For Success with Integrated Marketing Think Hockey not Football - Lindsay, Stone & Briggs

Brand Strategy

For Success with Integrated Marketing Think Hockey not Football

Share This


Share This

HockeyEver felt like your marketing plan would collapse under the sheer weight of its own complexity?  Like you needed to rent an auditorium to meet with all the various people working on your business?  Maybe you used to feel confident in your plan but now feel lost in a blizzard of new platforms, touch-points and technologies.  We understand. Even some of the most competent marketing organizations struggle mightily to create great integrated communications on a systematic basis.  But there’s hope.

One CEO recently called integration the “holy grail” of marketing communications –and for good reason. At Monitor, we hear this same message over and over again in conversations with CMOs and other senior executives.  The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) recently confirmed that most marketing organizations have some sort of “integrated marketing program” in place (about 72% of brands), yet only about 25% think they are getting excellent or very good results.  Why is that?  Why is integrated communications so hard?

Organizational scientist Marvin Weisbord said “Systems are perfectly designed to achieve the results they get.”  This is precisely the case in marketing’s quest for communications integration.  “Dominant media” marketing –the practice of spending most of the marketing budget on a single medium (i.e., TV) to build awareness hoping consumers would select your brand in the store –was integrated marketing in the not-too-distant past. And many of today’s leading marketing organizations still practice “dominant media”. But the old ways alone are no longer effective.

Few could argue that the pace of change in the communications environment has accelerated significantly; marketing organizations, however, continue to fall further behind the curve on creating cohesive marketing communications plans in a multi-touch-point environment.  Organizations have added (and continue to add) a group of specialists as each “new” media emerges.  These specialists have in turn hired additional specialist agencies, which have fueled the growth of the “marketing services” businesses for agency holding companies.

So where did all that specialization get us?  Most marketing organizations now operate in silos – each responsible for a different form of communication – making it a complex task to bring a communications plan together.  At the time, bringing in specialists seemed to make sense; we could imagine the rationale for adding yet another specialty group sounding something like this:

Well, [insert relevant specialty here] is such a small component of our budget today, and we don’t really understand it that well, and it takes special skills, so rather than institutionalize it in our people, let’s just go hire a few new folks who know this stuff and have them do it.”

Why spend time and resources training people on a field that is only a fraction of the communications budget?  Well, taken together, these “specialties” are now a significant component of most communications plans, yet they are still largely designed and executed in functional silos and only “integrated” at the end of the process.  What was meant to bring us closer to the consumer has now fragmented our marketing plans and taken us further from what marketers set out to do.

Not surprisingly, marketers are saying “¦”there’s got to be a better way”.

There is.

But let’s start by offering a perspective on what “integration” means.  First, we don’t draw a distinction between “integrated marketing” and “marketing”. Integration means moving seamlessly with the consumer through the purchase funnel. It means delivering the information consumers need through the touch-points they use. It means understanding the places where consumers drop off the purchase funnel and addressing those specifically.  Put another way, marketing that is not integrated is just bad marketing.

Below, we briefly highlight three concepts which will help marketing organizations more consistently create integrated communications.

Integration is incredibly challenging so we hope you’ll read these as we intend them –as a conversation starter.  We hope to continue the dialogue on this thread, in some other social media universe (my twitter handle is steven_goldbach) or perhaps even in person, say at Brandworks.


Most marketing departments today are organized by functional silos, each advocating why its role is relevant for the consumer.  In this structure, it is hard for each part of the marketing department to have the higher level view of how its work fits into the overall drive to change consumer behavior.  Teams organized around the various target consumers, on the other hand, can adapt as the consumer evolves or to address contextual project and program needs.  More importantly, they are not committed to certain methods of reaching and engaging with consumers based on organizational constructs.  Some companies have embraced this mechanism of organization; P&G has started to do this in its Beauty & Grooming business, organizing around “Him” and “Her” so that the needs of the consumer can be seen from a holistic perspective.  Xerox has done so in its effort to target small-to-medium sized businesses.  Thinking about a consumer or customer’s needs holistically is an important first step towards driving integration.


As the communications environment has become more complicated, marketers now view everything as important to their integrated marketing communications. In that same ANA survey, marketers were asked how important 14 different touch-points were to their communications plans.  10 of 14 received a top 2 box score of more than 50%.  As we said –everything’s important.  However, when we ask marketers what media their target consumers use and for what purpose, the typical response is that they know which media they are “on” but not how they use those media for information gathering in their specific category.

We believe that it is critical to develop a blueprint for how consumers move through their information gathering process.  Where do they become aware?  Where do they seek information as they are considering trial?  Through which media do they advocate products they like?  Marketers need to have this comprehensive map so that their participation in a particular touch-point is consistent with how the consumer uses the touch-point in the category.  We call this blueprint “Channel Pathwaysâ„¢” (see picture below).  Having this picture provides marketing teams with the necessary guidance for creating marketing plans that are specifically designed for getting the consumer from awareness through to purchase, loyalty and advocacy in the most effective way possible.


Let me apologize in advance.  As a Canadian, I can’t resist a good hockey analogy, so I hope those of you who aren’t sports fans will “humour” me.  How does a football team work together?   Every player has a specific role to play on the field. How does a hockey team work together? While there are set plays, hockey players are more reactive to their environment. They have roles and responsibilities, but if the situation changes, they can adapt (e.g, a defenseman joining the rush if the opportunity warrants).   Marketing organizations resemble football teams in how they have evolved to deal with the complicated world – many specialists doing very specific tasks. We suggest that in an environment where the pace of change is increasing, you need more hockey players.   For instance, what do you do with people who are experts in direct mail if that touch-point suddenly becomes less relevant to engage the consumer in your category?  We know all too well that once you name someone to do a particular job, there’s a bit of friction to change what they do even if the world is changing.  Put differently, if it’s someone’s job to buy TV, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll have some TV in your marketing plan.

“Playing hockey not football” means you need people in your marketing organization who are comfortable with a more fluid communications environment and capable of learning how to use new communications touch-points as they emerge.  We need to shift from specialized, inflexible players and agency resources to a fluid team with quick thinking, fast-acting players.  This will allow marketers to flex their communications to the needs of the consumer, and to do so quickly.  One thing that we feel confident in is that we can’t predict all the new and emerging communications platforms.  And if we react by adding even more specialists, it will only exacerbate the complicated situation we’ve created.  We can’t afford not to expect our people to adapt.

Marketing leaders who want to truly drive sustainable change need to remember that change requires pulling multiple levers.  You have to build the capabilities of your people in addition to changing their reporting lines.  You have to change the incentives and metrics of your agencies, in addition to changing the talent.  Finally, you have to change work processes and organizational structure.  This is why so many relatively “new” organizations are creating great marketing.  Think Method.  Think Vibram FiveFingers®.  They are unencumbered by their own legacy organizations and are much more nimble as a result.  What we’re describing is by no means a quick fix, nor its it easy, but something that marketing organizations need to address quickly and comprehensively if they wish to stay competitive and maintain engagement with their consumers.


Steven Goldbach is Partner of Monitor Group in New York.  He is the co-leader of Monitor’s New York office and leads its North American CPG practice.

Over the last several years, Steven has worked primarily in the Consumer Packaged Goods, Media, Retail, and Sports sectors with an emphasis on how companies should reach and engage with consumers in an evolving digital environment.  Steven recently worked with a world-leading global Consumer Goods company to reinvent their approach to consumer communications and agency configuration.  Steven has also led business unit, corporate and marketing strategy projects for a major cable MSO, a global media conglomerate, a professional sports organization, a leading specialty retailer and a global agency.  Steven has been a frequent speaker on the topic of organizing for 21st century communication at Brandworks and other marketing conferences.

In addition to his work at Monitor, Steve was previously with Forbes Magazine Group as Director of Strategy.

Steven holds a Masters of Business Administration from Columbia Business School where he was awarded the Beta Gamma Sigma New York Alumni Award upon graduation for exceptional scholastic achievement, leadership and commitment to the community.  Steven also holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University.  He and his wife Michelle live in New York City.


Monitor works with the world’s leading corporations, governments and social sector organizations to drive growth in ways that are most important to them. The firm offers a range of services—advisory, capability-building and capital services—designed to unlock the challenges of achieving sustained growth.


Get News + Insights Right Where You Want Them (Your Inbox)

Brand Strategy

Brand strategy isn’t something we do from time to time, it’s one of the cornerstones of our business. So we think about it a lot.

learn more


We've been growing brands for a long time. You could be next.

About LSB