Why greater agility will build a brighter marketing future
As lockdown eases, the time has come to move forward. But after months of instability, views on what the marketing future will bring remain uncertain. While some studies show historic lows for spend and optimism — including the latest IPA Bellwether report — others expect a brighter industry outlook. GroupM’s global mid-year forecast, for instance, predicts 8.2% growth for overall advertising and double-digit recovery for digital in 2021.
What seems clear is that the new reality will require a different kind of marketing. Amid vast disruption, many marketers have recognised the need to enhance their adaptive abilities and toolkit; with one in five leaders at large enterprises (19%) increasing investment in digital transformation and a further 23% diverting more budget to technology.
From here on, progress in this direction will only continue. To keep pace with changing conditions and consumer habits, marketing will need to be faster, smarter, and more versatile than ever.
The question is: what will this new age of agility look like?
The fundamentals of agile marketing
Agile marketing is not a new concept. Back in 2012, interest and confusion around the agile methodology had already reached such an extent that leading thinkers in San Francisco joined forces to create a unified manifesto, complete with seven agility principles: validated learning, customer-centric collaboration and discovery, adaptability, flexibility, responsiveness and small-scale experimentation.
Definitions have continued to vary, but the strong emphasis on collective, data-driven effort and constant innovation has stuck. Contrary to common conception, agile marketing isn’t just about lightning-quick reactions or accelerated output; it’s about consistent and well-considered evolution. As well as ensuring their company is able to weather changing circumstances, agile marketing teams concentrate on outmanoeuvring developing trends, seizing opportunities, and — above all — driving incrementally higher performance over time.
The agile model is therefore a perfect fit for marketers aiming to not only get back on track, but also achieve sustainable success in the unpredictable post-pandemic world.
Reordering COVID-19 turmoil
In the near term, it’s true that speed will be an integral element of the agile marketing mix. Even as the clouds begin to lift, consumer habits remain unsettled; meaning marketers must be ready to swiftly adjust their focus and messaging. See, for example, the ever-changing climate of retail; including the sharp swing to e-commerce, ongoing consumer anxiety around returning to real-world shopping norms, and more recently, face masks.
But this doesn’t mean efforts should be a series of knee-jerk responses. Marketers need to move with the tide instead of allowing themselves to be swept along by it; and to do so effectively, they must implement a more informed and agile approach powered by reliable data.
Simply put; they need to dial up analytical power. By implementing smart tools that can automatically cleanse, connect, and evaluate data, marketers can generate the up-to-date insight needed to fuel fast and smart decisions on a continual basis. Plus, with a continual flow of real-time data, they’ll also be able to adopt what McKinsey calls the ‘investor mindset’: keeping a close watch on an array of variables — such as how campaigns are performing, emerging behavioural patterns, and where spend is flowing — to guide proactive action that minimises costs and maximises results.
Looking beyond survival
In the wake of COVID-19 chaos, preparing for life after the crisis might feel like an impossible task. Yet if marketers want to uphold consumer awareness, relationships and strong competitive edge, finding new ways to future-gaze will be vital.
It almost goes without saying that this will call for a shift away from traditional planning. Often based on past campaign results, seasonal patterns, consumer preferences and fluctuations in demand, the old foundations of prediction and strategy no longer apply. But although marketers will be going back to the drawing board, they don’t have to start entirely from scratch.
Once more, the most promising solution lies with sharper mastery of data. To start with, being ready for any eventuality will mean widening insight horizons to tap data from other verticals and geographies that could provide valuable indicators of coming headwinds, as well as useful insight for marketing plans. Next, marketers need tools capable of blending newly extended and existing data to pinpoint what’s on the horizon.
Over the last few years, tech has begun to emerge that not only instantly activates data from multiple sources, but also leverages it to produce granular forecasts. Using these advanced tools — including the likes of Genpact and Adverity — marketers can harness today’s data to build new demand models that accurately determine what tomorrow is likely to bring and help build a more resilient, agile framework for success. The added advantage being that with intelligent platforms analysing data, making automated recommendations and cutting the amount of work involved in insight coordination, marketers will have more time to spend on versatile, engaging, and innovative marketing strategy that further bolsters long-term profits.
Of course, there will be always curve balls that send markers off course. But with an enhanced ability to harness and utilise varied data, marketing leaders and teams will be in a better position to tackle unexpected challenges and identity the best next step for their business. Whatever new possibilities and hurdles await in the marketing future, it will important to remember that continued success isn’t purely a question of fast reactions and adaptation. The marketers powering the greatest results in years to come will be those who understand the true nature of agility: just the right mix of knowledge, tech, and innovation.