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The Pursuit of Integration

Every brand wants to provide a seamless experience. They want to stay true to their values across all touch points because they know that today's customers are skeptical and distrustful of what they say. They also know that one bad experience can ruin a relationship.
The solution? Integration: Delivering a consistent experience across all channels.
However, integration is becoming harder in today's connected age. New digital platforms appear every day, which makes it hard to have a consistent experience across all channels. New platforms require brands to bring a new set of players (agencies and/or employees) with a different skillset. New players need to be on board, trained and synchronized with the broader team, which make it even harder to deliver a unified experience.
We tend to view integration from a communication perspective, but it is more about people and culture in the organization. To build an integrated brand, you need an integrated team. This means having a consistent set of players, with clear roles and responsibilities, defined rules of engagement, long-term commitment and the discipline to stick to a consistent message for an extended period to build a successful brand.
1. Have a consistent set of players: Less is more. Try only to work with a handful of partners. The more partners you have to deal with, the harder it gets. Having an agency for every channel (brand, advertising, digital, data, mobile, social media, content, events, multi-cultural, media, PR, search, and innovation) is not only hard to manage, but it will slow you down and more challenging to maintain a consistent tone and brand message.
2. Establish clear roles and responsibilities for each of the partners. Avoid, at all costs, making partners compete against one another new projects. Once you open that gate, you are killing any incentive to collaborate with partners because everyone is going to try to protect their piece of their pie. Instead, you should create a trusted environment.
3. Define the rules of engagement: Establish a clear communication planning process for the year and within that plan, designate the role that each agency will play. And please make sure that you give enough time for integration. If you try to squeeze the year's planning process into a few weeks, you're setting everyone up for failure.
4. Go for a long-term partnership, not a one night stand. A relationship with a partner is like marriage. You are investing time, resources and money into building a strong family. The higher the divorce rate, the higher the failure rate; you're also sending a signal to potential agency partners about your real intentions.
5. Have the discipline to stick to a consistent message for an extended period to build brand equity. Frequently changing messages not only create confusion in the market, but it also makes it harder to integrate. This is a challenging thing to achieve, however, since the average tenure of a marketing director is 18 months. And the first things they want to do is create a new brand platform.
In summary, brand integration is about people, not just communication. Only an integrated team can deliver an integrated brand, which is critical to thrive in today's connected age.


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