Agile Marketing: The Key to Keeping Up with Marketing Trends
In 2012, the Agile Marketing Manifesto was released.
The novel framework—born out of the principles and practices of agile software development—was developed in response to many of the entrenched shortcomings of traditional marketing tactics, such as slow decision-making, a lack of customer-centricity, and an inflexible approach to crafting and executing strategy.
Fast forward to the present day, and this novel framework isn’t just relevant, it’s indispensable in the savvy marketer’s toolkit, enabling them to keep pace with rapid consumer behavioral shifts, evolving trends, and technology advancements that characterize the complex and mercurial future of the digital marketing landscape.
Put simply, agile marketing is more than just a methodology. It’s the key to staying attuned to the market’s heartbeat and preserving your brand’s relevance in an era of constant flux.
What Is Agile?
The Agile Marketing Manifesto was originally inspired by the Agile Manifesto for Software Development. This methodology was designed to replace the conventional “waterfall” model of software development, which was linear, rigid, and often resulted in products that no longer met the market’s needs by the time the product was ready for launch.
According to the Agile Alliance,1 agile means:
“The ability to create and respond to change. It is a way of dealing with, and ultimately succeeding in, an uncertain and turbulent environment….It’s really about thinking through how you can understand what’s going on in the environment that you’re in today, identify what uncertainty you’re facing, and figure out how you can adapt to that as you go along.”
No matter the context, the general philosophy of an agile methodology is founded on four primary pillars:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
At its essence, agile is focused on driving efficiency while aligning with customer needs. It creates an environment that encourages teams of a digital marketing agency to adapt swiftly to changes, fosters transparent communication, and embraces a continuous learning model.
Naturally, the tenets of agile resonated with professionals across various fields, marketing notwithstanding. Today, 43% of marketers surveyed already use some form of Agile approach in their work, with a significant percentage of additional marketers planning to adopt this methodology in the near future.2
What Is Agile Marketing?
Brands and marketers are constantly scrambling to keep pace with the speed of the industry’s evolution. Without the right strategies in place, the development processes can become chaotic and fragmented, eventually resulting in a solution that’s unaligned with the present needs.
An agile marketing approach empowers marketers to work smarter, not harder—to address small problems or changes before they can devolve. It’s about being flexible, responsive, and adaptable. Agile mindsets encourage marketers to embrace change rather than fear it, foster team collaboration as opposed to silos, and continuously prioritize delivering value to consumers.
This framework relies on self-organization and cross-functional teams that work in small, iterative bursts known as sprints, which empowers marketing teams to shift a campaign strategy according to a continuous data and feedback loop. And, today, there are numerous tools available that agile-enabled teams might leverage to accomplish this, including:
- Marketing work management platforms.
- Project management tools.
- Data gathering and analysis tools.
- Team collaboration and work management tools.
- Customer data platforms.
- Digital experience platforms.
- Marketing automation platforms.
The Principles of Agile Marketing
Like agile software development, the Agile Marketing Manifesto centered this framework on five key principles:
#1 Focusing on Customer Value and Business Outcomes Over Activity and Outputs
With traditional marketing, the focus is on metrics—how many blog posts published, how many social media updates posted, how many emails sent, etc.
But in Agile Marketing, that emphasis shifts away from outputs and activities in favor of delivering value to the customer and driving business outcomes. It’s not about ticking off items on a to-do list, but about ensuring each action contributes to customer satisfaction and business growth.
#2 Delivering Value Early and Often Instead of Waiting for Perfection
Agile marketing embodies the adage that states “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
Instead of waiting until the campaign or content is as perfect as can be, agile marketers seek to continuously deliver value to their customers throughout the entire process—not just with the final delivery.
By breaking down larger projects into smaller, more manageable chunks, they can deliver results faster while making iterative improvements based on real-time customer feedback.
Here the goal is to seize opportunities as they emerge and refine continuously.
#3 Learning via Experiments and Data Instead of Opinions and Conventions
While conventional digital marketing strategies might rely on adherence to outdated conventions or opinions, an agile approach is data-driven. It prioritizes evidence over assumption.
Continuous experimentation fosters learning and data collection—two critical elements that enhance marketing decision-making, especially over successive experiments.
And, in a digital age, powerful data analytics tools empower marketers to gather empirical evidence and then generate actionable marketing insights in direct response to the data.
#4 Cross-Functional Collaboration Instead of Silos and Hierarchies
Agile marketing is designed to break down silos and flatten hierarchies. It champions a collaborative, cross-department, team-based approach where everyone works together towards a shared goal.
An agile team will be aligned with the organization’s goals, not just their specific department’s goals, which:
- Enhances communication.
- Encourages diverse ideas.
- Enables faster decision-making.
- Ensures workflows are maintained.
- Enhances accountability and visibility.
#5 Responding to Change Over Following a Static Plan
As Sun Tzu once wrote in the Art of War, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” In other words, even the most well-thought-out plan most meticulously crafted plan can falter when faced with the unpredictable realities of the marketplace.
Agile marketing embraces this reality. In the face of rapid shifts in consumer behavior and emerging trends, a rigid strategy can be detrimental. It prioritizes an adaptable and responsive mindset that enables teams to pivot their strategies and tactics according to real-time insights and evolving conditions.
This dynamic flexibility empowers a digital marketing campaign to stay relevant, timely, and impactful no matter regardless of external circumstances. By embracing change, agile marketers can take advantage of emerging opportunities to deliver value to consumers.
Two Agile Marketing Approaches
While there are several ways to deploy an agile strategy, two schools of thought, in particular, have risen to prominence. They include:
Agile marketers often pre-prepare marketing content, that’s able to launch within a 48-72 hour window, if real-time events or trends go a certain way. For instance, suppose a clothing brand sends an email to its customers featuring a new product line. The “if/then” approach might look something like this:
- IF the customer opens the email and clicks the link to the product page, THEN the brand sends a follow-up email a few days later,
- IF the customer opens the email and clicks the link to the product page, THEN the brand sends a follow-up email a few days later, reminding them of the items they viewed, perhaps offering a small discount to incentivize a purchase.
- IF the customer does not open the email, THEN the brand might send a different follow-up email, perhaps with a different subject line or featuring different products, to try to re-engage the customer.
Acting in Near Real-Time
As the name infers, real-time strategies leverage real-time data and feedback to identify opportunities, trends, or issues, and take immediate action to craft a marketing campaign that suits. The goal? Create marketing materials that are highly relevant and personalized to the target audience, maximizing the chances of engagement and conversion.
For this approach, leading brands will often shift their entire organizational culture to support instant engagement opportunities.
A classic example of Agile Marketing in action is Oreo’s famous “Dunk in the Dark” tweet during Super Bowl XLVII.
When the Super Bowl’s stadium had a power outage, plunging the field into darkness for 34 minutes, the marketing team at Oreo seized on the moment, tweeting out, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark,” alongside an image of a single Oreo cookie illuminated in a spot of light. The tweet went viral and the ad was widely lauded as the best of that Superbowl.3
The Benefits of Agile Marketing
Why should marketers embrace an agile marketing mindset?
Because it can improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of a team’s overall efforts. Key advantages include:
- Enhanced customer focus – Agile marketing places the consumer in the center. It ensures that every action is designed to meet the customer’s needs and, ultimately, drive growth.
- Increased speed and efficiency – An iterative campaign process breaks down a larger marketing project or campaign into bite-sized chunks. This allows teams to deliver their work quickly and efficiently, and do so without wasting time on a lengthy planning and approval process.
- Enhanced responsiveness – In an ever-evolving landscape, the ability to respond with alacrity to change is an invaluable skill set. Agile marketing is designed to empower teams to think dynamic, pivoting strategies or tactics whenever the situation demands. And, as Deloitte mentions, “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.”4
- Data-driven decision-making – Real-time data and consumer insights empower marketing teams to design more personalized experiences and campaigns at every touchpoint. Instead of operating on a gut instinct, marketers can engage in evidence-based decision-making, which reduces the risk of costly mistakes or missteps.
- Improved collaboration – The collaborative, cross-functional approach ensures that everyone is on the same page and working in lock-step toward the same goals. It also unlocks the power of an agile marketing team’s diverse skill sets and perspectives. More communication and fewer silos result in better teamwork.
- Continuous improvement – Agile marketing relies on a constant cycle of implementing, measuring, learning, and responding. Given time, a campaign’s strategies and tactics will be refined, resulting in better performance.
The Future of Marketing Is Agile
When trends shift with the winds and the situation on the ground can change in an instant, agile marketing is the key to staying not just afloat, but ahead of the pack. With its inherent flexibility, data-driven marketing and decision-making, commitment to adaptability, and customer-first focus, agile empowers businesses to succeed in this dynamic digital age.
- Agile Alliance. Agile 101. https://www.agilealliance.org/agile101/
- CoSchedule. Agile Marketing Research 2022: Agile Marketers Adapt To Changing Priorities & More New Findings. https://coschedule.com/agile-marketing-guide/agile-marketing-research
- Wired. How Oreo Won the Marketing Super Bowl With a Timely Blackout Ad on Twitter. https://www.wired.com/2013/02/oreo-twitter-super-bowl/
- Deloitte. Diffusing agility across the organization. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/marketing-and-sales-operations/global-marketing-trends/2020/agile-marketing.html