There was a time in the not-so-distant past, when a group of tin Martians playing during family television programming was a great way to sell instant mashed potato. In this same era, a beefy man in a laundrette was all teenagers needed to see to buy stone-washed Levi’s by the lot. Unfortunately for marketers, times have changed dramatically since then.
As popular culture has shifted from being driven by television to the internet, the rule book for marketing has been thrown out of the window. Internet users want engaging, viral content, but at the same time, will work against brands that try too hard to make it. Car manufacturer Chevrolet once invited the public to create ads for their Tahoe SUV, which turned into a comic farce. Dozens of videos mocking the vehicle’s size and gas guzzling nature were posted online. Another time, a high-priced campaign from Cheetos encouraging people to prank their friends with the cheesy snacks went virtually unnoticed.
Given the unpredictable nature of marketing to the internet generation, it’s no wonder that over two-thirds marketers we recently surveyed said that their number one challenge was “Delivering innovative campaigns that stand out in the market.” The number two challenge they listed was “Moving fast enough to keep up with market changes and competitors.” This makes sense given the number of channels marketers must manage, including print, TV and radio, websites, SEO and SEM, and social media. It’s a huge undertaking not only to create content for those channels, but also to monitor them for trends and activity.
The volume of work, and the speed in which it must be done means that managing workflows is more important than ever for marketing organisations. Passing jobs from brief to development, to art, to approval and launch, needs to happen at breakneck speed, in a matter of days, if that. In spite of this pressure, less than a third of respondents stated that they were “very satisfied” with the way their teams manage work.
However, this number nearly doubled among marketing teams which identified themselves as heavy users of agile methodologies: 63% said they were “Very Satisfied” with how their team handles its workload.
Agile methods allow marketers to maintain a high pace of work in a way that accommodates fluctuations in markets and new campaigns that pop up without a lot of warning. By focusing on rapid iteration and collaboration, implementing agile practices is one approach marketing and creative teams are resorting to overcome the main challenge of delivering those winning campaigns.
Integrated technology is the foundation of agile teams
The creative teams in particular have a large stack of technology that they use in their work. These include email, messaging apps like Slack and creative tools like the Adobe suite, proofing tools and spreadsheets for tracking due dates and statuses, not to mention file clouds or asset management solutions. This means that throughout the day, they need to comb through an ever expanding number of sources to find the information they need. ‘Hopping’ from one app to another in this manner can create frustration.
Converting to agile working methods first and foremost requires your tools and technology to be integrated so your team has a single source of information to work from. Spencer Kehe, senior producer at film production house ONLYCH1LD summarises the benefit of this as follows: “Taking confusion around technology out of the equation for creatives is very important. You need to protect their time and effort for creating compelling and impactful work.”
Basically, you need to free up time for creatives to be creative. If you can save them an hour or two each day to work on design, writing, and generating big ideas, that’s about one whole extra day of work a week per person. And because they are doing work they love, they’ll be happier and more engaged with their work.
Experiment on a small scale and follow the results
In a former era, the most successful marketing was done in coordinated campaigns that pushed messaging across television, print, radio, and billboards simultaneously to create a blanket effect. This technique was often used to promote movies, product releases (‘The McRib is Back’, anyone?) and special events. These campaigns were great at building hype, but at a high cost in man hours and advertising budgets. In addition, the results of specific media placements were difficult to measure.
In agile marketing, teams focus on smaller, more targeted experiences for consumers which are faster to develop, and collect data about their effectiveness as they go along. Based on the latter, creatives develop and then deploy new iterations of their campaign and associated messages. This iterative process means acting on a smaller scale but deploy campaigns faster.
This may sound like more work for creatives, but it makes the job of creating campaigns that stand out much easier. Using data analytics to test messaging and visuals for impact (engagement), virality (shares) and conversions (clicks through to a website), creatives have a lot of data to make decisions about what works and what doesn’t. Once they’ve dialled in on the right combination, marketers can increase the presence of winning campaigns to scale results — without taking shots in the dark.
Accept change and respond quickly
Maybe the biggest way that agile working can help marketers is by giving them the flexibility to throw plans out the window when they need to respond to unexpected changes in the market.
Agile methodology encourages teams to work in shorter sprints, and the supporting technology offers an easy way to schedule work relative to available resources in real time. This means that it’s conducive to sudden pivots where other approaches are more rigid. Also, because Agile teams are data driven, analytics can help marketers identify opportunities as they happen, and fast-moving creative teams can execute those opportunities rapidly.
In this way, it becomes more realistic to jump on the bandwagon of new trends like the Pokemon Go craze when a window of opportunity opens.
Agile isn’t always enough
To say work management methodology alone is enough to help marketers create better campaigns, is of course wishful thinking. It still requires top notch creative minds and creative direction that can coax excellent ideas of out of people. Standing out on the market also requires leadership that is not afraid of being bold and edgy to catch the attention of consumers.
But more so than ever, marketers must be lightning fast in delivering targeted messages to meet consumers where they are. In managing a dozen channels, responding instantly to news and market forces, and identifying trends to drive engagement, Agile is an important element in helping creatives keep creating great work.