Unified Marketing: Buzzword or Bellwether?

by Kenyon Blunt on September 16, 2010

Kenyon Blunt, SIGMA Marketing CEO

Kenyon Blunt

The newest buzz-phrase to hit the marketing scene is Unified Marketing. If you’re like me, my first thought is that this is just some new spin on something old, like integrated marketing, relationship marketing or customer relationship management.  And it is.  If you take what we’ve learned so far as integrated marketing, and add social media, paid search, online advertising, mobile marketing, etc.,  to it, then you have unified marketing (in simple terms).  However, putting that into practice is a whole different story (check out some of the related Fifth Gear posts under Related Articles.).

What needs unifying in today’s marketing world?  First, with the explosion of marketing channels, there’s a real need to unify the brand.  Marketers are still struggling to execute a consistent brand image across channels or product silos.  Someone has to become the brand steward or it will get out of control in a hurry. The entire organization must become focused on consistent delivery of the brand and its promise to customers.

Marketing Product Silos

Marketing Product Silos

This has been complicated by the fact that interactive channels have frequently been organized in product silos.  In many organizations, these product silos may function something like this:

  • An Internet group builds email campaigns – including creative design.
  • A direct mail piece will be created by the marketing department – again, marketing will do the creative work in its own silo.
  • A mobile message or online survey also gets created, but this might require less creative and more technology, so it’s delivered by an IT or applications development silo.

A single customer will interact with multiple campaigns in many channels and across different brands.  What happens?  These online marketing efforts tend to duplicate operations and are incongruous with a brand’s identity.  If you look at the model above, sadly, the marketing group is not working with the Internet group, which isn’t communicating with the mobile group.  The intent may be to deliver the same brand message, but if the three marketing silos are working separately, how can the brand message or campaigns possibly be unified?  In the end, the customer will be confused.

It’s time to recognize that our customers also need to be unified.  In terms that may date me, do we use “push” strategies from the old offline days or do we try the new “pull” methods of inbound marketing – or both?   Can we rely simply on inbound marketing – which Wikipedia defines as a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by the customer.

Forrester’s research article titled Marketing Mandate:  Connect the Dots,  recently called out “integrated marketing as a good thing that rarely happens.”  Customers are now taking center stage, so we can’t unify how we market to them because they dictate the terms.  Customers must be put at the center of everything.  As such, social computing must be embraced within all departments of an organization.  If you think about it, the only thing we can unify is our opinions on how to address customers.

Finally, we come to what Unified Marketing is all about – unifying the data.  I often cite the statistic from Forrester that more data was created last year than in the history of the world up until now.  What happens to it?  Most of it is garbage, and what is good is seldom, if ever, put into an integrated customer database housing both online and offline data.  Here are the obstacles that are preventing Unified Marketing from actually occurring:

  • Organizational silos within companies inhibit sharing of data
  • Inadequate campaign management tools for using the data
  • Linking online and offline data requires new linking mechanisms (name and address doesn’t work anymore)
  • Data is often housed with third party vendors (typically SaaS) which makes it difficult to access
  • Data is siloed by channel.

So there are some very significant roadblocks to implementing Unified Marketing.  They will be overcome by shrewd marketers eventually, who will unify the brand across multiple channels, take a new approach based on customer centricity and who find new ways to integrate online and offline data. Is the term a buzzword or bellwether?  You make the call.  My vote is that it’s both until some of these obstacles are overcome.


Forrester Research:  Marketing Mandates:  Connect the Dots

Wikipedia:  Integrated Marketing

Forrester Research:   Organizing for Interactive Marketing

About the Author:

Kenyon Blunt is the CEO of the database marketing analytics firm: SIGMA Marketing Group. Connect with Kenyon on  or follow him on .

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