What is Integrated Marketing and Why is it Valuable?

Article by | October 18, 2018 Marketing Strategy

The phrase “integrated marketing” is thrown around often, but do you fully understand what sets integrated marketing apart from all of the other marketing types?

Integrated marketing, or integrated marketing communications (IMC), refers to the strategic use of different types of marketing tactics in concert with one another for maximum exposure and success. Integrated marketing means saying “no” to many tactics, as well, in order to streamline your work and concentrate on available resources.

Integrated marketing is the “enemy” of silo marketing. I say “enemy” because integration will make silo marketing go away. In reality, integrated marketing is the transformer of silo marketing, helping those stuck in silos accomplish more and with greater depth and reach than before.

Integrated marketing can seem threatening to those in their own silos at first, but with solid leadership, those in the silos will relax and join the chorus.

In this article, we will talk about the benefits of an integrated approach and the three secrets to integration.

Why Integration Works

Integrated marketing is like good music.

Imagine a concert hall brimming over with a standing-room-only crowd of 10,000 music lovers. Backstage, 100 highly trained musicians and vocalists size each other up. In a few minutes, each musician will be competing for the same audience…at the same time.

The musicians take the stage and begin to sing and play their very best. One violinist believes she’s capturing a certain part of the crowd and steps forward playing louder. A tenor vocalist cuts in front of her and steals the attention. Meanwhile, a pianist is playing to the first few rows of the balcony. The audience begins to clap along until a trumpeter goes off the score and improvises to shift their focus from the piano to the trumpet.

In silo marketing, chaos, cacophony, and competition happen all the time.

In integrated marketing, the 100 musicians play the same piece of music under the direction of section leaders and a conductor. Instead of being disgruntled, the audience—who either leaves, boos, or pops ibuprofen to stem the headache—becomes enthralled, applauds every composition, and rises to its feet at the end of the performance, clapping and chanting for more.

Integration works because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When a B2B tech company can orchestrate its marketing forces in the same direction at the same time, tremendous things can happen.

Integration doesn’t waste resources. By working in concert with each other, your marketing channels will feed off each other making each of them more effective with less money and fewer human hours invested.

Integrated campaigns are more effective, too—31% more effective. AdReaction found that when multiple messages are communicated in concert with each other, 34% remember the brand better, 26% believe it leaves a stronger impression, and 16% are more likely to purchase.

Getting Started

Gather every marketing team member—no matter seniority—and discuss the need to work together in concert, to tear down rivalries and territories, and foster internal communication. You’re in the communication business. You may do an excellent job communicating out to your customers and the public at large but struggle to communicate with each other. Call these meetings on a regular basis to remind everyone of the goal. Recognize good collaboration and internal communication. Create empathy among the group by celebrating a win in one channel with everyone. Likewise, feel the weight of a loss together. You are an orchestra or band, after all.

Secret #1: Space

Space occurs when each marketing tool plays its part on center stage when the spotlight shines, backs up the other tools when it’s their turn, and doesn’t play (rests) at other times.

Don't Fear the Reaper In 1976, Blue Öyster Cult released “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” On April 8, 2000, Saturday Night Live aired one of its most famous skits. Actor Christopher Walken, as famed producer Bruce Dickinson, urged “more cowbell” in the mix. The laughs roll in from the live studio audience and millions of viewers since the more the cowbell is used—and the louder it’s played—the song sounds more ridiculous.

If you listen to the original, you’ll hear a great texture of lead vocals, harmony, guitars, bass, drums, and yes, cowbell. At most points, the guitars are subdued allowing the vocals to take center stage while at other points the guitars come forward, increase in volume, and become the focal point. Yes, you can hear the cowbell at points—appropriate points.

Many businesses struggle because each marketing tool is like a cowbell played loudly and all the time. Philosophically, you and your team know that each marketing tool has its purpose and place, and is best when used to its strengths. Yet, in the day-to-day work of promoting your company and products, those responsible for the tools just bang away without giving space to the other instruments in your marketing orchestra.

Giving Your Team Permission to Rest

Much of your marketing activity may be primed to return no results. If you’re not giving your tools the space they need to be loud when appropriate and soft—or silent—at other times, the messaging may become “sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Examples of wasted energy

  • A press release that is a mere product update and doesn’t have a hook for reporters to cover or a story to tell
  • A blog post that doesn’t fit anywhere in your key messages or a key phase in the buyer’s journey
  • Tweets posted just to keep the pace up or those that don’t encourage engagement
  • Trade show giveaways without a purpose

Your company can spend a lot of money and human energy pounding on the cowbell.

Practical Suggestion

Give your marketing team a challenge and a permission slip. Challenge them to only use a marketing tool when it can be used to its fullest. Challenge them to keep working on a message within a tool until it works. Give them permission to “rest” when a tool’s use will just be noise.

Secret #2: Marketing Dynamics

Marin Conductor

Music has many dynamic factors at work—i.e., tempo, beat, volume, etc. Your integrated marketing should as well.

Listen critically to any piece of music that has stood the test of time and you will hear all of these dynamics at work. These dynamics don’t work if everyone is not working together and playing the same piece of music at the same time.

There is another dynamic—dissonance—that works in music, but not in marketing.

You want to avoid dissonance at all costs. You don’t need your audience under tension related to your messages. They will be under enough tension in the buying experience comparing your product, your customer service, and your team to others.

Examples of marketing dissonance

  • Your social media posts discuss completely different topics than your email newsletter.
  • You have no PR support for a product launch.
  • Your blog posts and podcast episodes are off message in the name of trying to stay current and newsworthy.
  • Your sales team emails potential clients on the same day—or at the same time—as automated marketing emails.
  • You offer a discount of 15% through some channels and a discount of 20% through other channels and neither your sales team nor your call center heard about it before a customer’s query.
  • You promote a discount or tracking code through marketing channels but forget to set up the code in the online database.

These and tons of other examples cause problems and tension in your potential customers. You are adding friction—dissonance—where it doesn’t belong.

Practical Suggestion

Create a comprehensive communication calendar on which every marketing tool is listed next to the name of the person or department responsible for it. There are dozens of templates and articles online about building your calendar. HubSpot even offers a calendar tool as part of its marketing platform.

The calendar can be as simple or as complicated as your culture needs. Don’t lose sight, however, of the most important factor: noting what messages are being communicated when. You want to see and hear all of the dynamics. This is often best done by color. Set one color for each of your core messages (Golden Spiral has 11). Then plot out when each channel will communicate each message. Then stop. Look at it. Are you in unison? Are you playing at the right volume? Is there good harmony? Is the tempo right?

Examples of marketing dynamics in the calendar

  • At times, like a big product launch or before a trade show, you want every channel broadcasting the same message loud, proud, and often. You’re taking advantage of unison, volume, and tempo.
  • At other times, you may want some harmony. For example, let’s say your email newsletter this week features a main article about the way your product saves time for your users. In social media, post links to the main article, but supplement it (harmony) with other articles from your company as well as other thought leaders on time management and productivity hacks.
  • After a loud and fast-paced season—like after the hype of a trade show—take a pause. Reduce the frequency of social posts and trim down your email newsletter. Post a shorter, less intense podcast episode. Crank up the humor in this week’s video. It’s time to decrescendo to give your audience a rest.

Secret #3: The Baton

baton on music stand

I mentioned above that good orchestras or choirs are led by section leaders and, ultimately, a conductor—you, the marketing leader.

Large Teams

These are important distinctions. Good section leaders—channel managers—work well with their colleagues to maintain the strong dynamics of integrated marketing. They talk often about integration and how well the channels are working together. They talk about problems and return to their sections to correct them. At the same time, these section leaders meet regularly with the conductor—the marketing lead for your company—to make sure the music sounds as great as it can. Integration doesn’t work unless there is buy-in at the highest levels of the organization. As the marketing lead or CMO, you’ve got to drive and foster integration every day. Your team will follow your lead. You have the baton. Use it.

Small Teams

If you have a small team (or even a one-person team), the same ideas can work. Think about each channel as its own instrument. Ask yourself or your small team if the channel is playing its role in the greater orchestra.


You can even be integrated if you’re working with a marketing agency. You can either conduct the agency at your tempo and volume or you can hand the baton to a leader at the agency to conduct on your behalf. You set the atmosphere and let the music play.

Key Takeaway

Your messages can make beautiful music. Just think about this stat from branding and advertising agency, Kantar Milward Brown: Marketing efforts with a strong central idea performed 64 percent better across all brand KPIs, especially brand image associations, which performed at 91 percent.

We’ve worked hard at Golden Spiral to build an integrated approach for our clients. Some agencies have one or two disciplines of excellence. We’ve gathered a team of experts in all areas—strategy, branding, design, content development, PR, SEO, and programming. Our team works under one roof with regular meetings about projects and clients where all disciplines are represented. Discover more about our integrated approach on our Solutions page.

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