Agile marketing may have initially seemed like a fad, but its persistence is proving otherwise.

Begun as a ‘call to arms’ at a SprintZero event in 2012, agile marketing was later formalized in the Agile Marketing Manifesto shortly after.

The agile marketing values are reasonably straightforward:

  • Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  • Customer focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  • Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
  • The process of customer discovery over static prediction
  • Flexible versus rigid planning
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets

…and many of these values have been adopted by marketing teams since. Agile marketing opponents, however, claim that the agile approach is too reactive for marketing as it encourages short-term tactics over longer-term, and more effective, strategies.

So, six years on, what do brand marketers think about agile marketing? To find out, Econsultancy recently held roundtable discussions on the topic with senior client-side marketers in Singapore.

At the Agile Marketing table at Singapore’s Digital Cream 2018, hosted by Jennifer Villalobos, VP & Head of Digital Business, Income and sponsored by Oracle, marketers offered their experiences, insights and frustrations with agile marketing, summarised below.

Agile marketing is…

Attendees were first asked to state what their definition of agile marketing was, beyond what was already described in the agile marketing values.

One participant suggested that agile marketing was “not just a framework of what’s and how’s, but a behaviour”. Another added that, at their firm, agile was a way of working to “make things better faster”, and that it was how they ensured that all development and testing remained customer-centric.

Marketers who were new to the topic identified with many of the agile marketing values, and had already embraced a lot of what it set out to change.

As one delegate put it, agile marketing had become “the door to marketing innovation” at their company.

The key components of agile marketing

First off, participants agreed that the top two values were to “always validate learning over opinions and conventions” and to “collaborate over silos and hierarchy”.

The second-most valued aspect of agile marketing, according to participants, was that “fast is better than slow”, and that collaboration helps with speed as ‘building everything on your own is detrimental to speed and positive impact’.

Finally, attendees agreed that “disruption” or wholesale change was important for agile to work. As one participant put it, agile marketing is “not just about gimmicky tech-centric solutions according to the current fad” but about “paradigm shifts” which encourage new ways of thinking about a problem.

Attendees at Econsultancy's Digital Cream roundtable event discuss agile marketing, with an Oracle banner behind their table.

How does agile marketing help?

Delegates were also keen to discuss how agile marketing values had helped them achieve their objectives.

First off, contrary to the notion that agile is somehow anti-strategic, one participant said that “with agile marketing, [their] team did not lose strategic direction” – shared KPIs and aligned incentives were helping them to drive collaboration on a marketing strategy.

At the same time, argued another, agile marketing allowed their team to “ignite a culture of experimentation” which helped them “get to the main “Aha!” moments that just work”.

Others agreed that agile helped marketers maintain a structured approach while still allowing them to “schedule in experiments”.

Another added that agile marketing helped inspire the organisation to “embrace risk” as “agile initiatives don’t look unvalidated”.

Agile marketing challenges

While marketers had positive things to say about agile marketing overall, some did have some reservations about using it.

One attendee pointed out that they were finding it very hard to scale agile marketing initiatives. “When everything is a paradigm shift,” they said, “widescale adoption becomes increasingly difficult.”

Another said that they found it challenging to “prioritise learnings over outputs”, especially when they are increasingly being tasked to prove marketing’s return on investment.

And, contradicting the “fast is better than slow” mindset of agile marketing, one participant said that “testing and proving everything slows you down”.

Finally, one delegate felt that agile marketing worked well with small projects, but “innovating with huge partners is hard as the projects are too expensive to fail.”

Overall, then, it seems that agile marketing is popular with marketers in Singapore, but there are still several hurdles to overcome before it is adopted wholeheartedly.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank the host of the Agile Marketing – Develop a More Responsive & Customer-Centric Approach table, Jennifer Villalobos, VP & Head of Digital Business, Income as well as our subject matter expert, Mark Van Den Haak, Sales Director, ASEAN, Oracle Marketing Cloud.

We’d also like to thank all the marketers who made time in their busy schedules to attend on the day and offer their opinions and insights about agile marketing.  We hope to see you at future Econsultancy Asia Pacific events!

A photograph of the organisers and sponsors behind the Digital Cream agile marketing rountable in Singapore.