Agile Marketing: What is it and Why Should You Apply It?

Agile Marketing

Marketing, like technology, is awash with jargon terms that can be a little off-putting for some marketing managers. While strategy is hugely important to any campaign, it can be difficult to know which is best to apply. Experienced managers will have come up with their own strategies that they know work over the years, but it’s always worth thinking about new techniques when they emerge.

Agile marketing has been around for a couple of years now, and gained its moniker thanks to the success of agile development. Those marketers who worked with developers on agile projects soon found that they could apply agile practices to their own campaigns.

A survey carried out by CMG Partners in 2014 – The Agile Advantage – conducted interviews with over 40 marketing professionals found that,

“Agile methodology typically used in software development yields greater marketing effectiveness and efficiency.”

This is especially true because of the way in which marketing has changed in this brave new world of social media and real time marketing. These days, we don’t have the time to work on big projects thanks to the fast paced environment and the necessity to respond quickly.

The report goes on to say,

“Agile for Marketing (A4M) drives long-term marketing strategies with short-term, customer-focused iterative projects that improve responsiveness and relevance. It allows for faster creative, more testing, smarter improvements and better results.”

Speed of Response

Agile marketing depends heavily on the ability to react quickly to marketing opportunities. For example, on social media, you might find that you only have a small window of time where you can react and offer something to your customer base.

As Scott Brinker points out,

“Agile marketing processes are important because marketing is operating in the most fluid, fast-changing environment in its history. Social marketing opportunities come and go quickly, competition in dynamic advertising markets can change overnight, marketing platforms such as Google and Facebook are constantly evolving, SaaS-based tools we use have frequent updates with new features, and our own organizations are often tweaking products/services at a greatly accelerated clock speed.

More importantly, our prospects and customers have now come to expect our marketing to be quick to react across these channels and experiences. Agile marketing isn’t just a nice to have; it’s the only way an organization has a prayer of executing at the speed the market demands.”

So marketing managers should be considering how they can best respond to this fast-paced environment for the good of the business overall. Agile marketing demands strategy too, as well as being closely tied to business processes and goals.

Engagement and Agile Marketing

Central to agile marketing is also engagement. This doesn’t just apply to customer engagement however, it’s also necessary to ensure that appropriate executives are engaged with marketing insomuch as they understand why and how it needs to be tied to business processes. When it comes to customers, it’s important that the level of engagement across all channels is measured, analysed and acted upon.

Social media is also swift-paced and it’s almost impossible for the marketing manager to effectively plan every aspect of its use for any length of time. Social engagements demand real-time interaction and as such, the planning has to be a little fluid. This is true more of social than any other platform, but marketers should still bear real-time marketing strategies in mind for all of their channels.

For example, real-time marketing messages can be sent to web visitors, with a focus on which product the customer has viewed before abandoning the shopping cart. Targeted mail can then be sent suggesting similar or alternative products in a similar manner to Amazon.

Planning the Agile Campaign

It seems contradictory to discuss planning with regard to agile marketing. But every marketing activity needs a plan and strategy and as such, a good campaign should use a mixture of planning and real-time responses. Some campaigns can be planned well in advance, such as those that will take place over the holidays. Other events can also be catered for and planned out such as sporting and local events.

According to Ashley Friedlin, marketing managers should us the 70:20:10 rule. This means that 70% of your activity should be planned, 20% should be programmatic and 10% should be completely agile. So you should constantly monitor social media and other channels in order that you can quickly react to news and events.

Being agile means that it’s imperative that you learn to respond to events quickly, as they happen. If you’ve been using the waterfall approach, then it’s likely that you plan meticulously. Your blogs will be published on certain days, at set times and have likely been in the planning process for months. Your social media posts will tweet/post/pin at specific times and you will have set aside time to respond a couple of times per day, perhaps.

The waterfall model has been used for many years and is a sequential process which can also be applied to software development. It’s named for the way that the process flows downwards through the various phases of marketing. It’s not suitable for the social media age, as it doesn’t account for any ability to be able to respond quickly to opportunities.

Oreo – The Agile Expert

One of the most famous companies using agile marketing successfully is Oreo. Their social team became well-known for being both agile and innovative during the 2013 Super Bowl. A single tweet was all it took, 10 minutes after the power went out, leaving millions of fans around the world waiting for the game to resume.

They did this:oreo social media

Just this one tweet generated more than 16.000 retweets and 20,000 Facebook likes and gain a huge amount of reach for the company. It was dubbed “one of the best Super Bowl ads bar none” by the media and was widely covered by tier one publications.

This is a perfect example of agile marketing. Oreo’s social marketing team clearly knew that they were onto a winner, given the sheer size of the event and as soon as something happened that was out of the ordinary, immediately jumped on board to make something of it.

It was quite brilliant.

Oreo has since proved its team’s talent over and over again. When the PS4 was launched, the team tweeted the image below, which in turned prompted a reply from Xbox One.

oreo ps4 campaignxbox response to oreo

Brands that interact in this way are considered to be a treat by the world of social. It humanises brand messages in a way that we’ve never seen before as we didn’t have access to real-time forums for spreading marketing messages. Humour is always welcomed too, as I discussed in my post about UK bakery Greggs (another example of agile marketing).

Another good example from Oreo came about thanks to the need to celebrate its 100th anniversary. For 100 days, the social team posted a cookie-inspired tweet that reflected a current event for that day.

There was National Elvis Week, for example.

oreo campaign elvis

And then there was Gay Pride week …

oreo gay pride campaign

The Oreo Daily Twist Initiative that commemorated the 100th anniversary was a roaring success and it’s thought that it led to a four-fold increase in Facebook shares for the company alone. Oreo perform well across all social platforms, especially those that lend themselves to imagery such as Instagram. #PlayWithOreo on Instagram encouraged fans to send in their own Oreo-inspired images.

Oreo instagram campaign

This campaign not only gives good imagery on Oreo’s Instagram account, but it encourages fans to really interact with the brand and other followers, resulting in a competition amongst fans to outdo each other.

So Oreo are up there as having one of the best marketing teams in the world. It’s approach has been exceptionally well-received and for the fellow marketer, it’s impressive to see just how well social can be used and how engagement can be gained.

So if you’re still following the waterfall model, then it’s time to change.

Agile marketing is essential to responding to events through social media effectively. Sure, you can still use your favourite scheduling software to post and you should delve into social analytics too. But the most important part of social media is often to present a brand as human, with a sense of humour and social justice. This touches followers far better than constant promotional (dull) messages that offer little to engage with.

Tips for Effective Agile Marketing

Agile marketing is not just about being able to respond quickly to events and the overall market.

It must also be:

  • Data driven
  • Customer focused
  • Tied to business goals and processes
  • Flexible

It’s also necessary to be continuously prioritising and have the ability to make decisions quickly. These days, more and more marketing executives are responsible for business growth and that means that it’s vital to react to the market with speed and flexibility. This gives a competitive advantage that can facilitate growth and ensure that the business outperforms competitors who stick to more traditional methods.

For best results, it’s necessary to use data to inform decisions and make a splash with real-time marketing. More marketers are beginning to adopt the agile approach, but it’s still slow to take off right now. This means that there’s an opportunity for you to get agile and grow your business and social platforms, whilst keeping your customers happy.

Do you have any tips for agile marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments below and let’s get this conversation going!

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Kerry Butters

A prolific technology writer, Kerry was an authority in her field and produced content for a variety of high profile sites in her niche. Also a published author, she adored the written word and all things tech and internet related. Sadly she passed away in February 2016 after a valiant battle with cancer.

  • Love this post Kerry – the whole approach makes a ton of sense for companies of all sizes. This approach, coupled with things like growth-driven design, are going to rapidly change the effectiveness of web sites as they become more mainstream. Thanks!

  • Thao Ho

    Thank you, very useful. Agile is not only for software development: http://apiumtech.com/blog/agile-methodology-is-not-only-for-software-development/

  • Super post Kerry. I’ve worked with many devs that swear by the Agile approach and I’ve always thought my team and I were doing the same but with marketing. After reading your article, I’ve come to realize that there is a name to the madness we do…Agile marketing! Thanks :)