“Agile marketing is the deliberate, long-term application of a specific Agile methodology to manage and improve the way a marketing team gets work done.”
—Andrea Fryrear, The Agile Marketer
The agile approach can be applied to many things other than software development, including marketing, branding, and even strategy. In this article we examine the agile brand – what it means and how it functions, along with the transformative effect agile marketing has on the practice of finding and keeping customers.
Agile marketing has come into prominence because of a number of recent advancements. We have seen a shift in preference to being more agile, and greater ability for marketers to become more agile because of:
- Big data’s omnipresence in the marketing world, and our ability to get everything from real-time data to number-crunching for complex analysis more easily and cheaply.
- Dramatic decreases in data storage costs.
- Artificial intelligence which allows programmatic ad buying and other techniques that allow us to achieve decisions and results much quicker.
- Social media and other real-time or near-real-time communication tools that facilitate much quicker awareness and engagement (as well as the analysis of those occurrences).
While many factors have contributed, the points above certainly are part of what has paved the way. As more and more options become available for marketers to broadcast their messages, engage with consumers, and reach their key audiences, it becomes necessary to review, assess and optimize their efforts on an increasingly short timeline. This is where an agile approach shines.
How does agile marketing work?
Agile marketing takes an incremental approach to achieving long-term marketing & campaign goals.
As you can see, our chart above now reflects marketing rather than software development. Overall, the steps don’t change. Instead of planning our campaign out in detail at the beginning of the year or campaign, we now undertake sprints that bring monitoring and optimization along the way.
You may be thinking, “but I already do that.” And in some ways, it’s true. You place a programmatic media buy because you know that it will be optimized.
Some marketing methods lend themselves better to this approach, but you may also find that you are adopting more agile methodologies than you think.
The important thing is to keep monitoring and evaluations regular. There is simply no more “set and forget.”
It’s not enough to have a monthly or quarterly report that shows what happened. A report must be accompanied by analysis, evaluation and a list of what’s going to happen next. There should always be a test going on to help you optimize something.
Why agile marketing?
In a 2014 study, CMO’s Agenda found that over 60% of marketing leaders identified being agile as a high priority, yet only 40% rated themselves as agile. The study also found that marketers who identified as agile were 300% more likely to increase market share.
Our ability to measure everything we do as marketers has increased considerably and continues to grow as new platforms emerge and new methods of targeting are developed. The rise of big data from buzzword to multi-billion-dollar industry means that we are now inundated with so many metrics that we can’t possibly report on them all. Big data has both good and bad effects on marketing and marketers.
Successful marketers filter out the noise and focus on the metrics that matter, not simply those that are easy to see. Those who adapt quickly to environmental changes will thrive. By tapping into real-time and near real-time analytics and insights, and intelligently applying them to our marketing efforts, we can make the quicker decisions required in an agile process.
The Agile Brand
There are six key things agile brands do which sets them apart:
- Have an open dialogue with customers.
- Tell stories that are genuine.
- Use data to drive deeper insights and greater growth.
- Think holistically about the customer experience.
- Stay nimble by always listening.
- Let go in order to have deeper relationships.
As with the introduction of any concept, agile branding needs a clear statement that unequivocally defines what it is and describes the philosophy that guides it.
Much as the Agile Manifesto did that for programming, I’d like to do that for agile branding now. I want to thank and give credit to the team who wrote the original Agile Manifesto for the inspiration. You can find all their names at AgileManifesto.org
Through the evolution of brands from a simple visual indicator of ownership to their broad function today, we understand that a brand can be greater than the individual or individuals who created it, the teams who maintain it, and the products and services they represent.
Because of this, we have come to value the following:
- Long-term customers over short-term sales.
- Dialogue with customers over broadcasting one-way marketing messaging.
- Staying true to our values over doing whatever we can to generate profits.
- Continual improvement over maintaining the status quo.
We also know that for a brand to be successful, it must open itself to consumers for feedback, ideas, and dialogue. No longer can brand decisions be made solely in a boardroom or by shareholders. Consumers want and need to feel a connection with brands in order for them to be truly successful.
There are 2 components to an agile brand:
- The things that don’t change.
- The things that don’t change.
While your brand marketing and awareness efforts (top row) will inevitably change as you target new audiences, or as your current audiences evolve, your brand mission and values (bottom row) should remain relatively constant over time.
The principles behind agile branding
We follow these principles:
- Our highest priority is to add value to people’s lives through meaningful interactions and tangible benefits that brands offer to customers.
- We believe brands play an important role in society, and when they are managed properly, they can add value to people’s lives.
- We believe change can be a force for good and branding and marketing need to change to best serve their customers and society.
- We believe the future is bright and technology can be a force for good in the right hands and with the right motives.
- We believe that to make a great brand is to tie a core set of values to the products and services delivered.
- We also believe the world is in continual motion, and the ideas and thinking we currently share are subject to continual evolution as the practice of branding evolves.
Greg Kihlström is SVP Digital at Yes&, a marketing agency in the Washington, DC region that works with national commercial, nonprofit and government clients. Previously, he was founder and CEO of Carousel30, a digital agency which was acquired in late 2017 by Yes&. He is the author of The Agile Brand: Creating Authentic Relationships Between Companies and Consumers.