Marketers are employing a more data-driven approach to reach a growing number of consumers who have integrated the Internet into their daily lives, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit research project sponsored by Google.

This shift in consumer behaviour is causing marketers to re-think how they approach four areas-branding, integration, measurability/accountability, and their internal organisation-not only for online campaigns but for all marketing programmes. "The future of marketing looks brightest for those firms that learn how to position brands within integrated marketing efforts and measure the impact of these efforts", says Nigel Holloway, Director of Executive Services at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Organising the entire corporate marketing function around online principles is very different from online marketing a decade ago. But making the shift is seen as vital for a successful marketing operation. "A fast increasing number of people don't see a significant distinction between their digital and terrestrial lives", says Patrick Keane, director of field marketing for Google. "Many marketers are quickly adapting to this new media landscape, shifting dollars and building teams to take advantage of the digital world."

The key findings:

- Branding. Marketers are looking to tie branding efforts to more tangible business results. Marketing executives aim to bundle tactical goals into their overall branding strategies, with 50% of surveyed executives tapping lead generation as a key success metric, along with influencing purchase behaviour through the brand (46%). Interviewed executives noted that interactive tools and content that enable customers to search and research information about products and services are becoming brand assets in their own right. The result is that online branding has the potential to become a central marketing expression for organisations through its ability to harmonise both strategic and tactical goals.

- Integration. Integrating marketing efforts into a single strategy has never been more important, according to the research. However, the survey showed marketing executives continue to have difficulty in doing so. Fifty-two percent of surveyed executives admit their online and offline marketing efforts either run in parallel or are not integrated at all. Executives said that the need for better integration is erasing the organisational line separating creative efforts and media planning/buying functions within marketing departments.

- Measurement/Accountability. The success of any marketing campaign rises and falls based upon the marketer's ability to measure results and tie them back to specific goals, an area where online marketing has clear advantages. Much remains to be improved with regards to measurement, though. According to the survey, image building/brand equity is the only area where more than half of marketing executives reported that they are able to measure results effectively. At the same time, marketers note that a shift to better advertising measurement is inevitable, given the pressure from CEOs and boards to make marketing spend more accountable.

- Internal organisation. As their direct contribution to the bottom line becomes more quantifiable, 57% of marketers expect to be involved much earlier in the product or service development process. In addition, 45% of marketing departments expect that over the next two years they will become more deeply involved in decisions regarding strategic partnerships and alliances. As marketing departments expand their roles into other corporate activities such as alliances, joint-ventures, and even product or service innovation, new incentive structures and other organisational innovations will be needed.

Related Link: Economist Intelligence Unit