Who knew that the critical new skill on everyone’s mind at ANA Masters of Marketing Conference was… YOGA? But this yoga doesn’t require you to jump into your spandex at work (thank goodness!). What it does suggest is that marketers and agencies learn new agility, flexibility and core strength moves.  And that we build that dynamism into our marketing plans. It is no wonder people like IBM SVP & CMO Michelle Peluso were talking about “agile to the core” marketing teams and plans.

So how do you and your folks build plans that flow in step with customers?  Here are 3 tips:

1. Know the Customers Deeply

According to Michelle Peluso, “IBM has a goal to be the most outcome-oriented, customer-centric ‘agile-to-the-core’ marketing team on the planet.”  They ask questions such as how strongly does the customer feel about IBM’s offerings and measure results with a Net Promoter Score (NPS).  IBM deeply understand the journey that leads the customer to their feelings.  They always ask, “How can we know the customer better?” through their IBM Cloud Garage, a shared client workspace, which Jim Stengel visited while writing the book, “Unleashing the Innovators.” Knowing their target deeply, allows them to flex to their needs quickly and often.

Google is telling clients to be agile because customer behavior no longer looks like the funnel.  As a matter of fact, based on their research, they see the customer purchasing pattern looking like a range of shapes.  Even low consideration categories, such as toothbrushes and toilet paper are moving to high consideration.  According to Allan Thygesen, Google President of the Americas, if you put customer’s intentions first and stop marketing to the average, brands will succeed.  For example, while on the internet, people often become aware of brands in new categories while shopping for another a completely different brand in a different category.

2. Purpose Enables Disruption

The stronger your conviction is around your brand purpose, the more disruptive you can be.  Whether it’s through goal setting, timing, budget allocations, creative approach or measurement, taking a disruptive approach can pay big dividends.

FedEx took a risk to deliver their purpose when they shifted away from their advertising campaign.  Traditional recall measures said the campaign worked with memorable, funny stories, according to Rajesh Subramaniam, EVP and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer.  However, they realized that the world was changing.  They shifted to purpose-centric external and internal acts that have a significant impact on their business.  Today they measure the campaign with neuroscience vs. recall and see that the communication is resonating with people in a different way.

As Jeff Charney, the CMO at Progressive says, “Let’s be real.  It’s not life or death.  We’re just marketers. The best marketers go close to the edge, but they never go over.”  Recently Progressive has laughed with their target in spots such as Parentamorphosis and Dad Group where they poke fun of their target becoming their parents.  They have put their character, Flo, on the spot with acappella singing and run print ads for their special lines where the photography is upside down.  It seems to be working for them as they have taken the #3 position in the category.  But don’t expect to see them stop there.  Progressive is pushing for #1.

3. Find the Right Set of Partners to Improve Agility

Clients are using both external and in-house agencies to improve agility.  For example, Verizon has an in-house agency to provide “fast, nimble and holistic solutions.”  The agency sits directly with the marketing team. They waste “no time on pitches and spend more time on creative.” A great example is their Veteran’s Day platform, “You can always be close no matter where you are.” They also use their traditional agencies, McGarry Bowen and McCann, for their campaigns.

Hershey is using both external and in-house agencies.   They have their in-house agency focus on smaller projects and brands.  Whether they are writing articles, shooting on site or in a conference room, they are building a stream of content.  At the same time, they still work with their traditional agency, McGarry Bowen, for larger projects.  As a matter of fact, Jill Baskin, Hershey Company CMO, says it “makes my traditional agency partners sharper.”

Deep customer knowledge, purpose-led disruption and right partners for the right job… practicing these moves will make you and your teams more agile – building your core strength and delighting those you serve.  And we never need to see our work colleagues in spandex.  Namaste.

ANA Masters of Marketing Blog Series


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