Agile Marketing and the Need for Speed

My new favorite topic is agile marketing. Why? Because agile marketing is about applying agile management methods in the context of marketing, perfectly tying together some of my favorite subjects: organizational management, efficiency maximization, leadership, technology, and marketing.

According to Scott Brinker, CEO of Ion Interactive, who recently gave a fabulous presentation at the 2013 Marketo Summit, “agile marketing” is the single most valuable marketing capability today, and I couldn’t agree more. In the below excerpt he talks about how outmoded structures of business have hampered the marketing discipline within the organization, as the shift to digital has overtaken the need for a traditional or strictly hierarchical approach to marketing. He writes:

Up to this point, digital was largely squeezed into marketing management and governance structures that predated it by decades. But now we’re reaching an inflection point where digital is our new foundation, not our window dressing. To harness the agility of digital channels and technologies, we must now adapt our organizations to operate at this new speed.

Agile marketing methodologies — by no coincidence, adapted from agile development methodologies that revolutionized modern software — promote a better way of managing marketing in this dynamic environment. They let us act and react at the speed of digital. ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,’ to appropriate Muhammad Ali’s famous words. It’s an approach that can make even the largest marketing departments nimble.

In terms of what he means by traditional, Brinker is referring to a top down hierarchical or linear process as pictured below, which is oftentimes time-consuming and not entirely flexible:

Traditional Process

On the flip side, he cited Nabisco is an example of one company that is currently practicing the concept of agile marketing as evidenced by their now famous Oreo Cookies “dunk in the dark” ad that went viral as soon as the lights went out during the 2013 Superbowl:


While it wasn’t so much the ad itself that created waves, the sheer ability for such a large organization to be able to bring a concept to market so quickly is what sparked a renewed interest in the conversation about the need for “real time marketing.”

What is agile marketing?

Agile marketing is a response to the explosion of touch points and channels, led by technology, that has taken place in marketing in recent years. Rooted in software development, Brinker’s official definition of agile marketing is as follows:

An iterative and adaptive process where small, highly-collaborative teams work in a series of short cycles, incorporating rapid feedback to deliver emergent solutions, emphasizing transparency among all stakeholders.

As it relates to having a holistic marketing approach, management and marketers alike should recognize that agile marketing is best suited for the following channels:

  • Advertising/PPC
  • Content marketing
  • Landing page optimization
  • Marketing automation
  • Mobile
  • SEO
  • Social media
  • Web development

According to Brinker, companies that have adopted agile marketing practices report the following benefits:

Screen shot 2013-06-04 at 8.16.53 PM

Why Your Team Needs to be Agile

In short, as any organizational communication expert knows, managing change within the organization is not always easy, but changing up the traditional structure of the marketing role within the organization to fit a modern business environment is a must in order to remain flexible and competitive. In a post I once wrote entitled “Why Smart Companies Fail to Turn Knowledge Into Action,” you can read more about some of the common roadblocks that organizations are faced with when implementing change.

Now it’s your turn: is your company currently practicing agile marketing tactics? How has your approach to handling marketing changed in recent years? What needs to change in order to remain effective?

(Photo credit)


  1. Thank you, Tiffany, for a great explanation of why adopting Agile methods in marketing is so beneficial. ASPE-ROI offers free web seminars about Agile Marketing for others who are trying to learn more specifics about true Agile Marketing: We also found the demand so high for moving toward these practices that we developed a course with Agile Marketing Manifesto Co-author Jim Ewel.

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