Published by: The PMA/Northwestern University
- Executive Summary
- Research Methodology
For a complete copy of the study, click here.
Research Results Developed by The PMA Educational Foundation, Inc. Northwestern University and The Dudley Group, Inc. in association with the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement
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When we first set out to look at return on investment as it relates to integrated marketing, one of the immediate challenges was to take a broad view of the task at hand. Specifically, it would be relatively easy to calculate ROI based on a brand’s prevailing formula. However, it was felt that a better and more helpful approach would be to ask two key questions. First, what is the process by which a company or brand develops, executes and measures integrated marketing programs? Second, what is the organizational structure in which that process takes place? This second question is germane, since ROI is dependent on how much efficiency is built into the organizational dynamics of the firm.
The goal was to develop a set of best practices that would provide guidance to brand marketers as they deal with the new realities of the marketplace. This new marketplace paradigm upends the old truisms that marketers could manipulate consumers as they saw fit. These days, it’s consumers who control which messages they get, when and where they get them, as well as the channels. While change can be scary, it represents a great opportunity for brands to take a more broad-based approach to communications and look at ways to implement integrated marketing as something more than a tool for tactical alignment.
The pendulum has swung in favor of integrated marketing and promotional efforts. At the very least, there is a sense that “integrated marketing” has gone beyond buzzword status to a real capability that is being built into companies for the long term. As a result, agency representatives indicate that clients are asking for IMC solutions.
Despite some bright spots, the overall findings indicate a mixed-bag of results for brands trying to implement integrated marketing both as a mindset within their organizations as well as in the development, execution and measurement of integrated campaigns.
The majority of companies that participated in our study see the value of integrated marketing, even if they only use it to align their tactical executions. For the most part, there were ongoing challenges working cross-functionally and circumventing the silos that, in many cases, have existed for a long time within the companies. Key efforts to address this challenge have taken the form of creating integrated marketing positions or forming integrated marketing task forces at the outset of each campaign to ensure that all areas of the company are working together. However, in this last instance, it is clear that the task forces only have a tactical mandate, not necessarily a strategic one. Moreover, in the case of CPG companies, the authority and the marketing dollars remain under the control of brand managers, who are being evaluated on how well they manage their P&L, as well as volume and market share gains. The latter measures, in particular, tend to focus on short-term gains and, therefore, longer-term, brand-building activities are given short shrift or ignored completely.
Following are some best practices in both the organizational and process areas of integrated marketing that we have been able to identify as a result of this study. Most companies can begin to initiate some of these practices today, or at least work toward them as an organizational objective that will generate greater ROI of the overall marketing investment.
1) Integration must be driven by senior management: Senior management must get involved in developing incentives that reward integration as part of overall performance of the individual and the company. It also provides senior management with the opportunity to truly lead the organization by creating cross-functional teams that share knowledge and develop a consistent brand and message to the marketplace.
2) Organize around customers and end-users: Doing so provides the best opportunity to eliminate the gap between “above the line” and “below the line” functional areas, since the entire organization’s focus would be on effective communication to its end-users.
3) Create an integrated marketing position. Re-orienting an entire company around customers and end-users may be a radical move for many companies. Therefore, in situations where companies are organized around brands, a dedicated IM position can be leveraged to bridge any gaps between equity and activation across a range of products or services and a brand’s end-user segments.
4) Leverage Marketing Services as a consultant to brands in multi-brand companies: Those companies that “co-locate” or “loan out” marketing services personnel to a particular brand or category team are more successful in achieving integration as well as overall business objectives. Over time, the concept of “shared turf” breaks down functional barriers. Thus, alignment around customer goals is more readily achieved.
5) Elevate the importance of active and robust communications to partners and internal constituencies. This ensures that all employees understand, and can communicate, the brand promise. Of greater importance is the strong correlation between the extent to which a company engages in robust internal marketing and its overall financial performance.
6) Transform customer marketing. This team should not focus solely on sales. Rather, this is the group that is best suited to helping the entire organization understand what’s happening in-store. This is of critical importance to companies that build their brands through retail. Moreover, due to the insights that they provide, customer marketing should be represented during the planning phase.
7) Foster long-term agency relationships: Brands that provide a high level of security to their agency partners realize the development of more integrated, innovative, brand-based ideas.
8) Clarify the company’s most valuable consumers. This means attaching financial values to them, so that more strategic decisions can be made about resource allocations against them.
9) Assemble a cross-functional team that includes both internal stakeholders and key agency reps, and have them meet regularly: This provides a multiplicity of perspectives on the business challenges the company faces, as well as a mix of sources for ideas on how to address them. For example, by including legal at the outset, execution can be kept on track as opposed to being delayed or scrapped because of an oversight.
10) Invest in technology that facilitates knowledge sharing and approval processes: Brand marketers have a multitude of marketing technologies available to them; however, those that enable the sharing of creative assets and that facilitate approvals by senior management, legal, finance, partners, etc., are extremely valuable in realizing ROI through integration.
11) Assign a lead agency for each campaign: Based on the marketing discipline that leads each effort, it makes sense to rotate lead agencies among a brand’s agency roster. By rotating the leadership of a campaign among agencies, communication is more easily managed by the brand and integration – particularly of creative – is more readily achieved among disparate agencies.
12) Develop analysis criteria during the planning phase of each campaign. A key determination is whether a particular program’s objective is brand-building or business-building. Knowing this enables an organization to assign the proper metrics and evaluate a program accordingly.
13) Cascade knowledge and learning throughout the organization. Learning is a process that takes place over time. As such, it is necessary to share marketing successes and failures so that knowledge is migrated out of silos and across the entire organization. This provides context and perspective, both of which are particularly necessary during evaluation.
These are the Best Practices developed by this initial study for achieving ROI through Integrated Marketing. What follows is an in-depth examination of the current state of integrated marketing as it is understood and practiced by brand marketers.
The study incorporated a mix of quantitative, qualitative and secondary research. The components were as follows:
Quantitative survey. 75 companies participated in an in-depth written survey about integrated marketing practices. Respondents were separated into two (2) categories: High- and low-performance companies. This was a way of categorizing companies based on their reported three-year financial performance, as defined by sales, profitability, share growth, etc. High-performance companies were much more profitable than their competitors over the last three years. Low-performance companies showed less robust profitability during the same period.
Nearly 40% of the respondents are at the director level within their organizations, and nearly 60% are at the corporate level versus the 20%+ who are part of strategic business units. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents have been working for at least 15 years and approximately 60% have with their present organization for at least six (6) years.
Executive interviews. The research team conducted seventy-eight (78) executive interviews across the marketing organizations of several of the sponsors including the areas of brand management, consumer promotions, PR, events and sponsorship and customer marketing, along with key members of the agency teams attached to each area. Certainly, common themes about each organization’s strengths and weaknesses emerged.
Focus groups. Separately, the research team commissioned focus groups that consisted of both brand marketers and agencies. There were two groups convened for each category, with eight (8) participants in each. Moderators probed these groups on their perceptions and understanding of integrated marketing; how, when and why integrated marketing is deployed and the challenges that arose, both in terms of process and organization; and, the changing integrated marketing landscape.
Telephone interviews with retailers. The retail perspective on integrated marketing was included by conducting telephone interviews with representatives across four key categories: Mass Merchandise, Club, Drug and Grocery.
Consumer ethnography. The voice of the consumer was brought into the picture by conducting a small number of “day in the life” ethnographies. In these sessions researchers could talk to, and observe, consumers in their home environments and probe the consumers’ perceptions on promotions, product loyalty, payment preferences, etc.
Secondary research. A comprehensive secondary research guide was composed using consulting case studies, academic literature, and other syndicated research.
For a complete copy of the study, click here.