There is a seismic shift occurring in marketing as startups, for various reasons, are forced to discover new ways to grow their user bases.
I’d rather not bore you with another philosophical rant about how everything is changing (even though it is), so instead, I'll share with you one of the underlying insights that is at the core of this new marketing ethos, micro-failures.
Philip Gladman, Diageo’s white spirits director for Western Europe, once commented that because of digital marketing and consumer empowerment, marketers had to become multi-faceted like ‘Swiss army knives’.
What Gladman was describing is what I like to call marketing agility. It’s a topic that has garnered interest with most if not all marketers confronted with the fast-changing digital media landscape (Chris Lake recently covered the topic).
A few months ago I compiled a list of 26 wonderful agile marketing campaigns, as there are some serious wins to be had for brands that can act fast.
But what does it take to react quickly?
Good timing is everything in comedy, in sport, in fashion, in cooking, and in business. Wait too long and you’ve missed your moment, but there’s a very sweet spot to hit if you get it right. As Anna Wintour says:
It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.
Vogue’s editor in chief could have so easily been talking about agile marketing, which requires superlative timing. How are you supposed to win the earned media game if you sit around twiddling thumbs, or don’t have the right set up to make things happen quickly?
With this in mind, I thought I’d outline the key agile marketing success factors, and to try to figure out what kind of team structure and processes need to be put in place.
In recent months, we've seen lots of brands launching real time campaigns in response to national events, producing great opportunist campaigns.
Good examples include, Golden Wonder's fast reaction to Sir Alex Fergusan's retirement, and the Bodyform Facebook response.
I recently wrote about agile marketing, focusing on reactive campaigns. Many of the 26 examples I highlighted in my post used a news trigger as a kind of jumping off point for a marketing campaign (‘campaign’ isn’t quite the right word for some of them, e.g. a single tweet).
This made me think about the other types of triggers that exist, which provide brands with the opportunity to reach existing and prospective customers. I was surprised by how many there are, and no doubt I have missed dozens of others.
What’s a trigger, exactly? It is, simply, an opportunity to contact somebody. Trigger-based marketing is all about being reactive, and targeted, rather than just pushing out arbitrary brand messages to big audiences.
Triggers might be based around individual or group behaviour. They could be time-specific. Triggered comms may be activated post-purchase, or post-abandonment. They often factor in customer data and will be highly personalised (though let’s not write off segmentation). They can be automated, or they can produced manually, and made to measure.
As with all forms of marketing communication, there is a balance to strike. Everybody loathes spam, but people do like to be rewarded, to be entertained, and to feel valued. So be careful, be meaningful, and be generous. And test, test, test.
Before we look at the triggers, let’s first think about some common formats for marketing campaigns / comms. How, exactly, might you communicate to a customer (or customers) once a trigger has been pulled?
The beauty of Twitter for marketers is that it allows you to be agile in coming up with marketing messages and responding to your customers, which can in turn increase brand loyalty.
However this requires a certain level of creativity and planning from brands if they wish to set the right tone and avoid an epic fail.
In a talk at our Future of Digital Marketing conference Twitter’s Bruce Daisley gave his tips for how brands can set themselves up to respond effectively to current events and make the most of marketing in the moment.
The full video is available at the bottom of this post, however I thought it would be useful to pick out some of the highlights.
Daisley pointed out at the beginning of his talk that he sees Twitter as an interest network rather than a social network. This is heavily influenced by the fact that 80% of Twitter’s 10 million UK users access the service through mobile.
At the recent Neolane & Celerity co-hosted breakfast seminar Ashley Friedlein spelt out what agile marketing is and how it’s going to change us all.
In his introduction he said we’ll all be talking about 'real time', 'agile', 'on demand', 'automation', 'speeding up' and 'event triggered' in the months and years ahead.
What was clear from all the presentations at the event was that personalisation, real-time, agile marketing practices will become the norm.
According to Neolane’s recent survey, 19% of marketers are currently personalising their websites in real-time. But Neolane predicts that this figure will jump by 3X to 59% by the end of 2014.
Even the Google Now android app has forseen this as our future too. In its latest ad it claims we’ll be able to access information that is relevant to us right now.
Based on predictive algorithms it claims to be “one step ahead” – suggesting new routes to work if traffic is heavy and recommending places to eat where you are, even telling you the best things on the menu.
Agile project management is something that many tech teams have adopted in the past few years, to rapidly build and develop new products, and to finesse existing ones. There is a focus on sprints, and on getting things done quickly.
Increasingly, we are seeing the signs that marketing teams are also becoming more agile. Consider the amount of advertising and marketing that is based around a news hook. This is nothing new, but it seems to be on the rise.
Social media might be one reason why agile marketing is on the rise. Brands have spent the last few years figuring out how to react on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. They now know what works, in terms of the type of content they share and produce. Social media has also allowed a lot of brands to establish a new tone of voice: more human, more transparent, and - as we shall see - more humourous.
The ability to react quickly on social channels is important, to nip things in the bud, and to encourage interaction and engagement. Many companies are now doing this well, and some have figured out that rapid response can be applied to marketing more broadly. If done correctly, it will be amplified on social media (note the number of 'favourites' and 'retweets' in the Super Bowl tweets below). Earned media FTW.
I thought I’d compile a bunch of examples of agile marketing, although, by way of a caveat, some of these things may have been planned a little while in advance. While I can’t be absolutely sure of the processes involved or speed of execution, I do know that these examples are mainly ‘reactionary’, be that a response to a news story, to customer or user feedback, or to another brand. I have a bunch of ideas on how to structure an agile marketing team and the kind of processes to put in place, but I’ll explore all of that in a separate post.
Ok, let’s check them out...