Another one of those popular yet ill-defined phrases this isn’t it? When I hear people talking about 'agile marketing', they’re mostly speaking about fast-turn-around, tactical, opportunistic messaging which (when done well) can amplify in the short-term but (when done badly) can be truly awful. But I think there’s so much more to it than that. So here (for what it’s worth) are the three categorisations that for me capture what agile marketing is really all about:
- Responsive: the kind of reactive or topical activity that I mentioned above. The impact of this type or marketing is IMHO often over-rated, though it can be a useful tactic to have as part of a much wider approach to content. I’m not a big fan of the term 'brand newsroom’ but to make this work properly you do need to have the right people coming together at the right time, empowered with the right sign offs and tools.
- Test and learn: something altogether different but fundamental now to marketing operations. Test and learn is not new (consider classic direct marketing approaches) but what is different is the scale, breadth and type of testing that is now open to us. There is huge opportunity in this. Not least from the growing automation of marketing operations. The thing I see in most marketing teams is an episodic or one dimensional approach to testing. But it's about testing all the time in multiple ways. It's about developing a true testing culture where learning is embedded into practice and process so that it happens continuously and at scale. But automation has to be deployed carefully. And we need absolute clarity around the fundamentals (customer insight, strategic direction, brand vision, positioning and voice), and about what can change, and what can't. Then it's about establishing fast learning loops to enable us to stay close to customer need, be adaptive and optimise well. I like to think of this as designing with vision, but optimising with feedback. Test selection should focus on giving us maximum learning in the simplest ways. But there is nowhere near enough testing being deployed in most marketing teams
- Experimentation: related to this is the idea of agility through constant experimentation. The best way to think about this is to recognise the difference between testing around marginal improvement (in others words optimisation), and testing in order to deliberately learn new things that can lead to a breakthrough or a new direction. Both are necessary but test selection (controlled experiments designed around learning) is again key. Test and learn is not an opportunity to do dumb stuff.
That's my definition.