Earlier this summer, Samuel Scott created quite a stir when he wrote an article for The Drum arguing that agile marketing is a “crutch for those who do not have a real strategy.”
Samuel made several points in his article, but his primary argument was that most marketing channels and tactics do not and should not change all that frequently. Therefore, an agile marketing methodology is both unnecessary and inappropriate for many marketing activities. He contended that “strategy is paramount” and that many agile marketing ideas are “nothing but myopic short-termism.”
Samuel wrote: “But brands that insist on being ‘agile’ and changing short-term tactics all the time will only lose money . . . Say that you do ‘agile marketing’ and test various tactics and channels all the time. If it takes several months to determine what works best, it will have wasted time and money. A good strategy would have determined what to do at the beginning.”
Scott Brinker responded to Samuel’s article in a post at his Chief Marketing Technologist Blog. In his post, Scott argued that agile marketing – when done properly – is an instrument of strategy, not a replacement for strategy.
Scott described the basic rationale for agile marketing as follows:
“Agile management is a way to execute a strategy when either (a) the environment in which you’re operating is fluid and shifting, and you want to rapidly sense and respond to those changes, or (b) the media in which you’re rendering your strategy is malleable and has fast feedback loops . . . giving you the valuable option to iteratively optimize your execution quickly and cheaply.”
He contended that “when agile methods are connected to and governed by a clear strategy, agile optimizes the operational reality of that strategy beautifully.”
Frankly, I haven’t seen much evidence that marketers believe the adoption of agile marketing eliminates the need for a sound marketing strategy. The idea that agile marketing makes marketing strategy unnecessary reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what agile marketing is about.
At the most basic and practical level, agile marketing is about organizing and managing the work activities of marketing personnel and teams. As Andrea Fryrear, the President of AgileSherpas, recently put it, “Agile marketing is the deliberate, long-term application of a specific Agile methodology to manage and improve the way a marketing team gets work done.”
This focus on improving the way marketing work “gets done” can be seen in the results of the 1st Annual State of Agile Marketing Report published earlier this year by AgileSherpas and Kapost. In this study, survey participants were asked to identify the most important reasons for adopting Agile in their marketing department. The following table shows the top five reasons selected by survey respondents:
Notice that most of these top reasons relate to improving the productivity of marketing work.
Study participants were also asked to identify the benefits their marketing department had realized from using agile marketing. The following table shows the top five benefits selected by survey respondents:
Again, most of the top benefits identified by the survey respondents relate to the improvement of work activities and processes.
Marketing success in today’s complex business environment requires both a sound marketing strategy and agile marketing operations. But maintaining a high level of strategic alignment while simultaneously providing front-line marketing teams the necessary flexibility to adapt and respond quickly to rapidly changing market conditions can be a daunting challenge for marketing leaders. In a future post, I’ll describe an effective way to meet this challenge.
Top image courtesy of velkr0 via Flickr CC.