Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The New Marketing: Agile, Lean and Loving

The debate is long over and Agile Development for software is here to stay.

But agile is getting to be much bigger than its beginnings in software. It’s spreading into many new areas of practice, and achieving prime buzzword status.

The advent of the internet and digital culture has had a huge impact on marketing. Perhaps more than any other sector outside of software, marketing has finally embraced Agile in a big way.

I wanted to learn more about how Agile is impacting marketing and digital agencies, so I sat down to talk with Jose Albis, founder of the Albis Consulting Group.

Q: Jose, how is Agile changing marketing?

Well, it’s not just Agile that’s changing marketing. I like to say that “In Today’s Marketing, growth is ALL: Agile, Lean and Loving”.

Being Agile is all about being responsive, creative and fast. Being Lean means working in iterative cycles, testing, measuring what works and what doesn’t and constantly improving based on data. Being Loving means humanizing brands authentically, building community, offering remarkable experiences and seeking meaningful engagement with customers. Noah Kagan calls it, Lovegasms.

These three ideas are changing marketing as we know it!

Q: Wow. Tell me about what Agile means for marketing.

Agile is a new way of doing marketing. It's a combination of traditional marketing, with the influence of the agile software development movement. It's driven by the nature of social media and digital culture, enabling brands to more effectively influence the universe by reacting to the rapidly changing conditions around them.

Being an agile marketer is like being Batman. Before Batman goes into a situation, he has goals and an overall plan, but he knows not everything will go according to his plan. So he has his utility belt with him, and at any time he can use whichever tool he needs from his belt. An agile digital marketer’s utility belt has tactics and strategies covering content marketing, A/B testing, landing pages, SEO, PPC, social media, contests, games, etc.

It's a shift away from planning out entire huge campaigns at the outset, and instead using the Scrum process. Planning a “sprint” of 3 or 4 weeks, it's more of an iterative process. After each sprint, we look back, see what worked, what didn't and then move forward. One of the frameworks that come to mind is the OODA loop.

Q: What's an OODA loop?

It's a concept that comes from the military: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Each sprint is a new OODA loop, we look back at the last sprint, see what worked, what that means, figure out how to use that, then execute. The speed and efficiency of the OODA loop can represent the competitive advantage of a small startup that is developing the same disrupting technology, against a bigger and slower giant corporation. Think of ‘first to market’.

Q: How closely does agile marketing resemble agile software?

It's very similar in its processes, for example The Scrum Process. I'm an industrial engineer, so it's very natural for me to look at a system and try to optimize it. Agile emerged from the world of software engineering which has special challenges, so it makes sense that engineers would create their own methodologies for managing their projects. Especially when the principles had been around for decades in the Toyota Production System.

Marketing has a lot of similarities to software, it's hard to plan the whole thing from start to finish, and it’s difficult to know how different parts are going to interact, until you build them and release them. Around 2005 or 2006, I personally experienced acceleration in SEO, PPC and Landing Pages which became more important, and marketing became more digital. Marketers were celebrating that direct response didn’t need 9 month cycles but only weeks or days, and at the same time Marketers became more dependent on designers, developers and IT in general.

The traditional paradigm is that marketers and engineers and developers can't communicate, like in the Dilbert cartoons.

Agile Marketing

But marketers had to learn to work with these IT departments, started to blend into Marketeering and they picked up Agile methods from them.

Q: How are clients reacting to Agile?

Most of my clients are finding it easier than ever before. Instead of me saying "First we're going to do 'this', then we're going to do 'this'... and we're not going to know anything until phase four, and it's going to cost you 10,000 bucks", they get amazing flexibility. Even my agreements are lean and agile, we fail fast to succeed faster. There's not a big commitment like with a big agency. It's very flexible and that way we learn about each other in the process. We work together for a few sprint sessions, and if the relationship is working well, we keep going.

Clients like it because we can get going right away, without having to spend tons of time planning up front and results are faster. A lot of the times we are working in projects that involve technology releases so the Scrum framework makes sense, like dancing to the same tune.

Q: What are some examples of brands doing agile really well?

Oreo is very agile with its use of social media. During the super bowl, the lights were down for maybe half an hour, and they managed to design and send out a very simple, clever, timely tweet within minutes, that was retweeted by thousands of people!

Their marketers are in a control room, reacting in real time and sending out materials designed for maximum impact.

Q: So why is it important for marketers to be loving?

What are humans, that brands are not, historically?

[John]: They’re physical beings? They have faces?

They are imperfect. Brands have always tried to look so good, so perfect, that they’re like a robot. That’s why, every time there is a challenge or an opportunity to apologize, it’s also an opportunity to display humanity, to be more loving.
Marketers should should think about how their brand would express itself if it were human. I, Jose, have my own human expressions, ways of speaking and thinking, and reacting to different situations. You have the human expressions that make you John.

So maybe your brand is "nice"... but everyone is “nice”, what is it really? Maybe your brand is assertive, like the Michelin man he’s like a super hero. Having that consistency is important and it's a huge opportunity for old brands to renew themselves.


Agile is changing the face of marketing, but it’s not alone. Being lean and loving brings the full package together and enables a brand to engage with the world in entirely new ways. These three forces are transforming the classic Mad Men advertiser into Marketing Ninjas,Gurus, and even Superheroes.

Thanks to Jose Albis for this fascinating discussion, follow him on twitter at @josealbis.

If you'd like to learn more about Agile, visit the Agile Development Manifesto and the Agile Marketing Manifesto.


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