You know the Internet is having an impact when Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) compiles independent research that documents how various online and offline media influence consumer behavior online.
The research, which includes third-party surveys and new quantitative analysis, is aimed at the role of media in driving online traffic, search, and purchase behavior, as well as the role of media in driving consumer response to online video ads. The conclusions, published across several reports, demonstrate the significance of an integrated communication. Here is a sampling:
• Offline media perform well in driving Web traffic and search — often better than online media, even when URL addresses are missing or not prominent.
• Media synergy is important, although each medium influences online behavior differently and plays a distinctive role.
• Looking at qualified search—those consumers ready to make a purchase—paints a different picture of media usage than total search, which is most often the focus of advertisers.
• When looking at the role individual media play in driving Web results, magazines most consistently drive Web traffic and search.
One must-read is How Media Drives Online Success that includes the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) study. It looks at which media performs best at influencing consumers to start a search for merchandise online.
Another must-read is a two-part report, Accountability and Accountability II, that also looks at consumer online behavior. One of the most significant findings from my point of view was the impact of integrated communication or what the MPA calls "media synergy."
Media synergy: more media gets better results.
While we were not surprised that integrated communication had a better impact across all measures than one medium — brand awareness, advertising awareness, message association, brand favorability, and purchase intent — we were taken by the extent. Print (magazines), television, and online advertising, when used together, delivered 2.5 times to 4 times more impact than one medium alone.
However, what the study does not include, is that magazine advertising (which the report says drives the most Web traffic and search) tends to be more in sync with accurate message delivery than television or online advertising. Television advertising tends to lean toward overly creative, sometimes convoluting the message, whereas online advertising, for the most part, tends to be devoid of message in favor of logo banners.
Until communicators sync messages, internally and externally, it seems likely that communication and marketing plans will continue to deliver mixed results. Public relations and social media practitioners would also be well served to be on the same page, shifting focus to stories and opinions about anything to get ink and toward reinforcing their core message.
What does that mean? It means to stop asking the majority of people to learn 100 things about your company on one medium and focus more on that one point across all media (as your budget allows). One core message across multiple communication streams will deliver better results than multiple messages across one stream.
Wow. The more things change, the more they stay the same.