Drive Sales With An Integrated Communications Strategy | ICF


 

ICF Next
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Gregory Lee Hendricks
Senior Partner Integrated Communications ICF Next

 

It is a critical and stressful time for brands as the continued economic forecasts and societal upheavals change how, when, and where brands interact to close a sale. With consumers continually reevaluating all purchase decisions, it's enough to cause sleepless nights for brand managers over the next several months. But the right communications strategy can be the antidote to combat the angst and concern that may plague them.

In today's economic landscape, inflation and tightened budgets impact the sale of everything—from a t-shirt all the way to a house. While the right communications strategy is not a sale guarantee, it can act as an insulator for brands and protect sales. Sometimes, the answer is simply communicating effectively, no matter what is happening in the world around us.

A brand’s integrated communications strategy is often the main amplifier of brand values and emotional connections with audiences, and it may be the investment that yields the greatest return. When done right, the communications strategies and executions perform seamless heavy-lifting—working hard in the background to provide authentic, consistent messaging to connect consumers with the brand and reinforce action, advocacy, and loyalty. When done poorly or without enough thought, the wrong messages can be destructive, leading to a loss of sales and loyalty.

Ignore comms at your own risk

When times get tough, we often see brands revert to what they are comfortable with—relying on what has worked in the past or some variation. Take the 30-second ad for example. While brands may no longer produce that ad for NBC, they use the same format on TikTok. It is easy and comfortable, but not necessarily what consumers look for in that environment. Ignoring how and when consumers want to engage with your brand sparks unnecessary risks.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone with smart, calculated risks driven by an evolved communications strategy can better resonate with the changing needs of consumers, boosting sales and helping brands thrive. But, in order to pull this off, brands must use communications as their tuning fork to make sure marketing attempts are not tone-deaf. In this way, communications should be both proactive and reactive.

It is the job of communicators to push marketers and advertisers to not only use the right words but avoid the wrong ones. Think of the current nostalgia trend we see many brands hop onto. When done right, it is incredibly effective. But with the wrong tonality and a lack of authenticity, consumers see right through it and a brand appears tone-deaf, attempting to pull at heartstrings that aren't there.

As we go through societal changes and purse strings tighten, brands often pull comms internally, thinking fewer voices is better. And while “too many cooks in the kitchen” can muddy a brand’s message, having a diverse audience reviewing communications can make or break how they land. The wrong messaging can kill a brand quickly in today's world. Having a full spectrum of multicultural and multi-generational perspectives—not always possible for smaller, in-house teams—can work as a safeguard for brands.

Communications isn’t a one-and-done

Let’s be clear: A well-defined integrated communications strategy is much more than an article, press release, white paper, or social media post. Integrated communications span the entirety of the customer journey—impacting every step along the way—and must be developed with that in mind. Modern integrated communications strategies must include keywords on your Instagram caption, hashtags on your TikTok, and personalized messaging in targeted ads—all of which support your foundational marketing strategies to drive and deliver sales.

Successful brands actively deliver their value proposition while meeting the unique needs of consumers along the journey. This includes enhanced messaging that connects through shared beliefs across all integrated marketing activities. Giving consumers a sense of comfort and control can make all the difference in purchasing decisions. So, empower and engage consumers by showing up for them with the right messages at the right time and in the right places, igniting participation through relevant, meaningful connection.

Comms is more than one-size-fits-all

With the increase of digital channels and the always-on mentality, consumers constantly redefine their individual customer journeys. When brand communications are inconsistent across those journeys, the outcome is a disjointed experience. Brands must understand how to reframe their messages and tailor them to each unique customer—wherever they are along their journey.

This can be achieved by brands leveraging the wealth of customer data they have available to them. While the imagery for an ad may be the same across different demographics, tailoring the accompanying messaging can make all the difference. After all, the messaging for a mom in the midwest will be different than the messaging for a single man on the east coast. This is why a multicultural and multi-generational approach is essential. Consumers want brands that understand them and where they are on the path to purchase, communicating their shared beliefs in a personalized way. Powerful tools such as advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) can help bring this to scale and should be a key consideration on your brand’s roadmap.

Look for our upcoming primary research

Shared values and beliefs are a focus for how we build and spark participation across our organization. The role of these beliefs in how people make decisions about the brands they choose to do business with has likely changed over recent years due to a number of monumental impacts (e.g., pandemic, racial tensions, political tensions, economic changes). Our experts are embarking on new primary research to uncover any shifts in attitudes and how those shifts may impact decision-making across generations, as well as between products, services, and other solutions.

The results of this study, slated to be published in early 2023, will build on our proprietary Humanizing Loyalty research. 

TOPIC: ICF NEXT