Sunday, April 7, 2013

Operationalizing Agile Marketing

I recently posted a presentation titled "Driving Engagement in an Always On Marketing World".

I've received some positive feedback and wanted to expand on the notion of Agile Marketing.

What is Agile Marketing?

The 'Agile' approach is a term stolen from the software world where it is commonly used to describe a process of rapid iteration and incremental improvement on previous versions of the product.  The advantages of this are faster-to-market products and a system of real-time learning and improvement.  The growth of real-time marketing and ability to optimize communications using algorithms has led to markers looking to adopt these approaches.  

The Biggest Challenge.  Traditional Marketers.

Marketers have been doing Agile Marketing for some time, they just didn't know it.  Email, .com, Search Engine Marketing and Optimization were the first disciplines that took this approach.  Digital and direct marketers have been employing iterative approaches to communications by pivoting messaging based on user response for years.  The reality is that most senior level marketers have never been exposed to the actual deployment of these approaches and those executing have not had to seek senior level approvals for their test & learn approaches.

But the evolution of marketing is making everything digital, and thus, also creating optimization capabilities in real time.  But this is a new concept to traditional marketers who are used to highly rigid brand architectures, logo guidelines, annual planning cycles and traditional agency briefing processes. 

As brands need to create more contextually relevant content in owned properties (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc), they have to move away from the traditional communications process of; 1) Brief agency, 2) Agency produces ads and 3) Weeks of making it 'pop' 4) Move through matrix of approvals.  Instead, companies need to empower employees and their agency representatives in the production of real-time content that drives relevance.  Both of these groups need to be able to break away from the traditional processes that they have established and move toward a newsroom type of approach in pursuit of consumer attention.

Change.  Easily Said.  But No Easily Done.

Harvard Business Review echoed the need for brands to move to the newsroom approach.  This approach is very easy to adhere to in theory, but the reality is that no brands are structured to produce content at the volume and frequency in which it can be deployed.  This structure needs to combine the structure of a newsroom, with more responsive and agile reporters/photographers who can deliver messages that deliver against daily (or hourly) relevance, and traditional marketing by mapping back to brand messages and key product pillars.  The structure requires that an editor-in-chief has the latitude and authority to publish on behalf of the brand, but also gives reporters the freedom to act as Agile developers - in a nimble and iterative manner.

Oreo has had it's SuperBowl post lauded as the pinnacle of Agile Marketing, responding to the power outage and posting through social channels.  It drove significant engagement and was highly relevant to a current cultural event.  But, having a team of people amassed during key events, or trying to predict when cultural movements will happen are both very challenging for marketers to scale.

View image on Twitter

The key to scaling a newsroom+brand approach is to determine how to best harness technology, consumer insight models (predictive models, optimization engines, etc) and publishing/advertising tools to make the production and delivery components manageable.

Is the End of Marketing As We Know It Here?  No, Not really...

So with this being said, traditional marketing still has a place in the overall marketing schema.  Developing a positioning with emotional appeal to the target segment is still the cornerstone of any marketing plan.  The tactical deployments are changing.  Television still remains the most effective mass reach vehicle available.  But with increasing fragmentation of consumption (Cable, Satellite, Online, PVRs, Streaming, etc) and the impending ability to purchase advertising similar to digital (buying audience engagement instead of potential exposure), the deployment systems that exist tomorrow are going to demand the real-time iteration that the digital world is experiencing today.

Marketers need to develop new organizational structures that are going to be adaptive to the shifting desires and demand of their target audiences.  Successful marketers are going to create content creation teams who will be empowered to iterate on brand stories and create real-time linkages to current events and key marketing messages.


  1. Paul, great post and presentation. I think you're correct, it's not the end of marketing as we know it, and yet it is a very big change in how we organize and approach marketing. Figuring out what to keep and what to change is key to success for the modern marketer.

  2. Hi Paul, much of what you have included here resonates with me and what I see working with Blue chip clients in marketing. The biggest challenge is the mindset... often the case that decision makers in large corporates are not digitally native - or worse they think they are when they are not. Thanks for sharing.