Agile Branding?

My desire to treat all things in an agile way is creating internal discomfort.  Over the weekend I was reflecting on how to develop a new or refreshed brand using an agile approach.  Given the need for consistency and repetition in building a brand, it seems that this may be one part of the marketing universe that that truly needs a waterfall approach. So how can we make the brand development process more agile?  Here are some ideas. Start with a straw list of ideas to test Dedicate one wall in your office to post these ideas and your competitive landscape Use less expensive, faster-to-deploy exploratory research techniques like online focus groups to supplement your traditional customer outreach Continuously adapt, test and kill concepts as you acquire data from the market Get your team to use Digg or Delicious to share competitive marketing Brainstorm frequently to make sure you are innovating and expanding your list Share the ideas with your team on a regular basis Concept test final idea using email surveys as a sanity check And last but not least, trust your gut as this a creative process not a geometric proof Did I miss anything?  I would welcome your thoughts and...

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54 Pages of Nothing

A number of years ago I started a new job as the CMO of a fast-growing software company.  As I was rummaging through my new desk and the charred remains of my predecessor, I discover something something shocking that explained his untimely demise – his 54 page marketing plan.  I’ve never been one to create those elegant, buzzword laden plans that delight the masses.  To me, plans are always a work in progress. This has often created friction between my more control-oriented bosses and me but they would eventually give up after I found a way to squeeze 30% more productivity our of marketing budget. Upon further reflection, this comes back to the agile vs. waterfall marketer question I raised a month ago.  How can you honestly create a marketing plan for 12 or 24 months when things change so quickly?  Also, according Spencer Stuart the average CMO lasts only 22.9 months. With that in mind, here is my ideal agile marketing plan. Is a living document less than 2 page long (ideally less than one) Looks no more than a six month into the future (one to three months if you can get away with it) Clearly articulates target markets and customers States specific, measurable goals (none of that generic “build a brand” stuff without measurable goals) Allocates a majority of the budget to proven programs (if you know them) Invests some resources to testing new, speculative media Is based on learnings from prior experiences (ie busted programs) In recent years I’ve seen more progressive types avoiding the document altogether and using a Mindmap.  In the end, the plan is a helpful guide but results matter more.  What you deliver will speak louder than a well written document about your cheerful parade of activities, so keep your eyes on what you...

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Sex and the Agile Marketer

Over the last few years, I have noticed a division in the types of marketing people I meet.Some colleagues have referred to this as data driven vs. marcom/branding types but in my mind this view never really worked.While the increasing measurability of the web does provide an unfair advantage to marketers with MBAs and an undergraduate degree in something unsexy like engineering or chemistry, it always seemed like there was something more at play. In recent weeks, I’ve been a part of a team that is transforming its product development philosophy from a “waterfall” (lots of time building a fixed specification followed by a long development cycle) to an “agile” approach (shorter development cycles with lots of iterations since you can’t really know reality until you try something). Software developers have employed this methodology for years but it isn’t just a more effective way to get “good enough” products out on time.It is a way of thinking that can be embraced by other  functions including marketing. I know that many of the world’s greatest dictators/managers want to believe that marketers can accurately predict the future but they can’t.I’ve never been able to do it and as a result have resorted to an iterative approach that relies on low cost testing of media and programs.This makes the ad sales reps at the trade magazines or WBUR radio angry but the fact is that marketing is as much about science as art.I know, I know, we all have to build a brand by spending money on difficult-to-measure things like PR and advertising.By using iterative, agile tactics, however, it is possible to mitigate your risk, improve your overall marketing ROI and put a smile on your pointy headed CFO’s face. Taking inspiration from an article on the Web 2.0 organization, I created this table that highlights what I see as some of the key differences between a traditional waterfall and an agile approach to marketing. Waterfall Marketer Agile Marketer Focus on fixed annual marketing plan Builds monthly, weekly or even daily plans Repeats of familiar programs Is always testing of new programs and media A few expense programs Many low cost programs, scale up proven programs Sees personal value as relative to size of budget Sees personal value as relative to results Creative Analytic Know what media is best from datacards Always testing since doesn’t know the best media Still believes in physical events Skeptical about the effectiveness of tradeshows Brand comes from long expensive strategy projects Brand comes from the experience of customer and business Sees things as predictable Lives in an unpredictable world “Can’t measure that” is often an excuse...

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