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AUGUST 20, 2019 //     

The importance of taking an integrated approach

An interview with Paul Sears, Executive Vice President, Integrated Marketing.

By Jess Docherty

Allison Partners’ integrated marketing expert Paul Sears is spending six months in London to help expand our existing integrated capabilities in the region and foster deeper integration across the network. While he is here, I thought I’d pick his brain on integrated marketing and why it’s crucial for PR and marketing professionals to implement in their overall communications strategies.  

How does Allison+Partners help clients with integrated marketing?

We prefer to approach all our client work from a holistic perspective. Starting with segmentation, targeting and positioning and the classical 4 P’s of marketing we all know and love (product, price, place, promotion). And asking, “Who is the customer, what do they need, and how do I create something (a product, a service, a campaign, a loyalty program) that fulfils that need?”

A truly integrated approach puts the customer in the centre of the room, then looks at how to position the brand or product to be truly helpful to them. Sometimes we’re helping clients develop and name new products, creating brand and product architecture systems, and working with the client to create new or optimise existing distribution channels. And of course, Promotion – the fourth P, that’s a huge part of what we do as an agency. As a full-service marketing communications agency, we spend a great deal of time creating campaigns to launch and sustain awareness, drive consideration and purchase, and create consumer advocacy and referral. Integrated marketing requires a customer-centric approach and several different disciplines working together.

Why is taking an integrated approach important?

Today’s clients face constant pressure to do more with less.  It’s incredibly difficult to manage a diverse roster of agencies. CMO’s need a strong strategic partner that can answer the big questions about what the firm should make and do, and be truly 360-degree in its go-to-market approach. With more than 80 folks globally working on cross-functional marketing, our clients get access to consultative brand and product marketing, as well as campaign execution.  We’re able to have a single point of contact that understands the client’s business goals and the needs of the customer, as well as every channel we’re activating in.

A basic breakdown of approach:

Research and insight
  • A surgeon presented with a patient who has a mystery illness, wouldn’t just start operating immediately – they’d do some x-rays, and try to find the problem. It’s the same with integrated marketing. We don’t want to rush to market based on assumptions. We take time to conduct research and find unexpected ways of looking at the issues, so we can surprise and delight. But like the surgeon, we know the patient needs help right away, so we’re not going to research ourselves out of the window of opportunity. We balance rigor and agility to get going quickly.
Strategy based on insights
  • First, we want to make sure we’re solving the right problem. Then we’ll mine for that unexpected insight. Then take the insight, and build our work around that, and find the best channels to invest in.
Big umbrella ideas
  • When considering the big idea, we look for inspiration everywhere in our organisation and aim to generate a reaction in people that makes them stop and think. We use viewpoints from all corners to build out the umbrella story that fuels the entire program.
Implementation with agile and nimble optimisation
  • Once we have a well-reasoned “why” then we can start to direct the investment and activity into paid, earned, shared or owned channels. We let research and data do the heavy lifting to help in selecting each channel, so we can thoughtfully consider each step in the customer journey.
  • To make the program effective we work hard to connect dispersed teams so that everyone is aware and can learn from every action. If the PR team have landed a great piece of coverage, we want our social teams looking for ways to expand its reach. We want our creative team to create infographics and social objects from it, we want to boost it with paid and get influencers and consumers talking about it.
Measure and adjust
  • With each of the steps above it is important to fail fast and move on. Measurement is about really being able to understand in depth how the consumer ecosystem is engaging with the work. Interrogate the data, interpret the movement and then start to develop a plan to accelerate channels and activities that are working.

What keeps you inspired?

The most important thing for me is continuous learning and development.  I feel like I don’t know what I don’t know. I love doing research projects in entirely new categories, I try to get one or two new academic certifications each year, I stay connected with my professional network, and I read up on thought leadership as much as I can. I think it’s really fun seeing creativity coming to life in innovative tech-driven campaigns like “The Whopper Detour” or bold cultural stances like “Nike’s Dream Crazy.” 

Jess Docherty is a digital account manager in Allison+Partners’ London office.

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