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IAA Viewpoint: the future is holistic

Integrated marketing is old news. It's over. Purist advertising agencies are no longer sustainable, writes Andrew Sibley, head of brand and advertising for European markets at Cisco.

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The idea of crafting one big advertising idea and then trying to shoehorn it into TV spots, relationship marketing and gondola ends is dead and we all have to get over it.

The new consumer has figured out that you can only test a brand's mettle when you have evaluated the total customer experience. So enlightened companies are integrating marketing deep into their cultures. Every manifestation of a business -- from product design to the way its people dress and the language they use -- helps market it.

So where is the future? It's about crafting our storytelling skills and applying them to the whole client organisation -- not just its products, services or offers. It's about getting right inside the company -- analysing every element of relevant differentiation and clarifying it to describe the company's soul.

This clear statement should be sufficient to define how the organisation should do everything. The kind of people it should hire. The type of offices it should inhabit. What its ethical policy should look like. This simple clarity already exists in leading companies like Apple and Virgin but it's rare in organisations without strong and single-minded leadership.

And that is probably the heart of the issue. Jobs and Branson have respect for marketing and an understanding of what it can do for their businesses. Many companies simply don't get it. Marketing directors despair and agencies get boxed into putting lipstick on the metaphorical pig.

If you look at Apple's advertising, it usually consists of little more than a product demo. But the products are so inherently cool why would you want to spoil them with a slogan, a Brazilian model or a $3m shoot in the Maldives? The product is the marketing.

Digital social networks have already driven more corporate transparency -- forcing brands to be more authentic. With a tougher economy in prospect, brand owners will demand that marketing dollars work even harder but customers are bound to become increasingly picky about the brands they associate with and the things they buy.

Let's not overlook business partners. In a typical two-tier distribution model a brand can easily be subverted at retail or in the channel. That has to stop. Partners have the power to wrest control of the customer's experience away from the brand. Yet partners are crucial to expand reach and improve distribution efficiencies. We need to explain how to represent a brand properly and make deals in which both parties can see the benefits.

I'm pretty bullish about the future of marketing but only after a rocky renaissance. The new marketer will fulfil the role of brand DNA diviner, brand storyteller, customer experience auditor and creator, and partner dealmaker. None of this will be tackled without the courage of the brand owners and a fine display of honesty and intelligence from marketing professionals like you and me. There's a great deal to be done out there. See you in the boardroom.

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