Multiple Channels Challenge Marketing

10 January 2001
The following article originally appeared at

In the past several years, the adoption of the Web created the challenge of ensuring brand consistency through the synchronization of online messages with traditional marketing messages disseminated via radio, print and TV. Unless the Nasdaq correction has caused you to take cover underneath a rock, you've probably noticed that Internet evangelists are now spouting off about anytime, anywhere Internet access via mobile devices, interactive TV, kiosks, and even devices such as game consoles and vending machines.

Marketers are now faced with an even greater challenge than integrating the Web into their marketing campaigns-with the advent of multiple digital channels, how should content and marketing messages be integrated into a completely brave new world of content, commerce and community delivered via channels that each profess unique functionality and utility?

The short answer is-I have no idea. For a little reality-based trend spouting of my own, please read on.


In the early days of the Web, one of the major challenges interactive agencies faced was our ability/inability to deliver on the promise of integrated marketing communications. By that I don't mean simply repurposing graphic images from a print campaign onto a Web site or delivering consistent calls to action. In this age of all-pervasive media and information overload, the first challenge lies in our ability to successfully cross-pollinate each medium to ensure messages come across if for no other reason than smart creative and dogged persistence.

The greater challenge lies in our ability to help clients deliver on the promise of integrated marketing campaigns, leveraging what traditional media is good at-great reach and saturation-while maximizing Web utility-interactive, user-initiated, personalized experiences that allow for a deeper experience of the company and key brand attributes.

On the Web we can experience brands in real time while targeting most valuable customers and measuring the effectiveness of our work. Have we delivered? In all honesty, most interactive agencies and internal marketing teams have barely scratched the surface of delivering on the promise of the Web. Even the most progressive integrated marketers maxed achievement with campaigns like the hybrid TV/Web initiative. We're still trying to inspire many clients to move beyond brochureware and understand that having a Web site is not the same as having an Internet strategy.

Offline/Web/Multiple Digital Channels

Now, with the advent of multiple digital channels, all bets are off. The bar has gotten raised even before we mastered the "simple" stuff. Now marketing campaigns, content, and brand attributes must be integrated across offline media, the Web, AND wireless devices, iTV, kiosks and the like. The mission of marketers just got a whole lot more challenging, and much more exciting!

As the explosion of the Web created more information overload than even the most voracious reader can process, the adoption of new digital channels has created a zero sum game since consumers have only so much time and intellectual bandwidth to consume a deluge of content, products and services. As interactive marketers it's critical that we examine what each channel is good at, to exploit the unique characteristics each offers and not simply serve up miniaturized Web pages on two-inch mobile phone screens.

Spend Some Time in Their Shoes

The first step is to think like a cultural anthropologist and conduct thorough research to truly understand your target audiences and how and why they use the Web, how and why they use other digital channels and the context in which they use them.

When Mobility Works Best

We've heard it before-the value proposition for the mobile Internet is simple, personalized information that's best served in a time-sensitive and location-based contest. So while I find SMS, travel updates, stock updates and city information most useful, I'm not really interested in e-commerce and video, even if delivered over state-of-the-art 3G networks.

Mobile is about taking the ubiquitous Internet to the next level and deepening the relationships companies have with their customers by providing them with the services and information they need, when they need it-when they are on the move, need a piece of information, and need more context in order to make a purchasing decision.

ITV on My Own Terms

In the early '90s Internet entertainment execs salivated over 500 plus channels of programming and pundits predicted that video on demand would put Blockbuster out of business. ITV is now back in fashion, albeit at much lower expectations. Featuring functionality such as two-screen convergence (online polls/quizzes while watching an actual TV program) or time shifted viewing (TiVo, Replay TV) that allow you to play, record and pause programs at your leisure, ITV allows users to interact with the programming and tailor content and advertising to individual preferences.

However, TV, whether interactive or old school, probably will not be the active, user-initiated experience the Web can/should be since the TV experience has a widely accepted culture, more driven towards pure entertainment. ITV faces similar challenges as the mobile Internet in that navigation and IA will be even more important than it is on the Web. Taking a cue from ITV developments in Europe, one of the leading consumer applications could be digital program guides that help people find a useful program amid the ever-increasing glut of programming.

Kiosks and Convenience Stores as E-commerce Hubs

American companies should look at business models established outside the United States for clues on how consumers will adopt non-PC based Internet delivery. Japanese convenience stores or konbini, for instance, have tapped into several distinct characteristics of Japanese life (convenience stores on every corner, consumer distrust of online credit card usage) to deliver services like those undertaken by 7-Eleven Japan and its creation of and installation of Internet kiosks in each of its 8,000 locations. Customers who visit can extend their shopping experience with 7-Eleven by perusing more than 100,000 products and services online, then scheduling pickup and payment of Internet purchases at their neighborhood 7-Eleven store.

What Does it all Mean?

The relationship companies have with their customers, employees and business partners will be like wireless technology itself-an always-on connection built through a series of integrated experiences over time. How will companies ensure that you remember each interaction I have with your company? Present me with one customer ID/user profile? Optimize content for the device I happen to be using? The ubiquitous Internet may be a godsend for some, a disaster for others. The victors will be companies with "sticky" content and applications, intuitive user experiences, and a respect for my privacy and admittedly short attention span.

Robert Manning is Group Account Director in the Atlanta office of AGENCY.COM, a global Internet professional services organization.