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How agile working is transforming the marketing industry

Digital technology and social media has created a new kind of world, with many industries forced to adapt for survival. In the marketing industry, the change in the landscape has been particularly dramatic. Faced with a vast, ‘always-on’ network of consumers who are constantly looking to interact, the traditional model – a carefully planned marketing campaign that culminates in a ‘big reveal’ following months of work behind the scenes – is now often ineffective.

Instead, modern marketers have to be agile. In today’s highly fluid marketing environment, they need the speed and flexibility to respond immediately when circumstances change.

For some marketing professionals, this has meant embracing the Agile framework typically used by software development teams. Marketing is one of many industries that have taken a lead from software developers in this area, although Barre Hardy of marketing consultancy CMG Partners recently explained to Forbes that understanding Agile as a specific methodology remains a source of some confusion in the sector.

“We are seeing adoption grow, but it’s still a new concept in marketing,” he commented. However, Hardy also pointed that almost every marketing leader now recognises how the principles of agility and agile working should inform their organisations – whether these principles are currently reflected in formal agile practices or not.

“They understand that to achieve agility requires their organisation to be data-driven, customer-focused, constantly prioritising, and quick decision-makers. They also understand that this culture needs to be supported with process,” he explained.

The 2014 CMOs Agenda report by CMG Partners, entitled ‘The Agile Advantage’, found that 63% of marketing leaders consider agility a high priority, but only 40% rate themselves as agile. Below, we examine three examples of marketing teams that have used agile working practices to deliver major results.

Oreo’s Super Bowl success

A single tweet from February 2013 remains one of the frequently discussed examples of agile working in marketing – and how it can be used to drive brand awareness and engagement on a vast scale.

During the 34-minute blackout at the Super Bowl, cookie manufacturer Oreo circulated a simple advert featuring the message ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ that was retweeted more than 15,000 times within 14 hours. As eConsultancy pointed out, the agility in Oreo’s approach was evidenced by the fact it had “marketing resources and processes (including, for example, sign off on any such ‘campaign’) to respond to something that was not planned and out of office hours”.

Teradata steals a march on its rivals

Popular examples of agile marketing tend to focus on consumer products, but the approach can also be highly effective in B2B industries. As highlighted by Mashable, software provider Teradata Applications used agile principles to beat rival vendors to the punch when it was included in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report.

To achieve its goal, the company had to work closely with specific individuals at Gartner and adjust the workload of its internal team to make sure every element of its campaign (including a landing page for the report and an announcement email sent to specific contacts) was produced on time.

Teradata CMO Lisa Arthur explained that delivery of the ‘microcampaign’ was made possible by strong communication and collaboration – internally and with the extended network of partners. “We improved communication within the expanded ecosystem,” she said.

Airbnb and agility

Like Oreo, Airbnb has demonstrated its agile working prowess in another famous example that also involved a timely intervention on Twitter. In October last year, the accommodation site responded to a tweet from an American tourist who found himself locked in a London branch of Waterstones.

The website, which gives people the opportunity to list their own properties for tourists to rent, reacted to this unusual situation by inviting Waterstones to become an Airbnb host. The move generated significant PR exposure for the brand – and its reach extended even further when the two companies collaborated to invite a small group of guests for a ‘sleepover’ in the store a few days later.

Again, the simplicity of the response – and the fact it resonated with such a large number of social media users – can easily obscure the fact that a lot is happening behind the scenes. Airbnb has clearly worked to develop an agile working model that makes it possible for this kind of real-time marketing to be planned, signed off and executed before the moment of opportunity has passed.

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