marketing to each one. There’s an ever present temptation to just produce a single message and copy it to every platform. That would certainly satisfy the ‘integrated’ part of your campaign, but at the expense of overall effectiveness and brand building.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but each platform has its own temperament and preferred communication style. Emails and LinkedIn posts are more formal than Facebook and Instagram shares, and Twitter is more rapid-fire and pithy than long-form blog posts.
The digital omnichannel is your opportunity to reach a wide audience in a highly-personalized manner. Find your brand voice and moderate it so that it speaks clearly wherever you share it. But above all else, make certain you are instilling the unifying message your campaign needs to get across, regardless of the channel.