All of a sudden, it seems like integrated marketing communications planning (IMC) is hot again. Particularly in consumer packaged goods (CPG), we are seeing clients launch new initiatives to better coordinate tactics and messages in their marketing programs.
The cynic in me wonders what they were doing before these new initiatives came along. Had they forgotten Marketing 101? Had they been throwing disconnected and conflicting brand messages into the marketplace? Did it really just dawn on them that speaking with a consistent voice to the consumer might make their dollars work harder? No - I think we really have to give marketers more credit than that.
The resurgence in IMC programs is really a case of an old concept being used to address a new problem: marketers' struggle to find an alternative to a TV-centric planning process. At the senior levels, marketers understand that the old concept of starting with the 30-second spot, then pooling out that creative execution to other supporting media, cannot survive in today's fragmented media marketplace. But creating change within the sprawling CPG companies can be difficult.
The decentralized brand management structure in place at most CPG companies means that individual brand budgets are often quite limited, even though the combined spend across the company is massive. Individual brand managers feel compelled to concentrate their dollars on a few tactics, lest they spread the dollars so thin that nothing breaks through.
Three other factors contribute to CPG brand manager inertia. First, they understand that more tactics create more management overhead - without additional staff. Second, TV is still the most fun and glamorous part of the job. And finally, despite the rumors of its demise, TV still works pretty well. So, in the end, regardless of management's desire to diversify marketing tactics, 90 percent of the dollars still flow straight into television.
As is often the case, Procter & Gamble is leading the way with its "communications planning" approach. Of course, many of its brands have a financial scale that few in the CPG field can match. P&G has also engaged Carat to change its agency approach and created several internal corporate initiatives to forge scale assets that all brands can share. And P&G has a corporate-wide program to benchmark the effectiveness of new tactics and programs.
What does P&G know that its competitors do not? I suspect it's found three of the truisms that my company, Marketing Management Analytics, has learned by looking at studies done across our client base:
>Diversifying tactics really does make for more effective marketing programs. Programs that include four or more tactics substantially outperform those with three or less (see the chart at left).
>Integrating marketing tactics really does create synergies, with more tactics creating more synergies. MMA has typically found synergies between 6 and 9 percent for multitactic programs, for a total program effectiveness that's greater than the sum of its parts.
>More often than not, the concept of "breakthrough" for individual tactics is a myth. While we do occasionally find minimum thresholds for tactics, most often even small spends show some impact. More important, it seems that the combined spend for tactics in a total program is what ensures breakthrough and effectiveness.
The need for diversified programs will only grow. But CPG companies will have to take a hard look at their brand management structure and make meaningful changes. Simply preaching IMC will not be enough.
John Nardone is chief client officer for Marketing Management Analytics. (firstname.lastname@example.org)