Integrated communications: The plot thickens

Companies spend millions to ensure a consistent brand experience. Universities have created full curriculums and higher education degrees to teach the next generation of marketers how to develop smart, integrated campaigns. But in all of this, there's often a missing piece.

The storyline.

Integrated communications shouldn't be viewed as a strategic plan leading to tactics, a budget and a timeline, but rather a novel — a fluid experience for the author to deliver and the consumer to enjoy; a story built on engaging prose that excites and delights at every turn.

Every great story builds characters the reader cares about and roots for. It has a protagonist and an antagonist. It has archetypes and a story arch. It has a plot that twists and turns so the reader is transfixed to each page (or device) until the end. It has structure. It has purpose. Whether that purpose is to enlighten us or change us or entertain us, it is the connection to the message as it relates to our own lives that we seek.

Communications is the same in many respects. We have our target audiences (the reader). We have the characters and the plot (the brand). And we have the emotional connection that, if communicated well, changes us in some way.

There are brilliant examples in the marketplace of creating a storyline through integrated communications. Coke took soda and personalized it, made you want to share it and made you want to embrace it as part of the family. Digital billboards, social media, guerrilla campaigns and are all tactics that are consistent, integrated and on brand, but that's not what's so wonderful about this campaign. It's the fact that Coke wrote a narrative around soda with a simple insight: sharing.

A smaller, scrappier brand that wrapped a great narrative around a simple idea is the Dollar Shave Club. This online subscription-based shaving solution for men, and now women, took a $33.3 billion shaving market by storm. Dollar Shave has used a simple concept: Shave Time. Shave Money., and told a dynamic, funny and functional story around it.

Dollar Shave Club used creativity and drama to single-handedly change the way we view and purchase an everyday household item. It's just one example of how the right integrated effort can compete against time-tested products and brands.

Brand storylines connect with people the way a mere product cannot. But it takes insights, it takes commitment and it takes a keen understanding of how the story should end. It is OK to read the last chapter first and then write the story.

I have a saying, "You can buy things, but you can't buy taste." Anyone can buy the book, but not anyone can write a complex character like Gatsby, express hardship experienced by the Joads in the epic "Grapes of Wrath," or create a funny or heart-wrenching storyline that makes you want to #believe.

Those that can...


-Kathleen Dohearty, BC managing director