As we struggle with the speed of change, the fragmentation of media, the demand for new skills, our attempts to create integrated marketing technology ecosystems and the 24/7 expectations of our customers, we have to create marketing operations and processes that can support all this.

As Ruth Mortimer wrote when introducing Marketing Week’s Vision 100 list of future marketers:

It is becoming abundantly clear that marketing is such a rapidly evolving discipline that those who can’t adapt will be left behind. Vision, translated into adaptability, is the currency that brands now desire above all others.

Agility and responsiveness to change will determine our ability to survive as marketers.

Cancer Research’s agile marketing masterclass

I was impressed by the success Cancer Research UK achieved recently with #nomakeupselfie.

This was not a campaign it came up with, nor was it the only cancer charity to do well out of the initiative but it did manage to raise over £8m in six days from something that was unplanned and welled up out of social media.

The concept began with posts by women wearing no makeup, who nominated their friends to do the same, to raise awareness of breast cancer. Celebrities and brands like Virgin Atlantic got involved and it mushroomed.

Irish Cancer Society tweet

What impresses me most about Cancer Research UK’s reaction, apart from its deft handling of something that could risk looking like hijacking a meme to make money, was how quickly it did things.

  • The team spotted the trend out of hours because it had the monitoring technology and team rota in place.
  • It set up a text donation mechanic within a day because it saw the mobile opportunity.
  • It started bidding on paid search to drive more traffic when its search data showed the charity the opportunity.
  • It had the governance processes in place such that decisions could be made quickly.
  • It rapidly brought the full power of all its social channels to bear.

The charity’s tech systems and working practices coped well. It had, to a large degree, planned for the unplanned and been responsive and agile.

Would your marketing operation have fared as well?

Agile and technology

A key element of the manifesto is Technology. We know that marketing and technology are becoming closer and need to work together if businesses are to transform and the modern marketing we espouse is to be a reality.

As it happens the world of technology, specifically software development, has faced exactly the same challenges that we face in marketing in dealing with change and in being able to reprioritise and redeploy resources more quickly and effectively.

The response is called ‘Agile software development’. I urge you to learn about it because I see no reason why it should not be applied to the way we need to work in marketing.

Indeed, I believe it should be applied to all areas of the business.

Just two examples from the world of agile software development: stand-up meetings and Kanban boards.

Stand-up meetings are daily meetings of the team where everyone has to stand up, to help keep the meeting short, and say what they did yesterday and what they are doing today.

It fosters accountability, transparency, and identifies blockages in productivity.

Kanban is a just-in-time business process originally from Japan and Kanban boards visualise workflow so you can see what is coming up, what is in progress, and what is done.

Cards, or sticky notes, can be moved to rapidly reprioritise work. Can you honestly say that you can see at a glance what your marketing team is working on, what they are doing next, and how work has been prioritised?

To thrive and to work more closely with the technology team, why not try running your marketing ‘agile style’?