Why agility is the key to marketing


With the increasing complexity of the communications landscape, marketers need to be, above all, agile, and the key to that agility is information. Lots of it, gathered continuously, and intelligently organised.

Of course, Agile Marketing has turned itself into a Paris salon-type movement in recent times, with a manifesto and capital letters, and a set of buzzwords like “sprint backlog” and “ScrumMaster”, but don’t let the terminology worry you.

Whether you buy into the whole approach or simply want your marketing to more quickly adapt to what is going on in the market, what you need is data – and the expertise to use it wisely.

Joining the conversation

It’s not so very long ago that most people’s exposure to information about brands or products came from either their direct experience (and that of their relatively small pool of personal contacts) or from supplied messaging – largescale brand communications or coverage in controlled media.

In those days, even quite monolithic marketing plans could be successful. Do your research, devise your strategy for the coming months (or year), nail down the spend and hit ‘go’.

That altogether less frenetic world is now gone. Through social channels, forums, the entire suite of peer-to-peer communications platforms, potentially millions of people can contribute to conversations that are effectively curated by no-one, and the result of this mass sharing has been an acceleration in the rate of change of tastes and opinions.

Once, we used the word ‘trend’ to describe something that was popular for months or seasons; now we mean an afternoon.

Reaching for the moon

The most successful companies are those that plug into trends and events and exploit them. Aldi’s Christmas 2015 spot spoofing John Lewis’s Man on the Moon ad gained more social media attention than the original, demonstrating what can be achieved by agile marketers disrupting existing conversations.

But joining big conversations, in this case through parody, is only the tip of the iceberg – and one that for most of us comes along relatively infrequently.

More important is having complete visibility of not only your own activities, but those of your competitors, the market generally, and the wider social chatter.

This is not to say, of course, that we should throw out annual and seasonal planning. On the contrary. It is crucial to build a solid framework on which to exercise your agility. However, if your strategy is monolithic and doesn’t build in intelligent adaptability, you’ll end up throwing away money on channels that aren’t working and missing out on important conversations that can garner you big returns.

This is where gaining full visibility and understanding of your sector holds the key.

Monitoring the sector

Take what should be the easiest element to measure: your own activity. Yes, you may have spread your spend across multiple channels, working on advice from numerous specialist consultants and agencies about the efficacy of each, but simply increasing the number of customer touchpoints does not itself demonstrate agility.

For this, you need feedback on each (data), a method of combining all this feedback (organised data) and a way of analysing all this combined data to help you switch your strategy – and spend – in reaction to the often rapidly changing effectiveness of each (intelligent data analysis).

Oh yes, and to be truly agile, you ideally need this to be happening in real time.

The data analysis conundrum

This is only part of the story. Add in tools for monitoring social media sentiment, sector sales and customer feedback, and even if you gather this data in real time, it’s quite a job putting it all together and making sense of it.

This is the conundrum that taxed me and my colleagues. We provide marketing technology and services to numerous big brands and retailers, and although the requirements were clear, and the methods of achieving this level of data capture were readily available, a means of analysing all this information was more elusive.

So it was we decided to tax our own technology centre with solving the problem. They’d very successfully built into our Media Centre MRM platform a method of analysing real-time asset creation and usage information, and combining it with stock control and campaign activity data, and we saw no reason why they couldn’t expand this to cover everything you might need to run a super-agile marketing operation.

To work, it had to be able to take in data on all your direct marketing activity – which might be spread across numerous agencies – and add it to information from sales, customer services and external sources, including social sentiment, forum discussions and changing sector info.

What we required was a platform-agnostic glue to hold all your marketing data together.

We launched Status as a mobile and desktop app in the spring, and pretty quickly it was being used by the likes of Heineken, Renault, M&S, SEAT and Weight Watchers to help them gain an additional marketing edge.

What has been fascinating to us has been to see the different ways companies are using it. Because it can pull in and combine data from anywhere, analyse it in either broad strokes or at a granular level, then present it in easy-to-follow graphical form, it’s possible companies will find uses for it we haven’t yet even envisaged.

But one thing we can be certain of: no matter how agile they were before, they’ll be even more agile now.

Simon Ward, CEO, Inspired Thinking Group

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