The following is based on a chapter in Greg Kihlström’s new book, The Agile Brand. For more thoughts like these, as well as to read the rest of the book, please visit his website here:

Agile brands have the agile methodology to thank for their philosophy and approach. Agile’s rise in popularity and subsequent contributions to the world of software and the Web at large are wide-reaching and have changed the way we create and market products and services. The agile approach can be applied to many things other than software development, including marketing, and branding.

Agile marketing

Agile marketing has come into prominence because of a number of recent developments:

  • Big data’s omnipresence in the marketing world, and our ability to get everything from real-time data to number-crunching for complex analysis more easily and cheaply.
  • Dramatic decreases in data storage costs.
  • Artificial intelligence which allows programmatic ad buying and other techniques that allow us to achieve decisions and results much quicker.
  • Social media and other real-time or near-real-time communication tools that facilitate much quicker awareness and engagement (as well as the analysis of those occurrences).

While many factors have contributed, the points above certainly are part of what has paved the way. As more and more options become available for marketers to broadcast their messages, engage with consumers, and reach their key audiences, it becomes necessary to review, assess and optimize their efforts on an increasingly short timeline. This is where an agile approach shines.

Agile marketing takes an incremental approach to achieving long-term marketing & campaign goals. You may be thinking, “but I already do that.” And in some ways, it’s true. You place a programmatic media buy because you know that it will be optimized.

Some marketing methods lend themselves better to this approach, but you may also find that you are adopting more agile methodologies than you think. The important thing is to keep monitoring and evaluations regular. There is simply no more “set and forget.”

We’ve moved beyond knowing exactly what we will be able to do in 12 months. Things change too rapidly, so we need a nimbler approach. The requirements keep changing, and people are caught off guard when they should be planning for change and accounting for it in their strategies.

In a 2014 study, CMO’s Agenda found that over 60% of marketing leaders identified being agile as a high priority, yet only 40% rated themselves as agile. The study also found that marketers who identified as agile were 300% more likely to increase market share.

Our ability to measure everything we do as marketers has increased considerably and continues to grow as new platforms emerge and new methods of targeting are developed. The rise of big data from buzzword to multi-billion-dollar industry means that we are now inundated with so many metrics that we can’t possibly report on them all. Big data has both good and bad effects on marketing and marketers.

Successful marketers filter out the noise and focus on the metrics that matter, not simply those that are easy to see. Those who adapt quickly to environmental changes will thrive. By tapping into real-time and near real-time analytics and insights, and intelligently applying them to our marketing efforts, we can make the quicker decisions required in an agile process.

Design thinking

Agile has helped spawn methodologies that address business processes and broader scopes than software, websites, or digital marketing. One of these is “design thinking,” which has its origins at IDEO, a design studio that does a lot of work in human-centered design and has completed a broad range of projects that involve user experience.

The easiest way to describe design thinking is as a philosophy that approaches business challenges with a clean slate. Instead of improving upon something which currently exists, it starts with the question, “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” and designs a solution from that.

Design thinking is similar to agile in that input is sought beyond the primary team doing the work, and it requires an iterative process to achieve the best solution to the problem.

What sets design thinking apart from agile is that it is even further from the waterfall methodology. Agile still assumes a particular end solution is the right approach. Design thinking does not make any such assumptions. The solution is designed around the user and not around a specific method, channel, or medium. Originating from the widespread adoption of the agile method to produce software, agile marketing and design thinking are logical adaptations of this iterative methodology, applied to different types of business functions.

While “agile” alone is not a solution for every problem, its solution-oriented, iterative approach to problem solving has many applications at the strategic and tactical levels.

The above is based on a chapter in The Agile Brand. For more thoughts like these, as well as to read the rest of the book, please visit Greg Kihlström’s website here:

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