It’s been 120 (!) years since marketing integration first began with industrial companies sending Direct Mail (DM) campaigns alongside traditional sales efforts. And we’re almost three decades beyond the dot com boom, when the web became more open to general use. 

However, when it comes to truly integrated marketing, it can often feel like the landscape is still in its infancy. Whether it’s adapting TV campaigns to digital in a bolt-on way that feels clunky and doesn’t offer audiences much of an interaction beyond that of being a viewer or thinking about how a digitally-led initiative could have a seamless physical component  – like a QR code, but hopefully better.

More and more of what we’re doing as an agency — and in how we partner with clients — is considering how owned, earned, and paid channels are working together and supporting each other. 

For our non-profit clients this approach is often employed at hero times in the year, such as Ramadan, Winter or End Of Year. For our brand clients, this might mean applying an audience lens across channels so we are creating an experience that turns what would be just another activation or campaign into a cohesive journey. We’re taking audiences from awareness to either advocacy, loyalty, or purchase in a multichannel way.

So what have we learned?

Print and search are perfect partners

Just considering how these channels work together can get you a lot further than thinking about them as sole entities. We see an immediate halo effect on search campaigns when there is press or print activity as we’re able to reach and convert audiences more efficiently. And we’re not just talking about millennials either (but we’re definitely not talking about Gen Z, that’s more of a TikTok conversation we can have later). In fact, online search has truly expanded to boomers and beyond — 50% of individuals over 60 and 70 are now turning to digital search first. This is no longer an adapted behavior but a way of life since we all got used to interacting and shopping online in the pandemic.

We see search and upper funnel activations work hand-in-hand to scale for new audiences — by raising the profile of your brand or organization you are able to drive outcomes like fundraising or action-taking. Print captures attention and search acts as the catalyst for converting it. 

Digital insight is fast – let it help you

When you’ve completed a campaign that involves Direct Mail (DM), Out-of-home (OOH) or press engagement, it can take a few weeks (sometimes months — eek!) to really understand what happened and what insights inform your marketing strategy moving forward. Digital is quick. Not only is it fast, but it is still largely trackable (granted, there are a few more gaps than there used to be, thanks to cookies being on the way out and GDPR). 

Digital can help you quickly size and understand audiences and their behaviors. You can learn the messages that are more likely to move them to take action or extract creative insights that help you reach scale more efficiently. But these learnings shouldn’t inform just digital alone.

We’ve leveraged insights from digital to brief a PR team on regional hotspots that could inform press planning (newspapers, radio, broadcast) and compiled activity or audience insights to help in-house or partner agencies understand the publications we should be prioritizing with advertorials or outreach. 

Investment versus integration 

These insights can also be crucial in helping to inform where a brand or NGO may want to spend more on campaign assets. Let’s take Direct Mail (DM) as an example — if you’re creating new templates or producing materials different to previous years, there is a not insignificant production cost in doing so.However, digital can act as a testing ground to help refine propositions, messaging, creative layout, and even CTAs before you go to print.

Digital can also help you understand the potential for projected return for a new initiative. By running an upfront pilot on digital only, your organization can see returns and potential, and then estimate how much you could or should spend on the materials to bring it to life at a wider scale. 

Keep a keen eye on measurement

So, let’s say you’re at the point where you’ve tested on digital and chosen a number of broader channels to invest in —be that DM or OOH — and your campaign is almost ready to go live. Measurement infrastructure is going to be crucial at this point — without the right holistic infrastructure to track impact, it is going to be hard to know if the integrated campaign has met its goal.

Whether it’s through unique link tracking, brand uplift studies, dashboards or pixel tracking, it is worth spending the time reviewing and prioritizing the metrics that matter to make sure you have the means to see change.

All this to say, we think  digital can  help your budget go further and achieve more — if you need help planning a cross-channel campaign please do reach out