Since the time we announced the launch of our agency, I have been asked this question quite a few times. What do you mean by good-bye integration & welcome ecosystem? What and who are you referring to by saying so? This piece is a sincere attempt to try and address these questions.

Integration as a term is pretty abused. It seems more like a check box when it comes to pitches, an additional source of revenue, a shot at the awards and maybe because it’s in vogue.

And in this process of integration, it is the consumers who seem to be at the receiving end. They are bombarded at every possible instance and from all sources. It is as if some of the mediums are covered as a thumb rule; irrespective of their efficiency or relevance in the decision making. Irrespective of previous learnings or end results. Irrespective of the category. And irrespective of their media consumption.

A product which has been known to appeal to an audience who spends more than half of their day on digital gadgets and touch-points and about an hour or two on television is launched with much fanfare and of course ‘an integrated campaign’. And what is the campaign about? A television ad, a print campaign, retail activation and digital – and anything else if possible.

I am not questioning the end result at this point. However there is no doubt in my mind that it will most likely have a sub-optimal result compared to the spend. So the classical way of integration is becoming seemingly irrelevant.

I feel numbers tend to say a lot and hide even more. It is with this conviction that I looked at all kinds of data from historical campaigns & results across categories, to changing consumer behaviour and the current trends. I also looked at some upcoming trends.

One thing is clear – the decision making process has changed through the years and changed drastically. The Who, What, How of consumer behaviour is still evolving and in a state of perpetual beta. The current proliferation of touch-points and engagement hotspots is amazingly fragmented. And I don’t think this fragmentation will ever reduce. If at all it might become a cluster of consolidated fragments.

What is interesting is the role of these fragments in a consumer’s life. How some of these fragments are integral components of a consumer’s ecosystem that have been built over time and is the circle of influence. Why do these ecosystems tend to vary so much for different categories and also overlap in many cases?

So how does one make this ecosystem work?

Take an example of any brand and try to map its Ecosystem. Take into account every aspect of it – beginning with the product conceptualisation process and ending with the eventual sale. As you plot the journey you will create the ecosystem for that category. In the process you will also discover the key elements of the brand ecosystem. Some of these elements have a direct relationship with the consumer either as a brand touch-point or as a means to reach the consumer.

On the other hand if you take a look at decision-making process of a consumer, you will be able to create the ecosystem of the consumer and its key elements. The interesting aspect is how this ecosystem varies distinctly from category to category and how the degree of importance of the elements too change.

To make the best use of this understanding one must create the ideal ecosystem to operate within – for any objective or initiative that the brand intends to undertake. Like I said earlier the process begins right from the product conceptualisation. The synergies come in when the brand starts engaging the consumers in their ecosystem for eg: co-creation at the conceptualisation stage. Similarly, the same logic can be extended to all life stages of the product.

I am sure it will result in a very optimal plan and optimum results. It will also help brands in having a tighter relationship with the end consumers. The campaign cost in most likelihood will be optimised and help in creating more engaging initiatives. All this will be based on some insightful number crunching and mapping journeys along the way.

Some points to remember:

  • Product Lifecycle: Every stage can be a potential engagement point. Every stage has analytics that can be leveraged.
  • Product Ecosystem: From conceptualization to the eventual sale.
  • Consumer ecosystem: Understanding of the category and consumer research. The elements of the decision making process.

So, if the objective is to tell a story; it’s good to know the ecosystem we have to operate within. We might be able to weave it better. The consumers hopefully will see the pattern and eventually engage with the brand. End conversion is obviously subject to a whole lot of parameters; but hopefully communication would have done its job.