The Four Real-World IMC “Hacks” You Need to Know


Published on 10/21/2015

This article won’t tell you what celebrities have the strangest sleep habits or the nine ways social media tracks your personal data without your knowledge, but it may help you to work more effectively in developing and implementing integrated marketing communications programs.

It doesn’t contain a single reference to marketing processes, include a painstaking analysis of massive amounts of data, or explore alternative algorithms to validate specific courses of action. Instead, this article is all about how you can take a less conventional approach and drive better thinking, more complete program development and deliver speed to market… and have a lot more fun while you’re at it. There are lots of articles and books that will give you a regimented path to marketing success — and they are certainly valid. Processes are important, but it is only part of the path to success.

I have spent most of my career working at both big ad agencies and big brands: Leo Burnett, FCB, Kellogg’s, Boeing, Procter & Gamble (P&G), McDonald’s and Dow Chemical Co. Most recently I led the Leo Burnett team that developed the “Like a Girl” idea for P&G’s Always brand. This campaign delivered the most viewed video in P&G history and was voted the number two ad in the Super Bowl USA Today Ad Meter poll, just after Budweiser. Feminine care and beer — you don’t read about that in the same sentence too often! Here is what people don’t know: it took nearly two years to get this idea into market. Big businesses have big processes and there are many disciplines built into the decisionmaking process. And bear in mind we are talking about a digital video and edited TV commercial that were kicked off on the back of a public relations event that focused on the health of girls as they approached puberty — not a fully integrated program (yet, at least) across consumer contact points.

This, while very successful, and a rightful source of pride for both client and agency, could have been moved to market much faster and with more integration supporting it. My point here is that there will be opportunities in all of your careers to work with something on a smaller scale, but have equal, maybe even greater rewards.

In Hollywood, there is a saying that there are no small parts, only small actors. Meaning that there may be times that you don’t feel that you have the chance to really make an impact, because the brand or product isn’t sexy enough, or there are too many restrictions, or there isn’t enough money, or it is just not cool enough.

And just like feminine care in the Super Bowl, you can find success in unexpected places.

Which leads me to my most recent experience at Turtle Wax as their new CMO: April 1 — in less than four months from beginning production, we launched new brand and product work across cinema, broadcast, cable, digital, social, search, ratings and reviews and a totally overhauled website. In addition, we created a stronger link between the brand work and purchase via connected shopper marketing, audited POS and display for brick and mortar retailers, as well as a strengthened e-commerce offering.

In a bigger bureaucratic environment, to do this in only four months would be impossible. Not virtually, not nearly, but absolutely impossible.

So, what does it take? Here is what I have learned from the big business environments — the good and the bad — and applied them to the smaller environment at Turtle Wax. The secret lies in creating an environment for success via flexibility, adaptability, trust and agility.

Here is my counsel for future and current CMOs — AKA the four IMC “hacks” you need to know:


So many CMOs feel pressure to be the “owner” of all communications decisions that it can disempower key partners to the point where they don’t feel the onus of ownership or the pride of authorship. When partners feel like they are trusted to make big decisions, they take those decisions not just professionally, but personally. Their reputation and performance are on the line … and in a good way. For our new brand work at Turtle Wax, while I didn’t absolve myself of responsibility, I allowed for decisions on controversial topics surrounding product packaging (taking it completely out of our brand cinema and TV executions), casting (changing the featured protagonist to a female from the originally sold male — never before done for this male-dominated category) and music (opting for a younger appealing EDM artist versus a more classic approach that might appeal more to our core older consumer) to be fully debated — and ultimately approved. Once the agency realized that we were executing their evolving vision for the work as we approached production, they were fully committed to not just good, but perfect execution. They owned the work as much as the CMO. Incidentally, our engagement rates, video completion rates and PR buzz generated as a result of these decisions have blown past our success metrics and all category benchmarks.


Over the years, I have been in countless meetings where you can cut the tension with the proverbial knife: opinions and ideas not offered but swallowed because of fear of being wrong, appearing dumb or even fear of being asked off of a project or business. Their words say, “there are no wrong answers, speak up.” But their behaviors say, “there are no wrong answers …as long as you agree with my answer.”

I purposefully made it a point to set the tone in meetings by inviting and entertaining all points of view, even those I disagreed with — or those that were a bit outrageous — including some of my own ideas that were shot down by my employees and partner agencies. This opened up the possibility for some truly creative thinking.

For our brand work, we started with a brief that was all about a new line of products with a new, better performing technology. It yielded some very good, albeit narrowly product-focused, work. Good — but it wasn’t going to break through for the brand in a way that could build emotional as well as rational appeal. Through ideation on how to solve this, I initially suggested a construct for the brief where we might try to do both within contained executions. But as we debated, the integrated team came up with an approach where we threw out the existing brief and focused on brand elements that supported the new technology and product superiority in separate but integrated elements. This would not have been possible if we had not created an open and collaborative atmosphere where the only thing that mattered was getting the work to deliver emotional brand and product superiority pull. Our approach has yielded work that is clear on its component parts and yet integrated across both. Sales are up 30 percent and units up over 46 percent across the featured product line.


There is often a tendency to make the agency partnerships an adversarial one. There often seems to be a built-in assumption that the agency is trying to pull something over on the client. This can breed an odd resentment and competition that is entirely counterproductive to getting great work.

The agencies are hired in the first place because they have skills (yes, a specific set of skills) that the marketer does not possess. So the lesson here is to simply let the agencies do what you hired them to do. Our media agency made a set of complex recommendations on programmatic buying for our digital spend as well as recommendations for special units that were intended to break through the clutter of normal display. I didn’t know the areas particularly well. And I asked many questions and got opinions from other partners within our group. In the end I simply said, “I trust you.” The buys have been among our most efficient, and our special units outperformed the category benchmarks by almost 50 percent.


Marketers often want their agency partners only focused on their business — and that’s understandable. We are paying them to work on our businesses and often bristle when our partners appear to be using the work they do for us for self-promotion or to court new business.

On the contrary, I want my agencies to use our work as a showcase piece or case study of success. A not-so-little agency secret is that the most talented people tend to work on the businesses that get celebrated, featured, awarded and talked about. And when your agencies win new business, and you helped them to be more successful, they will continue to give you the resources you need (extra help, best people, more attention) to continue to be successful. When you have a reputation for doing great work and for being great to work with, you attract the best talent and the cycle can continue.

In the end, how you choose to get the work done is a human endeavor — meaning how you motivate and behave has a big impact on the work you get back. I suggest treating your partners in the same way you approach your consumers: understand them and motivate them and you can build significantly productive and rewarding relationships with your agency partners. You can do great things for your business very quickly … and even have some fun along the way. [END]


Zihan_Kolkey.Sandy1 Sandy Kolkey is chief marketing officer of Turtle Wax, Inc., a 75-year-old family-owned company that produces innovative car-care product lines for car consumers and the automotive industry. Prior to joining Turtle Wax, Sandy’s tenure includes 18 years at Leo Burnett, most recently as executive vice president, brand agency lead, running a global category for Procter & Gamble.
1_zihan Zihan Qiu’s past work experience has been mostly in media and PR, both in China and the UK. Her knowledge of the media industry and the nuances across cultures cultivated her aspiration of becoming a “creative story teller.” Her concentrations at Medill are on brand strategy and strategic communications. She received a B.A. in English and journalism from Renmin University of China.

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