IDEATE, iterate, pivot, agile—once considered buzzwords heard only at the local startup incubator, these concepts are now ubiquitous across global businesses. To create and maintain an edge in today’s complex, demanding marketplace, companies often need adaptive models that can enable them to keep up with the speed of culture, conversation, and digitization. The dynamic social, economic, and cultural environment also necessitates agile decision-making—particularly in marketing, where increasingly discriminating buyers are adopting, consuming, and disposing of brands more frequently and casually.
Many leading brands are separating themselves from the pack by being more purposeful and hyper-focused than ever on the human experience, necessitating a different way of working for their marketing teams. Other brands should follow suit—moving from reactive to proactive engagement in order to address the wants and whims of customers—or potentially be left out of the race. For this, they should restructure their marketing functions, leverage the power of real-time data accessed through digital platforms, and quickly gain insights to design more personalized, human experiences in an agile manner (see sidebar, “What is agile marketing?” for more).
Agility is both a framework and a mindset. It encourages organizations to embrace immediate and novel ways of thinking while helping them restructure in a way that allows their brand to join conversations and moments organically. Here are two examples showcasing how businesses are becoming more agile:
Agility draws on the key principles of “agile”3 software development. It is a framework that can enable organizations to move closer to customers by helping them embrace adaptive thinking and structure cross-functional teams to increase their speed, quality, flexibility, and effectiveness in reacting to moments in the market. It also can help companies capitalize on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to predict and generate meaningful engagements with customers in nearly real time.
Agility pushes marketing to move beyond mere content creation by offering an organizational model for businesses to quickly design, create, and launch marketing campaigns. An agile model can allow companies to validate hypotheses and pivot based on customer interactions and timely insights. Further, agility facilitates learning and assessing the impact of marketing on connections with customers to capture return on investment.
TD Bank and JetBlue are just two examples of companies realizing the need for new approaches to better engage with customers. Across the marketing landscape, our analysis illustrates how many global brands are embedding agile across their organizations in diverse ways. In the agility trend, we delve into common organizational approaches that demonstrate agility in action and discuss the transformation that may be required in marketing departments to implement these approaches.
Being agile typically requires marketers to shift from conventional approaches of generating marketing content to new, tech-enabled, moment-centric ones. Traditional marketing strategies were built around single campaigns, where static advertisements were developed in stages, turned on, and then turned off when the campaign ended. Brands latching on to agile should recognize the need to adapt both the framework and mindset across the organization. They should also build internal capabilities and cross-functional teams that speed up their reaction time to capitalize on societal moments, while leveraging predictive technologies to gain a share of culture and conversation rather than just a share of voice or brand impression. Our trends research surfaced two specific agile strategies organizations are adopting:
As these examples demonstrate, the accelerating velocity of technology can create opportunities for brands to continuously evolve their messaging and human experience based on near real-time customer insights.
To put agile to work, many marketers are diffusing the time-boxed, iterative approach across their organizations in three ways. First, they’re recognizing the need to be cross-functional and embracing a newsroom approach—breaking operational barriers and silos by bringing people closer together to produce content in the moment. Second, marketing teams are delivering content in a more agile manner by embracing new ways of working. These include daily standups, scrums, and piloting and testing methods that can enable teams to work in shorter sprints and move away from annual and quarterly content calendars. Finally, new emerging technologies, led by AI and analytics, are supporting organizations in predicting culture and the direction in which the conversation is moving.
The following examples show how some marketing departments are making agile work for their brands and how you can too:
Marketing leaders and departments can lead the agile charge for the entire organization, and in the process, transform their companies into customer-centric operations. By embracing agile across structures, teams and processes, and mindsets, brands are better suited to act and capitalize on moments to create deeper engagement with customers.
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