“What the heck was that? It happened so fast!"

A pop-culture news-story just blew up on Twitter whilst I was idly colouring in the boxes of The Guardian cryptic crossword.

Is it too late to enter the fray? After all every tweet on my timeline carries the hashtag. In fact some of these tweets don’t even have anything to do with the story itself. I guess I’m too late, what’s the point of even trying?

Wait! I just thought of a really good joke I could do using Photoshop. Oh wait, Specsavers got there first. Sigh. I’ll just go back to my crossword.”

This slightly irritating internal monologue is basically a sped up version of what happens most days on social media when a social media manager and a content team are asleep on the job. That’s why here at Econsultancy we threw away our hammocks a long time ago.

So what is agile marketing really all about? Is it just entering a trending hashtag with a well deployed tweet or a quickly rustled piece of content, or is there a much wider picture that needs to be discussed?

I originally wrote this guide last year and it has become somewhat out of date now, so this is a revised and updated version of that previously published post

Social media, the home of agile marketing?

It’s certainly true that social media has spurred the rise of agile marketing, and it’s the reason why marketing teams are more readily adding it to their strategies. 

Social happens in real-time, particularly on channels like Twitter where comments appear in chronological order without an algorithm (for now). It’s entirely possible to draw a straight-line back to the beginning of most trending events thanks to hashtags.

I won’t dwell on this example, as we’ve talked about it an awful lot already, but #GiveGregTheHoliday is a perfect recent example of good and bad practice agile marketing.

Social media is the agile marketer’s dream. A real-time playing field full of digital savvy users ready to comment on and share any particularly innovative, clever, entertaining or attention grabbing piece of content. 

It matters little whether that content is from a major corporation or a start-up from down the road, all that matters is the quality of the message being delivered.

Agile marketing can simply be well-Photoshopped, amusing image in response to a trend or a very well timed giveaway.

It’s on social channels that brands have learnt what types of content works for their audiences and that a more human, approachable tone of voice works best.

Planning for agility

Can you plan to be agile? Isn’t that cheating?

It's just common sense for any company that wishes to engage in a agile marketing to have a full calendar of important events and holidays to prepare content for.

If you’re a regular trend-jacker than everyone is expecting a Christmas themed bit of content from you, or a Halloween on, or a Valentine’s one from you. Mix things up by picking up events that perhaps aren’t expected of you to cover.

A perfect example of planning ahead, but waiting for the event itself before making relevant content, is Priceline's series of Vines during the Super Bowl.

Because of its lo-fi nature, Vines can be knocked up super quick with very little time or money. This is great for brands that wish to comment on a current event or a trending news/cultural item.

The Vine from Priceline shows that obviously a large amount of pre-production was planned before the big game in terms of the set and puppets, however this meant it could quickly make a comment on the game and upload a video quickly in real-time.

Of course some of the most impressive examples of agile marketing happened because of an event that couldn’t be planned for.

Nokia's 'flattery' tweet is most impressive because of the fact that a large corporation had the right processes in place for it to be created, signed-off and uploaded so quickly.

At the very moment that Apple announced its first ever vibrantly coloured range of iPhones, Nokia, a company that has been offering a similar range of colours for a while, tweeted this at the exact same time.

Nokia’s tweet hijacked the #Apple hashtag, stole the conversation away from the iPhone announcement and became the most retweeted brand tweet ever, doubling the previous record set by Oreo’s ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ Super Bowl tweet.

In order to capitalise on a trend, a hashtag or any other newsworthy event at a moment’s notice, brands need a marketing team able to respond quickly, creatively and with senior support able to sign-off ideas quickly.

As opposed to the values of content marketing, agile content doesn’t need to be a thoroughly researched, minutely planned piece of narratively driven work of art. It just needs to engage at the right moment and capture the imagination of an audience beyond your own.

The 70:20:10 rule

Ashley Friedlin recently discussed agile marketing on the blog, and he suggests a 70:20:10 rule for marketers.

Basically (and I am cribbing liberally from Ashley here): 70% of your marketing should be planned ‘marketing as usual’ activity. 20% of your marketing should be programmatic, which is to say machine-driven marketing that automatically responds to various actions of the user.

10% of your marketing should be entirely agile. Reacting to news and events as and when they happen. Again, for this you need the proper resources. A creative team able to whip up brilliant content at any time of day. The proper tools in place to listen to social media feeds and alert you to relevant topics. And let’s not undervalue the importance of courage.

For more on agile marketing, check out these 23 nimble examples of agile marketing.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 23 July, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (5)



Obsessed with agile marketing + read econsultancy daily (I'm a marketing copywriter). I dig your writing and find that I am often times reading my own thoughts here. Bye!

over 3 years ago


ed hewett

I'd argue Friedlin's "70:20:10 rule" understates the importance of marketing agility. While only 10% of campaigns may be agile campaigns, marketing agility should be driven into 100% of marketing functions. Without an org that embraces agility, quickly getting an agile campaign out the door with any consistency will be next to impossible. Check out my blog post on the topic here: http://blogs.adobe.com/digitalmarketing/digital-marketing/get-beaten-path-agile-marketing/

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Ah, the snickers box advertising snack food, leveraging Clarkson's tantrum at Top Gear.

Never understood why anyone thought this was remotely a good idea, seeing as Jeremy Clarkson was furious *because* he was only offered snack food.

over 2 years ago


Justin Richards, Founder at Sellcoolmusic

Then there's a certain irony to the tweet, no? Plus, it ties in nicely with the ad campaign's slogan: "You're not you when you're hungry."

over 2 years ago

Richard Tidman

Richard Tidman, Managing Director at Space 66 Ltd

Have to join Ed Hewett on this one and argue against Mr Friedlin's rule. Yes maybe 10% of your comms may benefit from being reactive, but you can apply Agile principles to a wide range of activity across the marketing spectrum. You can have multiple teams running different Sprint windows - enabling you to take on bigger challenges whilst maintaining your real-time commitments. We need to stop confusing real-time reactive marketing with Agile.

about 2 years ago

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