It’s no secret that retail marketing is changing. According to Forrester, 85 percent of marketing executives believe that today’s marketing department has functions that no one thought would be a responsibility even three years or four years ago. This pace of accelerated change and expectation has led to the need for an agile marketing ideology to replace annual or even biannual campaigns.
Agile marketing, much like agile software development, requires marketers to constantly examine what's working, what isn’t working and what needs to shift in order to drive the best possible outcome. In a recent report from QuickPivot, Pat Cassidy, head of global digital brand marketing for New Balance, said, “Agile is listening to what people say or their response and being able to change your tactics and approach. What you may have thought of as a truth the day before is suddenly not the truth anymore. Agile is being able to have enough of an open mind to realize the truth can change and a dedication to then take your learnings, good or bad, and capitalize on them in a quick way.” Therefore, how do retail marketers thrive and organize their efforts in the face of an ever-changing truth?
While the idea of agile brings to mind an athlete darting left and right around his/her opponents, agile marketing requires a little bit more structure than just firing off content in response to every trend in your Google news feed. In most industries, the right balance is a flexible framework that plans for the “knowns” and leaves room to respond to “unknowns.” Wanye Best, vice president of marketing for sports retail company ’47, offered his insights: “For us, we know the World Series is going to be in October, we know the Stanley Cup Finals are going to be in June. Therefore, if we know that in October it’s all going to be about the World Series, we can plan around it, but we may have to react to the Royals being in the World Series. Now, we have to shift our focus to that topic and what’s hot there.”
The traditional marketing campaign plan, at a very basic level, maps out activities and campaigns for a relatively lengthy stretch of time, often six months to a year, and allows marketers to plan all necessary creative, messaging and budget attribution long in advance.
The map of a modern-day “agile” marketing campaign model reflects a more flexible, albeit complex, framework. It’s important to note that this model has a core similar to that of a traditional campaign planning system. On top of that layer, however, is a realm that embraces trends as they emerge, data as it informs you of shifts in customer sentiment, need or activity. This framework allows for three unique types of activity: the addition of smaller micro-campaigns, the addition of unexpected full campaigns and the replacement of previously planned campaigns with something completely different.
Smaller micro-campaigns may be specific to a channel or customer segment. If you sell bikinis and there's a huge Twitter buzz about the latest swimsuit a celebrity wore, you may want to send out a small series of tweets or post content that allows you to pull up a seat to the conversation that’s happening. Unexpected campaigns are fully-baked campaigns that extend across multiple channels. They happen in reaction to larger, more impactful trends, customer sentiment, behavior, or even events and occurrences that change the way we think or talk about certain things. For example, if you sell camping gear in California and the summer months beget a siege of wildfires in your area, it might make sense to change gears and focus on what support, product or fundraising, you can offer to those in need instead of promotional messages driving people to the wilderness.
Lastly, in some circumstances it may make sense to completely eliminate a campaign you were planning to do and replace it with something more impactful. In this instance, more powerful topics and trends emerge that are more important for your brand to invest resources in than previously planned campaigns. This would occur when one of those events that calls for an unexpected campaign occurs, and it’s so important that it actually replaces a campaign you had planned to launch. For example, if you sell security software and there's a major hack that’s being discussed on multiple channels, it’s a prime opportunity to put down your current initiatives for greener pastures. Reallocating resources towards campaigns that associate your brand with security discussions makes sense in light of the attention on the topic and interest in the realm in which your brand offers a solution.
While modern marketers are indeed carrying a heavier, more complex workload compared to years past, they're also being given more opportunity to explore a creative, dynamic angle of communications that, for years, stood mostly in the realm of advertising agencies. With the revolution of the “agile” ideology, marketers now have an exciting opportunity to drive more impactful conversations with customers as they occur and feel their impact on the brand-consumer relationship.
Paul Mandeville is the chief product officer of QuickPivot, a multichannel marketing solutions provider.