Thursday, September 21, 2006

Collaboration versus Integration

I have been speaking a lot about this idea lately and finally have put it in a post.

When we talk of integrated marketing (or integration of anything for that matter), the premise is that we begin with an idea that has already been cast and make it work in other areas.

The idea itself is usually formed with a specific media in mind to get the message across. The plan is then to take the idea and rework it to "fit" in other areas, channels and media.

Sometimes it works, many times it does not. Why? Simply, the square peg does not always fit into the round hole. The helicopter (or the "hey-co-co" as my two year son calls them) is not meant to be parked in an underground garage. A good idea can be made great if it is transferable across multiple platforms. The reverse is also true.

When I hear the word "integration" I really believe we have been trained to think in the wrong context. The mindset must change. Don't believe me? Look up the dictionary definition of both words and then ask yourself why we have been doing this for so long. Integration is about blending. Collaboration is about creation.

Collaborative marketing is an altogether different beast. A global objective is set with multiple disciplines at the table at the same time to invent the right idea and delivery of that idea. Predispositions to particular areas are still present, but the focus is to generate something that will work everywhere (or at least identify right off the bat where it won't work). Idea generation/creation is king. Everyone has an equal say with respect to the right ingredients.

I do not think this is sematics or conjecture. This is the future of marketing, product development and pretty much anything else. And, consumers are the biggest part of the collaborative conversation. Ask Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of General Motors (and corporate blogger of Fast Lane) if he is a collaborator or an integrator? I'd bet a whole bunch that he is the former, not the latter.

More importantly, what would you rather be?

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At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Ward A. said...

Great perspective, but I don't think you need to introduce another discipline to fix the issue. Simply take the creative process up a level. Don't start with an idea, start with the story you want to tell or the conversation you want to have. Then determine how that story can be told in multiple media.

Starting with an idea limits you to exactly that - one idea that may or may not (emphasis on the latter) work in other formats. Starting with a story gives you the opportunity to create a campaign that is truly integrated. It's not a print ad rejigged as an e-banner, it's one central message expressed differently for the greatest impact in each communication vehicle.

It may require tweaking our concept of what a campaign is...but is that a bad thing?

Thanks for the post.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Michael Seaton said...

Hi Ward,
I was not trying to introduce another discipline, more of a new approach to the process. You raise a good point with story v. idea.

I was working with the premise that you have to have an idea (product / nugget of an idea) on which to base a story on.

Seth Godin's "All Marketers Are Liars" is an excellent roadmap for crafting a unique story, although it may be a chicken and egg scenario... does the story come first or does the product idea? Do you start with something that needs positioning, or does postioning create something?

All good for the debate!
Thanks for your comments.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger The Verve said...

Interesting post Michael and a topic that is very close to my heart. As an "integrated specialist" it is my job to make sure that we (e-commerce) are aligned with retail and the other marketing channels. This can be quite challenging in a company the size of Home Depot.

In most of our major planning sessions, we have representatives from each marketing function as well as our respective agencies. By gathering our troops at the brainstorming stage, we are able to promote good collaboration. I have also noticed a vast improvement in messaging constancy by encouraging our agencies to have open dialogue and shared assets.

Without this initial collaboration, the final integration would not be possible. I don't think it is a matter of one vs the other - they are both required and at each stage of the process.


At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Tamera Kremer said...

I agree that collaboration is missing from traditional ways of thinking about marketing and that too often integration is forcefit into channels the message isn't meant for, or where its less effective. But, like Jason, I am convinced that integration and collaboration are partners at the table (as are our customers), with each presenting unique attributes and strengths.

My own thinking these days regarding integrating media/ mediums is that they should be agnostic while your customer profile or persona is not. And by necessity with our media saturated and multi-tasking overloaded world the customer profile informs the medium which helps inform the big idea.



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