The End Of Agile Marketing (Before It Begins)

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Is the concept of Agile Marketing a failed state?

A few weeks ago, I attended a private event for Chief Marketing Officers. There was a lot of conversation (buzz, excitement, peacocking) over how much smarter brands have become as technology and connectivity changes the rules, the landscape and the outcomes. I was particularly interested in the closing keynote speaker. It was the CMO for one of of the most recognized brands in the world. This is an individual that I have known for close to a decade. Their presentation was all about how marketing today looks nothing like the marketing of yesteryear, and how the marketing of tomorrow is going to look nothing like today.

Before we break out that old chestnut.

It’s true, digital has changed everything. There is no doubt about it. BUT. When it comes to marketing, a valid argument could be made that while the channels and tools that we use as marketers to connect has changed dramatically, marketing still remains the same. Simplistically, we could argue that the role of marketing is to inform and engage a customer in whatever it is that we are selling. How we market has changed. Marketing hasn’t really changed all that much. Can we get more customers to buy what we sell? Can we keep the ones that have bought loyal? This is what marketing is. This is marketing will always do.

Back to that CMO…

We have many more options to make our products and services find a place in the hearts and minds of consumers. So, what makes today’s marketers that much better? According to the CMO, it is

  1. Access to information. The ability to use data and analytics to make more informed decisions.
  2. A multi-disciplinary approach. The ability to collaborate (both internally with our team and with our agency partners) and to break down the silos within the organization (this can be both physical spaces and internal social technologies to foster better ideas).
  3. The ability to move. You can’t be agile, if you’re not being nimble and adaptive to both the changing landscape, and the physical work that is being done. This runs all the way down to the campaign level. Or, as I like to call it: the "set it and forget it" campaign mindset.
  4. Flexibility. Being flexible to change, being open to sprinting during the marathon that is marketing, and having your eyes open to the future and other possibilities.

It sounds less like agile marketing and much more like panacea.

The presentation was strong. It made a fair and balanced case as to why we must change how we market as organizations. The presentation was sprinkled with many examples of well-used real time marketing initiatives, viral videos and Facebook success stories. The presentation was delivered in a compelling and professional way. You would think that this CMO has drastically transformed their organization into the marketing juggernaut that we all hope to work within (one day).

The difference between fact and fiction.

I know this brand well. If they are doing anything that looks like agile marketing, it has not worked. This is a company with very limited digital marketing chops. Even their search engine marketing is quite basic. Generic terms leading to random spaces within their websites (no landing pages, no multivariate testing, no capturing of real time search queries to grab low-hanging market share, etc…). This organization still runs, primarily, within the confines of mass media. From large TV spends with commercial that are not even being tested out on YouTube first, to massive billboards and an email marketing program that could only be described as fatigued and boring. I’m not dumping on this brand, but their infrastructure is such that they rely on a handful of very small boutique agencies to run a myriad of small projects, without an overarching marketing strategy driving against a bigger goal.

It’s hard to be brave and fearless.

It’s easy to talk about being brave and fearless. It’s easy to show examples of others who have taken a risk and won. It’s easy to recognize the multiple of other brands who have tried something similar and failed miserably. Marketing is hard work. It is becoming harder. Posturing that your brand is at the cutting edge when – in reality – there are way too many brands who are not taking advantage of the many tools, technologies and opportunities that are right under our nose, can be depressing. It’s easy to present big ideas about big data. It’s cool to talk about how engaged a brand can be on social media. It’s critical to discuss how we’re going to shift from a browser-based world to handheld one (or the one screen world). Still, none of that matters if the actual work that we’re doing does not mirror our words, our intentions and our presentations.

The opportunities to be brilliant marketers are boundless. Let’s not relegate them to just PowerPoint presentations. Let’s actually do this.