You need to be agile – Oreo-style

One of the characteristics of the modern marketer outlined in our recent Modern Marketing Manifesto is agility. The ability to be responsive and adaptive – to be flexible and embrace change.

Ashley Friedlein

The concept of agile marketing has grown out of the need to deal with a more fluid marketing environment, driven largely by digital, and has borrowed from the principles of agile software development. The latter values “individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; responding to change over following a plan.”

The current poster-child case study for agile marketing is Oreo. During the 34-minute blackout at the last Super Bowl the Oreo team sent out a tweet, “You can still dunk in the dark”, that was retweeted more than 15,000 times in 14 hours. What is interesting here is less the creative and more the fact that there were the marketing resources and processes (including, for example, sign-off on any such ‘campaign’) in place to respond to something that was not planned and was out of office hours.

You see this agility in evidence particularly Wat the nexus of marketing, PR and social media. In some cases this is to avert, or capitalise on, potentially damaging communications. Lynx was recently cited as the favourite fragrance of people in Channel 4’s Dogging Tales documentary. The following day Lynx’s agency team at TMW reacted with a spoof picture and tweet that seized the opportunity not only to diffuse a situation that might otherwise have become awkward, but also to showcase the irreverent nature of the brand.

Bodyform achieved something similar in its “CEO” video response when Richard Neill posted on Bodyform’s Facebook page accusing the brand of lying about the true nature of periods through its advertising. Richard’s critical post gained 20,000 Likes, but Bodyform’s response, turned around in four days, became the most viewed video in UK – and the most viewed entertainment content in the world on 18 October last year.

On the PR/social side we’ve also seen a resurgence of ‘news-jacking’ or ‘meme-jacking’ as an agile way of piggybacking popular and topical content or news – marketing Gangnam-style, as a Marketing Week cover feature recently put it. The Harlem Shake, another ‘dance’, this time created in the 1980s, has become a global internet sensation three decades later, with various organisations picking it up to create their own versions.

While agility is not a new concept, the growth in ‘always on’ and ‘two-way’ digital channels is focusing marketing functions on deciding how to address and deliver it.

To borrow another popular concept, I suggest thinking 70:20:10 – 70 per cent of your marketing is planned ‘marketing as usual’ activity, while 20 per cent should be programmatic. I described this in more depth in a previous article, but it is marketing that is more rules-driven and automated in response to various stimuli so it is not planned but responsive and, typically, machine-driven and executed. Meanwhile, 10 per cent of your marketing is responsive, Oreo-style.

To deliver on that 10 per cent you still need the right systems and processes in place as well as the people. For example, you need the correct alerting mechanisms, feeds and ‘listening’ configured across your channels, most obviously social media, to ensure you know when a response is required or an opportunity has arisen. You then need the right people and talent to respond.

Adidas has recently set up a team dedicated to such response as part of its ‘moments of celebration and acknowledgement’ strategy. Numerous agencies have built such capabilities to offer to their clients in the past year or so.

Our Modern Marketing Manifesto not only talks about agility as a characteristic required of marketers today, it has technology and creative as two key constituents. To deliver smart and effective agile marketing you need to apply both technology and creativity.

Ashley Friedlein is chief executive of Econsultancy, a sister brand of Marketing Week