What Integrated Marketing Really Means in Events
As a marketer, you appreciate good storytelling. And you know the best brand stories transcend every consumer touchpoint, both online and offline.
That’s where the idea of integration comes in. Integrated marketing has become a popular buzzword that encompasses a wide range of marketing objectives and initiatives. The goal is to create an experience so seamless that attendees don’t even realize they ran through several marketing channels to achieve your brand’s goals.
Because the term is unfamiliar in nature, misconceptions have nestled their way into the definition. And falling for these could spell trouble for your event program.
To debunk this buzzword and get your event marketing efforts truly integrated, let’s break down the term and get to the heart of what integrated marketing is all about.
What Integrated Marketing Is and Isn’t in Event Marketing
Integrated marketing is an overarching term used to describe different categories of marketing (e.g. content, events, social media, and more) that work together to achieve unified business goals.
Many event marketers mistakenly believe that using various social, digital, and live channels to promote an event qualifies as integrated marketing. Or, if two mediums surrounding an event complement each other, such as print ads and social media, they write it off as an integrated approach. But that’s not integrated marketing.
As Steve McKee puts it, “integration is not simply slapping a common tagline onto all your ads, using a single color palette, or force-fitting a message that’s suited for one medium into another.”
Rather, integration means delivering a consistent message in a consistent voice throughout every marketing channel. Your event program is only integrated if you:
- Provide a seamless experience from the time attendees hear about your event and register, throughout the physical and digital event experiences, and long after they leave.
- Use social media and online tools such as microsites and surveys to discover what your attendees want to see and learn about at your event.
- Make it easy for attendees to share their offline experiences online.
- Capture as much feedback as possible during and after the event.
Integrated Marketing in Action — The New York Times and SXSW
To help you understand the power of truly integrated marketing, let’s take a look at The New York Times activation at SXSW. The brand tasked us to create an interactive experience to showcase the high level of customization in its new mobile site and apps, and engage next-gen readers. So, we invited attendees to create a highly personalized, shareable version of its recently redesigned NYTimes.com homepage via digital interpretations of the classic flipbook.
During and after the event, physical and digital traffic from the engagements soared, reaching 275,541 people on Facebook and 481,135 on Twitter. Over the following year, The New York Times exceeded its subscription and sales goals by 150 percent. By successfully integrating its marketing across multiple consumer touchpoints, including social media, its website and app, and in-person activation, The New York Times made a massive impression on its audience and drove real business value.
So how was this integrated? To start, The New York Times implemented a solid PR strategy, for the launch of their newly redesigned site, ahead of the event. By tapping multiple press outlets that were focused on what’s popular at SXSW – tech, social and digital media, they were able to get the word out effectively. To add to the PR success, the publication also promoted trial subscriptions and special offers.
At the event, attendees were first asked to select a category of the Times, relative to their interests. Participants then stepped into a specifically designed video booth with relevant props and were asked to take a 7-second cut. The cuts were turned into GIFs, which could be viewed and customized with tablets placed solely for that purpose. The final “selfie” videos were placed into faux NY Times digital homepages that were easily shared to family and friends.
Taking it a step further, digital sections of final videos were cut into physical pages, then collated into personalized flipbooks, 1,835 in total. Capping off the perfect metaphor for the NY Times product – a hybrid print & digital experience. And with the trial subscriptions and special offers strategically placed throughout the entire process, business goals were still emphasized without the event losing its “cool factor”.
Like the New York Times experience, integrated marketing is ultimately about erasing distinctions from channel to channel and making interactions with your brand natural at every touchpoint. This means delivering consistent messaging before, during, and after an event and bridging the gap between the offline and online experience. Integrated marketing in events, like other types, is a formula of learning, implementing and fine-tuning. And when that formula is perfect, your attendees won’t know what hit them…but luckily, you will.