Integrated marketing plan: How to create cohesive campaigns that spark engagement and drive revenue
A few years ago, Nike posed a question: Is it possible to run a full marathon in under 2 hours?
Many exercise scientists said no, but Nike set out to prove them wrong with the Breaking2 campaign.
Launched in November 2016, the campaign followed 3 elite runners Nike selected to attempt the impossible on May 6, 2017. The non-sanctioned race was held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza track in Italy, where it was live-streamed and trending on Twitter as it happened.
During the 6 months of the campaign, Nike produced documentary training videos, print ads, media collaborations, billboards, website features, and so much more on multiple media channels to generate excitement for what was going to be one of the most impressive athletic accomplishments in history—and, unsurprisingly, the shoes that were going to help cement these athletes as marathon legends.
When Eliud Kipchoge crossed the finish line at 2:00:25, everyone knew which shoe got him there: the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 4%.
While Kipchoge hadn’t succeeded in running a marathon in under 2 hours, he did beat the previous world record by more than 2 minutes. (Kipchoge would later succeed with a 1:59:40 marathon as part of the Ineos 1:59 Challenge.) His time was more than enough for Nike to confirm they’d made the fastest running shoe in the world.
In 2018, the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly 4% was such a coveted shoe that people were paying double for them on eBay. Retailers said they couldn’t keep the shoe in stock for more than a few days at a time.
Integrated marketing is marketing, but elevated
In business, marketing gets a bad rap. This is because, historically, it’s been difficult to measure the value of a traditional ad campaign in terms of revenue.
If you’re a performance marketer, you understand how to attribute modern marketing campaigns to revenue. If you’re a brand marketer, you understand the long-term value of brand recognition through ads.
But no matter what kind of marketer you are, you’ve likely spent a good portion of your career convincing non-marketing executives of the value of your marketing plan.
Integrated marketing is where both performance and brand shine. With an integrated marketing campaign, you’re building beautifully consistent brand assets that tell a memorable story—something that truly sticks in people’s minds after the campaign is over. At the same time, you’re adapting that story across different channels and measuring the performance of each.
This is why integrated marketing is peak marketing.
“Consumers today are more diverse than ever in how they engage with marketing. We open emails and SMS sends, engage with paid ads, or even respond to direct mail efforts,” says Mat Bingham, head of technology partnerships at Okendo. “Relying on one channel will put your brand at a disadvantage.”
“The more integrated your approach across multiple touchpoints per customer, the bigger the impact of your efforts,” Bingham adds.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits, challenges, and solutions of building your own integrated marketing strategy. If you’re looking for examples of businesses that have built solid integrated marketing campaigns, skip to the end.
Table of contents:
- What is integrated marketing?
- Why should a brand consider integrated marketing strategies?
- The major roadblocks to integrated marketing—and how to solve them
- 3 tips for creating your own integrated marketing campaigns
- 3 successful examples of integrated marketing communication strategies
- The tech requirements that help power integrated marketing campaigns
What is integrated marketing?
Integrated marketing is the practice of pushing out one cohesive, consistent brand message across multiple channels. An integrated plan creates clarity for your target demographic because all marketing channels are aligned and unique to your brand.
If you’ve ever heard of multi-channel or omnichannel marketing—releasing brand messages on multiple channels like email, social media, etc.—integrated marketing is the strategy that sits on top as a binding agent, so that all campaign assets look and feel similar. Whether someone is watching a video on YouTube, reading an email, or visiting a physical store, they’re able to follow—and connect with—a thread of consistency throughout.
“The purchasing journey is significantly more fragmented today than it was 10 years ago. People’s lives are simply busier,” explains Tabish Bhimani, principal strategist at Mastrat. “Having an integrated marketing campaign is essentially leading with empathy for customers.”
“Because consumers are more distracted, it’s an advantage to use various channels to help remind them of the product they needed when searching for a solution to a problem,” Bhimani adds.
Of course, you don’t need to use all marketing channels to create an effective integrated marketing campaign. You can start small. For example, a lot of small- to mid-sized brands run integrated marketing campaigns with email and SMS only, because they own and control both channels.
Integrated marketing vs. omnichannel marketing: what’s the difference?
While integrated marketing is similar to omnichannel marketing, there are some slight nuances that differentiate them from each other.
Integrated marketing is focused on cohesive and consistent messaging: the copy and design used to communicate with the audience. Omnichannel marketing is focused on the customer experience: the purchase and brand experience within the customer journey.
Integrated marketing campaigns work within an omnichannel customer experience to strengthen all the touchpoints that eventually lead to revenue and—when done successfully—build brand loyalty over time.
Why should a brand consider integrated marketing strategies?
Integrated marketing is important because it takes, on average, 6 separate touchpoints for someone to purchase a product.
The average customer journey is long, chaotic, and nonlinear. People often purchase items because of emotional drivers, but sometimes they do so after hearing and learning about a product over the course of several weeks, months, or even years.
The best way to transform separate touchpoints into one clear, unified communication strategy is through integrated marketing. But to get more specific, here are some of the concrete outcomes you can expect from an integrated marketing approach:
Integrated marketing allows higher reach at higher quality
The concept is simple: Launch on more channels, reach more people. Gartner research has found that integrated campaigns launched across 4+ channels outperform single- or dual-channel campaigns by 300%.
But how does this differ from multi-channel marketing? The answer lies in the quality and consistency of the touchpoint.
When you launch an integrated marketing campaign, you’re launching several messages that reinforce each other. The result is one cohesive narrative that becomes recognizable at a glance over a shorter period of time.
Great marketers know that higher reach is only scratching the surface of campaign success. When that higher reach results in brand lift, or brand recognition, this is when reach has the highest chance of converting to revenue. Integrated campaigns are one of the best ways to achieve this.
Omnichannel campaigns have higher engagement
One of the earliest signals of campaign success is engagement. Depending on the channel, engagement KPIs could mean comments, shares, or even email replies and forwards.
While engagement doesn’t always translate to revenue, revenue doesn’t often exist without prior brand engagement. With integrated marketing, you’re increasing the odds that engagement on one channel becomes a sale on another.
One channel combination that’s seeing a lot of recent success is SMS with email. Smart SMS marketing, used in combination with email marketing and personalized website experiences, has been shown to increase average order value and customer retention metrics.
According to quarterly benchmark data from Klaviyo, ecommerce brands using SMS marketing as part of their integrated marketing strategy are seeing 2.5% conversion rates on SMS marketing forms (to collect phone numbers) followed by 8.33% click rates on their SMS campaigns.
Most SMS subscribers are people who have been engaging with brands via email for a certain period of time, and they’re ready to “get closer” to the brand via text message. This is how SMS and email content marketing work together to generate revenue.
Integration of campaigns allows cost savings
Integrated marketing still requires a financial investment, but brands that run these types of campaigns see cost savings in a couple of areas.
The first is in staffing requirements. Multi-channel campaigns often require separate teams for each channel—and those teams aren’t always great at communicating with each other. Large brands that run multi-channel campaigns are often doubling up on content creation without even realizing it.
The second is in repurposed assets. Integrated marketing campaigns run on one cohesive narrative, which means creating fewer pieces of content. Teams that run integrated campaigns often create a few base assets for approval, then repurpose the approved content for quick launch.
Alignment with the customer journey
Integrated marketing strategies are your best tool for keeping up with the realities of the complex buyer’s journey. As much as we’d love it if customers purchased products after seeing a few ads on digital media and subscribing to an email list for a discount, the reality is much more chaotic.
Remember how it can take an average of 6 touchpoints to generate a sale? The reality is those 6 touchpoints often don’t make “logical sense” from the perspective of a brand.
That’s because people buy from a place of emotion, not logic—meaning they could land on your website after a Google search, not engage with your brand again for months, then impulse-buy a product after seeing an ad on Instagram.
Integrated marketing creates top-of-mind awareness by making sure your brand is saying the same thing everywhere, no matter how people interact with you. The idea is to create at-a-glance recognizability, which is more likely to sweep up the benefits of emotionally charged decision-making.
The major roadblocks to integrated marketing—and how to solve them
Integrated marketing is the future of the marketing field—but this doesn’t mean it’s easy or that everyone in your organization will be on board with it.
“Integrated” also means “aligned”—which is a challenge you may face with your coworkers, your goals, and your tech stack.
Here, we’ll show you how to overcome some of these alignment challenges, before giving you tips on how to execute great integrated marketing campaign initiatives.
Lack of internal alignment
One of the best parts of an integrated marketing campaign is its cohesive narrative—but that also means front-loading internal alignment work to make sure key team members sign off on what that message looks like. Silos are the enemy of integration.
“Believe it or not, internal communications are often the biggest roadblock to launching an integrated marketing campaign,” says Ben Zettler, founder of Ben Zettler Digital.
Especially if your team is large and there are a lot of stakeholders on a campaign, reaching a consensus can sometimes take a long time. (You’ll make up that time later, though.)
How to solve this problem
- Schedule conversations with key members of your team. Talk to everyone who has a stake in your integrated marketing campaign. “Meet to discuss your end goal, then execute,” Zettler recommends.
- Ask questions about how each team member communicates with customers and what defines a seamless experience.
- Use each person’s responses as a basis for determining your campaign goal (see next tip).
No clear goal for campaigns
The glue that holds an integrated marketing campaign together is your goal. Without a clear goal, brand cohesion doesn’t exist.
When an integrated marketing campaign doesn’t start with clear goals, two things can happen: expectations aren’t met, and leadership doesn’t approve future campaigns.
For example, if your leadership is expecting a certain number of new products sold due to a campaign but the campaign was only meant to create brand awareness, they may see the campaign as a failure.
How to solve this problem
- Talk to your leadership team about what your business needs. If it’s brand awareness, create a campaign with a call to action engagement. If it’s sales, analyze past numbers to determine how an integrated campaign can have an impact.
- Communicate leadership goals to your integrated marketing team. Attach clear numbers that will provide a concrete answer as to whether your campaign was a success.
- Make sure you have the right measurement tools to gauge performance (more on this next).
Limited campaign performance measurement tools
Integrated marketing campaigns are only as good as their ability to follow the customer’s actual journey to purchase. This means centralizing data on your target audience (potential buyers) and customers in one place.
According to internal Klaviyo research, 55% of enterprise brands say it’s important to centralize customer data in a customer data platform (CDP). But the reality is that most of these brands are also using outdated tech stacks that don’t centralize customer information.
How to solve this problem
Invest in a CDP that meets the following criteria:
- Clean data on customer behavior
- Real-time, cross-device data from their API
- Transaction data captured on site
- Synced data across content and commerce channels
- Unified customer profiles
3 tips for creating your own integrated marketing campaigns
Let’s assume the challenges above either don’t apply, or you’ve tackled them with gusto and won. What do you do next to make sure your integrated marketing campaigns are successful?
This list of tips is by no means exhaustive, but it outlines the fundamental components of success for all integrated marketing campaigns.
1. Create marketing campaigns that stay authentic to your brand
It’s cliche advice for a reason—authenticity attracts (the right kind of) attention. The best integrated marketing campaigns serve the core narrative of your brand.
Unless you’re engaging in a brand refresh, start every integrated marketing campaign with an understanding of the core tenets of your brand. Consider these the constraints of your campaign.
When you operate within clear brand parameters, it follows that you’ll more easily create an integrated campaign that looks, feels, and sounds authentic to your overall brand.
2. Be consistent in campaign messaging across all channels
Integrated marketing campaigns are made up of creative assets adapted for each channel—but all assets should be easily recognizable as a set.
Consistency is the key difference between multi-channel marketing and integrated marketing communications. We mentioned above that integrated marketing campaigns seek to create at-a-glance brand recognition that leads to quick purchase decisions after a long period of exposure—consistency is the main ingredient in this recipe.
3. Start small—and test—before you go big
“Integrated” doesn’t necessarily mean “invest in all the channels at once, right away.” Depending on your resources, you may only be able to launch your campaign on 2-3 channels to start.
And that’s OK. Don’t let “decision paralysis or an over-analysis of your options” prevent you from giving it a go, Bingham advises.
Instead, start with what you already have and build on it. Basic channels and tools like email sign-up forms, landing pages, and email campaigns are a great foundation for testing. To maximize your chance at success (and protect your business against colossal failure), A/B test emails to see what resonates before adding other channels.
“Just try a small step and then improve over time,” Bingham suggests. “Your first campaign may flop, but at least you can learn quickly and move forward.”
After you’ve refined messaging on one channel, add others like social media marketing, SMS, etc.
Then, once your assets are really on point, you can invest in higher-ticket items like out-of-home campaigns with billboards, ad placements on local transportation, tv ads, etc.
3 successful examples of integrated marketing communication strategies
You’ve likely come across a lot of integrated marketing campaigns run by large companies. But what about small- to mid-sized brands with more limited resources?
Here are some case studies of integrated marketing campaigns that were not run on all the channels—and why the marketing efforts were still effective.
For HOMAGE, engagement data informs SMS strategy
If you’re familiar with HOMAGE, you may be familiar with their Rewind email newsletter. The newsletter is a unique way to showcase past products based on historical moments, which helps the brand segment their customers by preference.
But after experimenting with SMS, HOMAGE found that customers seemed more willing to read a text than open the promotions tab in their inbox to read an email. So they started using the channel to promote the fall release of their 80s- and 90s-style NFL Starter jackets.
“Using both email and SMS in the same platform is a huge advantage, because we’re able to harness that historic customer data and utilize it for a new channel,” explains Justin Nottke, director of digital design at HOMAGE. “It’s exciting for us to have both channels work so seamlessly together.”
To generate SMS subscribers, HOMAGE released a sales promotion hype video that encouraged customers to be first in line for the new jackets—which meant opting in to SMS. Then HOMAGE used SMS to offer first dibs to people who texted STARTER.
In the first hour, the SMS campaign generated 100 orders. After launch, 86.9% of SMS subscribers clicked the in-message link, and 9% of them placed an order. The campaign delivered $167 in revenue per recipient.
Sanzo brings offline to online
Sanzo’s integrated marketing journey seems a bit backwards compared to other DTC brands. This is because the brand decided to attract an online audience after getting massive brand exposure offline.
Sanzo’s partnership with Disney-owned Marvel started as a celebration of Asian culture in film that ultimately became a co-branded, limited-edition lychee drink collection featuring characters from the film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on the can.
After the launch of the film, Sanzo saw 6x growth in ecommerce revenue. At this point, the brand hadn’t been communicating directly with customers, instead relying on relationships through wholesalers.
But the new exposure also meant Sanzo’s name became recognizable—so they decided to start emailing potential customers discounts and feedback requests.
Today, Sanzo has a VIP email list for subscribers, who get free shipping and 15% off recurring orders. “We’ll also do some special swag drops for that group,” founder Sandro Roco explains—like giving them early access to Sanzo’s Shang-Chi sparkling water when it dropped.
Doe Lashes pairs quizzes with email
People who are overwhelmed by choice are less likely to buy. This is why Doe Lashes developed a product recommendation quiz to help potential customers narrow down their extensive product line.
Doe’s quiz helps new lash wearers find their preferred look based on eye shape, lash experience, occasion, and aesthetic preferences.
The quiz integrates with Doe’s email marketing campaigns, and the brand sees 3x more email sign-ups through the quiz than through their pop-up form.
With the integrated channels, Doe converts 20% of quiz takers into new customers—which means their welcome flow has a conversion rate 9x higher than the industry standard for health and beauty.
Learn more about integrated marketing tech requirements
If integrated marketing is so effective, why isn’t everyone doing it?
The answer is because personalization at scale is hard. According to Klaviyo research, 41% of marketing executives say they cannot execute all the personalized marketing tactics they deem important. And almost half of the respondents say it’s due to a lack of access to the right data.
This is why a CDP like Klaviyo should sit at the heart of an integrated marketing tech stack. A CDP collects data from a lot of sources, then merges that data into one customer profile. It’s responsible for making sure that data is clean, de-duplicated, and ready to use, without massive IT resources most marketers don’t have.
CDPs are beneficial because they gather information from:
- Text messages
- Social media
- Loyalty programs
- In-store transactions
- Other internal systems, like ERPs, CRMs, or DMPs
They also integrate with other software that can communicate with customers and facilitate buying across all those same external channels. This is the data feedback loop you need for an integrated experience—and a CDP is where it begins.
Integrated marketing campaign FAQs
What are the advantages of an integrated marketing campaign (IMC)?
The main goal of an integrated marketing approach is to streamline marketing campaigns across all channels to better connect with customers. IMC ensures that a unified message around a company’s products/services is communicated clearly to the target audience.
How to create an integrated marketing campaign?
The steps to set up an integrated marketing campaign that will deliver satisfactory results depend on multiple factors (industry, the company in question, products, specific channels, audience, etc.), but some of the core steps of the process include:
- Setting campaign goals and KPIs
- Defining target personas
- Listing marketing channels to cover
- Building a lead generation plan
- Coordinating campaign launch
- Monitoring and evaluating results
- Optimizing the campaign if necessary
What is included in the integrated marketing mix?
Integrated marketing refers to a marketing campaign that uses all active marketing channels to send a cohesive and clear brand message to the target audience. These include email, SMS, SEO, paid media advertising, influencer marketing, direct marketing, and public relations management. How can direct mail automation be used in integrated marketing campaigns?
How can direct mail automation be used in integrated marketing campaigns?
Direct mail automation can be a powerful tool to enhance the effectiveness of integrated marketing campaigns. By combining physical mail with digital channels, marketers can create personalized, targeted, and coordinated campaigns that drive engagement and conversion.