Our clients do it at least yearly. Some approach it bottom up; others do top down. Either way, if you want budget, you generally have to submit a plan.
What exactly is this plan? Whether you call it an integrated marketing communications plan (IMC), an engagement plan or simply a marketing plan, it’s the formal document that justifies and guides the marketing investment. It also establishes the strategic rationale for recommended programs, campaigns and tactics that are expected to deliver against business objectives.
It usually includes a master/brand plan and several subordinate product or service-line plans, each laying out the logic from objectives, goals and strategies, to measurement/key performance indicators. It may not be sexy, but according to the results of a recent study by Avi Dan, “Integrated marketing communications has turned into the area of greatest importance for CMOs, who desperately seek a holistic approach to engage consumers.”
In fact, when asked what’s the most important thing they want from an agency, 68 percent of CMOs put IMC ahead of “effective advertising.”
Over the years, we’ve seen some changes in IMC planning at the tactical level, but in Q4 of 2013 we saw signs of a larger strategic shift emerging. For some of our more progressive clients, content’s role has been elevated from just one of many tactics to be viewed as the content/audience conversation that’s the central, guiding principle behind integrated plan development.
Surprisingly, little has been published on the subject of content marketing as part of IMC planning, but there are signs it’s becoming a hot topic. So far, the worlds of traditional advertising, marketing communications planning and content marketing haven’t clearly established their relationship. A recent article titled “What Content Marketing Needs to Rule in the Post-Advertising Age” advocates that “the content marketing business has yet to seize — or even squarely face — the future of advertising.” It goes on to say:
“In a digital world where anyone can ignore anything, advertising must be as valuable to an audience as a good book, movie or news story. It must simultaneously and unambiguously embody the brand that paid for it and measurably advance the brand’s business goals, including getting more people to buy and buy again … By all rights, content marketing should be the clear solution to this new set of needs. But the truth is that neither the traditional agencies nor the upstart content marketers can provide a unified advertising solution that meets the demands of the digital-first world … None of these content experts has engaged with branding and brand management, media planning, research and strategy or, ultimately, producing the sales results that brands demand.”
An emerging perspective that I’ve worked most closely with is that a relevant and compelling brand/audience conversation is essential to strategy. It’s critical to brand positioning as well as holistic, audience-centric engagement and experience. In addition, a carefully orchestrated, well-planned content marketing program can and should become the central organizing principle that guides integrated plan development and messaging across channels. Where do you think the future of integrated communications is headed?
Judy Begehr is SVP account planning at gyro Cincinnati.