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Multi- & Cross-channel Marketing: A Love Story

"Jill, will you marry me?”  That’s what the billboard said.

I couldn't believe it.  My roommate had pulled it off.  Of course, he was only able to negotiate the rep down to a one-month lease, rather than the standard three-month.  So the actual proposal happened a couple weeks ago.  Since then, someone had the (genius) idea to spray-paint the reply “No, leave me alone!!” in big, red letters across the bottom.  Made me laugh every time I saw it.

It was my freshman year at college, and the first time I was exposed to a marketing campaign where the end goal was a wedding engagement.  Growing up, I heard whisperings of some elaborate proposals.  Oprah loved to showcase that stuff.  But I never really thought people did it.  They do.  And I happened to be on a campus where it was rampant.  But, having an affinity for marketing and all the various creative ways to connect with people, I decided to observe this interesting culture and see what I could learn.  Apparently it was enough to write a blog about.

So while everyone else was seeing hearts and butterflies from these “love campaigns”, I was noticing a common trend: the campaigns usually fell into two marketing categories – multi-channel and cross-channel marketing.  Leave it to me to side-step the romantic components and get right down to the matter at hand (I was dating my textbooks at the time), but it was true.  These two forms of marketing seemed to be pretty popular.  And many people have a hard time telling them apart.  But the difference is important.  As important as whether she says ‘yes’ or ‘no’…

Multi-channel Marketing, love so great you want to shout it from the rooftops…or a billboard.

My roommate had found his soul mate.  After three months of dating, an unbreakable bond had been formed and he was ready to commit.  Did I mention they’d been dating only three months?  But he didn't want to just ask the question, because that’s lame, right?  He wanted to announce the question, broadcast it everywhere.  Enter multi-channel marketing.

This type of marketing communicates the same message through various media channels simultaneously.  Doesn't that sound romantic!  Here’s how it went: my roommate started the big day off by sending his girlfriend a hand-written letter, via courier, expressing his love (channel 1: direct mail), followed by a radio spot of him again expressing his love that she heard on her way into work that morning, just like he planned (channel 2: radio, and yes, I helped him edit the sound bite).  But the cherry on top of this love sundae was the billboard (channel 3: outdoor media), which overlooked the parking lot where she worked.  “Jill, will you marry me?” announced the 14’ x 48’ sign.  My roommate was standing at her work entrance (along with all her coworkers and boss) in a suit and tie and hopeful expression.  I was standing off to the side, thinking how funny it would be if someone tagged the billboard.

She said yes.  The campaign was a success!  Could my roommate had just bent on one knee at her front door that morning and proposed, avoiding all the hoopla, and gotten the same response?  Perhaps. But would the message have resonated with her as strongly?  Would she be as excited to tell the story for years to come of how Jared proposed?  Who knows.  But what we do know is that because my roommate opted for this multi-channel route, she will.

Multiple media channels broadcasting the same message to the same audience at the same time: multi-channel marketing.  But what if that’s not enough?  What if you want the expression of your love to be more involved, more interactive, more….trackable?  That’s when cross-channel marketing comes riding in on a white horse.

My second year in college brought on a whole new array of experiences: a challenging course load, a new job and a roommate who calmed his nerves by ripping paper into little strips.  To each his own, I guess.  Anyway, this roommate had been dating a girl for a couple years and was ready to put a ring on it.  But, of course, bending on one knee in a park just wouldn’t cut it.

He devised a plan that would require his girlfriend to find clues that would lead her to other clues, then another, then another, until finally she arrived at his location.  A love scavenger hunt, of sorts.  Little did he know (but which I immediately picked up on) this scavenger hunt was a perfect example of a cross-channel marketing campaign.

Cross- channel marketing differs from multi-channel in one key way: engagement (no pun intended).  Unlike multi-channel marketing, where a company’s message is coming at you from all angles whether you like it or not, cross-channel marketing requires the audience to interact through various channels, i.e. to learn more about the company by going to a website (online) where they’ll be encouraged to “like” the company’s Facebook page (social media) or subscribe to its e-newsletter (email).  The audience is intentionally following the marketing channels to learn more about the product or service.  And the best part is, it can all be tracked.

Which apparently was exactly what my roommate wanted when he created his wild goose chase.  He had his girlfriend read her first clue from a piece of paper with a key taped to it.  The key was to a PO Box that contained a tape recording of my roommate telling her to come to our apartment to find the next clue, which happened to be a video message.  Personally, I would’ve called it quits after getting the key if I were her… just saying.  But she loved it, as my roommate knew she would.  In the video (which was of my roommate singing an old Irish love song he learned in the folk dance class where he met her – honestly, the CHEESIEST thing I’ve ever witnessed.  I watched in horror, as she covered her mouth and cried), he invited her to meet him at the same gazebo where he asked her on their first date, which also happened to be where he was singing in the video. Clever.  So off she went, and they were married 2 months later.  Talk about a quick turnaround.

So the lesson for today is marketing can serve many purposes.  Including helping you seal the deal with that soul mate of yours.  The tricky part is determining which type of marketing will resonate best with your audience.  Multi-channel marketing is great for making an impact and building awareness.  Companies will use this type of marketing when launching a new program or product, for example.  Cross-channel marketing is an excellent way to engage your audience (again, no pun) and have them actively seek out more information about your product or service.  This route is effective when used on more targeted audiences and is a great way to gain feedback and track response rates.

No one marketing type is better than the other. It’s all in how you use them, what it is you’re trying to accomplish with the campaign.  My roommates knew their audience, and they knew how to best connect with them.  So while others may think a proposal over a glass of champagne in a fancy restaurant is ideal, there are those who know that looking into leasing a billboard is exactly what will win them the gold.

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