If your marketing campaign was a piece of music would it be a carefully composed concerto or a discordant cacophony?
Being active across multiple marketing channels without consistency between your assets not only creates a sound clash, it means your conversion rate will be falling significantly short of its potential.
That’s because today’s consumer typically comes into contact with a brand in multiple different places before converting. The more mixed messaging they receive, the more likely they are to become confused about your offering.
What is a cross-channel campaign?
A cross-channel campaign aims to create a seamless experience for your target audience, with a consistent message, look and feel found across multiple marketing channels. These could include print, digital, broadcast, OOH, owned media, email, social media, direct mail, content, PR and experiential.
The idea of cross-channel campaigns – also referred to as integrated marketing campaigns, 360-degree campaigns and omnichannel marketing – is that by maintaining a steadfast experience at every touchpoint brands can reinforce recognition and awareness (and ultimately increase sales).
Why are cross-channel campaigns challenging?
Cross-channel campaigns can be challenging because, while they must be cohesive across different channels, they shouldn’t be simply replicated. Each channel has its own unique requirements and it’s impossible to create a one-size-fits-all campaign that will perform optimally across all of them. Even on one channel the requirements vary; different social media platforms require a tailored approach to get maximum engagement.
However, when you create a wide variety of assets – and have lots of different people working on them – you risk losing the identity that should link them all together. So, how can you adapt your campaign across potentially a dozen different channels, while maintaining messaging and brand identity? The process is certainly more complex, but it can be achieved through joined-up communications and additional planning.
5 top tips for successful cross-channel campaigns
1. Draw up clear campaign guidelines
To create a campaign that’s consistent, it’s vital at the outset to create a hymn sheet that everyone can sing from. It’s likely that there will be multiple people working on the campaign, both internally and externally, and they all need to know it inside out. You’ll need to nail down the following:
- Campaign concept and purpose
- Target audience
- Key messaging
- Call to action
- Tone of voice
- Exact product phrasing
- Colour scheme (with Pantone, HEX or RGB codes)
- Rules related to photography and videography
- Examples of anything you don’t want to see
Hopefully, you already have a style guide outlining the key elements of your branding, but it’s helpful to set out how these translate in relation to this specific campaign. Work with a graphic designer and copywriter to create a guide that will act as the Holy Bible of your campaign, which everyone can refer to.
2. Know your channels
Once you’ve got a firm grip on your own image, it’s time to get to know the personalities of the different media outlets you plan to use to promote your campaign. It’s important to understand the audience of each platform and the type of content they most like to engage with there. For instance, one website might get the best results from long-form sponsored articles, while another might capture more engagement with short video ads. Use this research to make a list of the variety of assets you will require for your campaign.
When it comes to social media content, aim to deploy assets that make use of each platform’s unique features. For example, on Snapchat, you could create a branded filter, while on Facebook, you could run a competition using Contests for Pages. A large percentage of your audience will likely be active across several platforms, so it makes sense to offer them something different – but clearly part of the same campaign – in each place. This will amplify your message instead of risking ad fatigue with repetitive content.
3. Create a library of flexible assets
From a designer’s perspective, one of the biggest challenges they face when working on cross-channel campaigns is having the right assets to work with. If you only provide landscape packshots, for example, and they need to design a vertical banner, they’re going to struggle.
It’s therefore important to brief photographers to capture a wide enough variety of shots to be suitable for every shape, size and type of advert you might wish to create. Video too should be adaptable to the differing dimensions of YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
4. Devise strategy centrally
The devil is in the detail, as they say, and although it might seem like a mammoth task to set out a strategy for every single channel upfront, it’s the best way to stop things from going awry. This means having a line by line plan of what will be posted, where and when. This is especially important where publishing extends beyond core campaign assets like artwork, to supporting content like social posts and blogs.
Don’t leave it to the intern to decide on relevant topics for posts! This should be planned out in advance, backed by a strategy designed to build the campaign towards a climax. Set goals for each channel and decide how you wish to cross-pollinate them. For example, do you aim to drive Instagram users to a website landing page or perhaps vice versa? Don’t forget to track metrics centrally and have someone dedicated to mining that data for insights that can help you optimise the campaign while it’s live (and not just assess it afterwards).
5. Work collaboratively
If you have a distributed marketing team with people working in different places at different levels of granularity it can be difficult to coordinate output. However, choosing a cloud-based collaboration tool can enable you to pull everything together in one place.
This can give each person working on executing the campaign visibility of activity, and make sure they are mobilised to communicate and collaborate with one another where necessary. Holding regular team-wide update meetings is also a good idea to keep everyone on the same page – nobody should be working in a silo.
3 Examples of great cross-channel campaigns
These recent campaigns have all been recognised by industry awards. They showcase how a concept can be amplified over multiple channels with consistent messaging and branding.
Kellogg’s & Love Island: Cereal Dater
A finalist in the Campaign Media Awards 2019, Kellogg’s Love Island partnership incorporated a sponsorship, an on-pack promotion, broadcast advert, podcast and user-generated content initiative.
Kellogg’s decided to partner with the hit ITV show in an effort to make Kellogg’s Corn Flakes more relevant to 16-34s. To activate the sponsorship, the cereal brand created a breakfast podcast called ‘The Morning After’.
“Internet searches for Love Island peaked the morning after each show, but there was no new news coming from the programme,” said creative agency Carat. “From research, we knew 16-34s were absolutely buzzing for podcasts, a platform on the rise. This insight, paired with mornings being the perfect time of day for Kellogg’s to own, was a match made in heaven.
“We joined forces with ITV and created ITV’s first-ever podcast; Love Island The Morning After. Hosted by 2017 winner Kem and radio presenter Arielle Free, the 15-minute daily podcast featured all the juicy gossip from the show, exclusive guests and interviews with the latest dumped Islanders.”
The campaign also featured an on-pack ‘Cereal Dater’ selfie competition to win a trip for two to the Love Island live final. Consumers were encouraged to take a selfie of themselves holding up a Kellogg’s cereal box and then share it on the brand’s Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #KelloggsCerealDater.
“The multiplatform campaign had a podcast at its heart, Kellogg’s was integrated into the podcast with weekly segments such as corniest line & flake of the week,” said Carat. “We also had a mint broadcast schedule, highly targeted and contextually relevant social activity, plus some PR and talent appearances for good measure.”
“We smashed all of our KPIs, our podcast had 3 million downloads and was ranked number one on iTunes for seven weeks straight. Our social campaign had 774,167 people participating (social engagements), exceeding our goal by 50%”
Halifax: Love Your Home
Halifax teamed up with media groups Trinity Mirror Solutions and Bauer to take a campaign focused on loving your local area to all parts of the country.
The bank worked with scores of journalists and DJs from different regional newspapers and radio stations to create localised content. This included sponsored news stories, advertorial features and videos.
A competition encouraged people to share stories of why they love their home for the chance to win £500 each week and have their winning stories featured in the newspaper.
The creative agency that worked on the campaign, Reach Solutions, said: “’Home’ is a word that is loosely defined – there is no generic one-size-fits-all meaning. With our network of local and regional titles, we were in a perfect position to speak to readers about home in the context of their city.
“We embarked on a mission to explore and champion unique perspectives of what home means in seven cities across the UK, curated and celebrated through the voices, pictures and words of our readers, storytellers and journalists.”
The Love Your Home campaign was a finalist in The Drum Content Awards 2018 and succeeded in achieving 663k article views, more than 1 million views to newsjacked articles and 500k video views. Of those who were exposed to the campaign, 47% agreed Halifax is a brand they feel good about (vs 30% control).
The first-ever campaign to realistically portray periods, #bloodnormal by Bodyform was awarded the Grand Prix at last year’s Marketing Week Masters Awards.
The brand wanted to confront the taboo around showing blood-coloured liquid in adverts for sanitary products, where it is normally substituted for blue liquid. The campaign followed research by Bodyform which indicated that one in five women felt their confidence had been damaged because periods weren’t discussed openly.
At the heart of the campaign was an advert created by AMV BBDO, described as “a love letter to periods”. The film aimed to show that periods are a normal part of everyday life, including scenes such as a woman in the shower with blood trickling down her leg.
However, because of “indecency” restrictions, the ad was banned from TV, and it was categorically rejected by other media owners too. Bodyform says it had to “fight for months, scene by scene, frame by frame, to gain the right to air it”.
Despite this, the brand worked with other channels to promote the campaign, using influencers and creatives on a range of initiatives such as designer underwear, a graphic novel and supporting a 13-year-old stand-up comedian who included period jokes in her routine.
Reported Marketing Week: “On a “very limited” budget, #bloodnormal reached more than 800 million people in the first few weeks, spreading to more than 25 countries. It also achieved TV broadcast coverage, a particular win for the brand and for the cause given the ad itself had been banned from TV.
“The consumer response was also encouraging, with nearly two-thirds of women left with a more positive opinion of the brand and a third saying they’d purchase the brand as a result.”
A final thought
There are many moving parts to a cross-channel campaign. Rather than considering each component in isolation, it’s helpful to view them as part of a larger machine. That machine represents your message.
The message you are trying to communicate is bigger than any one particular piece of work or any one particular channel – it’s far greater than the sum of its parts. Treating your campaign holistically from the outset is the best way to ensure it’s cohesive and consistent wherever consumers come into contact with it, every time they come into contact with it.