Context is king because people don’t buy products but images of products. And organizations can apply the 4 or 5 P’s of the marketing-mix to build these images. Then all P’s together should be the expression of the same proposition. In other words: the marketing-mix should be one ‘Gesammt Kunstwerk’. In order to create this, organizations should create a strong concept and translate this into a consistent marketing-mix. The P’s then are like fingers on the same conceptual hand. With this hand the company can touch or even grab, seize or captivate the individual.
But creating and communicating such a strong concept has become more challenging because nowadays everyone can be a professional and start a business. Consequently the number of freelance web-designers, photographers, copywriters, product-designers, engineers etc. is growing and growing. Until recently all these creatives would work together in the same company or agency under a manager and they would do that for several years. But now they operate in ever changing teams (just like the original ‘free lancers’ did: they were mercenaries who’s lance was not sworn to any lord’s services, but to the one with the best offer).
Internet is a strong driver to this development. It made information independent of time and space, and made it possible to work at home, during holiday on a tropical island or whenever and wherever you wish. Physical shops and jobs are replaced by virtual ones, and networks of creatives replace agencies.
Marketeers and communication professionals may think that this development is a problem, because the advertisement agency is no longer dominant in building a brand with an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach. According to this approach all communication disciplines – such as advertisement, sponsoring, event management, direct mailing, PR, etc. – should be integrated and all media used should be orchestrated. Most agencies take an important role in this integration and orchestration. When agencies lose this role, destruction of brand equity seems luring.
The organizational perspective however it is not focused on communication disciplines, nor does it focus on media. Leaders of organizations focus on achieving organizational goals. For that end organizations use the instruments of the marketing-mix, and ‘media’ are just an element of Promotion in the whole mix.
Leaders of organizations will be more in charge of their own communication and marketing policy. This demands a more strategic vision on communication and marketing. Indeed the already mentioned IMC approach goes beyond media and disciplines but it focuses on achieving marketing and communication goals – which are subject to organizational objectives. Two approaches seem to pay more attention to the organizational perspective: Corporate Communication and Integrated Communication, both take the organizational objectives as a starting point and explain how these can be achieved by applying communication.
New approach needed
All these approaches however are rooted in an era before the omnipresence of internet. Internet changes how organizations produce and how they are organized (see Organizations take Directing Role). Basically internet is a medium and the growing importance of internet made people think in terms of Cross-Media (or: crossmedia, cross media) instead of communication. In a way, this sets us back for many years because it places media in the center and not the organization.
In short Cross-Media is the integration of online and offline media. Some people say that cross-media is about sending the same message through all offline and online media, but this seems to reduce communication to sheer sending; whereas communication can be seen as a process of sharing information and group-formation – especially relevant in the case of interactive media. And an organization can be seen as a group of groups.
It is time to bring our thinking about Cross-Media to the next level. To begin with: what are media? Media might be defined as channels through which messages pass from sender to receiver (several senders and receivers can be engaged at the same time and they can switch roles continuously). But this promotes a simplistic idea of communication because messages are not transported from a sender to a receiver!
Indeed a ‘sender’ produces content for media and a ‘receiver’ consumes media; but every individual receiver creates his own meaning. This meaning can be inspired on the sender’s content but it is not a carbon copy of it. Everyone creates meaning from what he observes – and media are only one of the many things he observes. Individuals create meaning by comparing observations with convictions and values that he holds, influenced by his social and cultural background, education, personal experiences, etc. So, people make sense of what they observe by putting these observations into context and this context varies from individual to individual.
Image is key
Consumers don’t buy products but images of products, employees are not loyal to their employer but to their image of the employer. Bloggers and journalists voluntarily write positively or negatively about something because they feel good or bad about it. An individual’s behavior towards an organization – and its products, services and brands – is strongly influenced by his attitude towards the image he has of this organization/ product/ service/ brand. (Other influences for example are rewards and punishments; according to research of Pavlov and of Skinner.)
So, the organization’s existence strongly depends on the behavior of its employees, customers, and of bloggers, journalists and other stakeholders. And this behavior is strongly dependent of the attitude that people have towards the image of the organization/ product/ service/ brand.
Therefore the image that individual members of stakeholders hold is crucial for the existence of the organization.
Conceptual proposition leading to brain-position
How can leaders of organization influence the image that individuals hold towards the organization/ product/ service/ brand? It is not enough to improve a website or start an image campaign, because individuals will base their image on everything they observe, and this website or campaign is only one of the many things they observe – if they observe them at all.
Much of what an individual knows about an organization is what he hears or reads from someone else. So the organization should start with the source: people who have a direct contact and experience with the organization. These people are consumers and users, employees and visitors.
The total experience of these people has to be influenced – by means of a ‘Gesammt Kunstwerk – in order to increase the likelihood of individuals to create the desired image. So, eventually the objective of Corporate Cross-Media is not just orchestrating media and disciplines, it is not only about balancing communication goals, marketing goals and organizational goals. Eventually the objective of Corporate Cross-Media is to create experiences for crucial stakeholders so that they will create a favorable image.
And indeed therefore it is necessary to balance communication goals, marketing goals and organizational goals. And indeed therefore it is necessary to orchestrate media and disciplines. But these are not goals in itself. Corporare Cross-Media is integrating the entire marketing-mix – and everything else that could be associated with the organization – in order to express one conceptual proposition, with the objective to create an experience for the individual that will result in a favorable image.
So the whole organization is a medium in order to express the corporate proposition. Eventually Corporate Cross-Media is about people.