Omni-Channel, Multi-Channel, And The One Magic Missing Ingredient

Lately, I have been reading a lot of omni-channel and multi-channel research papers. I shared some findings from Nielsen’s “Screen Wars” study last week, but apart from the Nielsen study, I also read a Google/DoubleClick study called “Reaching audiences across screens,” while IBM offered “Digital Reinvention,” and Digital Doughnut shared their “2015 Multi-Channel Digital Marketing Report.”

Each of these studies talks about the importance of strategy, message, content, data and commerce integration across all screens, touch points and activations.

I wholeheartedly agree.

The issue is not that marketers don’t get the importance of integration, or don’t understand the potential benefits of when it magically all comes together. In fact, 95% of all marketers who participated in Digital Doughnut’s study “agree that a multichannel strategy that allows them to target customers is important for their organization.” However, “only 30% of marketers are highly confident of their ability to deliver against their multichannel strategy (67% are only somewhat confident).”



So, if marketers know and understand the importance and opportunity, why is it not happening? It is because the marketing eco-system, and in some cases the whole business eco-system they operate in, is structured against integration.

Example: An alcohol beverage brand targets premium consumers, and is sold at a premium price. It operates in a highly competitive category with a full set of brands ranging from low price to super premium. The marketing team has carefully crafted a premium brand positioning and communication plan. The creative executions, packaging and pricing all confirm the brand’s “premiumness.” So far, so good. The brand team is evaluated against brand health, sales, volume and market share objectives.

The sales team is trying to drive sales via a number of strategies, including expansion of availability for the brand. A new sales channel is prepared to take on the brand and give it prominence through a very visible sales promotion. The promotion pairs the premium beverage with a very “ordinary” (i.e. every day) snack brand through a combo-offer. The sales team pounces on the opportunity as they are evaluated against sales and share gains through additional channel presence.

Why do you think we all witness the constant battle between brand marketing and limited-time offers? Why is the portrayal of brand experiences in communication so very different from the reality you and I experience every day in real life?

It is because in the vast majority of companies the marketing teams and the sales/trade/shopper marketing teams work not only separately in organizational structure, but they also each have their own separate budget and planning process. 

Typically, sales tend to start their budgeting and planning process much earlier than marketing because of long retail lead times. And even if they don’t have to take retail lead times into consideration, the fact that they are evaluated by completely different success criteria almost guarantees confusion in how consumers will encounter the brand across all touch points. 

Best-case scenario: The two parties come together only after both sets of plans are finalized. What follows is an “alignment session” which most resembles the current U.S. political landscape in which nothing can be agreed on or, at best, a wobbly and weak compromise is reached.

If companies could manage to close the brand marketing development and sales marketing development gap, I know from experience they become all but unbeatable. And only then can we speak of true omni-channel marketing.

2 comments about "Omni-Channel, Multi-Channel, And The One Magic Missing Ingredient".
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  1. Gordon Jones from West, April 27, 2015 at 11:18 a.m.

    Good point, Maarten, but you don't actually address the omni- or multi- channel opportunity only the different screens! Communication, as an innate part of our being homo sapiens, is based on words. Even though we believe a picture is worth a 1,000 words and a video millions, we are wrong in how all people like to communicate. All people, even my son who is deaf, like to read and/or hear words in their preferenced channel which could be video, but also text, email and more robustly Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. In today's marketing (and patient communications when it comes to healthcare - my specialty), we need to drive (outbound) our message and allow for immediate inbound responses whether they are live (such as this post comment) or automated! Thoughts?

    DrJ @

  2. Rick Roth from Roth Partners LLC, April 27, 2015 at 11:36 a.m.

    Thanks for this post.
    Many of us have been banging on about this issue for decades.

    I completely agree that most marketing firms are organized in a way that actually undermines true integrated marketing.

    I don’t care what the functions are called…. Marketing and Sales, Brand Development and Brand Building, Advertising and Promotion, Above the Line and Below the Line….there is simply no way to deliver strategically consistent brand communications without a clear and enforced strategic filter that guides how that brand looks, feels, sounds and acts across activities and touch-points.

    And today, with the endless ways a brand can interact with a consumer, it is ever more critical that marketers are managing across channels with disciplined brand platform work.

    I believe that the concept of Omni-Channel marketing should redefine integrated marketing.
    So that no matter where a brand is engaged, across channels and touch-points - on-line, in store, broadcast, coupon, social media, events, etc - - the consumer will experience one consistent brand.

    And that missing ingredient – a cross channel brand strategy - one that doesn’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust, but serves as the guardrails for every single person who works on behalf of the brand.

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