Agile Marketing in the Digital Era - how Marketers adapt their thinking to the Networked Society

Agile Marketing in the Digital Era - how Marketers adapt their thinking to the Networked Society



The impact of digitalization on companies’ structures is becoming increasingly visible. But no area has felt the need for change as significantly as the Marketing discipline. Traditional competences in this field still have a role to play; however, these alone are no longer sufficient. The Marketing discipline will grow more dynamic overtime and is expected to adapt quickly and constantly to the ever-changing environment. Organizations have to rethink the marketing fundamentals within their organization and re-evaluate the meaning of advertising in a digitally-connected world.


Marketing of today – a multidimensional, multi-purpose and multi-channel communication

Digital transformation radically changed the way people communicate and interact with each other: Everybody can send and receive messages from everywhere, at any time. Therefor marketing nowadays can be easily associated with a giant network. There is no such a thing as a single sender and passive receivers. Any business willing to join the digital dialog has to embrace this agile communication dynamic. This communication reality should be acknowledged and embedded into any corporate communication strategy. So how would you bring it to life?

In the digitally connected world, organizations have to rethink their marketing fundamentals.

The Cynefin Framework – an attempt to answer

The knowledge management model Cynefin Framework aims at identifying the interdependencies between problems, situations and systems. There are four different categories of Situations, which differentiate themselves from each other on the basis of their cause-effect relationship:

  • Simple: The relationship between cause and effect is obvious and visible to all
  • Complicated: The relationship between cause and effect requires closer analysis
  • Komplex: The relationship between cause and effect can only be validated in retrospect
  • Chaotic: There is no relationship between cause and effect

This approach can be easily applied to our mode of communication. The concepts of Simple and Chaotic speak for themselves. It is, however, less intuitive to clarify the meaning of Complicated and Complex situations. In our digitalized society, dialog and communication channels continuously move from one category to the other.

Ferrari and rain forest – from complicated to complex customer relationship

One can compare the complicated world to a “Ferrari”: Everything located under the engine hood is very complicated. Only experts are equipped to analyse and understand how single components function. If a problem occurs, experts can intuitively pinpoint what went wrong, check the faulty part and exchange it if necessary.
The classic marketing approach builds on the concept of complicated world where the relationship between cause and effect has to be evaluated and strategically tackled. This process, however, needs to follow a structured approach involving a planning, creation, delivery, and an evaluation step.
A complex world is like a rain forest: One guesses the magnitude of it but can’t really figure out the insides. Finding its way out of a rain forest requires more than just gut feeling. In this situation, it is more important to identify and follow undiscernible patterns. This is the only way to fall back on the right track.
Because of the complex and volatile nature of our today’s conversations, anticipating how these could develop over time is simply unrealistic. This shows the limitations of the current management approaches.

Agile Marketing – trend or necessity?

This is where agile marketing comes into the picture. While this concept is stimulating curiosity in the business world, companies in Germany are slowly warming up to it. Although agility might seem like a trendy buzzword, it remains a critical component of modern marketing. Today, numerous marketing teams have to overcome rigid structures and inefficient processes in their digital workspace. An agile approach allows them to adapt their work to a dynamic environment in a connected world.

Marketing nowadays is comparable to a vast communication network.

NetPress CEO Achim Karpf delivers a sound definition of agile management in a blogpost on Hubspot: “a constantly recurring and modular process, in which small and high-calibre collaborative teams come up with solutions in simple cycles while integrating stakeholders’ feedback“.
Agile marketing is tactical at its core. Team members identify most valuable projects and focus their collective efforts in collaboratively implementing these, measuring their impact and continuously improving the outcome. The deployment of agile working methods requires a modern structure and a corporate culture open to change.

Agile methods – setting marketing free

According to Karpf’s definition, it is absolutely critical to remove never-ending feedback loops and rigid hierarchies from the decision-making process to stimulate the creation and distribution of relevant content at the right time in the right place. Marketing organizations which endorse agile working methods enjoy rapid and sustainable growth, keep their employees motivated and adapt faster to external changes. A study of the platform supplier VersionOne corroborated this finding. The 6th Annual State of Agile Survey showed evidence that teams implementing an agile working philosophy report impressive results:

  • 72% of companies interviewed recorded improved team morale
  • 75% showed increased productivity
  • 71% witnessed a shorter time-to- market for new product introductions

Organized scrum for better results

Companies opting for agile marketing often use scrum. This word stems from the Rugby vocabulary and was originally adopted in software development. For instance, scrum encourages the teams to ideate and conceptualize throughout the duration of a project, without the need for a defined scope of work. While the basic idea of agile methods consists in the described values and ways of thinking, scrum empowers organizations to rush through and challenge established processes.
The scrum’s flexible structure facilitates the management of complex projects. This is made possible through the formalization of isolated steps of the project management process in a volatile environment. However, the scrum’s principles and methods are more than pure mechanics. It takes strong values such as commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage to bring it to life in a working environment. This has to be connected to the various roles und processes that help teams internalize these values and showcase them on the job.

Conclusion – the mixture does it!

While some aspects of agile marketing might seem rather new, this way of working found home in Germany years ago. More and more companies are integrating these methods into their internal project management processes. They leverage the flexibility of such an approach to accommodate the dynamic nature of the networked society where rigid structures are no longer efficient. By doing that, companies capitalize on both classic and digital Marketing.
Marketing executives, who haven’t fully embraced agile or scrum methods yet should explore the concept within smaller and manageable projects.
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